“Why would he want to do that?” I asked.
“Because I wanted to have sex,” Johnny answered.
“You didn’t try to force him, did you?”
"Fuck, Dad, I'd not do that," he snapped at me.
“Sorry, but I had to ask. So, what happened?” I enquired.
"Aunt Debora had put me in the guest room on the first floor; Joseph's room is up on the third floor. He has the whole of the attic."
“That used to be Micah’s room,” I stated.
“Yeah. Micah now has the rooms over the garage.”
I had to think for a moment, then remembered. They had been the au pair’s rooms when Joseph and Micah had been younger and Debora needed an au pair.
“So?” I asked.
"Well, I could not very easily go up and down stairs at night unbeknownst," Johnny informed me. "Anyway, Joseph had said he did not want to do anything with his parents in the house."
“That I can understand,” I stated.
"Yes, Johnny, I can," I responded. "I never felt happy about anything beyond a bit of hand-holding when my parents were in and I had a girlfriend round."
“What about when the parents weren’t in?” he asked.
“Christ, I would go for what I could get,” I answered. “If I could get all the way, I would go for it.”
“That’s what I would do,” Johnny stated. “That’s what I thought Joseph would do. His parents and Micah were all out on Sunday. We had the house to ourselves, but Joseph did not want to do anything. Said it did not feel right, doing it at home.”
“I can understand that.”
“But he did not have any problems doing it in my home,” Johnny snapped.
"So, you were doing it, then?"
“Of course. You knew we were sleeping together.”
"Yes, Johnny, I knew. That does not mean I particularly approved, but I knew."
"If you did not approve, why did you not stop us?"
“Because if I had stopped you, you would just have gone off and done it somewhere else. Far better you did it somewhere safe than get caught at it somewhere else.”
“So, you don’t mind me and Joseph having sex?” Johnny enquired. I felt he was testing the bounds with me.
“I would prefer it if you didn’t, but I am realistic enough to realise that you probably will.”
“Why would you prefer it if we didn’t?”
"Well for a start, I don't think any parent is happy to find that their child is having sex. It reminds them that their child is growing up," I stated. "More importantly, though, it is illegal for you and Joseph to have sex. You know he is underage. That is one thing you need to consider.
"The other is what is it doing to your relationship. A relationship built just on sex is not going to last; there has to be more to it than that."
“Isn’t sex the way you show you love someone?” Johnny asked. “You are giving yourself to them.”
"No, Johnny, sex is not the way you show someone you love them. Sex is a way that two people who love each other can experience an intimate physical relationship. It is not about one person giving themselves to another; it's about both sharing something between them."
“Oh,” Johnny replied, looking somewhat discombobulated. I realised I had triggered something that was causing Johnny to think. I thought it best to give him time to think. We carried on walking in silence, making the loop round the gardens and coming back by the walled garden behind the Stable House.
As we walked around the corner of the walled garden, I saw Neil making his way out of the Stable House. Johnny waved to him. Neil stopped and waited for us to walk over to where he was.
“Getting expelled for the night?” I asked as we came up to him.
“Yes,” Neil answered. “She says it’s not right for us to spend the night until we marry.”
“That’s a bit old-fashioned,” Johnny commented. “No sex before marriage.”
"Oh, she's not that strict," Neil explained. "Sex is OK, just not spending the night together. That way, she can say to her grandma that she is not sleeping with anyone and not be lying."
“It’s no laughing matter,” Neil continued. “Last week she threw me out at three in the morning, and it was pouring down with rain.”
With that, he went off to the van. We continued on our way back to the house.
“Dad, what should I do about Joseph?” Johnny asked.
"Before you do anything about Joseph, you have to ask yourself what you want from the relationship. Is it all about sex?" We got back to the yard. Looking up, I could see lights on in the apartment; the kitchen was in darkness. “Fancy a cup of tea?” I indicated the kitchen with a nod of my head.
“Yeah,” he replied.
We went into the kitchen. The evening chill was making itself felt, and the heat was off in the main house, so I switched on the fan heater, then filled the kettle.
“Look,” I asked, “how long have you been sexually active?”
“Since I was ten,” Johnny replied. I was a bit shocked. I had expected him to say twelve or thirteen, but ten? “Marcel got me sucking his cock just after my tenth birthday.”
“He’s Jean-Paul’s youngest son,” Johnny informed me.
“Jean-Paul?” I enquired.
“Yes, the chap mother sent me to spend the summer with,” he stated. “Officially we were supposed to be spending the summer with Jean-Paul, but she always had to dash back for some meeting or an important case, so most of the time I was left there with the boys and Margaretta."
“You’d better fill me in on who is who?” I stated.
"Oh, I thought you knew," Johnny said. "Well Jean-Paul, he's a professor at the university, so is his wife, that's Margaretta. He's got three sons, Pierre, David and Marcel. Pierre and David are twins; they're quite a bit older than Marcel.
“Marcel’s mother was killed in a car crash when he was four. Jean-Paul hired Margaretta to look after the boys then married her. She had been his student. Mother met Jean-Paul just after I started school. Think he was a client. They had something going. We always went over to their place in Paris at Christmas and their place near Arles for the summer vac. Marcel’s grandparents lived there.”
“You keep using Marcel’s name,” I stated. “Are you good friends?”
“We were,” Johnny replied.
“Why the past tense?”
“When mother sent me out last summer, he told me he did not want to do the things we had been doing any more. Said he was grown up now and did not play childish games. He told me if I wanted to do that sort of thing, then I was a fag, and he did not want me around.”
“That’s not very nice of him,” I commented.
"No, but he still wanted me to suck him when he came back from a date with a girl and she had not given out to him."
“That’s not very nice of him.”
“No, it wasn’t,” Johnny stated. He picked up the mug of tea I had made and held it in his hands as if to warm them. “He was using me, wasn’t he?”
"Yes, Johnny, he was.".
“Was I using Joseph, wanting to have sex with him?” he asked.
“Now, that depends,” I stated.
“You’re not making this easy,” Johnny commented.
"Relationships never are easy; they require work," I observed.
"So, you think Joseph was right, and I'm wrong?" he asked.
“I am not sure there is a right or wrong in this,” I stated. “You both seem to have got yourself into a relationship without first working out what the relationship is that you want.”
"I don't know what you mean, Dad?"
"The question is, are you and Joseph looking for the same thing. Do you want Joseph as a boyfriend, fuck buddy or casual sex partner? What does Joseph want you for?
“From the sound of it I think you were treating Joseph as something of a fuck buddy, and I think Joseph was looking for something more.”
Johnny took a drink of his tea, then put the mug down on the table. He looked at me. His eyes looked moist.
“I’ve fucked up, haven’t I, Dad?”
"You've made a mess of things," I stated. "Not sure that you have fucked them up yet. It depends on what you want and what you do to sort things out."
“I want Joseph,” he replied.
“I don’t know, Dad,” he said, his voice raised. “Every relationship I’ve had has been about sex, and I want sex with Joseph but …” A tear started to run down his cheek, and he began to sob. I went around the table and sat next to him, putting my arm around him.
“But you want more,” I stated.
"Yes, I want to be with him, to do things with him."
“What sort of things?” I asked.
"Oh, I don't know. Anything, so long as we can do it together. Go to the cinema. Visit a museum. Go sailing. Watch the swans on the river. Just be with him."
“I think you are talking about more than a boyfriend,” I said.
"But I have really fucked it up, haven't I?"
“That, Johnny, depends. I think you need to establish contact with Joseph and see what the pair of you can sort out.”
He pulled his phone out of his pocket, entered his PIN, and then sent a text. It was a short text. Then he sat and finished his tea. He had just put his mug down when his phone pinged. He looked at it, then smiled.
“He wants to Skype,” Johnny informed me, getting up and making for the door.
"Don't be on too long," I stated, looking at the clock which showed it was well past ten. "Remember, Joseph has school in the morning and you have college.”
"Yes, Dad. That reminds me; can you give me a lift in, in the morning?”
I ran Johnny into college as he had an early class, then nothing for three hours. Anne did not have a class until eleven and wanted to get some shopping done first.
On the way in, I suggested that we meet up after his first class for a snack in Marge's. I needed to go into the office-supply store to pick up some paper and ink cartridges. I also wanted to hear how things had gone with Joseph and last night's Skype call. I guessed things had gone reasonably well, though, as Johnny seemed a lot brighter this morning.
After I had dropped Johnny off, I went to the office-supply warehouse, then went to Marge's café. I saw what Marge meant about it being busy during term time. Although it was past nine and classes had started, the place was still fairly full. Two or three people occupied most of the tables; not all of them looked like students. Marge was behind the counter; there were a couple of girls serving. I looked around for an empty table.
“Give them a couple of minutes,” Marge stated from behind the counter. It is nearly twenty-past; they will be getting off over to the college for the nine-thirty classes.
She was right, a couple of minutes later, several phone alarms went off, and people started to stand up and leave. The girls began to clear the tables and wipe them down. I took a now-vacated table by the window, near to the counter.
“You’re that writer chap that was in here a while ago,” Marge said, coming from behind the counter with her order pad.
"Yes," I replied. "You're taking orders; I thought you had staff during term times."
"Oh, the girls have their break now," she answered, smiling. "It will be quiet now till about ten-thirty/elevenish. Then we get another rush that does not die down till gone two. So, what can I get you?”
"Pot of Betty's Earl Grey and a toasted teacake," I responded.
She took the order and returned behind the counter. The café was virtually empty; an elderly couple occupied the only other table in use. Marge brought my tea and told me the teacake would be a couple of minutes. We chatted for a moment about the weather, then a bell rang, and Marge went back behind the counter, I looked out the window. A blue-and-white delivery van went past and turned into the college.
Marge put the plate with the teacake down in front of me. “Dunford Fisheries," she commented, seeing what I was looking at. "They deliver to the refectory daily, which is a puzzle; they don't do that much seafood. Why they need daily deliveries, I don't know."
Johnny turned up just after ten and joined me at the table. Marge came round to take his order, a large cola and a bacon butty.
“How did things go with Joseph last night?” I asked.
“Good,” Johnny replied. “We are going to meet up on Saturday and talk things through.”
“Sounds as if you have a lot to talk through?”
"We do, Dad," he confirmed. "I'm not sure how it is going to work out, but at least we are talking."
We spent a couple more minutes talking about Joseph. Marge brought his bacon butty, which Johnny tucked into with gusto.
“You know you could have had a larger breakfast at home,” I commented.
“Nah,” he replied. “Don’t feel like eating that early in the morning.” I nodded. I did not feel like eating at seven-thirty in the morning myself.
“How are classes?” I enquired.
“Good. Though, I could do without maths at eight-thirty in the morning,” he commented.
“It’s a funny time for a class to start,” I observed.
"It's for the returning mothers. They finish at one so they can be home in time for the kiddies getting home from school. They have three double sessions, three mornings a week.”
“But you’re not a returning mother,” I pointed out.
"I know, but the maths class I should do clashes with my woodwork theory," Johnny stated. "It is the same teacher as covers this class, and the two classes are following the same syllabus, so she suggested I do this class rather than miss one maths class a week and have to catch up on my own.”
“And what are returning mothers?” I asked.
"It's not actually called that; it's called 'Return to Education'. Most of them are women who dropped out of A-level to start a family, and now that the kids are in secondary school, they want to get back into education, with a view to going to university."
“So, you are in a class of old women?”
"They're not that old, Dad," he responded. "Most are younger than you, and there are a couple of men in the class. Though they are older."
“How come?” I enquired.
"They have both been made redundant and are looking to retrain. Dave's fifty; he was at Sheldon's for thirty years. Got made redundant in the Spring after the takeover. He's got a good redundancy package and an early pension. Does not need to work. Always been interested in astronomy, so now looking at going to university to study it. Just needs the A-levels."
“You seem to get on with them well,” I commented.
“Well, they are a lot better to talk to than the lads in my other classes.”
“How come?” I asked.
"Well, Dad, to be honest, half of the lads in my other classes do not want to be there. All they are bothered with is when the next lot of drugs will arrive."
"There are drugs in the college?" I asked. Though, not surprised.
“Loads of them. Somebody must be distributing in the college,” Johnny replied.
Something clicked into place. I took out my phone and sent an email to Bernard.
I had another pot of tea and chatted to Johnny, who got another coke and bacon butty, for a bit longer. As Marge had predicted, the café started to fill up again after ten-thirty. I mentioned this to Johnny.
“Makes sense,” he replied. “Most classes start at nine or nine-thirty. The nine o’clock ones are a double period. The nine-thirty ones are a single period. So, they will be ending at either ten-fifteen or ten-thirty. I think most of those who have breaks will come across here. They tend to avoid the refectory.”
“That bad, is it?”
“Yea, it’s not just the food, either. It’s the gang who hang out in there. Quite a few of them are lads who are barred from the youth club.”
Another piece of the puzzle fell into place.
O o O o O
It was just gone three, and I was busy writing when DCI Manley called round. He had phoned just after one to check if I was going to be in during the afternoon.
“You are certain it was a Dunford Fisheries van?" he asked after we had spent twenty minutes generally chatting about things.
“Can’t be certain. It was a blue-and-white van,” I replied. “Marge said it was Dunford Fisheries. Said they delivered every day, which puzzled her.”
“Quite right, they went bust five years ago,” the DCI commented. “It should have puzzled a couple of our chaps who we’ve had watching the place. I’ll be having a word with them.”
“You’re watching Southmead College?” I asked.
“Of course, we are,” DCI Manley responded. “The Hendersons have a business there, which John Henderson manages. Everything that the Hendersons do is of interest. Especially why they allow a nineteen-year-old to manage their catering business at the college, a catering business which definitely can’t be paying.”
“You know that?” I asked.
"Yes," the DCI replied. "The college accounts are open to public inspection. Under the franchise for the refectory, the Hendersons pay five percent of all takings to the college. So, we know what the five percent was last year, and we can work out from that what the total take was. There is no way that business is paying. Especially given what they paid to get the franchise.”
“Then it’s drugs,” I stated.
“Yes,” John Manley confirmed. “They are picking them up during the yacht races. Distribution is through the catering outlets they have. The only problem is we have not been able to find how they get from the yacht club to the catering outlet.”
“Dunford Fisheries,” I said. The DCI nodded. “So, when do you stop them?”
“After the trial,” Manley stated. “As soon as we have Peter Henderson and McCormac in custody, we can move on the others.”
“Isn’t there a chance that they will panic and run the moment you pull those two?” I asked.
“There’s a chance, but I do not think it is likely,” the DCI explained. “Peter Henderson is a controlling bastard and likes that role. I don’t think anyone is going to do anything without instructions from him, and I am fairly sure we can stop him giving instructions, at least till sometime on Thursday.
“We won’t be ready to interview him till then, so he won’t see his solicitor till then. By that time, we will have the warrants and be moving.”
“It all comes down to tomorrow,” I stated.
“Yes,” the DCI replied. “I just hope that the barrister Mr LeBrun has got for young Ian can pull this off.”
“Sir Harold Gleeson; I think he should be able to.”
“He’s got Gleeson?” the DCI asked. I nodded. “He’ll bloody tear McCormac to pieces on the stand. Wish I could be there to see it.”
“You won’t be?”
"No, somebody has to be standing by up here with the squads for when the warrants are signed. The Commander will be in court; she'll give us the wink when to start moving."
It was about twenty minutes after the DCI left that my phone rang. The caller ID gave Bernard's number; I was surprised to see it; we had arranged to have a Skype call at six. I answered.
“Hello, Bernard, thought you were going to Skype me at six.”
"Can't, Mike, there's a problem," he replied.
“I’m at Queen Mary’s. Was having a pre-trial conference with Sir Harold when he collapsed. Looks like a heart attack.”
“How is he?” I enquired.
“Not too bad,” Bernard replied. “At least he is conscious, which I am told is something.”
“How’s his family taking it?” I asked.
"He hasn't got any," Bernard informed me. "I'm his solicitor, but I am also his friend. I hold his medical power of attorney."
“What about tomorrow, the trial?” I asked.
“Well, we could ask for an adjournment, but we might not get one,” Bernard informed me. “One of the reasons leading barristers have juniors is so that the junior can take over if something like this happens.”
“So, who would take over?” I enquired.
“June Ravensbrook,” Bernard informed me. “As soon as I can, I will talk with Harold and find out what he thinks is the best. Also, I need to talk to the Commander. They, of course, have an interest in this."
“So, you still need me at court in the morning?” I asked.
“Of course, but it would help if you could be early,” Bernard replied. “If June is taking over, we may have to give her a more in-depth briefing. Not sure how much Harold told her.”
O o O o O
Arriving in London on the early train got me to the Old Bailey just after nine-thirty; found I had a twenty-minute plus wait to get in. I sent a text to Bernard. He replied, telling me to go to a nearby coffee shop. About ten minutes later, one of his clerks came and found me, then escorted me into the court by another entrance. The Commander and Bernard were waiting for me inside. I commented on the fact that I had been let in via a side door.
"Technically, you are a material party to the case," Bernard informed me. "After all, you did put up the bail. So, you are part of the defence team. More importantly, the Commander wants to hear what you told DCI Manley yesterday directly from you. I've got an interview room reserved; we can go there to talk."
For the next fifteen minutes, I found myself repeating what I had told the DCI the day before.
"Well?" Bernard asked once I had finished.
“We go ahead as planned,” the Commander stated. “We need those warrants, and useful as Mr Carlton’s observations are, they are not quite enough to justify the warrants.”
“What about Ian’s defence?” I asked.
“Miss Ravensbrook will lead?” Bernard stated. “I will be acting as her junior. By the way, Mike, you will be in the body of the court, just behind the defence." I looked at him questioningly. I expected that I would be in the public gallery. "You are standing bail for Ian so have a right to be in court."
“Where is Ian?” I enquired.
"In the interview room with Miss Ravensbrook," Bernard replied. He then spent the next few minutes giving me an explanation of how things would go once we were in court. That finished, he asked one of the ushers to take me through to the court, saying he would be along shortly.
A few minutes after I had been seated in the court, Allen Davidson came in and sat next to me.
"Morning, Mike," he said, lowering his bulk onto the seat.
"Morning, Allen," I replied. "I presume you bought Ian down this morning?"
"Came down yesterday," he replied. "Phil told us to use the Piccadilly flat for the duration. Though, from what I heard, the duration is not likely to be that long."
“I hope it isn’t,” I commented. “Anyway, what have you heard?”
“Well, my mate Manley let drop that the prosecution might find that their witnesses are not quite what they think they are,” Allen responded.
“I hope that is the case,” I answered.
"If Manley says it's the case, then you can be bloody sure it is the case. The thing is, I don’t understand why the police have not warned the CPS that there are problems with the prosecution witnesses. Normally, if the police know that the CPS are warned, the case is dropped.”
“I suppose it depends on what the police are after,” I replied.
“And who else is interested,” Allen added.
“Who else might be?” I asked.
“Well,” he responded. “I saw Edith Jenkins in the queue for the public gallery. Now, would you like to inform me what her interest is?”
"If I knew, probably not," I stated. "Though to be quite honest, I have not been able to work out what her interest is, except that Ian is some relation of hers.”
"God help the prosecution witnesses, then, if they have got on the wrong side of the old gal. She has quite a reputation, you know."
“I’ve heard,” I responded.
The court had started to fill up. Bernard’s clerk had taken up occupation at the table in front of us. Shortly after he did, my ex-wife walked into court, bedecked in her wig and gown. She looked over at me, somewhat surprised, and then went to speak to one of the ushers.
The usher came over to us and asked who we were and what we were doing in the body of the court. Bernard's clerk stated that we were parties to the proceedings and showed the usher a list of names on some official form. The usher read it, then asked for our identifications. Once given, he seemed happy and moved off to check on other parties taking their place in the court. Beryl looked decidedly unhappy.
Bernard and Miss Ravensbrook came in and took their places at the table in front of us. As they did, a group of people entered the court and took seats to the rear of the court. I asked Bernard’s clerk who they were.
“That’s the jury panel,” he informed me. Just then, I noticed the Commander slip into court and take a seat at the rear. Then Ian came up into the dock; two prison officers were on each side of him. He had only just sat down in the dock when the clerk called out, "All rise". We all stood, and the judge entered and took her place on the bench.
The clerk asked Ian to confirm his identity. Once that was done, details of the charges were read out, and he was asked how he pleaded. His response was not guilty. At that point, the judge intervened.
“Miss Ravensbrook, are you appearing for the defence?” she asked.
“Yes, milady,” June Ravensbrook replied. “I am being assisted by Mr LeBrun.”
“I understand Sir Harold was supposed to lead in this case?” her Ladyship stated.
“Yes, milady,” June replied. “Unfortunately, Sir Harold was taken ill yesterday afternoon and is currently hospitalised. He has asked me to take over the representation of the defence.”
“You are not seeking an adjournment, then?” the judge asked.
“I would be quite happy to grant one in the circumstances,” her Ladyship advised.
"Milady, I have been involved in this case for some time and am fully au fait with the defence's case. I have also consulted with the defendant and other interested parties, and it is the opinion of all involved that it would be preferable in the interest of justice to get these proceedings dealt with as soon as possible. My client is fully aware of the issues and has instructed me not to seek an adjournment.”
“In that case, then, let us proceed,” her Ladyship stated.
The jury was selected and sworn in. Those not selected left the court. Beryl formally introduced herself to the court as counsel for the prosecution; June did the same for the defence.
Beryl then started to outline the case for the prosecution.
“Milady, we are here today to try a most horrendous case of attempted murder and grievous bodily harm. The prosecution will show that the accused is a member of a criminally intended family who have persecuted and harassed members of the victim’s family over the years. We will show that the accused armed himself with an offensive weapon and used that weapon to inflict grievous injury on the person of Michael Henderson.”
I listened to my ex-wife drone on about the hideous actions of Ian, wondering how on earth she could believe the drivel she was spouting. She made it sound as if Ian’s family had a vendetta against the Hendersons. Eventually she came to a close and called her first witness, Detective Sergeant Peter McCormac. She spent a couple of minutes establishing the credentials of the Detective Sergeant, and the dates on which the events took place.
“Now, Detective Sergeant, in your own words, can you tell us about the events of that Friday evening?” my ex-wife asked.
The DS looked towards the judge and asked if he could refer to his notes; the judge gave her consent. He withdrew a notebook from his pocket.
“Friday, the nineteenth of April, I was in the vicinity of the Market Square, Dunford, shortly after twenty-three-twenty hours. I was notified of a disturbance at Wendy's Burger Bar in the Market Square and immediately made my way to the said location. Upon arriving there, I found the accused holding a bladed weapon with blood on it. The victim, one Michael Henderson, was on the ground, bleeding profusely from a stab wound to the abdomen. I promptly disarmed and apprehended the accused, summoning help and medical assistance. Upon the arrival of assistance, the accused was searched and found to be in possession of several bladed weapons, including two cutthroat razors. The accused was arrested by one of the attending officers and taken to the local police station.”
Beryl asked several questions about the weapons and the evidence that they had been used to stab the victim. After about twenty minutes of this, she seemed satisfied, turned and smiled at Miss Ravensbrook and then stated she had no more questions.
June stood and approached the witness box.
“You say you were notified about a disturbance at Wendy’s Burger Bar?” she asked.
“Yes,” the Detective Sergeant replied.
“How were you notified?” June enquired.
“I think it came over the radio,” McCormac stated.
“You think?” June asked. “Aren’t you sure; don’t you want to check your notes.”
“I haven’t made a note of it,” the Detective Sergeant replied.
June smiled. “Is it possible you received a phone call?”
“That’s it,” DS McCormac stated. “The station called me.”
"Why did they call you?"
“Well, they knew I was in the area,” the Detective Sergeant replied.
“How did they know?” June asked, smiling. Her smile reminded me of a Great White I had observed when diving on the Great Barrier Reef. You knew its teeth, very sharp teeth.
“I had discussed where I was going that evening with the Duty Sergeant,” McCormac replied. A hint of sweat starting to show on his brow.
“Interesting,” June commented. She walked back towards the defence position. Bernard’s clerk extracted two documents from the pile in front of him and handed them to her. “Do you normally inform the Duty Sergeant of your movements?”
“When I’m on duty, yes.”
“That is the point, isn’t it, YOU WEREN’T ON DUTY!” June Ravensbrook stated. The last four words were not shouted but delivered with such precision and emphasis that they reverberated around the court. She raised the hand containing the documents she held. “These are copies of the duty log and the phone log for Dunford Police Station on Friday, the 19th of June. The duty log shows not only that you were not on duty that day but that you were actually midway through a five-day leave.
“Furthermore, the phone logs for the twenty-four-hour period in question show that no call was made from the station to the police-issued mobile phone. I submit that any notification you received COULD NOT HAVE BEEN OFFICIAL!”
My ex-wife stood.
“Milady,” she stated. “Can I enquire how the defence obtained the documents that they are presenting in evidence and how can we be certain that they are a true and valid record.”
“If I may assist the court,” a voice stated from behind us. I turned to see the Commander standing. She was in uniform.
“Certainly,” her Ladyship responded. “And you are?”
“Commander Janet Richardson, Serious and Organised Crime Division, the Metropolitan Police,” she replied.
“Thank you,” the judge responded. “You may assist the court.”
“The documents in question were supplied to the defence as part of an ongoing investigation into serious and organised crime by myself,” the Commander stated. My ex-wife gave her a look that should have turned the Commander into stone. As it was the Commander merely smiled back at her.
"Thank you, Commander," her Ladyship said. "Based on that information, which the court finds of assistance, I believe the court can accept the documents as a true and valid record. Does the prosecution have any objection?”
“No, milady,” me ex-wife replied.
June smiled and turned back to face the witness.
“We can leave the subject of how you were notified for a bit to give you time to think up a better answer,” June stated. From the look on the faces of the jurors, it was clear they understood the implications of June’s words.
"In your evidence to the prosecution, you stated," June paused, stepped back towards the defence position and glanced at her notes, "ah, yes, 'there was no CCTV footage of the incident', is that correct?"
“Yes,” McCormac replied. "There was a CCTV system in the establishment, but there was a fault with it, and no recording was made." June gave another impression of a Great White Shark.
Allen leaned over to me and whispered, "She's bloody enjoying this." I nodded.
"Would it surprise you to learn that the CCTV system had been serviced the previous day and found to be in full working order?" June asked. She once again came to the defence position and was handed a sheet of paper. "I have here the report of the service engineer, which shows that it was recording fine at sixteen-twenty on Thursday, the eighteenth of June. It records that there are some eighteen hundred hours of recordings on the system."
“I find that surprising,” McCormac responded. "The engineer must have done something that damaged the system; there was nothing recorded on it when I checked it."
"How interesting," June commented. "When informed, there was a fault on the CCTV system the management of Wendy's Burger Bar, contacted the CCTV service company, who provided them with a replacement recorder. As a result, no further recordings were made to the system after you had checked it for recordings. The defence arranged for the recorder to be examined by experts in the field of digital-recording technology."
She moved back slowly to the defence position where Bernard handed her a folder.
“I have here their report,” she stated. “I will be calling them as witnesses as part of the defence case. However, this report states that a formatting of the hard disk was instigated at zero one seventeen hours on the twentieth of June, some two hours after the incident giving rise to this case.” She paused. Another Great White look. “The format carried out was apparently what is called a ‘Quick Format’. I am informed that the nature of this formatting is only to remove the directory references to the files, not the actual files in question. As a result, it was possible to recover the physical data from the hard drive.” McCormac looked distinctly unhappy.
"These," June said, holding up a handful of photographs, "are stills taken from those files." Bernard handed copies of the stills to the clerk so that he could pass them to the judge, prosecution and the jury. June continued. "As you can see, the first still clearly shows you in the office of Wendy's Burger Bar standing in front of the CCTV recorder. You will note that the control panel cover of the recorder is open. This, I am reliably informed, is not necessary to view the footage. Do you have any explanation?"
“I was unfamiliar with the system,” McCormac replied.
“I suppose you were unfamiliar with the system when you pressed the menu button to bring up the control menu?” She handed him a second photo. "Or when you scrolled down to disk management?" She gave him a third photo. "Or when you selected to format the hard disk?"
She paused and turned her attention to the jury.
“For somebody who is unfamiliar with the system Detective Sergeant, you seem quite adept at finding your way around the control menu to the format option. These do not seem like accidental moves.”
“Miss Ravensbrook,” the judge interrupted. “Are you asserting that the Detective Sergeant deliberately, with intent, tampered with evidence in this case?”
“Yes, milady, I am,” June replied.
“That is quite a serious accusation,” her Ladyship responded. “It is duly noted.”
“Thank you, milady," June responded, then turned her attention back to McCormac. “As her Ladyship has pointed out it appears you deliberately tampered with evidence in this case. Do you have an explanation for your actions?”
“It was an accident,” McCormac asserted. “I was unfamiliar with the system.”
"It also appears that you are unfamiliar with the English language," June stated, handing him yet another photo. "As you will see a warning is clearly displayed on the screen stating that proceeding with the action will remove all recordings currently on the hard disk. Yet you go on to press the confirm button, as we can see in this final photo." She handed McCormac another picture. “I suggest to you that you deliberately set about to destroy evidence in this case and that you did not realise that the system would keep recording until you pressed the final button or that the recordings would be recoverable.”
“It was an accident,” McCormac re-asserted.
“Then let us see what this accident was intended to dispose of,” June stated, coming over to get another packet of photos from Bernard’s clerk. Bernard handed a quantity of copies to the clerk for distribution to the court. June removed the first of the pictures and gave it to McCormac. It showed Ian sitting at a table in the burger bar; the table was surrounded by five youths.
“Can you identify the people around the table that the accused is sitting at?” June asked.
“No, I don’t recognise them,” McCormac stated.
“Are you certain?” June asked. “I would remind you that you are under oath.”
“Yes, I’m certain,” McCormac confirmed.
June Ravensbrook gave McCormac her most deadly Great White Shark smile.
"Detective Sergeant, you are telling this court that you do not recognise your own nephew, John Henderson, the child of your wife's brother; a nephew who, I am reliably informed, was present at your house on Sunday for a barbeque." She paused, smiled again, then continued. "Perhaps Detective Sergeant you would like to explain to the court exactly why it is that you are unable to identify your nephew in this photo. Is it perhaps the fact that he is physically dragging the defendant from his seat in Wendy's Burger Bar?"
McCormac was silent. His eyes were darting about the court as if seeking help. My ex-wife was making sure she did not make eye contact with him. She was sitting at the prosecution's table sorting through papers, pointedly ignoring the prosecution witness.
“Maybe it would help if we have a look at another image recovered from the video,” June continued. She handed McCormac another photo. "In this image, two youths, both considerably older and larger than the defendant, can be seen dragging the defendant towards the doors of Wendy's Burger Bar. I would ask you to identify the two youths."
There was silence on the part of the witness.
“I have not heard an identification from you, can you please identify the youths to the court?” June requested.
“They are John and Michael Henderson,” McCormac stated.
“Thank you,” June said, with a degree of relish. “Is it not correct that both boys are in fact your nephews by marriage?”
"And the Michael Henderson in the photo is, in fact, the alleged victim in this case?"
“Yes, he is. He was stabbed,” McCormac snapped.
“Were you able to identify the weapon used to stab Michael Henderson?” she asked.
“Yes, it was a pair of pointed scissors,” McCormac stated.
“A pair of pointed scissors,” Jane repeated. “Is it not correct to state that they were a pair of hairdresser’s scissors?”
"Well, yes," McCormac replied.
“And the other offensive weapons you found on the defendant, is it not correct to state that they were all hairdressing tools?”
“And how were they being carried?” June Ravensbroke enquired.
“They were concealed in pockets in a waistcoat type of garment,” McCormac answered.
“Were the pockets on the inside or the outside of the waistcoat,” June asked.
“On the outside.”
“So, Detective Sergeant, if my client had not been wearing his overcoat, the hairdressing appliances would have been clearly visible."
“I suppose,” McCormac responded.
“When you interviewed my client, did he say why he was carrying hairdressing equipment?”
“Yes, he said he had been at a hairdressing class,” McCormac replied.
“Did you do anything to check this?”
“No, we all know he works in a warehouse,” McCormac snapped.
"You do, do you? You all know he works in a warehouse," June stated slowly. "Exactly who are WE? Is it the police? I would think that would be unlikely as my client does not have a criminal record. Is it the Henderson family? Would you like to answer that?"
"Well for your information Detective Sergeant we have been advised by the National Criminal Intelligence Service that no records were held on the National Intelligence database concerning my client." The judge looked across, and the Commander, who just nodded. Nothing was said, but I was sure the jury took note.
“It might have been a good idea if you had checked what my client said,” June continued. A sheet of paper was handed to her by Bernard’s clerk. “This is a record of attendance on the evening of the 19th of June at Cirencester College. It records that Ian Jenkins, the defendant, was in attendance at a year-one class in hairdressing. The class runs from seven till nine. According to the tutor, most students, including my client, arrive around eighteen-thirty, and it usually takes them half an hour to clean up after the end of the class, so most leave about twenty-one-thirty.
“Given that the last bus to Dunford does not leave till twenty-two-ten and arrives in Dunford at twenty-three-five, would you not say that it is reasonable to surmise that the defendant was on his way home from his evening class and was carrying the hairdressing equipment as a result of having attended that class?”
“NO, HE WAS SITTING IN THE BURGER BAR!” shouted McCormac.
“Yes, waiting for his mother to pick him up because the bus from Cirencester gets in ten minutes after the last bus home leaves Dunford,” Miss Ravensbrook riposted. This time her smile showed the white teeth. Even I was starting to feel sorry for the Detective Sergeant.
“Let us return to the matter of how you were informed of the incident,” she stated, with that smile. “I would suggest that you were actually informed of the incident at sixteen-thirty-five on the nineteenth of June.”
“That’s impossible; it didn’t start till after eleven.”
"Precisely, Detective Sergeant," June stated. "In that case, I would like your explanation of this phone call that was recorded at sixteen-thirty-five on the day of the incident.” She nodded to Bernard’s clerk who took a digital player unit to the front of the court and placed it on the clerk’s table.
"Milady!" my ex-wife exclaimed. "The defence appears to be introducing evidence that can only be obtained as a result of a warrant."
“Thank you, Miss Carlton-Smith,” the judge said. “Miss Ravensbrook, the prosecution counsel has raised a valid point. Do you have evidence of a warrant for the material you are introducing as evidence?”
“Milady,” June responded. “It would probably assist the court if my junior addressed the court on this matter.” Bernard rose from his seat.
"Very well, Miss Ravensbrook," her Ladyship replied. "Mr LeBrun, would you please address the court."
"Of course, milady," Bernard replied. "Earlier this year the authorities in Belarus became concerned about certain apparently criminal activities which were being conducted outside of Belarus but making use of services and parties in Belarus. As a result of information received, the Belarus Ministry of Justice carried out a number of raids, one of which was on an internet service provider in Minsk. This is a certified copy of the warrant issued by the Ministry of Justice for the raid to take place." He handed a document to the clerk, who passed it up to the judge. "And this is a certified translation of the said warrant, certified by our Embassy in Belarus." Another piece of paper was handed to the clerk, who again passed it to the judge. "A server was found that was being used by parties, apparently to record telephone conversations, some of which appeared to be of a criminal nature. The Belarus Ministry of Justice requested a UK-based, private-security firm to investigate the recordings. That firm, being aware of my legal practice's interest in this case, made copies of the recordings available to us. We have, of course, made copies available to the police." The judge looked at the Commander, who nodded confirmation.
In the witness box, Detective Sergeant McCormac looked decidedly pale.
Her Ladyship read the documentation that had been passed up to her. Then she addressed the prosecution.
“It appears that the recordings originate from a foreign jurisdiction. From the documents provided and the information provided with them by our Embassy, it would seem that all required legal procedures had been followed. I, therefore, see no grounds for refusing to allow the evidence to be admitted. Indeed, from what I have heard so far in this case, I feel that the evidence may well be somewhat enlightening, and I am looking forward to hearing it.
“Miss Ravensbrook, you may continue. Please press the play button.”