1. This blog-novel is copyright.
2. I don’t like foul language and the first two words are the only such. However, the words were used (and repeated) in the genuine biography of Madeleine by her mother Kate McCann, (‘Maddie’ sadly disappeared in 2007), when Kate was describing her opinion of an interviewing police officer. Had it not reflected a real-life event, that phrase in that context would not have been believable, but in the light of that usage in real life, I was not unhappy to use the same expression in this work of fiction.
THIS WORK IS ENTIRELY FICTION AND MUST BE READ AS SUCH.
THE CHARACTERS AND THE STORY ARE BOTH FICTITIOUS
“Fucking tosser!” Corrie muttered under her breath, “does he think I’m completely stupid?” She looked up at her interrogator, “I’m a scientist for God’s sake, what you’re telling me’s like witchcraft, like waving a magic wand. Dogs smelling corpses! Ridiculous!”
This was Corrie’s way of keeping her mind on track, on the official story. It’s an old trick; when you can’t answer the question, insult the messenger and Corrie was ridiculing the policeman.
Jimbo and Corrie had met while working hard for their degrees and post-grad biochemistry research. Achieving a PhD was proof to her that she was far more intelligent than a mere plod. How dare he suggest that dogs knew something that she had convinced herself hadn’t happened? How dare this plod bring up the idea that her oldest daughter was dead?
“Why am I here? You arrested us in the middle of the night and haven’t let me talk to Jimbo or any of my friends. You haven’t even told me where my children are; Jess and Bex need their mother, don’t you understand? They need me. They haven’t seen me all day.”
“As you were told before the interview started, your children are being looked after and are quite safe. Your solicitor will arrange for anything else you need.” Detective Chief Inspector Wellington paused and looked deeply into Corrie’s eyes, determined not to be put off by Corrie’s attempts to lead the interview.
“When can I see Jess and Bex?” Corrie asked again.
Wellington was playing the long game. He looked at her and didn’t speak immediately. Many years of experience told him that there are times when not speaking and waiting for the interviewee to become so unnerved that they start talking without prompting is most effective; it brings them to a point where they have to say something, anything, just to escape the silent torture, to stop the fear and nerves.
Corrie opened her mouth to speak and shut it again. She looked back and forth from the staring plod she had nick-named Welly-boy to her solicitor, the appropriately called Peter Crooke. She didn’t really trust either of them, but Crooke came to her rescue, “Thank you, Detective Chief Inspector, as that is clearly the end of questioning, I presume you are letting my client go now.”
Wellington forced a half smile and said nothing for what seemed a decade; indeed, Corrie was silently reciting the ten Hail Marys of a ‘decade’ of the Rosary to herself. Corrie and Crooke glanced back and forth and eventually, Wellington broke the silence. “There are a great many more questions yet, Mr. Crooke.” He broke the silence, but not the unblinking stare at Corrie’s eyes. Again, he paused for dramatic effect, but Corrie had been well trained by her lawyers, despite such training being highly illegal; she said nothing.
“I really do need an answer, Corrie. I will ask the question again. Why you think the dogs, specially trained by the FBI in America detected the scent of a dead body in your holiday camp chalet.”
Corrie looked at Crooke, “You don’t have to answer.” Crooke reminded her.
“No comment.” Said Corrie.
Wellington leaned back, relaxed but looked straight into Corrie’s eyes. “Fucking tosser …” she muttered again.
Wellington leaned forward, “I didn’t quite hear that. Could you repeat it louder for the tape please.”
Corrie hadn’t realised she said it loud enough to be heard, so was caught off-guard, looked down and said, “I’ve no idea. Perhaps someone died there before we came. We were only there for a week, so it couldn’t have been anything to do with us.”
“We’ve checked,” Wellington said, “We’ve checked every local doctor’s records, coroner’s records and every death in the holiday camp since it was built 30 years ago. There have been no deaths there.”
She didn’t know what to say, but suddenly remembered something her husband had said when confronted with the same question by a newspaper reporter. “Don’t ask me,” she replied, “ask the dogs.” As soon as she said it, she realised it sounded wrong and arrogant. Crooke shifted on his chair and Wellington returned to his unblinking gaze.
“Yes,” said Wellington, “that’s what your husband said.”
Corrie looked up, surprised. That was the first time that Wellington had mentioned Jimbo; his ploy had worked. It had given her hope that he was telling the same story. “Where is he?” she asked.
“He’s safe,” the D.C.I. replied, not telling her that he had been taken to a different police station, “he told us what happened in his words and we just want to hear your version. Your version in your own words. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Corrie half smiled with confidence. They had practised their story so well for the last six years that even they believed it now. Corrie and Jimbo had so convinced themselves of their story that they were genuinely shocked when anyone queried their version. Indeed, enough of their story was accurate for them to be able to weave the invented bits seamlessly into the truth.
“So how do you explain the smell of a dead body in the chalet?” repeated Wellington.
Corrie was still a bit off-guard and forgot to check with Crooke for guidance, “It must have been the abductor.”
“The abductor left a smell in your chalet?”
“No, the abductor must have killed Selina before taking her away.”
“How long do you think,” Wellington asked, slowly and purposefully leaning forward again, “the abductor left her there, dead, before removing her body?”
Corrie was a bio-chemist and not completely ignorant of how cadaver decomposition could leave permanent smells in surrounding materials. She realised that the body would have had to be there for some minutes before the smell was released and permanently became embedded in the surroundings. “About half an hour, I suppose. We must have made a mistake about how often we checked, so he could have left her there for half an hour.”
“Dead? Then took her away?” Wellington asked.
“Yes, he must have killed her.”
“Why would he have killed her, do you think?
“Well, he was a paedophile, wasn’t he? They do that”
“Do they?” Wellington held his dour, straight, unblinking, untelling visage for a long pause. Another half-smile, “Can you help me here … please? Wellington eventually continued, “From the baby-check times you gave me earlier, there was less than five minutes between checks, so how can she have been dead for half an hour?”
“Well, perhaps it wasn’t half an hour, ” retorted Corrie, “perhaps it was only a quarter of an hour.”
Wellington looked at her and she knew he didn’t believe her and the need to explain exploded unstoppably. “We didn’t have watches.” Unstoppably, but with uncomfortable pauses, “We didn’t know the time. … We just knew when to go and check them. … We may have got into a conversation. … We may not have checked enough. … Not often enough. … He must have been watching. … He must have known. … He must have been watching us for days.”
Wellington nodded knowingly. “How did he watch you while he was killing Sellie and abducting her?”
Corrie picked up her favourite irritation. “She’s Selina, not Sellie.”
Wellington wasn’t distracted. “How did he watch you while he was killing Selina and abducting her?”
“He was looking out of the window, we were only, like, in the garden.”
“Wouldn’t he have been rather preoccupied?” he asked.
“You can’t expect my client to know what other people were thinking and doing.” Crooke commented.
Wellington continued without sparing even a glance for Crooke, “Can you tell me, please Corrie, how the killer and abductor could have seen you at the wine-bar while he was killing and abducting Selina from her bedroom which is the opposite side of the chalet from the pub? The pub where you were drinking?”
Corrie was prepared and remembered this question coming up in practise sessions when they guessed they were going to be accused of killing their child and blurted out the key word mnemonics. “Look-out. Accomplice.”
Crooke noticeably inhaled and invisibly raised his eyebrows heavenwards as Corrie looked to him for inspiration. He didn’t help.
“She must have had a look-out. There must have been an accomplice watching for us to check them.” Corrie paused, hoping this was enough and that she could go home now; she must surely have answered all his questions now.
“She?” asked Wellington.
“I mean he. They’re always men, aren’t they?”
“Are they?” Wellington paused. “Who are always men?”
“Paedophiles, of course.”
“And what makes you think a paedophile took Selina?”
THIS WORK IS ENTIRELY FICTION AND MUST BE READ AS SUCH.
THE CHARACTERS AND THE STORY ARE BOTH FICTITIOUS
Detective Chief Inspector Wellington mentally logged the “she” in Corrie’s response and waited for an opportunity to bring it up again, probably when Corrie was least expecting it. He expected the questioning to go on for several days, or possibly even a week. The evidence was in place and he knew exactly what to ask, but there’s always a ‘but’. The first ‘but’ in this case was how long it would take for Corrie to crack. And the second ‘but’ was how long it would take for Jimbo to crack. And the third ‘but’ was how long it would take for the “Mates” to crack.
Dubbed by the media as the Mates, eight friends of Corrie and Jimbo had shared a holiday at the revamped holiday camp, a sort of modern Hi-de-hi but without the fences and separation from the local town. Instead of fences, security rings were worn, a bit like wedding rings but really an electronic key with a microchip which let the weekly and daily trippers into individual events and into their chalets.
All this modernisation and electronic entry systems enabled far greater freedom of movement, freedom to visit the surrounding countryside and beaches without the need for traditional high external fences. So much more friendly and enabling a far greater income for the camp, but – and again, there’s always a ‘but’ - now it appears the security weakness allowed a child to disappear, presumed abducted. Perhaps if … but if every ‘if only’ had been done, it couldn’t have happened.
It, whatever ‘it’ was, couldn’t have happened as it did had there been fences round the camp, had there been security cameras outside, had thee been a different layout to the site, had the chalet not been on the end of the block, just next to the beach road.
While Corrie was being interviewed (or as she would later say, ‘tortured’) at the high-security bomb-proof fortress Paddington Green police station on the Edgware Road in London, built to detain and question IRA bombers in 1971, Jimbo was being interviewed at Alpha Delta, the old Cannon Row police station, now a part of New Scotland Yard.
Jimbo had asked about Corrie and the children and was told, “They’re quite safe, you don’t need to worry about them.” which he interpreted as meaning they had been released and would be at home going about their normal activities. He had asked the question, so proved he cared and that image was all that mattered. There was nothing he could do and in any case, despite increasingly affected public displays of emotion over the years, he only had one aim right now and that was to save his own skin. He’d been through the practise sessions and training with Peter Crooke, but he very definitely had his own ideas about what should be admitted and what denied and had spent many long days calculating his own defence. Jimbo wasn’t, Jimbo had decided, going to be incarcerated for this one. Jimbo wasn’t, Jimbo decided, going to take the rap for the disappearance of his daughter and he wasn’t going to allow himself to be subjected to the inevitable vile punishments that other prisoners inflicted upon those who kill or maim children.
He knew that in most cases involving the death of children, one or other parent is deemed by the judge to be the ‘lead’ and receives a considerably longer sentence. Jimbo had realised that this was probably IT; this was the crunch; this was the moment when they would pressure him – or Corrie – or one of the Mates - into admitting everything. He decided that it was probably too late to save them all; it was now Jimbo’s job to ensure Corrie received the longer sentence or, better still, manipulate the situation for Corrie to take the entire blame, serve the entire sentence which should rightfully be partly his and leave him high and dry and sitting pretty with the mortgage-free house, the ongoing income (people were still sending cash in the post from Internet chain letters, website appeals and so on and he knew it would continue for a long time to come) and of course the children although realistically they would most likely be farmed out all day every day to school and babysitters and most nights as well, to relatives. In short, Jimbo had concluded this was now a damage limitation exercise and he had said so to the solicitor.
A colleague of Peter Crooke’s and a baronet, Professor Sir Alex Planter, Bt., was one of the leading and most expensive criminal defence lawyers in the country. He certainly had the intellect to have become a barrister, a Q.C. and eventually a senior High Court Judge, but decided quite early in his career that easier money was to be made by defending the rich and super-rich from their more heinous crimes and defending their notoriety. Sir Alex’s income was considerably supplemented by extremely complex and highly illegal dealings including witness training, money laundering, all kinds of failure to disclose evidence and on at least one occasion helping a murderer to get off whilst being personally complicit in implementing the crime. Indeed, The Planter was most appropriate by name and deed.
“We need to get to the bottom of these anomalies today,” began Chief Inspector Janine Digger. Jimbo was assigned a woman officer to question him because of his known reputation with the ladies. Indeed even his wife in one of her highly profitable books had described him as a bit of a lad and hadn’t really ever quite trusted him.
Janine had actually been assigned to the Dunnats early in the case as a Liaison Officer, reporting to the police all aspects of the Dunat family’s reactions and behaviour and reporting to the Dunnats whatever information or disinformation the police wanted them to learn.
Despite the tape running, Jimbo was having quite a long aside with Alex, whispering about who-knows-what when they were brought back to reality by Digger’s voice. “We have a lot of questions, Mr. Dunnat and the sooner we return to them, the sooner it will all be over.”
Jimbo looked at her, appearing as open and ready to be co-operative as he could. “Go ahead,” he began arrogantly, “you already know all the answers I’m going to be giving you because there aren’t any questions we haven’t already answered.”
“Ok, let’s start at the end of the day and work backwards,” She smiled warmly and Jimbo noticeably relaxed, dropping his shoulders and almost letting down his guard. Digger was making use of the recent discovery that honest people can often be distinguished from the liars by going through events in reverse order. Liars will keep going back and correcting earlier answers. Honest people don’t need to. She began, “On the day that Sellie disappeared, what was the exact time you called the police?”
“Nine o’clock” was the instant reply.
“Yes,” said Digger, “You’ve always said nine o’clock, but can you explain why the call wasn’t received by us until 9.48?”
“That’s because I didn’t make the call,” replied Jimbo, “in fact I asked someone else to make it.”
“Indeed you did, but the fact is that we didn’t receive the call until 9.48. Do you know why there was a delay?”
“No. I kept asking why the police hadn’t arrived.”
“Who did you ask?”
“Staff. And other people. And things.”
“Staff and other people.”
“Do you mean the staff of the holiday camp?
“And what answer were you given?”
“They said they had called you and that you were on the way.”
“Do you know the names of any of the staff you spoke to about calling the police?”
“It was a long time ago. I can’t remember.”
Do you remember what you were doing the day of the 9-11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York?
“The disappearance of your daughter was a very important event in your life, perhaps the most important event that had ever occurred to you, wasn’t it?”
“Then is not every little tiny detail of that day permanently etched into your memory?”
“Yes, but I was busy, very busy.”
“Looking for your daughter?”
“Yes. Well actually, not personally looking. We were managing the search, making sure people were looking in the right places.”
“And what were the right places?”
“All the other chalets. And all the local houses. If you had arrived earlier, you could have organised it and would have found her.”
“The first call was logged at 9.48.”
“They said they had called you.”
“We’ve been through all that.” Digger paused for a bit and leaned forward, “Mr. Dunnat, did you not feel that this was so important that you should telephone the police yourself?”
“Yes, but they said you had been called.”
“We need to get to the bottom of this. I know it was a long time ago, but can you please cast your mind back and have a really good, long think.” She paused, then lowered her voice, “Any ideas, Mr. Dunnat?”
“They all look the same in their fluorescent red jackets and turquoise trousers.”
“There were only three on duty when you say that you first reported it at nine o’clock. You had seen them every day and signed the children in and out with one, the tall blonde girl because she also worked at the crèche. The short dark girl was the one you booked the tennis court up with for.” Digger winced to herself as she repeated the phrase silently to make sure it made sense and it almost did. “I mean, she was always at the desk. The third was a young man with blond hair and a fluffy ginger beard.” She waited. Silence. She waited, but Jimbo just looked at her, waiting for a proper question as Alex had trained him to do. “Which was it? The tall blonde girl, the short dark lady or the man?”
Jimbo sighed. She was clearly a total moron. “I really don’t remember, but I know I kept asking and they kept telling me that you were on the way.”
“And it wasn’t important enough to phone yourself.” She paused, not really expecting an answer. “Moving on then, what time did you discover that your daughter was missing?”
Without hesitation, Jimbo replied, “Nine o’clock.”
“And how long did it take before you called the police?”
“I called you straight away.”
Digger scratched her head, “At nine o’clock? Didn’t you do any searching first? Didn’t you check to see if she had wandered off?”
“Yes, we checked the chalet.”
“Yes, we checked the gardens and looked for cars speeding off.”
“How long did it take you to check the chalet and grounds? Five minutes? Ten minutes? Twenty minutes?”
“About two or three minutes. We knew she had been taken as soon as we saw her.”
“As soon as you saw her?”
“Yes, I mean as soon as we saw her bed empty.”
“You said, ‘as soon as you saw her.”
Jimbo began to look a bit angry, “You’re being picky. I don’t know what time it was because I wasn’t wearing a watch. I don’t know exactly how long it took to search because I wasn’t timing it.”
Digger smiled and leaned back and allowed a few seconds’ break, allowing Jimbo to do the same, to relax; it was the lull before the proverbial storm. “Mr. Dunnat, would you please take a look at this photo? For the tape, I’m showing Mr. Dunnat exhibit four seven three.”
Jimbo looked at it. It was just a picture of him playing tennis. He shrugged. “So?”
“You were playing tennis, weren’t you? Mr. Dunnat?”
Jimbo was really irritated and he looked at Alex, who half shrugged.
“Would you please take a very close look at that photograph, Mr. Dunnat?” Digger began, “What is that on your wrist?”
“And what are those flat bulges in your pockets?”
“My wallet and my mobile.”
“It appears, Mr. Dunnat, that you even wore your watch and carried your phone when you were playing tennis. Yet later at the pub, when there were two clocks in the pub, three clocks in the chalet, the chiming clock tower over the swimming pool entrance and no doubt the time on your mobile phone, you don’t know what time it is?”
Jimbo just sat, contemplating the chair legs bolted to the floor and trying to think of a feasible answer.
“And you were even carrying your mobile phone when playing tennis, Mr. Dunnat.” Surely, you would have had it with you at the pub.” She paused for dramatic effect, “Now, if the loss of your daughter was so preciously important to you as you claim, surely you would have felt the urge, the parental duty, the need to be sure, to make the phone call yourself, possibly even before you had finished searching the immediate area for Sellie?”
Panic set in for Jimbo, contrary to all his professional training and legal coaching. He looked at Alex for inspiration.
“I’d like to ask for an adjournment of this recorded interview for a conference with my client.” He said.
“Very well,” replied Digger, “interview terminated at … er …” She glanced at Dunnat’s watch and the clock in the room. The time matched. “Interview terminated at 15.42 hours.”
Digger stood back and didn’t keep her eyes off their expressions as they left the room.
THIS WORK IS ENTIRELY FICTION AND MUST BE READ AS SUCH.
THE CHARACTERS AND THE STORY ARE BOTH FICTITIOUS
“For the benefit of the tape, Mr. Meadow, will you confirm that you have agreed to accept the free duty solicitor provided for you?”
“Er … well, yeah, I mean, well … er … oh, and it’s Dr. Meadow, actually.”
“Doctor?” the policeman asked, “I thought you said you were a chemist?”
“A bio-chemist, yeah. I have a PhD.”
“What exactly is a pea aitch dee?” The young Detective Sergeant Andy Muse had somehow managed to achieve his position without having any knowledge whatsoever of the academic world. But then he had left school as soon as he could, worked as a hospital porter then worked his way up in the police, gaining his limited education through evening classes, then spent most of his short career in the Drugs Squad working at street level, so it wasn’t really surprising.
“It’s an advanced degree. I studied bio-chemistry. I was at university with Jenny Sixpence, and that was where I met Duncan Itch and then Jimbo Dunnat at the Itch’s wedding.” Luke Meadow wondered whether the policeman was being intentionally obtuse, hadn’t done his research or was just another among the many rather dim coppers he’d met over the last six years.
The policeman looked puzzled. “Done what?” he asked, “What did you done? I mean do? What did you do?”
It was Luke’s turn to be puzzled. “Do? When? I didn’t do anything.”
“You said, ‘Duncan Itch done it.’ What was it he done?”
“Ah, I see!” Luke laughed and glanced at the old, free solicitor sitting next to him. The solicitor looked a bit down and out, wearing a well-worn suit, egg-stained bow tie and was taking notes, but received more inspiration from the expression on the bifocals than from the man himself. No, not ‘done it’, it was ‘Dunnat’. James Dunnat, Jimbo. Jimbo Dunnat. It was Jimbo’s daughter who was abducted, remember? That’s why we’re here, isn’t it?”
The policeman had the distinct feeling of being put down by a superior intellect and had to recover his position of primacy in the interview. “Yes, yes, of course we are. Now, Mr. Meadow, would …”
“Doctor Meadow.” Interrupted Luke.
“Now, Dr. Meadow, I’m sure you understand that although you’ve probably been over this a thousand times, this is a fresh enquiry and we really need you to go over it once again, in your own words, while you are relaxed, just to make sure you haven’t forgotten some minor detail that might be important, even though you may not realise the importance yourself. I’m sorry we had to arrest you in the middle of the night, but I’m sure you understand that we’re not yet fully sure what really happened and we have to ask everybody separately and at the same time so that if, and I stress, IF one of you is guilty it will be more obvious. Do you understand that?”
“Good. Please don’t take it personally; it’s our job.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Replied Luke, and sighed, annoyed that his time was yet again being wasted on this wild goose chase.
“Now,” continued Muse, “would you tell me what happened on the evening that Sellie disappeared?”
“Was abducted.” Luke corrected.
“Did you actually see Sellie being abducted, Dr. Meadow?”
“No, of course not.” Luke retorted and glanced at the solicitor for support, but the bifocals were studying a doodle, “Nobody did.”
“Then why do you say Sellie was abducted? How can you be sure?”
‘Perhaps this copper isn’t as green as he’s cabbage looking, or perhaps he’s just fishing in the wind’ thought Luke. “She must have been abducted. One minute she was there and the next minute she wasn’t.”
The policeman stroked his imaginary beard, “So it was only one minute between when you last saw her and when she wasn’t there?” Muse mused.
This wasn’t a question Luke had expected, “Yeah.” He paused and realised his error, “Well, no, it must have been longer than that or we would have seen him.”
The policeman looked at the map laid out in front of him. “Why would you have seen him? Could you see both the front and back doors at the same time?”
“Of course not.” Luke replied and turned again for inspiration at the dormant bifocals next to him; again in vain.
Muse shifted his stance and made himself comfortable for a new start with a change of topic. Luke Meadow mirrored him and even the bifocals glanced up and followed the silent at ease order. “I’d like to go back to the beginning,” said Muse, turning over a page in his notes, “You were in the chalet garden, weren’t you?”
Luke queried his forehead and said, “In? We were AT The Chalet Garden.”
“Ah yes,” said Muse, looking back at the map of the holiday camp, “the pub is called The Chalet Garden. It’s near the last chalet block where Jimbo and Corrie were, where Sellie was taken from. Not exactly in the garden of the chalet is it really? It’s quite a walk.”
“It’s only a few yards from the chalet itself.” Luke looked at the balding bifocals, which was frantically making notes with a fountain pen. ‘How old fashioned’ he thought.
“Two hundred yards, to be precise, over a tenth of a mile.” Muse dropped his head but raised his eyebrows and looked up, never actually losing his watch for Luke’s reactions.
“Yeah, but it’s only twenty or thirty yards as the crow flies.” Said Luke, convincingly.
“Sixty-two, actually” retorted Muse instantly, demonstrating that he had a far better handle on the case than Luke had thought. Even the bifocals responded to the revelation, offering a raised eyebrow towards the inquisitor, thence to Luke who mirrored the surprise. “Of course,” continued Muse, “it’s the other side of the box-hedge maze, the crazy golf and the duck pond, so it’s a long walk round.”
Luke didn’t respond.
“It’s a long way round, isn’t it?” asked the Detective Sergeant.
“And it takes two to three minutes to walk it, doesn’t it?”
“I suppose so yeah”
Muse leaned forward, “What time did you arrive at The Chalet Garden?”
Luke wondered whether Muse was asking what time he returned from his visit to check on the children, which was what he had put in his original statement, or whether he was asking what time he arrived there in the first place “Which time?”
“Did you arrive more than once?” Bifocals looked up and Luke half opened his mouth to speak but he wasn’t given the chance, “Let’s start with the first time. And then will you run through the rest of the evening please?”
“Ok, well … ”, Dr. Meadow scratched a sudden itch on his ear and another on his nose, “Well, I had been having a golf lesson, so I returned to the chalet and had a shower before dinner. I got to The Chalet Garden at seven o’clock.”
Muse confirmed and made a note, “Seven o’clock.”
Luke replied, “Yeah.”
“And you had golf lessons every day?”
“Yeah. Well, no. I mean yeah but it rained some days so we didn’t but we would have done but you can’t play golf in the rain, can you?”
“No. Did you play golf on the day that Sellie disappeared?” Muse asked.
“The day she was abducted.” Luke corrected, “Yeah. Well, no it wasn’t a game.”
Muse queried, “You played golf but it wasn’t a game?”
Luke explained, “Yeah, it was a lesson and we didn’t play a round, we just practised swinging. The instructor said that it was important we all enjoyed swinging because enjoyment is the key to hitting it off correctly.”
“Swinging? Hitting it off?” Muse asked.
Bifocals stopped writing and looked to Luke for his explanation.
“Yeah, if you enjoy it and smile you will be more accurate. Did you know that if you smile when you’re swinging, you hit the ball off the tee more accurately and if you smile when you’re putting, you get it in the hole more quickly.”
“I see.” Replied Muse, wondering whether he would ever understand golf, “Go on.”
Luke glanced for some inspiration from a disinterested pair of bifocals, “The idea was that the families would all put their kids to bed early and when they were asleep we would have dinner at the pub and pop up to the bedrooms and check them now and again, but …”
“But,” Muse interrupted, “you were quite a long way from the bedrooms, weren’t you?”
“No, we were in the garden.” Luke replied, “the chalet’s garden.” He paused and then responded to Muse’s querying expression, “I mean The Chalet Garden, the pub. Yeah, it was quite a walk. None of us really wanted to go so perhaps we didn’t check as often as we should have done. If we had, Sellie wouldn’t have been abducted.” He paused for effect. “I didn’t really notice when the others went to check, and the meals came quickly. You don’t notice the time or what happens when you are eating and before the dessert, Jimbo, who’s a bit of a leader - I sometimes think he’s a control freak – where was I? Oh yeah, Jimbo said it was my turn to check the kids were ok, so I emptied my glass and said I hoped it would be refilled before I got back. I checked them and everything was ok.” Luke attended to another itch on the back of his neck, adjusted his position for comfort and stopped.
Bifocals spoke, still looking at his notepad, “If you need a break or you want to discuss it with me, that’s what I’m here for.”
Luke looked at him, noticed the glance wasn’t returned and ignored him. So did Detective Sergeant Muse.
Muse relaxed back on his chair which really didn’t appreciate him leaning back on two legs and creaked in protest. “Let’s just go back a bit,” Muse continued, How much time did you spend with the Dunnats during the holiday? Did you spend every day with Jimbo and Corrie?”
“Yeah. No. Well, not really, I mean they were incredibly organised and were much more friendly with the Itch and Sixpence families and so that last day we didn’t see them at all and it was a bit like when we stayed in Greece and we went to another camp and they had a listening service which is what we were really looking for and, you know, we sort of go for that sort of place because we didn’t want to leave Gilly, that’s our own daughter, on her own for too long and she sleeps well, but you would feel guilty if she was crying and you weren’t there, wouldn’t you and I mean you know, we don’t do that now, she’s always with someone but then we knew we could leave her because she was safe and we just used the camp’s listening service where they, like, go round and round, listening at all the doors and tell you if there’s a noise, so it’s quite safe so I don’t know why we thought it but it was just like that.”
“I see,” replied Muse, who hadn’t really seen at all and scratched his head. Perhaps he would understand when he played the tape back later. “So you didn’t see the Dunnats that day then?”
“No. They had been very much more organised and took their kids to the crèche themselves so I didn’t see them at all.”
“So you didn’t play golf with Jimbo after all then?”
“Oh yeah, we had the golf lesson, but that’s all. I didn’t see the kids that day. Then we went out to dinner.”
“You said you went out to dinner. You thought of it as going out then?”
“So you didn’t think of it like it was dining in the garden then?”
Luke said, “Oh, yeah, it was like dining in the garden. The pub was even called The Chalet Garden.”
“Walk me through the check again, when you last saw Sellie.”
Luke replied, “Oh yeah, well I didn’t see her when I last saw her.”
Bifocals looked up with a puzzled expression; he and Luke looked at each other.
“I mean,” corrected Luke, “I didn’t actually see her when I looked in at the children. They were all quiet and the room was dark so I didn’t want to disturb them by looking too closely. I could see the babies in their cots through the crack of the door, but I didn’t want to intrude on them because I didn’t really know the family. You see I didn’t really know them at all at the beginning of the week and the rest of the group were all disorganised and all over the place, but the Dunnats were extremely well organised and always did everything to the minute. Always turned up precisely when they said they would. And I wouldn’t have offered but Corrie absolutely insisted that I check the children for her that night. She said that I wouldn’t have to go in, just listen at the door, so I did.”
“She gave you the chalet keys?” Muse asked.
“Yes, she did. I went in the back door.”
“The back door? Isn’t that the long way round? You would have had to go up the hill and round the back of the chalet, wouldn’t you?
“Well, that’s true. But that was the key she gave me.”
“So you didn’t actually see Sellie. Did you see anyone else hanging around?”
“Yes, one of the Listening Service girls – one of the camp nannies was listening at the window of one of the chalets.”
“Are you sure it was a camp nanny?”
“Yeah, she was wearing a uniform.” Luke replied.
“Talking of windows, did you notice anything about the windows of the Dunnat’s chalet when you checked?”
“No. I would have noticed if it hadn’t been as expected. The window was closed and there’s a sort of security mesh on the outside and I thought to myself it was a good idea to keep it shut cos the children couldn’t climb out of the window with that in place.”
Bifocals looked up, surprised, because this was different from the many versions of the story in the newspapers, but he said nothing.
“So you didn’t actually see Sellie with your own eyes then?”
“No. But I checked her.”
“You checked her but didn’t see her. Did you hear her?”
“No, they were all quiet. They were sleeping in their beds.”
“But you can’t be sure they were in their beds, can you?”
“Yeah, I saw them.”
“You just said that you didn’t see Sellie.” Muse asked.
“Well, no, not exactly, but I know she was there, Jimbo had just checked and there was no way anyone could have got in or out without me knowing.”
“And did you lock the back door on your way out?” Muse asked.
“No, I locked it on the way in. I left through the front door.”
“And locked it?”
“It locked behind me.” Luke confirmed.
“And the time was?”
“I don’t know. It was about 8.30 I suppose. It was between main course and dessert, I remember that.”
Without a gap, Muse asked, “And you were carrying Sellie with you when you left?”
Luke was caught off-guard. “No, I couldn’t have been.”
Again, Muse retorted quickly with another question, “Why not?”
“Because she … er, I mean, well … No! Of course I wasn’t carrying her. Do you think I abducted her somehow? That’s even more ridiculous than …” Luke ran out of steam.
“More ridiculous than the truth? Because you knew that she wasn’t actually in her bed? Because you knew she was already somewhere else?”
“Yeah.” Luke looked confused, “Yeah, I mean yeah I know what you’re saying but it’s ridiculous. Of course I didn’t take her. I didn’t even see her that week.”
“That week?” Muse queried.
“That day, I mean that day. I didn’t see her that day, so I don’t know.”
“And do you know or think you know what happened to her?” Muse asked.
Luke glanced at bifocals without response and looked down as he answered, “No, of course not. How could I know?”
“Thank you, Dr. Meadow. Just one more question. When was the last time you actually saw Sellie with your own eyes?”
“Well, I don’t know why, but for some reason our paths didn’t cross that day. I think it was about teatime the day before, but it could have been longer, I’m not sure.” Luke replied.
“Do you think Jimbo and Corrie Dunnat were avoiding you that last day, do you think? What do you think and what do you think you thought at the time?” Muse asked, tripping over the banana skin of his own words he had created for himself.
“Oh no, they weren’t avoiding us, they had good reasons. We just didn’t cross paths until the golf.” Luke replied.
“Ok, Thank you. Could the Dunnats have been avoiding you and making excuses, do you think, so that you would think Sellie was ok, but in fact she had already died? Would that be a possibility?”
“No, not possible.”
“Why not?” Muse asked.
“Because they’re not that kind of people, you know, they wouldn’t do that. I know them although not well, but we’re the same kind of people. We want the same for our children and we bring them up the same sort of way. That’s why we get on so well.”
“Yes,” Muse replied, “but it is POSSIBLE that they could have planned things to avoid you and make you think everything was all hunky-dory when it wasn’t?”
“No.” He paused, “I mean yeah, it’s possible,” said Dr. Meadow, “It’s possible, I suppose. Anything’s possible, but they’re not like that.”
Detective Sergeant Muse was satisfied. He leaned back on his chair. The egg-stained bow tie and Dr. Luke Meadow also relaxed; little did he know that they weren’t even half way there and the days and weeks to come would be far more traumatic than anything he had experienced so far.
THIS WORK IS ENTIRELY FICTION AND MUST BE READ AS SUCH.
THE CHARACTERS AND THE STORY ARE BOTH FICTITIOUS
“Thank you for agreeing to come in today, Mr. Wesson. How was the flight from the Isle of Man? Please accept my apologies for keeping you waiting.” Detective Inspector Thrower welcomed him with a warm handshake.
“You know what those small planes are – a bit like riding a switchback.” Mr. Wesson replied.
“And it was all right about taking the day off work then?”
Mr. Wesson replied, “Yes, as a Licensed Smith – blacksmith if you prefer - I work for myself, so the horses will have to wait another day to be shod. Thank you for the first class ticket.”
“Our pleasure. I’m sorry that it had to be today, a working day for you.”
“Yes, the taxi driver told me the news about the fourteen arrests at dawn this morning, then I understood why you wanted me today in particular and why you asked me to keep it secret.”
They both smiled and the Detective Inspector led him to the interview room, “Obviously, we will be taping this, but it is just a witness statement. You are not under arrest and are not suspected of any crime; I just want to make that clear.” The inspector clarified and Wesson nodded.
They settled in the interview room, with a cup of tea each and completed the formalities of a taped interview.
The D.I. began, “We have the bank’s record of your credit card transaction when you paid for your late tea or early dinner at the Swinging Kettle, so we know exactly what time you left. Can you confirm for the tape that you were on your way home from the Swinging Kettle on the evening that Sellie Dunnat disappeared when you saw a person carrying a child?”
“That’s right. We walked straight home. We weren’t walking particularly fast, but it was downhill towards our rented holiday cottage. Just like the reconstruction, in fact.” Wesson replied.
“In that reconstruction, it took eight minutes and forty seconds from the moment the credit card transaction took place. Is that correct?”
“Yes.” Wesson confirmed.
“And when you reached the junction where the road from the Swinging Kettle to your cottage crossed the road from the holiday camp chalets to the beach, what did you see?”
“We stopped and were just discussing whether to take the road to the sea for a walk or whether to carry on across the crossroads and go home – well, not home, but back to the holiday cottage, but it was a bit cold and blustery, so we decided to go home.”
“Was that when you saw the man?”
“Yes, it was rather odd. He came from our left and crossed our path. He was walking towards the beach from the direction of the holiday camp chalets and he was carrying what we thought was a sleeping child.”
“I see,” replied the Detective Inspector, “can you describe them please?”
“The man was just wearing a light shirt and no jacket or jumper, even though it was cold and the child appeared to be wearing light coloured pyjamas. He was about my height, probably in his late twenties or thirties and the child was about three or four years old. They were white and the child was motionless, probably asleep.” Said Wesson.
“Probably asleep?” Repeated the policeman.
“Yes, probably asleep. That’s what we assumed at the time, if we assumed anything.” Confirmed Wesson.
“You didn’t think it was at all unusual at the time?”
“Er … well, I suppose it seemed a bit odd because it was cold and the child wasn’t even covered in a blanket. Oh, and one other thing, when the man saw us, he turned his head away slightly as if he didn’t want to notice us. But on the other hand, you see, it was a holiday resort and you see all kinds of things, so not very odd really, if you see what I mean?”
“I see.” Thrower replied, “And did you comment about that to each other at the time?”
“Not exactly,” Wesson replied, “but it did change our minds.”
“How did it change your minds?” Thrower asked.
“Well, it’s hard to describe, really. If we had gone to the beach, we would have followed the man to the right.” Wesson continued, “We all just glanced at each other and my wife said, ‘Let’s just go home.’ There was nothing specific really.”
“Did she tell you, either then or later, why she said this?” Thrower wanted to know.
“Yes, it was odd. It was when we were in bed later. She said that she didn’t feel comfortable walking behind the man.” Wesson answered.
“Did she say why she didn’t feel comfortable?”
“I asked her that. She said there was something about the way the man looked away and didn’t seem to want us to see him. She felt uncomfortable following him. Nothing specific really. That’s all.”
“And you definitely didn’t recognise the man.”
“No, not then.”
“You had never seen him before – or the child?”
“No, nor the child.”
“So when did you realise this might be a significant, and report it?” Thrower asked.
“The next day. We were woken up by an English speaking policeman at about 7 o’clock banging on the door. They were looking for a lost child and said that Sellie may have been abducted. I said that I hadn’t seen anything, but my wife came down and heard what we were saying and she mentioned the strange looking man. The policeman took a quick description and we had to go to the police station later and make a drawing as best we could, but it wasn’t easy because it was getting to be dusk at that time. And that was it. We gave our details but didn’t hear any more. We just assumed that they found the person and ruled them out and that it wasn’t the abductor.” Wesson said.
Thrower finished making his notes, they both had a final gulp of the tea ready for the next question, “You rang the police three months later, didn’t you?”
“Yes.” Wesson answered.
“Why was that?” The policemen asked.
“Well, it was rather strange really. My wife, my son and I were watching the news and we saw the news coverage of the Jimbo Dunnat picking up his younger daughter from the nursery and she was obviously very tired and he was carrying her against his chest, just like the other man. He looked away from the camera just like he did with us. All three of us shouted in unison, ‘THAT’S HIM’. It was definitely the same man. It was definitely the man we saw on the coast road back from the Swinging Kettle. We all looked at each other and were really shocked because there wasn’t any doubt at all. We were really shocked. All of us. All three of us. We just looked at each other for ages and said, ‘it can’t be.’ Then we watched every news for the rest of the day and just kept on talking about it. There was no doubt and the next day we phoned you, the police. That’s it really.”
“All three of you – that’s you, your wife and your teenage son?”
“Since that news item,” Thrower asked, “have you discussed it further with your family?”
“And what happened at these discussions? What was said?”
Wesson replied, “Every time we’ve seen Jimbo Dunnat on television, we asked each other, ‘Are you SURE that’s him?’ and the more we see him, the more sure we are that he was the man carrying the child that night.”
“Thank you,” said Detective Inspector Thrower, “I think that just about concludes the questions. I’ve just got a few more administrative questions for you before we end the tape.”
“Thank you, Detective Inspector, I don’t know quite how this fits into your enquiry, but I’m pleased to hear that they are all being questioned properly at last and my family and I are pleased to help in any way we can.”
“Well, Mr. Wesson, you don’t have a criminal record and you haven’t even ever had any parking tickets, so you should be a very acceptable witness.”
“Thank you.” Replied Wesson, “Er, well, there is one other thing you ought to know.”
“Oh?” Replied the policeman.
Wesson said, “Well, as you know, we had a lot of visits from the press, but we also had a visit about three months after we reported that we recognised Jimbo Dunnat on the news report from one of the family, I think it was Corrie Dunnat’s uncle, a man called Brendan Nixon.”
“What did he want?”
“Actually, it was rather odd.” Wesson continued, “He kept on telling me that the man we saw must have been the abductor and said that he wanted us to help him with a picture of him, but it was annoying because he just kept on trying to tell us that the person we saw couldn’t have been Jimbo Dunnat, it must have been someone else and he showed us a picture of another of the suspects we’ve seen on television – that man who was cleared but I can’t remember his name at the moment and suggested it was really him we saw, Mr. Munter was it? Anyway, at that point, we told him to go, to go away, and to stay away and told him quite firmly not to come back. We told him that we would work with the police and only with the police and not with them. We didn’t want to become involved in some kind of conspiracy or have our evidence compromised.”
“You did the right thing. Did your wife speak to him at that time, or your son?”
“Yes, they were there, but none of us told him anything and we all agreed that he shouldn’t come back.”
“Has he contacted you since then?”
“Is there anything else you want to add about that, or about anything else?”
“No thank you. That’s the lot.”
Detective Inspector Thrower replied, “Thank you, Mr. Wesson, that has been most helpful.”
The interview was terminated and Mr. Wesson was plied with tea while he awaited the police car to take him back to the airport.
Sellie Part 5 The Siege of Rottenham
THIS WORK IS ENTIRELY FICTION AND MUST BE READ AS SUCH.
THE CHARACTERS AND THE STORY ARE BOTH FICTITIOUS
Within a week of Sellie disappearing from the holiday camp, Jimbo and Corrie Dunnat had consulted the country’s best (or at least, the most expensive) criminal lawyers despite claiming that she was missing due to a stranger abduction and within another week had a full time, high powered public relations consultant join what they liked to call Team Dunnat, frequently retitled by the Blogosphere and Twitworld as Them Dunnit.
By the end of the second week, a website had been set up to sell tee shirts, to sell Help Find Sellie posters, to sell yellow ribbons to tie round trees ‘until Sellie is found’ and to sell rubber wrist bands at £3 each plus post and packing, which one Sunday paper commented could be bought for £10 per thousand elsewhere. As time went on, the Sellie merchandise increased and the Find Sellie Fund became, as Jimbo described it, ‘a proper family business’ employing most of the immediate family as directors and in the warehouse and mailing sections. The British press started talking about the ‘Sell Sellie Fund’ and the blogosphere went into overdrive about it. In the first couple of years, the majority of income to the fund was from donations, but as time went on, a greater proportion was from sales. The income from the books were another story, however.
Five days after the disappearance, the country’s most expensive and devious solicitors, Crooke-Rancour were taken on. Crooke-Rancour, true to their name and reputation, began threatening all and sundry with legal actions if they said or wrote anything that implied their clients were less than wholly honest. Of course, the press have always known that both Crooke-Rancour and their clients were, without exception, unreachable crooks of the grandest order whose machinations successfully confounded justice on a daily basis.
Stories were invented and forgotten. Suggestions came and went. Families all over the world became nervous of leaving children alone, believing them to be far more at risk than they really were. The Dunnat clan repeated the mantra that hundreds of thousands of children disappeared every year; the truth was that hundreds of thousands of children under 18 were reported missing, a thousand or two remained missing and unsolved, but in truth there were only two other cases of a child under five going missing, and the first was equally suspicious with the father eventually being convicted of murder and the second disappeared at the same time as the mother, neither ever to be seen again.
Suddenly, a year after the disappearance, the press became silent; suddenly there were no more adverse comments about the Dunnat case. Suddenly, the only details available through the press were frequent abduction sightings and details of television interviews and international trips by the Dunnat family to presidents, Archbishops and various world leaders. Suddenly everything changed. Everything changed but the public had no idea that behind the apparent support of the press was a super-injunction by the Dunnats through their lawyers, Crooke-Rancour against the media. The super-injunction banned the press from suggesting that the Dunnat family had anything to do with the disappearance of their daughter, it banned them from suggesting that there was any kind of fraud in the Find Sellie Fund and it banned them from even mentioning that an injunction existed, the punishment being imprisonment for the relevant editor.
Never before had anyone who had lost a child taken such astonishing action, but then never before had anyone lost a child in a situation where the evidence of abduction didn’t exist but evidence of death most definitely did exist. Never before had a disappearance provoked so much international public controversy. The overseas press were able to write what they believed happened and even one of the investigating officers published a book abroad, but the majority of the British public didn’t even know it existed.
Perhaps one of the most strange turns in this case was that the Dunnats won a court order to release the police data to them. Never before has a potential suspect been permitted to see the police files – but then it is very rare for any potential suspect to persuade a court that the police are being unfair and that their version is true.
As the months passed, people were looking everywhere for Sellie and reports arrived from all over the world. A firm of lawyers was taken on to co-ordinate the search for Sellie and they spent over half a million pounds. It subsequently transpired that the person they hired was not an experienced private detective but a convicted conman, although how much he was actually paid was never disclosed; one suggestion was about £50,000. The lawyers themselves, it transpired, were not actually familiar with searching for missing persons, but specialists in defending high profile cases of money-laundering, which led to all kinds of speculation as to where the initial half a million went and later a further £400,000. Suggestions that seven figure sums were, and still are actually lodged in an overseas accounts somewhere was vehemently dismissed by the family, although they couldn’t, or wouldn’t actually say precisely where it had gone; the accounts remained secret.
As the Fund was not a charity but a limited company, it was not subject to the transparency people expected. If only the tens of thousands of contributors had realised that the contributions from their hard-earned income, from their pensions, from their loved but sold toys went just to support the wider family, went into marketing and web designers and even went to pay the family’s mortgage, there would undoubtedly have been a public outcry.
After the disappearance, Jimbo and Corrie Dunnat and the two babies stayed near the holiday camp for five more months before eventually returning to their home in Rottenham, a delightfully neat country market village in the heart of the English home counties, a regular runner-up of the county’s Prettiest Village contest.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
And Rottenham was the scene of the latest party, six years after it all began. Somehow, the press got wind of the forthcoming arrests, although didn’t actually know what was going to happen and thought there was going to be an early morning Corrie and Jimbo Dunnat press conference. During the night, they all arrived in the village of Rottenham and camped out, setting up their cameras just in time to see the police arrive with no less than seventeen cars and vans and a few unmarked cars.
The neighbours were woken by the unconscionable commotion and were peering out of their windows when the police arrived and banged on the doors and windows. The door was opened quickly and 37 police men and women entered. It was 33 minutes before Corrie and Jimbo Dunnat were escorted to separate police vans, each being firmly held by the arm on both sides. Twenty minutes later, the children left with a couple of lady social workers, hidden by others holding up blankets as screens to avoid them being photographed and they, in turn, were taken off in an unmarked People Carrier with darkened windows.
Speculation was rife and the neighbours stood around discussing the family and how they were always arguing and how sad it was that they had lost their first child. The couple had become famous around the world and the news of their arrest was flashed on news screens around the world. Within minutes, a billion people had heard the news of their arrest.
By nine o’clock in the morning, the pavement outside their house, or sidewalk as the American broadcasters insisted on calling it, had the first bunch of flowers.
By lunchtime there were a hundred or more bunches of flowers and messages to Sellie; the house itself was guarded by police, both at the front and in the garden to stop sightseers and the press intruding and taking snapshots through windows.
By lunchtime, the entire village was besieged by the press and media. The villagers of Rottenham found it impossible even to walk to the village shop without being accosted by the paparazzi.
By lunchtime, police officers had visited all the local businesses and schools and warned people about the press siege and to tell them if they were being pestered by the press or television news teams.
By lunchtime, the entire village knew of the arrests and the speculation was far more intense than it had ever been when Sellie disappeared in the first place. Suddenly nobody believed that Corrie and Jimbo were innocent any more. Suddenly, Corrie and Jimbo became the objects of hatred and not of love or sympathy – by the majority, at least, although they continued to have their defenders; such sympathisers and defenders, however, changed their usual tune and now felt rather safer remaining silent.
During the day, the police only admitted that they had arrested all ten of the “Mates” who had been on holiday together and beyond that there was a complete blackout of news.
Meanwhile, the questioning continued ….
THIS WORK IS ENTIRELY FICTION AND MUST BE READ AS SUCH.
THE CHARACTERS AND THE STORY ARE BOTH FICTITIOUS
“I trust you enjoyed your hamburger, Mrs. Dunnat?”
“No, I didn’t.” Corrie replied, annoyed, “I don’t eat junk food.”
“Standard police issue meal, I’m afraid. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s hamburger or nothing.” Detective Chief Inspector Wellington replied. “Now, we need to continue with the interview. The sooner we start, the sooner we finish.”
Corrie glanced at the policeman with utter contempt and turned to her lawyer, Peter Crooke of Crooke-Rancour for inspiration, but just received a nod and a smile.
“You like to keep yourself fit don’t you?”
“Yes, very fit.”
“And you do a lot of running. In fact you go jogging at least once a day, sometimes twice or three times?”
“Yes?” Corrie replied, wondering what he was getting at.
“Let me take you back,” Wellington continued, “to the day after Sellie disappeared. Do you remember going out in the morning, about an hour before dawn?”
“Yes, I couldn’t sleep. I needed to go out and look for Sellie.” Said Corrie.
Wellington leaned back, slowly stroking his imaginary beard, “So you asked the police where you should search and followed their advice?”
“Where did you search? Did you have a specific place where you expected to find Sellie, or perhaps find some kind of evidence?
“No.” Corrie replied.
“No? You didn’t have a specific place to search?” the policeman asked.
“No, we just ran. We had to go somewhere.” Corrie replied.
“Where exactly did you go that morning please?”
“Nowhere.” Corrie replied. She waited, but the policeman just sat, motionless, looking at her unnervingly. Eventually she gave in to the silent pressure, “Along the cliff top.” Wellington raised his eyebrows and said nothing. “And along the beach. We were searching for Sellie.” She conceded.
“What were you wearing that morning?”
Corrie was surprised at the policeman’s question, “Well, running clothes of course, shorts, trainers, tee shirt. What else would you wear when out jogging?”
“Ah!” responded Wellington, “So you were actually out jogging?”
“No! Yes, we were searching for Sellie, but you can get further if you run. You can cover more ground.” Corrie replied.
“In fact, you were just out for your morning jog, weren’t you? Wellington asked.
Peter Crooke interrupted, “You mustn’t ask my client a leading question.”
Wellington didn’t look at him but instantly retorted with “Were you, in fact, just out jogging?”
Corrie had had time to recover her composure, “No, of course not. We were searching for Sellie.”
“Perhaps you can help me here,” Wellington continued, “There was a police dog search unit on the cliff top all night, right through until mid morning. Do you remember meeting them?”
“No,” replied Corrie, “We went the other way.”
“What other way? Which way did you go?” Wellington asked.
“We ran the other way along the cliff top.”
“There were dog teams on both cliff tops, in both directions from the holiday camp.” Wellington said.
“Well, perhaps it was another day then. How do you expect me to remember what we did that day, we were so, so worried about finding our daughter? We ran along the beach. We thought she might have fallen in the sea or been left there by the abductor, by the paedophile.” Corrie replied.
“So where exactly did you run along the beach that morning? Where did you check?” Wellington asked.
“We ran along the beach to check it to see if we could find Sellie.” Corrie replied.
“And did you see anything at all unusual on the beach? Did you find the abductor, or perhaps his tent or caravan or anything at all unusual?”
“How far along the beach did you run?”
“We ran a couple of miles past the end of the beach huts.” Corrie waited for the policeman to respond, but he just sat with raised eyebrows; she knew he didn’t believe her and wondered if he knew something she didn’t. “I think. I’m sure it was that day, but it may have been another day. I can’t remember. We were too busy looking to know where it was.”
The policeman looked at her and said, “Two groynes past the beach huts was a rowing boat fisherman sitting on the beach mending nets at that time and he didn’t see you, so you didn’t go beyond the end of the beach huts.” The policeman paused for effect and raised his eyebrows in warning, “Did you?”
Corrie looked at the Crooke fellow who didn’t help. She looked down at the ground and replied, “I don’t know. I can’t remember.”
“I think you can remember, and I think you can remember very well, Mrs. Dunnat. You see, the dogs trained to search for cadavers alerted at the third beach hut from the end. A body had been stored there at some time.” Wellington said.
Corrie became angry, “You idiot, why aren’t you out looking for Sellie? Why are you wasting our time with this rubbish? You know she was taken but you aren’t looking for her.”
Wellington responded quickly, “We know …” he paused for effect, “we know that she disappeared. We know that you are not telling us the truth. We know that the dogs have told us that dead bodies have been stored for half an hour or more in several places all connected to you. In the holiday chalet; in the beach hut; in the car you borrowed later; on your clothes; on Sellies toy dog; and so on.”
Corrie looked up. “And so on? Where else? Where else did the abductor take her? Where is she now?”
“Where else do you think we should look, Mrs. Dunnat?” Wellington asked cynically.
Corrie was worried, “Where else had dead bodies been hidden? WHY didn’t you tell us? Why not? How can I answer your questions if you won’t give me the answers?” She looked at Crooke and back at Wellington and realised she had made a mistake.
“I’m hoping that you will give me the answers.” Wellington said, “So why did you visit the beach huts? Was it to move Sellie’s body, Mrs. Dunnat?”
She responded too quickly, “It wasn’t in the beach hut.”
“The body wasn’t in the beach hut?” Wellington asked, “Then where was it?”
“I mean, we didn’t move it. How could we know that the abductor happened to hide it there? We didn’t know. We didn’t move it.”
“You are right, it wasn’t in the beach hut, was it, Corrie?” Wellington leaned back and looked at her directly in the eyes, “It was underneath it, wasn’t it?, where Jimbo had hidden it the night before?” Wellington said.
“You’re making unacceptable suggestions to my client.” Crooke interrupted.
Wellington ignored him, “Isn’t that right, Mrs. Dunnat?”
“No.” Corrie answered.
“I put it to you that Sellie died in the chalet and that Jimbo left Sellie under the beach hut the night before, but when you realised that tracker dogs may be on the task and would find her sooner or later, you had to move her. In fact you were going to move her the next morning anyway, because you knew that a holiday cottage with a freezer was to be left open for you, but you had to raise the alarm early because the Wesson family saw Jimbo carrying her towards the beach. He was seen, so you had to change your plans for her.”
“Noo!” Corrie said and looked down. She started crying, genuine tears, genuinely upset, but, and not for the first time, she was not crying for the reason she claimed, “No, you’ve got it all wrong. It didn’t happen like that. It wasn’t like that. We didn’t hide her. I didn’t kill her. I didn’t. My baby is lost. Why won’t you search for her? Why aren’t you looking for her? Why are you accusing me. Why are you making me pay for somebody else’s crimes? I’m innocent of all this. Ask Jimbo. Ask the dogs. If what you say is true, why didn’t the tracker dogs find her?” Corrie continued to sob … and sob … and sob. Wellington waited.
“I’d like to talk to you more about what really happened on the golf course and what really happened when you were jogging.” Wellington said.
Crooke asked for an adjournment because of what he claimed was Wellington’s bullying, but the policeman was satisfied. He had his answer. One more session questioning Corrie about her jogging sessions would do it, he felt. But he didn’t account for the Crooke-Rancour firm’s training and interference; their training of the suspect would make his task infinitely more difficult.
Wellington dealt with the formalities and ended the tape.
THIS WORK IS ENTIRELY FICTION AND MUST BE READ AS SUCH.
THE CHARACTERS AND THE STORY ARE BOTH FICTITIOUS
There is an old nursery rhyme about ‘tanners’ (coins worth sixpence) which reads as follows:
There was a crooked man,
And he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence
Upon a crooked stile;
He bought a crooked cat,
She caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together
In a crooked little house.
“Would you please state your full name and maiden name for the tape please?” Detective Sergeant Seamus O’Punt asked.
“Yes, it’s Pennie Sixpence. My maiden name was Pennie Shilling.”
“Thank you Mrs. Sixpence. May I call you Pennie?” O’Punt asked.
“Yes” replied Pennie. Please note it is an I E and not a Y at the end.”
“Got it.” Responded O’Punt, and made a written note.
“And will you confirm for the tape that you have opted not to have a solicitor present?”
“Yes. I don’t need a solicitor, I’ve been through all this several times.”
“Very well.” Said O’Punt, “Now, I’d like to ask what happened on the evening that Sellie disappeared.”
“The evening she was abducted.” Corrected Pennie, “We all arrived separately at The Chalet Garden and my chalet was adjacent to the pub, so I could see the bedroom window where my children were sleeping.”
“So it was your chalet’s garden you were dining in?” asked O’Punt.
“No, it was the pub called The Chalet Garden, but I had the misfortune of having the chalet right next to it.”
“Misfortune?” asked O’Punt.
“Yes, it was noisier there at night because of the pub and I was always afraid the children would wake up, but they were so tired, they slept through it. In any case, my youngest is seven and knew I was outside and he only had to turn the light on and I would come.”
O’Punt said, “I see. Perhaps we’d better start from an earlier time. Can you tell me everything that happened that day and that evening, starting from the morning please?”
“Yes,” replied Pennie, “Dumpy was woken early and …”
“Dumpy?” asked O’Punt.
“Yes, Dumpy, my husband. His real name is Waldorf thanks to his errant parents, but he hates it and because he is lanky and thin, he was called Dumpy at school and it stuck.” Pennie replied.
“I see. Please continue from the morning.”
Dumpy was woken early in the morning by Jimbo, that’s Jimbo Dunnat, banging on the door asking him if he wanted to go for an early morning run because they always liked to go jogging to keep fit. He didn’t want to go and came back to bed, a bit annoyed, but because our son didn’t wake up, he came and er … well, he came back to bed and we, er, we cuddled for a bit, then went back to sleep. When we woke up, it was nearly ten o’clock and our son had joined us in bed at some point while we slept and he had gone back to sleep too.”
“Can you remember exactly what time you were first woken and what time you woke the second time?” O’Punt asked.
“Yes, it was just before six thirty in the morning the first time and about 10.25 the second time. I looked at the clock.” Pennie replied.
“Do you know where the Dunnat children were whilst they, Jimbo and Corrie, were out running?” O’Punt asked.
“No. I presume they were asleep on their own in the chalet.” Pennie said.
“Was that a normal thing to do?” O’Punt asked.
“Yes, it was for them. They said the children would know they would be back soon, and they always did it at home when they went out, they told me, so it wasn’t a problem. Babies safe in cot & Sellie knew they would be back soon.”
“I see.” Said O’Punt and made another written note, “You eventually got out of bed at about 10.25 am.”
“Yes. We got up and pottered about the chalet. We saw some of the holiday families outside in the pub having a late breakfast or early lunch, but didn’t see the Dunnats at all. Actually it was rather odd, we didn’t see Corrie or Jimbo or any of them all that day. When we dropped our son off at the crèche in the afternoon, we expected to see Sellie there, but she wasn’t there, although I learned afterwards that Corrie’s signature was on the crèche signing-in page, so Sellie must have been there, but perhaps we didn’t spot her, although we did look and I was quite sure at the time she wasn’t there.” Pennie paused purposefully.
“You were quite sure?” O’Punt asked.
“What about when you collected your son from the crèche?” he asked.
“We got there before the end and waited for them to finish a little race and receive their prizes, miniature chocolate bars. We collected him and went to the beach.”
O’Punt asked, “And did you see Sellie at the end when you picked him up?”
“No, I told you, I didn’t see her at all. In fact, I didn’t see any of them at all during the day.” Pennie replied.
“Was that normal?”
“No. We had always bumped into them at some point during the day, so I don’t really know what they were doing that day.”
“I see,” O’Punt said, “and what did you do after you collected your son?”
“We walked down to the beach, which was nearly empty because it was a bit nippy, a bit windy you see.”
“Did you sit on the beach?”
“Oh no!” replied Pennie, “It was far too cold. A few people were walking, but nobody was sitting. We walked down to the sea but the waves were quite big so we didn’t even have a paddle. We walked about three or four groynes up towards Dilsmouth, but then decided to go back and we went into the games arcade because it was warmer in there.”
“I see,” O’Punt repeated his favourite response, “and did you see any of the other families in the group anywhere at all, on the beach or in the arcade?”
“Nope, none of them that day, none of them at all. Not that day.”
“I see.” He said again. “Where is the arcade relative to the Dunnat’s chalet?”
“Oh, it’s on the other side of the pub from them. It was behind our chalet, so we wouldn’t have had to pass them if they were in anyway. Then we returned to our chalet after the arcade and we didn’t see them in the pub garden out of our window. I mean, you know, the garden of the pub called The Chalet Garden. Do you see what I mean?” Pennie explained.
“Yes.” O’Punt said, “Presumably you saw Jimbo or Corrie Dunnat at some point to arrange to meet them at dinner that evening?”
“No.” Pennie replied.
“No? How did you arrange to meet them at dinner?”
“We had a phone call on the mobile from one of the others in the group, but can’t remember who now. Dumpy took the call. I’m sure it’s on your records of phone calls. From one of the people, I mean the phone call, it was from one of the people the newspapers have dubbed The Mates.”
“I see, and can you remember what happened when you left to join them for dinner?”
“Yes, we put our son to bed nice and early because he was very, very tired. In fact, I sat on his bed and opened his favourite book to read the next chapter, but he was asleep before I even read a word, so I didn’t. I remember it well. The whole day is imprinted permanently on my mind. Not long after that, there was a knock on the window and my husband opened it and spoke to one of the others through it. I was washing up our cups in the kitchen at the time, so didn’t actually hear or see the conversation. Then we went out and joined the group in the pub. We sat on our side of the restaurant so we could see our chalet, which was only about forty feet away. You couldn’t have seen Corrie and Jimbo’s chalet from there though.”
O’Punt said, “That’s about ten or twelve metres I think?”
“Yes, that’s right, twelve metres from our chalet. Very close, and we went back several times.” Pennie explained.
“I see.” O’Punt said. “Can you tell me what happened during the dinner, including who came and went and why?”
“Yes, I can. The newspapers keep getting it wrong. It wasn’t anything like they say, if you see what I mean, it was more like, well, let me explain. While we were having dinner, I mean before the meal actually arrived, we chatted a bit about all kinds of things to do with our kids and what we’d been doing and several of the others went off to check their own and each other’s children. I remember Duncan being quite keen to to do the rounds and did it more than once, but I think Corrie and Jimbo only went once each. Is that what you wanted to know?”
“Duncan? Is that Duncan Itch?”
“Yes, Duncan Itch. He always seemed to want to take the children off for little walks and things and they all loved him to bits; always cuddling him. He seemed to attract the little girls, somehow.
“Yes, that’s interesting. Now can you tell me how you came to leave the group?”
“The service was pretty slow, but after we finished eating, Dumpy reminded me that we needed some milk for the next morning, so I agreed to go to the farm shop to get some.”
“Would it have been open that time of night or were you just guessing?” O’Punt asked.
Pennie Sixpence replied, “No, it’s a farm shop, but there’s a fridge in an unlocked room and you just take the milk and leave the money in a box. Anyway, after dessert but before coffee, I said I would just nip down there before it was too late. It was only about half a mile, so a mile there and back at most. To get there, you go out of the pub and turn right past the front door of the Dunnat chalet, then left down towards the beach, then turn right down a little lane and left and then right again and over a funny little rustic stile by the gate that stops the sheep getting out. The farm shop’s the other side of the bent-wood rustic stile.”
“I see,” said D.S. Seamus O’Punt, “and were there street lights? Could you see where you were going? Was it a clear night, I mean?”
“No,” Pennie replied, “there were no street lights at all, but it was late dusk so there was a bit of light still and enough moonlight to see by.”
As I got to the cross-roads at the back of Jimbo and Corrie’s chalet, where Sellie had been sleeping, I saw a man crossing the other way. He was carrying a child in pink pyjamas but I didn’t see the child’s face properly, so I didn’t give it a second thought. If I’d known it was the abductor, I would have stopped him. I thought he was just another holidaymaker carrying his daughter home.”
“Was he going towards or away from the Dunnat’s chalet?”
“Oh, away from.”
“Towards the farm, then?”
“No, there are a lot of little holiday cottages and caravans down there, so it didn’t seem at all odd at the time.” Pennie explained.
“And this drawing, Exhibit 18A is the drawing you made with the assistance of police at the time?” O’Punt asked.
“Yes, but that wasn’t him. He was tall but a bit sort of bent, probably because he was carrying a child.”
“Not him? He was the man the newspapers called The crooked man wasn’t he?”
“Yes, he was. No, not him. No, I mean not him in the picture. The first picture was wrong, he wasn’t as crooked as that,” Pennie explained, “as I thought about it, as time went on, a clearer picture came to my mind and I realised that picture was wrong.”
“The first picture is usually the most accurate.” The policeman said.
“Not for me.”
“So is this a picture of the man you saw? For the tape, I’m showing you Exhibit 18B?”
“No. That was one I did with a newspaper when they wanted me to help them search.”
“What about this one, Pennie, Exhibit 18C?” he asked.
“No, that was the second police photofit, but I didn’t get on with the artist and we argued and it took four hours and we still didn’t get it right.”
“I see.” D.S. Seamus O’Punt sighed. “And this one, Exhibit 18D?”
“Yes, that was the one done with my local police artist and that is more right than any of the others.”
“It’s totally different from Exhibit 18A. How do you explain that? O’Punt asked.
Pennie said, “Because my memory got better over time and I’m sure that’s the man. Oh, and I’ve been thinking and I am sure I saw the child’s face and it was definitely Sellie.”
“And the pyjamas?”
“They were hers. They were pink.”
“Could you really tell the colour in the moonlight? Or were they just light in colour? And are you sure they were pyjamas and not just normal children’s clothes? The Detective Sergeant asked.
“Yes, definitely pyjamas and definitely pink. It was definitely Sellie I saw.”
“Thank you.” O’Punt said. “Now, when you got back from walking the crooked mile and going over the crooked stile to and from the farm shop, did you tell anyone about this sighting?”
“Why not?” O’Punt asked.
“Because it didn’t seem important at the time. I didn’t know anyone had taken Sellie.”
“So when did you report it?”
“I think it was sometime the next day. When Corrie got back from her check and reported that Sellie was missing, we were all very busy searching. Corrie was in tears and just went back to their chalet with the others and they cried whilst everyone else was searching all over the place.”
“Yes. Can you remember any more about the checks?”
“I can.” Pennie responded, “Jimbo went and took an awfully long time checking. I expect he had to settle one of them and he wasn’t there the whole time we were eating our dessert. He still hadn’t come back when I left to get the milk.”
“When you walked the crooked mile and met the crooked man?”
“Yes, but I didn’t meet him, I just saw him.”
“And you didn’t think to report your sighting until the next day.”
“No. I know I should have done, but we were too busy, like I said. Then Corrie went off and did her check.” Pennie Sixpence explained.
“Anything else you can remember? Did Corrie and Jimbo talk to each other?”
“Yes, it was funny. When Jimbo got back from his check, he had been a long time and Dumpy told me later that he spent a long time whispering to Corrie but he didn’t hear what they were whispering about. Then Corrie looked as though she was going to have one of her tantrums and she went off herself to check the children. After about a minute, she came back. She didn’t seem in much of a hurry to start with, but then she suddenly exploded and shouted that she had been abducted. Of course, we didn’t believe her, we just thought Sellie was lost, but she wasn’t. Corrie was right.”
“And you still didn’t tell them of your sighting?” Detective Sergeant Seamus O’Punt asked.
“No. I didn’t think of it until the next day. I mean it didn’t occur to me. I didn’t know it was important.” Pennie replied.
“Thank you, Mrs. Sixpence. We are going to have to adjourn the interview now because the tape has nearly finished. Would you like another cup of tea?”
“Yes please.” Pennie said. Her throat was rather dry after a lot of questions and a great deal of swallowing during her answers.
THIS WORK IS ENTIRELY FICTION AND MUST BE READ AS SUCH.
THE CHARACTERS AND THE STORY ARE BOTH FICTITIOUS
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Editor’s note: I have been asked to explain the meanings of some words and names, but I’ve no idea why.
One was the name of Wellington. The Sequoia (Giant Redwood) tree was called Wellingtonia gigantean as a tribute to the first Duke of Wellington in 1853. Please be aware that this novel is not intended in any way to refer to the real Duke of Wellington.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Detective Chief Inspector Wellington, his assistant Detective Sergeant Walter Boot, Corrie Dunnat and her solicitor, Peter Crooke of Crooke-Rancour & co. assembled in the interview room for another video and the introductory formalities were completed.
“I’d like to talk to you, to ask you some questions about the Seek Sellie Search Fund.” Wellington began.
“My client is not here to answer questions about personal finances or the Search Fund. She was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to conceal a body.” Crooke objected, but he had met his match.
“It is your client’s choice, Mr. Crooke, we can ask the questions now or I can wait until we have finished asking the other questions and re-arrest her on suspicion of fraud and money laundering. You will see that we have enough evidence to do so.”
Corrie and Crooke whispered together for a few seconds then sat normally on their own chairs but said nothing. Wellington waited in vain. He was prepared to wait and knew that long pauses are very disconcerting to the guilty.
“Would you like me to continue asking about the Seek Sellie Search Fund?”
Corrie glanced at Crooke again and reluctantly replied, “Yes.”.
“For the tape, we will refer to it henceforth as The Fund.”
“My assistant has prepared a list of questions.” Wellington said.
“My name is Walter Boot. You can call me Wally.” D.S Boot said.
“Welly, ok.” Replied Corrie.
“No, Wally, not Welly” replied Wally,
Wally? That’s fucking appropriate thought Corrie to herself in her usual vernacular.
“When did you set up The Fund?” Wally asked.
“I didn’t set it up.” Corrie replied arrogantly and raised her eyebrows to the ceiling and added, “It wasn’t set up, it started on its own because people were sending us money.”
“Very well,” replied the policeman, “but you were a director from the day the fund was set up, only five days after Sellie disappeared, so you must have known.”
“The solicitors did it all. I just did as I was told.” Corrie said.
“I have certified copies of the documents from Companies House. Do you accept that you signed them or would you like to look at them and check it is your own signature?” Wally asked.
“I just did as I was told by the solicitor.”
“You instruct your solicitor, Mrs. Dunnat, not the other way round.” Detective Chief Inspector Wellington interjected.
Boot continued, “So do you accept that you signed the documents and set up the company with your husband, mother, uncle and cousin?”
“If you say so.” Corrie sneered.
“Did you or didn’t you?” Wally asked.
“Yes.” Wally looked at his notes and Corrie eventually continued, “But it wasn’t just me. My uncle, was the main person setting it up and he is always honest with money. You can count on him because he’s a businessman. Uncle Dickie.”
Wally looked at his notes, “Uncle Dickie … er …”
“Nixon, Uncle Richard, Richard Nixon.” Corrie said helpfully.
“Is that the person that the newspapers call ‘Tricky Dickie’?” Wally asked.
“I really must object to that question” Peter Crooke interrupted.
“We do not believe anything the newspapers say,” Wellington said, “We are just establishing that it is the same person. Is it the same person, Corrie?”
“Yes, Uncle Richard. He’s a businessman like I said. He’s unimpeachable.”
“Ah yes, unimpeachable. Richard Nixon.” Wally repeated. “Now, can you tell us about the purposes of the fund?”
“People kept sending us money,” she replied, “so he had to set up a charity to deal with it all.”
“Yes, he set up a charity to look for Sellie.”
“Except that it wasn’t a charity, was it?
Corrie replied, “Yes, it was a charity. It was set up to search for Sellie, to pay for the costs of searching. All that searching was expensive.”
“I can imagine.” The Detective Sergeant said, “It was set up as a private limited company, wasn’t it, limited by guarantee?”
“You have to do that to make a charity.” Corrie said, clutching at straws. “Anyway, it was like a charity. We ran it as a charity.”
“But it never was a charity was it? It never had charity status, did it?” Wally asked.
“They had too many conditions and the money sent to us to search for Sellie would have had to be used for some other purpose, not just for searching for Sellie.”
“So you are telling me, Corrie, that the main purpose of the fund was for the search?”
“Can you please explain why your uncle Dickie Nixon said in a television interview that the ‘Main purpose of the fund is to pay legal fees’ when he set it up, only a few days after Sellie disappeared?
“No. They ambushed him. They caught him unawares. He didn’t know what to say. It was all so unexpected.”
“Why would he think that your main expenditure would be legal fees? Why didn’t he say that the main expenditure would be, for instance, private detectives to search for Sellie, or for search teams to search on beaches?” Wally asked.
Corrie looked down, “I don’t know. I wasn’t there.”
“What is the legal name of the limited company?” Wally asked.
“Climb Every Mountain Ltd.” Corrie replied.
“What exactly does Climb Every Mountain mean to you?”
“It’s from the song. Climb every mountain, Search high and low, Follow every highway. Follow every rainbow, Until you find your dream. It’s about searching for a dream. Our dream was to find Sellie and to have her back where she belongs, with her mother. She needs me. She needs to be with me.”
“Then can you please explain the Memorandum of Association to me. Three weeks after the company was set up and only four weeks after Sellie disappeared, the Memorandum of Association was changed. Do you remember why?
“Was it? No, no I don’t … er … I don’t remember.” Corrie feigned her failure to recall, and it showed in her body language.
“A new clause was added. The clause reads that the new purpose of the company is To provide support including financial assistance to Selina Dunnat’s family. Now, isn’t it true, Mrs. Dunnat, that this was the true purpose of the fund?” Detective Sergeant Boot asked.
“No, of course not. It was to find Sellie. To find the person who abducted her.” Corrie replied.
Wally made a note and looked for the next question. “The total income in the first year was just under one and a half million pounds, wasn’t it?”
Corrie replied, “I think so.”
“From memory, how was that money spent?”
“About a quarter on administration and the rest on searching for Sellie.”
“Let’s look at the search costs;” Wally said, “The Fund spent £900,000 with TriMetropol.”
“Yes,” replied Corrie, “they were searching for Sellie. That’s what the fund was for.”
“I have to tell you,” Wally said, “that we have followed that money. According to their records, you paid them £200,000, but the fund showed £900,000, so we traced the cheques, made payable to Metropol, not TriMetropol. That was very clever accounting, wasn’t it, Mrs. Dunnat?”
“I don’t know anything about that. I thought they were searching. They said they were.”
“You don’t know anything about it?” Wally asked.
“No, nothing. We only paid for searches.”
“You paid them for only 40 days at £5,000 per man-day. That was the £200,000”
“Do you know the main expertise of TriMetropol, Mrs. Dunnat?”
“Yes, they are a private detective agency.”
“Their main expertise is in money laundering and are now being investigated. Do you know why?”
“No.” Corrie replied without raising her head.
“Because their accountant’s fingerprint was found on the cheques to Metropol and £650,000 was paid into a numbered account in Switzerland. However, Swiss banks now provide information to the police on request and do you know what we found about the money?” Wally asked.
“I should tell you that their accountant was also arrested this morning at the same time as you and is being questioned separately. The money in the numbered account could only be withdrawn by you on production of your passport. Not your husband Jimbo, or anyone else. It can only be withdrawn by you. Can you explain that please?” Wally said.
“I would also remind you,” Wellington added, “that the cheques were all signed by you.”
“I didn’t know.” Corrie said, “I didn’t know about that. I just signed the cheques to the private detectives. They must have set me up.”
“Who must have set you up.” Wally asked.
“TriMetropolis of course, the private detectives. Perhaps it was Jimbo did it. I don’t know. I just signed the cheques I was told to sign. I did nothing else. I didn’t even know what they did with the money. Jimbo did all that sort of checking.”
“TriMetropolis?” checked Wally.
“TriMetropol, or whatever their name was. I don’t know.”
“But you knew they were specialists in defending money launderers, didn’t you?” Wally said.
“No, how could I know. I thought private detectives searched for missing people. That’s what we paid them for.”
“Their brochure, outlining their speciality of defending money laundering defendants was in your filing cabinet. You must have know of their main areas of expertise.” Wally said, and waited in vain for a response.
Wellington said, “We will give you one more chance, Mrs. Dunnat.” She glanced at Crooke and looked at Wellington, who continued, “Your signature was on the cheque. The money was in a numbered Swiss bank account accessible only by you with your passport. Why did you hide the money and what did you intend to do with it?”
“I didn’t,” she began and stretched her right arm over the top of her head and scratched her left ear, “Like I said, I just signed the cheques. Jimbo did all the negotiating and set it all up. They must have set us up and hidden the money for themselves. They’re crooks. They must be. They must be crooks. It’s nothing to do with me.” Corrie said.
“Very well.” Wally said and turned over the page to change to a new topic. “How well do you know Mr. Hall-Green?”
Corrie glanced at her solicitor, Peter Crooke, and then replied, “I’ve never heard of him.”
“Ronald Hall-Green of Acorn International Limited, a private detective agency. How well do you know him? We know that he worked for you.”
“Oh yes,” Corrie hesitated, “I’d forgotten. He was looking for Sellie for us. He guaranteed to be able to find her.”
“So you gave him a cheque for £660,000.”
“And due diligence?” Wellington asked after a pause.
“What do you mean?” Corrie asked.
“Ronald Hall-Green is a known international con-man. You paid him £660,000, didn’t you? You paid him after only two short meetings of one hour each. We have your original cheque with your signature. Again, it’s your signature on the cheque, just like the TriMetropol cheques. Nobody else’s signature, just yours.”
“I just did as I was told. It wasn’t anything to do with me. All I did was sign the cheques. You don’t understand, I wasn’t concentrating because I had lost my child and I need Sellie. She needs me. Why aren’t you looking for her? Why are you wasting your time here asking me silly questions?” Corrie Dunnat slammed her fist down onto the table in the police interview room and her solicitor put his hand on her shoulder.
“Try to keep calm, Corrie, it will give a better impression to the jury.” Peter Crooke advised very quietly.
“Are you saying that you didn’t know where the money was to go?” Wally asked.
“Yes. I keep telling you. I only signed the cheques. I didn’t know he was a criminal. I didn’t know anything about him. They must have set me up.” Corrie swallowed, sighed and looked around the bare room and blank walls for inspiration. The only objects to look at were the tape machine and microphones on the table. Even her solicitor was studying his notes but Wellington and Boot were both studying her. She had to look away from them.
“We have followed the money again,” Wellington said, “and we found that Hall-Green only took £60,000 for himself. That’s ten percent, just like TriMetropol. Would you like to comment on that, or shall I continue?”
Corrie shrugged and shook her head as if she had no idea what they were talking about, but her eyes said otherwise.
Boot took up the cudgel, “We also know what happened to the other £600,000. It’s astonishing what can be found when following the money. Can you tell us about that please?”
“No.” Replied Corrie, “I know nothing about it.”
“Nothing about it?” said Wally, “Would it surprise you to learn that it is deposited in an account in your maiden name, Corrie Soley, in an account in the Bahamas? It can only be accessed by the holder of your passport, your old one in your maiden name, not your new one in your married name that would be needed for the Swiss account.”
“What do you have to say to that, Mrs. Dunnat?”
Peter Crooke said, “You don’t have to answer, Corrie.”
Corrie didn’t seem to hear him, “I don’t know anything about it. They must have set me up. Sellie needs me, I’m her mother. Why aren’t you out looking for Sellie?”
“Very well,” Detective Sergeant Boot said, “tell us about the boat then.”
“What boat?” Corrie said.
Wellington answered, “As you are very well aware, there is an ocean going boat called the Double Troth moored at a marina in Norfolk. It cost the fund £300,000 and is in the name of your Uncle, Brendan Nixon. You will remember that you said he was unimpeachable? I have to tell you that he is also in custody at this moment answering the same questions. I also have to tell you that we have had a satellite tracker fitted to your car and we know that you have stocked the Double Troth with a year’s supply of food, all paid for with cash from funds sent to you in envelopes as your Press Officer requested. We have seized the boat and we know of your plans to escape justice. We also found three bundles of notes in secret compartments in the Double Troth, exactly 200,000 UK pounds sterling, exactly 500,000 U.S. dollars and exactly 500,000 Euros.” He paused and turned a page on his notes and continued, “You will be charged on a number of matters later today and we will be opposing bail because of the plans you have made to vanish into thin air. Oh, and there was also another £632,371 in the safe hidden under the floorboards at your home in Rottenham which we have also seized.
“I haven’t made any plans,” Corrie protested, “I don’t know what you are talking about. Jimbo dealt with all the money. I don’t know anything about it. It wasn’t me. It was all Jimbo and he made me sign the cheques and things. He must have set me up.
“We would also like to talk to you in due course about claims that The Fund was a charity, including a failure to correct others who made that statement during television interviews with intent to deceive, claims that The Fund would be used to search for Sellie, when in fact less than 5% was ever used for genuine searches which we believe was a sop to the contributing public. Then we would like to discuss procuring monies by deception, defrauding a number of wealthy businessmen, footballers and others by making false claims about The Fund and several instances of money laundering.” Wellington said. “Oh, and you will also be questioned about personal and corporate taxation and V.A.T. offences.”
Boot raised his eyes to Wellington, glanced at the tape machine and said, “The tape is nearly finished, so we must end this session now. Is there anything else you want to say before we end this tape, Mrs. Dunnat?”
“I recommend that you don’t answer any more questions until we have had a chat, Corrie.” Peter Crooke said, but again, she didn’t hear him.
“Yes. Er, I mean, no. It’s all wrong. It wasn’t meant to happen like this. I didn’t do it. I didn’t do any of it. I was set up. Sellie needs me and you have got to start searching for her. It’s all wrong. It’s all wrong. Jimbo set me up.” Corrie sobbed.
“As I said, we have a number of further questions for you, so we will need further sessions tomorrow.” Wellington said.
Corrie managed to recover herself for a moment, “Further questions? What about?” She seemed not to have heard the explanations and to have descended into a world of her own, a deep depression from which she would not recover for some time.
“What about? The matters I’ve just mentioned. Also more questions about The Fund,” responded Wellington, “about your deceptions, about running a private limited company and claiming it was a charity, contrary to The Charity Acts, about fraudulently procuring monies by claiming that Sellie had been abducted when you knew she was dead, fraudulently using those funds for personal use whilst claiming they were for a different purpose and a number of other questions. We will also need to get back to the matters concerning the disappearance itself, where you hid the body, your family’s and friends’ rôles and so on. Yes, we have a great many more questions for you.”
Corrie shook her head and continued to sob while Detective Sergeant Boot attended to the formalities of ending the taped session and placing a copy of the tape into a sealed envelope for later court use, Detective Chief Inspector Wellington made some notes and Peter Crooke of Crooke Rancour made final notes and filed his papers neatly into his black leather brief case.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
THE CHARACTERS AND THE STORY ARE BOTH FICTITIOUS
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Professor Sir Alex Planter, Bt., known by his many enemies as Dark Bart, really had been earning his keep illegally training Jimbo Dunnat for the police interviews. Knowing from experience the extreme damage that could be caused by answering all police questions with ‘no comment’, this had been discussed and long before the arrests it was decided by the couple in conjunction with their solicitors, Crooke-Rancour & co., that every question should be answered and if in doubt, that the answer should be ‘I don’t know” or “I thought that [undefined] others were dealing with that”
The police had been kind enough to give advance notice of the subject of each question session, but without details. This time the interviews concerned the public poster and television campaign, a seemingly innocent topic, but one which was to throw up the first hint of the amazing twist in the tail of Corrie’s Tale.
The formalities of the formal interview were completed and Alex and Jimbo were sitting on one side of the table with Detective Chief Inspector Janine Digger and her inevitable sidekick Detective Sergeant April Fewell on the other. An all-woman team to interview Jimbo had been chosen specially by DCI Wellington, the investigation team leader.
The police looked at Jimbo Dunnat and Professor Planter for a while in the usual attempt to unnerve them. Jimbo and Corrie had manipulated the press and even the police so that the investigation went their way for six years now, but Wellington and his team now had enough evidence and was determined that the boot would very firmly be on the other foot.
The evidence had all been entered into the famous Scotland Yard police computer called POIROT (an acronym for Police Operational Investigation Research and Organisation Technology). POIROT had analysed the data of over fifty thousand documents and thrown up about 195 lines of enquiry each year for the last three years of the investigation but had helped reduce these to only thirty seven, an impossible task without the latest intelligent database system incorporated into POIROT.
“Would you agree Mr. Dunnat,” Digger began, “that your campaign posters and statements made it clear that people should look for the identifying mark of a heart-shaped birth mark, a mark known as a ‘strawberry patch’ under Selina’s chin?”
Jimbo replied, “We didn’t make a thing of it, I mean, it was the press that kept on about it. We didn’t mention it.”
“You didn’t mention it? But Jimbo, your posters all had hearts all over them and you even trademarked the PLE♥SE SE♥RCH logo.” Digger said.
Jimbo looked at Dark Bart and back at Digger, “That wasn’t me, it was the press.”
“No, it was your posters. Your posters all used the logo and this one I’m showing you, Exhibit 749A, says, and I quote, “Everyone should check under the chin of every child to check for the heart-shaped strawberry mark. Do you agree that it was one of your posters.” Digger asked.
Jimbo shook his head and sighed in annoyance, “I didn’t make the posters. They were made by somebody else. I didn’t design them. I didn’t write that. The posters were nothing to do with me.”
“You approved of them, though?”
“No,” Jimbo replied, “I only approved of a poster campaign. I didn’t design the posters. We just acted on advice. We did as we were told.” He wriggled in his chair. “We were so busy and so depressed by having our daughter abducted that we couldn’t function properly. We just went along with everything. You can’t blame me for everything done in our name.”
“Did you provide the photographs for this poster, Mr. Dunnat?” April Fewell, the Detective Sergeant, asked.
“No.” Jimbo replied.
Fewell asked, “So they didn’t come from your camera or your computer at home?”
“They must have done, but I didn’t take them off.”
“Who did take them?” Fewell asked.
Jimbo replied, “I don’t know. We were so upset we didn’t really notice what was happening to us. People just did these things.”
“Very well,” said Digger, “Can you explain why some copies of the photographs of Sellie show the heart-shaped strawberry mark, but other copies of the same photograph don’t show it?”
Jimbo replied, “No.”
Digger quickly retorted, “No you can’t explain or no the photos don’t show it?”
“No, it’s not the same girl.”
Digger and Fewell looked at each other, not really knowing what to make of that response. Jimbo glanced at Alex who momentarily and involuntarily raised his eyebrows heavenwards. Digger continued, “Not the same girl? Can you explain that please Mr. Dunnat?”
“I didn’t say that.” Jimbo and Alex shared a long glance. Some kind of raised eyebrow signal appeared to be being passed from Alex to Jimbo.
“You did say that, Mr. Dunnat. What do you mean, It’s not the same girl? Are you telling us that the photograph was not of Sellie?
“No, I didn’t mean that. I didn’t mean that at all. That’s not what I meant.”
“So what DID you mean, Jimbo?” asked Digger.
“I meant it wasn’t the same photograph. It couldn’t have been if it wasn’t the same, could it?” He looked at the police women with utter hatred. He despised them.
“Oh, it certainly was the same photograph, but how do you explain that sometimes it had the strawberry mark and sometimes not, Mr. Dunnat?” asked Digger.
Jimbo replied with another sigh, “Because it was Photoshopped by the newspapers or something, I expect. I don’t know. Don’t ask me, it wasn’t my fault. How can I know what other people do?”
“We looked at the original photographs on your camera, Mr. Dunnat and some had the strawberry mark and some didn’t. How can you explain that?”
“Apparently the newspapers changed the pictures so that the strawberry mark showed up better.” Jimbo replied.
“No, we are talking about the original photographs on your camera. Some of the pictures had been deleted, but we recovered them from the memory. How do you explain that only some of them showed the strawberry mark?”
Jimbo glanced at Alex and answered without hesitation, “You don’t know anything about photography, do you?” The policemen raised their eyebrows in a questioning expression, “Obviously skin colour shows up differently in different lights. Obviously.”
“Different lights?” Digger asked.
“Yes, cameras are incredibly unreliable.” Jimbo replied.
Digger and Fewell glanced at each other and found it hard not to laugh. “Cameras are incredibly unreliable?” April Fewell asked.
“Yes, incredibly unreliable.” Jimbo replied. “If you research photography scientifically, you will find that colours change depending on the light, on cloud cover, on the type of light, even on the colour of the light. Photographs are incredibly unreliable.”
“I see,” Digger replied, “and this light problem is enough to make the strawberry mark vanish?”
“Yes.” Replied Jimbo. “The patch was very light anyway, not one of those really dark ones. I think some of the newspapers made it darker for effect.”
“And some of your own staff creating the posters and marketing material and preparing pictures for the press, too, Mr. Dunnat?” Digger asked.
“No. We didn’t do that. I told you, we didn’t make any special emphasis on the strawberry patch.”
“Thank you, Mr. Dunnat.” Digger said, leaned back and made some written notes.
“I would like you to tell us how the first posters came to be printed. They were ready by 9 am the morning after Sellie disappeared. That was only twelve hours.” Detective Sergeant April Fewell asked.
“I don’t know,” Jimbo replied, “we were too busy searching.”
“But during that twelve hours, you managed to get the posters prepared and think up the PLE♥SE SE♥RCH logo which was trademarked within a few days. You really weren’t expecting anyone ever to find her, were you?” Fewell paused and waited in vain for a reply, “You prepared the posters in advance, didn’t you, because you knew she would never be found.”
“No. I told you, we were too busy searching.”
“Searching?” April asked, “You mean telling people where to search and organising them to search where you wanted them to search?”
“I have to tell you that we have asked everyone who searched and found that you were sending people in every direction possible, claiming that others were searching the beach. Why didn’t you want people to go to the beach?” April asked.
“I didn’t.” Jimbo replied.
“Didn’t what?” April wanted to know.
“I didn’t want them not to go. They went where they wanted. I just tried to help make sure people went everywhere. Perhaps someone said they were searching there so I told others not to go. Yes, that must have been it because I didn’t tell anyone not to search there especially.”
“There especially?” April queried, “Why didn’t you want them not to fail not to search there in particular?”
Alex, a law professor objected with an interjection, “I think that question is too complex. You must keep your questions simple, to the point and clearly understandable to an ordinary person.”
April continued as if ignoring the comment, “Why was the beach a special place to search? Alternatively, why was it a special place that you didn’t want them to search?”
Jimbo looked at Alex and replied, “It wasn’t intentional, really it wasn’t.” His ear itched so violently that he was forced to swat it like a fly. “Perhaps someone said they would search there, so we didn’t send anyone else. I didn’t organise it, perhaps it was Corrie. You must ask her. You can’t expect me to remember details of that day, can you?”
“Very well.” Digger said, glancing at her notes. “Can you explain about the printed posters with the PLEA♥SE SE♥RCH logo that appeared the very next day? I have an example here and we can’t find that paper anywhere locally. It wasn’t a brand used by the holiday camp and not one of the local printers within fifteen miles of the holiday camp and Dilsmouth used that paper. It was a brand of paper made by the Ilford company. Do you know where it came from?”
“The only such paper made by Ilford that we found,” Digger continued, “was in your computer printer at your house in Rottenham. It is the brand you used for all your correspondence that year; indeed, Forensic Services showed that the ink was the same brand as you used in your printer too. Unfortunately, you have changed your computer since then and the old one was disposed of somewhere, but we believe you printed some posters before you went on holiday and took the pictures with you ready for others to be printed by the holiday camp as soon as Sellie disappeared. Is that the case, Mr. Dunnat?”
“No, how could it have been? How could we know she was going to be abducted?” Jimbo responded. “No, that’s just ridiculous.”
“Is it, Jimbo?” Digger asked and waited for a reply, but answer came there none for there remained only a disconnected smirk.
“So you are denying that you pre-prepared the missing posters with the rather clever logo?” Fewell asked, eventually breaking the long silence.
“If you didn’t, do you know who did?”
“No. It must have been someone else.” Jimbo said.
“Someone else prepared the posters in advance of Selina disappearing?”
“Must have done. Perhaps it was a friend of the abductor.”
“A friend of the abductor?”
“Yes,” Said Jimbo and returned to the smirk, “if that’s what you want to think.
“Let me get this clear,” Digger said, “you are suggesting that a friend of the abductor prepared the posters in advance, using paper and ink identical to that on your computer at home in Rottenham and then helped in the search?”
“Yes, we know they were watching us for days beforehand.”
“And how do you know that, Jimbo?” asked Digger.
“Because they must have been watching to know when we weren’t in the chalet so they could take Sellie.” Jimbo replied.
“And do you have any evidence of this, Mr. Dunnat?” Digger asked, suddenly returning to the formal.
“No.” Answered Jimbo and returned his gaze to the floor.
“And are you denying changing any of the pictures to add or enhance the strawberry mark?”
“Just one more question, Mr. Dunnat,” Detective Chief Inspector Digger asked, “all of the photographs issued in the first three weeks were not less than nine months old. The first time you issued an up-to-date photograph of Sellie was three weeks after she disappeared. Our experts said it had clearly been modified, and the camera data embedded in it indicated that it may have been taken after she disappeared. Would you like to explain that please?”
“Explain what, exactly?” asked Jimbo.
“We would like you to explain why the first photos of Sellie issued on the posters and to the press were so old when you were on holiday and we know that you took photographs during that holiday and eventually issued them, albeit modified somewhat. Why did it take you so long to produce an up-to-date photo, and why was that photo modified?” Digger asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t understand cameras, I just use them.” Jimbo said.
“But just now, you were explaining to us detailed technical aspects of photography. Now you say you don’t understand cameras. Why did it take you so long to produce a recent image?”
“I don’t know,” Jimbo replied, “I just gave the camera to someone and someone else did it all.”
“To whom did you give the camera? Who took the pictures from the memory card?” Digger wanted to know.
“I don’t know. I don’t remember. It wasn’t me. It must have been someone else. Perhaps Corrie organised it. Ask her. She will know. I don’t know about any of this.” Jimbo replied.
“I think you do.” Digger said and the bell sounded to indicate the end of the interview tape.
“Saved by the bell” muttered Alex under his breath and Jimbo turned to him and laughed. “We live to fight another day.” Said Alex, aloud this time.
Detective Chief Inspector Janine Digger looked at Detective Sergeant April Fewell and they both made notes. Jimbo Dunnat had really done it this time. He and Alex were laughing too much, too loudly, too long and too irritatingly to go unpunished; this would not go unpunished, the police women decided.
THE CHARACTERS AND THE STORY ARE BOTH FICTITIOUS
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Ondatra’s parents, an educated artisan couple called Roberts, had a weird sense of humour. His father took a single whiff of his nappy and said that he smelled like a muskrat, which is why, poor child, he was given his unique name.
Ondatra was a rather singular gentleman with unusual habits. He had flown back from a holiday in Germany to his holiday home the day after the Dunnat family arrived at the holiday camp. It was most odd and unusual. For some reason, his best friend and housemate had phoned him for a whole hour just after midnight and he took an early morning flight and arrived at the house just outside the camp, only two hundred yards from the chalet, at five thirty in the morning.. The reasons for his unconscionably rapid change of plan were never clearly established and this was something the police wanted to clear up now.
While Ondatra was back at his house, he didn’t seem to have anything particular to do and spent a lot of time trying to be helpful to the search, to journalists, asking and answering questions on how the investigation was progressing and generally just hanging around. In common only with the Dunnats, Ondatra would do almost anything. Almost anything, that is, except actually searching for Sellie.
Police attention was first drawn to Ondatra by a journalist who recognised an apparent behavioural similarity between Ondatra and a murderer in another case with many similarities. The police began to watch him and even checked his house but very soon decided that this was a false lead and weird as he appeared externally, he was, it seemed, just a bystander.
However, new information had come to light and the police were left with a puzzle and arrested him on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, a sort of catch-all that could be adjusted after the questions had been asked, and hopefully answered.
In the interview room, Ondatra sat next to his solicitor, one Albert Puddephatt, a local man and a yokel in every important respect, not really experienced in high-profile investigations and rather more familiar with the aspirations of the petty criminal seeking to top up his dole money; a solicitor, in fact, who should really have retired in his declining years a decade or two earlier. But he was cheap.
The interview was conducted by the unusually diminutive and unfortunately named Detective Sergeant Ronald MacDonald who fortunately had a sense of humour and who put his prisoners at ease by telling them to call him Big Mac.
The interview room reached its full complement with the more experienced but less well qualified Detective Constable Reggie E. Porter who, as one would expect, took the written notes of the meeting.
The formalities over, Big Mac looked at Ondatra for a while without speaking and Ondatra in turn looked at his solicitor who in turn wasn’t quite snoring.
“Mr. Roberts,” Big Mac began with a smile, “Please call me Big Mac, and May I call you Ondatra?”
“That’s my name.” he replied cordially.
“As you know,” began Big Mac, “the reason you were arrested is because there are inconsistencies in your statements and what we know to be true in the case of the disappearance of Sellie Dunnat. Hopefully you can clear this up and it won’t need to go any further, but I’m sure you understand that we had to arrest you in order to be able to question you under caution and take a statement that can be used in court, if necessary. Do you understand that? The sooner we can clear up these little difficulties, the sooner we can all go home.”
“I understand, Ondatra said.
My first question is about Jimbo Dunnat. When did you first meet him? Big Mac asked.
Ondatra had been rehearsing answers to questions he expected and this was one of them. Even if he had to tell a little white lie from time to time, he was confident he could carry it off. In any case most of the answers he had prepared to awkward questions would be at least half true and he didn’t really have anything relevant to hide, he felt. He didn’t hesitate long and answered, “Er , well, it was the day after Sellie disappeared, I think. Yes, the day after.”
“How did you meet them? Big Mac asked.
“Oh, well, there was a lot of fuss and commotion and the police were asking to look in every house and they came and looked in mine.
“And did they search thoroughly?”
“Yes, every room, including the loft and cellar. They even moved my wine from the racks in the cellar. I was a bit annoyed about that because some of it hadn’t been moved for ten or more years and I didn’t want it touched.”
“And then?” Big Mac asked.
“And then I offered to help in the search.” Ondatra said.
“Perhaps you can just walk us through the next few hours please.” Said Big Mac.
“Yes, ok. Well, er, the policeman told me where to go so I went to one of the chalets with the others and …”
“With the others? Interrupted Big Mac.
“Yes, the others who offered to search.”
“Oh, I see,” said Big Mac and Reggie made some notes. “Go on.”
“When I reached the chalet,” Ondatra continued, “I met Jimbo and Corrie there and they were sending people in all directions.” He paused and thought, “Well, obviously not actually in all directions, I mean each person was sent in one direction because one person can’t be sent in all directions obviously and … er … well, obviously, you know what I mean?”
“Yes, obviously.” Replied Big Mac, “And then?”
“There were some Germans there who wanted to help too and I speak German fluently because some of my business is in Germany so I was able to help. Some of them also had some information for the police too about what they had seen the night before, so I was able to help with that too, translating for the reporters and for the police.” Ondatra said.
“And did you search?” asked Big Mac.
“No. I was just translating and generally helping. You see, I knew the area better than Jimbo so I could tell him where to go.”
“Yes, I’m sure you could.” Replied Big Mac. And how long did this assistance continue that day?”
“Most of the day. The police were useless so I was just giving him directions and helping him with the local knowledge and he was telling everyone where to go. Some were even going by bus so we had to tell them where to go and had to tell them where to get off.” Ondatra said.
Reggie managed to turn a laugh into a cough and received a sideways glance from his boss.
Ondatra continued on a nodded instruction from Big Mac. “Then in the evening, Jimbo and Corrie phoned for pizzas for all the helpers then said they had to get out, so they went off for a walk or run or something, well, some kind of exercise, anyway, and the pizzas arrived just as they got back.” Ondatra paused, “Look, you can ask any of the helpers there, I’m sure they will all tell you the same thing. I really don’t know why you think I can tell you any more than you already know.”
“And that day, Ondatra, was the first time you had met Jimbo and corrie Dunnat?”
“You sometimes help a local estate agent, don’t you? You show people around houses and flats” Big Mac asked.
“Sometimes, for Sea View Plaice Lets, but not very often.”
Big Mac asked, “Typically about once or twice every week, in fact?”
“Well, yes, I suppose so.” Ondatra acknowledged and glanced at his solicitor, who had fallen asleep and was snoring lightly. He gave him a light poke with his elbow and the dopey solicitor emerged from his slumber. “But it’s not important and has nothing to do with Sellie Dunnat going missing.”
“Unfortunately, we have to check every possible avenue of enquiry, Mr. Roberts, I’m sure you understand that.” Explained Big Mac.
“I suppose.” Replied Ondatra with some reluctance.
“I’d like you to explain the telephone call to you in Germany the night before you flew home.”
“My house mate, we share a house and he get very flustered and doesn’t know what’s going on half the time. He told me it was raining on the landing but it wasn’t raining outside. I told him on the phone to turn the water off and he eventually found the tap and stopped it, but I had to come back to sort it out.”
“Yes, Mr. Roberts,” Big Mac said, “But that wasn’t that occasion was it? That was four weeks previously. What was the reason for coming back this time?”
“Er … oh, was it? I thought it was that time that I had to sort out the plumbing for the village idiot – oh, you’d better not tell him I call him that, he wouldn’t like it. Yes, I’m sure it was that time.”
“No, it wasn’t. We have the plumber’s invoice and diary entries for his call-out. So what was the real reason?” Big Mac asked.
“I can’t remember. I honestly can’t.”
“Ok, Mr. Roberts,” said Big Mac, “perhaps you can answer this question. How often do you get keys cut?”
“Not very often, really. Just occasionally. And Plaice Lets also ask me to get some cut for them occasionally.” Ondatra repied.
“How often do they ask you to get keys cut for them, Ondatra?”
“Now and again, it depends.”
“Once a week? Once a month? Once a year?”
“Oh, about once or twice a year.”
Big Mac sat back and looked him straight in the eye, “We’ve checked with the local key cutter, and they know you very well indeed. You appear to have keys cut once or twice every week. I have to tell you that since you have been here, we have searched your home with a warrant and we have no less than one hundred and forty one sets of keys, all carefully labelled with the addresses. They were all on hooks on the back of a workshop door in your garage. The estate agent said you had no right to have them. Do, please, explain.”
Ondatra sighed and looked at his solicitor who was nearly asleep again, so no inspiration there, then. They sometimes asked me to help solve a problem or let people in if they lost their keys. It saved a lot of time if I could just go straight in with the key. It was a convenience thing.”
Big Mac looked at him. “A rather expensive convenience thing, wasn’t it?”
“No, I am a businessman and it saved more than it cost. Saved me in petrol and I could charge for letting people in with lost keys. I mean, er, I don’t mean people with lost keys, I mean people who had lost their keys; obviously I couldn’t let people in with lost keys because they had lost them so I couldn’t do that, could I?” Ondatra explained.
Big Mac and R. E. Porter looked at each other and raised their eyebrows.
Big Mac began again, “Ok, I will accept that for now, but why did you tell one of my officers that you didn’t have access to any other property than your own?”
Ondatra replied, “Because I didn’t.”
“But you did. You had over one hundred and forty sets of house keys.” Big Mac argued.
“But they don’t count. They don’t belong to me. I don’t have access to the places really because those keys are for emergency. I can’t just use them any time.” Ondatra said.
Big Mac thought for a while, “I’m not sure I agree with the logic of that, but we will accept it for the moment.”
“You are aware that all telephone calls can be traced these days, aren’t you?” Big Mac asked.
“Er … I suppose so, yes?” Ondatra replied, wondering what was coming next.
“Well after a lot of effort, and it really was quite difficult, we’ve managed to trace a phone call from Jimbo Dunnat to your house an hour before your very long, hour long call from your housemate.” Big Mac paused for effect, “Can you explain that please?”
Ondatra replied, “No, of course I can’t. Obviously I can’t. I wasn’t there, I was in Germany, you know that. I know you’ve even checked the ticket and the airport videos so I know you know that I wasn’t there, so you can’t blame me for that. I told you the first time I met him was about three days after that.”
Big Mac wasn’t in a mood to let him wriggle out of it, “I put it to you, Mr. Roberts that it was Jimbo’s phone call to your flatmate and his subsequent and consequent call to you that you returned to the UK, so it is relevant. It is very relevant, isn’t it?”
Ondatra looked at his useless solicitor and didn’t really know how to answer, “No, I told you, it’s nothing to do with me. I wasn’t there and I really can’t be responsible for a phone call in the U.K. when I was in Germany, can I?”
Big Mac said, “You should know that your housemate is currently being asked the same question so I think it might be a good idea if you are honest about this. We need to tie up this lose end. Perhaps you can think about it during the tea break and give us an answer after that.”
After tea and a rather unhelpful conference with his solicitor, Ondatra was asked the same question and replied that he really didn’t have any idea what they were talking about and they had better ask his housemate. He said that it was so long ago now that he really couldn’t remember the conversation, let alone what was said in it or why he flew back so quickly.
Big Mac stared directly for a while at Ondatra before asking the question, “One key that we know you once had but which is missing is the key to Beach Hut number 23. Can you tell me where you have put that key?”
Ondatra looked surprised. “No idea.” He said, “I’ve no idea at all. I think I gave the key back to the owner after it was given to me to pass on. What makes you think I had that key?”
Big Mac replied, “It was a rare key from a French lock manufacturer. The locksmith had to order a blank specially for you, so we know you had a key made. I have to ask you, Mr. Roberts, did you give that key to Mr. Dunnat? Did you, Ondatra, give your key to that beach hut to Jimbo?”
“I don’t know. I may have done, but I don’t remember. Why would I have done that?” Ondatra adked.
“Because …. ” Big Mac replied with a long pause, looking at him very firmly in the eye, “because a fact that was kept secret to the public was the scent of human cadaver in the beach hut to which only you and the owner, 4,000 miles away in America at the time, had access. You did give Jimbo that key on the night she disappeared or sometime before that, didn’t you?”
Ondatra answered with the greatest of hesitancy, “No, no, it wasn’t like that. I didn’t give it to him. If he had it, he must have stolen it from me. I never gave it to him, why would I? I didn’t take Sellie. I never touched her. Why would I? I just don’t know what all this is about. I didn’t do it. He must have stolen it, believe me, it wasn’t me.”
“For the moment, and at this stage, Ondatra, we will take your word for that. I only have one more question for you. Why did you drive to Rottenham, Jimbo and Corrie Dunnat’s home only 14 weeks before the holiday and Sellie Dunnat’s disappearance?” Big Mac asked.
Ondatra looked shocked and glanced at his solicitor who had his eyes closed. He looked back at the two policemen, Detective Sergeant Ronald MacDonald, Big Mac and his Constable assistant, R. E. Porter and closed his eyes too. This was the crunch question. “I have never been to Rottenham.” He said truthfully.
Big Jim relaxed back in his chare and pondered before asking, “Perhaps not actually to Rottenham itself, but we have your debit card record for fuel at a garage seven miles away. We also have Jimbo Dunnat’s credit card record for a meal for two at the Rotting Hart pub sixteen minutes before and only fifty metres as the crow flies from the garage, although it’s a hundred and twenty metres by road, of course. Was that just the most incredible coincidence, or will you more realistically tell us the truth of that meeting and exactly why you were meeting and what you were discussing?”
Ondatra was really sweating now and wondered what else the police knew. What had Jimbo said? What other evidence was there? “It was just a coincidence. He must have been having dinner when I happened to be passing through.” He replied.
“Passing through?” Asked Big Mac.
“Yes, I must have been passing through.” Replied Ondatra, feeling more confident.
“How well do you know Rottenham?” asked Big Mac.
“I don’t. I’ve never been there.” Ondatra replied.
Big Mac retorted, “I have to tell you that Rottenham is off the main road on a horseshoe shaped loop. The garage and the Rotting Hart pub are both on that loop. You would never, as you put it, happen to be passing. You have to go there intentionally.”
Ondatra answered, “I don’t remember anything about it. I must have been short of fuel and asked directions to the nearest garage. That’s the only reason I can think of for being there. I don’t know. I can’t answer your question. I really don’t know.”
Big Mac said, “Let’s just get this right, you are telling me that your presence at the garage a few yards away from where Jimbo had just purchased two dinners was pure coincidence?”
Ondatra answered confidently, “Yes. Yes, it must have been.”
“And finally just to confirm again, you didn’t meet any of the Dunnat family before the disappearance of their daughter?”
“No. Definitely not.”
Big Mac smiled, relaxed back and said, “Thank you, Mr. Roberts. We just have to complete the formalities with the tape and I will take you back to your cell.”
Ondatra shuddered and shared a long glance with his less than competent solicitor.