A Case of Crime by Marsali Taylor and J.J. Campbell by Marsali Taylor and J.J. Campbell - Read Online

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A Case of Crime - Marsali Taylor

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No Second Chance

Bill Kitson

1994

In the entrance to the court building a woman was in conversation with a barrister, who was still wearing his wig and gown. She appeared distressed, and passers-by must have marked her down as a client. Outside, the baying hordes of press and media reporters were waiting for her to emerge, like hungry sharks that could smell blood. She listened to what the counsel had to say. It failed to comfort her. ‘I was certain we’d get a conviction this time,’ she protested.

The barrister noticed the emphasis on the word ‘we’. ‘So was I, otherwise I’d have advised against the prosecution. Unfortunately, the jury weren’t convinced. The defence managed to cast enough doubt on the accuracy of Miss Holt’s testimony and suggested that far from being assaulted by the defendant she had chased him, and the sex was consensual. That, plus the implication regarding her previous liaisons, went a long way towards dissuading them from passing a guilty verdict. I’m bound to say that his previous good character and celebrity status didn’t help our cause either.’

‘Lily Holt maintained that he raped her and I believe her. You didn’t see her when I interviewed her. There’s no way her distress was faked. If we’d been able to locate the witness, the man who saw them leave that bar together, it might have been a different matter. Lily remembers him asking for Fortune’s autograph, even though she was almost passing out. She told me Fortune had to steady her with one hand whilst he signed the man’s book with the other. If we manage to find him, would his evidence be sufficient to request a new trial?’

Steve Jardine looked at Detective Sergeant Jackson and shook his head in disbelief. ‘Kate, you don’t seem to appreciate the situation. I’m astonished that you’ve progressed this far in the police force without knowing the position we’re in. As far as Ashley Fortune and Lily Holt are concerned, it’s over – unless he rapes her again. There can be no new trial, even with new evidence. It’s called double jeopardy. No person can be tried twice for the same crime. Admittedly, there is talk of a change in the law, but until that happens there is no second chance for us.’

‘No second chance? That means he’s free to rape some other unfortunate woman. That may be your idea of justice, Steve, but it certainly isn’t mine.’

‘No second chance’. The phrase stuck with DS Kate Jackson throughout the ordeal that followed. It began with the internal enquiry, and worsened with the disciplinary tribunal that followed. The phrase reverberated through Kate’s mind during her period of suspension from duty, and it was at the forefront of her mind as she listened to the chairman of the panel deliver their findings.

‘Detective Sergeant Jackson, we have examined the report submitted by the officers who conducted the enquiry into your conduct during the failed prosecutions of the Rev. Thomas Campion and the more recent case of Mr Ashley Fortune. The officers identified fundamental shortcomings in your preparation of evidence and your interviews with the suspects and their alleged victims. Details of those findings are listed separately and will form the basis of further training which you will be required to undertake. It is our opinion that your conduct throughout has lacked the professionalism and impartiality required to pursue such cases in a correct manner. We accept that your opinion might have been influenced by the emotional distress of the victims and the horrific nature of the alleged abuse they suffered, but nevertheless we feel it is our duty to place the censure of this tribunal regarding your conduct on your employment record.’

Kate Jackson listened to the words, recognizing immediately the hidden implication of them. The force needed someone to take the blame for the two expensive failed prosecutions of high-profile suspects, and she had been specially selected for the role of scapegoat.

It was difficult to determine whether Kate or her superiors were more relieved when her request for a transfer was submitted. The speed with which her request was approved told a story in itself. Less than six months after the acquittal of Ashley Fortune, DS Kate Jackson relocated from Leeds to North Yorkshire.

1999

The strengthening wind moaned through the telephone wires strung between the poles, the sound compounded by the creaking of bare branches on the trees alongside the road. There was a bitter edge to the wind, a feeling of snow in the air, and the lone pedestrian huddled into the woefully inadequate protection of his thin cotton jacket. Like the rest of his clothing it was totally unsuitable for the weather, but then he hadn’t anticipated being outdoors on a night like this: hadn’t anticipated being outdoors ever again.

His footsteps were erratic, his progress weaving like that of a drunk. He was barely able to see through eyes that were little more than slits in the bruised and battered pulpy mess that had once been his face. A handsome face, before the attack; now no longer handsome. From time to time he licked his lips, desperate to moisten their cracked surface. All he got was the metallic taste of his own blood. There was blood on his face, on his hands, and on the T-shirt he was wearing under the jacket. The shirt bore a vivid red stain that was spreading slowly, inexorably, as the blood seeped out from any or all of a dozen cuts.

His jeans were soaked too, soaked in a mixture of blood and urine; clinging in cold discomfort to his thin, wasted legs. The trainers he had struggled to put on before the attack were splattered with the same nauseous mixture and worse, for he had long lost control of his bodily functions.

Somewhere deep inside, a last grain of pride or the tattered remnant of the will to survive drove him on, painful step by painful step, although he could no longer remember from where he had come, or had any idea where he was headed.

Eventually, as the final feeble fragment of strength withered and the will to live flickered and was extinguished, the walker staggered his last few strides then sank to his knees. He felt a great surge of weariness and desolation sweep over him, and he pitched forward to lie prone on the cold ground. Tears squeezed their way through the bruising around his eyes and spilled onto the grass beneath his face, the blood loss taking its final toll.

As the life force deserted him, the first flakes of snow began to drift lazily down, spinning and tumbling as they fell, slowly to begin with, then gradually gathering force, only to melt on the warmth of the dying man’s back. Inexorably, as the body cooled, the snow began to settle, and within a short space of time the corpse became hidden below a white blanket. As the snow deepened, the body became indistinguishable from the surrounding terrain.

Although he had been within a few hundred yards of the edge of the village, it would be well over a week before the body was discovered. By then, all resemblance to the once-famous face that had appeared regularly on television screens and in both the news and gossip columns of newspapers had been totally obliterated.

There was only one occupant of the room, which was a well-appointed office: the woman seated behind the desk, hunched over a closely-typed sheet of paper. A sound,

slight but definite, disturbed her concentration. It was closely followed by a cold draught, providing further distraction. One glance at the door, and the reason for the interruption was plain.

Recognition of the person who had entered the room didn’t come immediately. When it did, alarm flickered briefly in the reader’s eyes. ‘You! What are you doing here?’

‘I came to apologize.’

‘Apologies are both immaterial and meaningless. I told you at the time; no second chance.’

‘No second chance, that’s right,’ the intruder repeated the phrase. It was obvious from the tone that the words were lodged firmly in some distant memory. ‘I also remember my reply, and that’s why I came to apologize.’

‘Look, I can’t remember what it was you said, but whatever it was, it doesn’t matter. It’s all over and done with. Like I said then, time to move on, no going back, no second chance.’

‘It does matter. It matters a lot. Because I lied. And that’s why I wanted to apologize. For the lie I told you then.’

The woman frowned. ‘What lie?’

‘I lied when I said you’d live to regret your decision.’ The intruder took out a long-bladed knife. ‘It was a lie, saying you’d live to regret it. Because you won’t.’

Since arriving in the sleepy market town of Thorsby, Kate had become accustomed to the far slower pace of life in a rural force. She enjoyed it, and rarely thought of her time in Leeds – and even when she did, it was without regret at her move to North Yorkshire. She also enjoyed the shorter chain of command, and the closeness of the small team she had joined.

Just how close her relationship with her boss, DI Peter Lambert, was, only Kate and he knew, although others around them suspected much, and speculated more. It was late one December evening when Kate, as duty CID officer, received the phone call that disturbed her rural idyll. She was the only detective on duty, so the young constable on reception had no choice but to route the call from the emergency operator to her.

‘Ambulance service responded to a call about a man’s body being discovered at Dent’s Bridge. The caller didn’t say whether the man was injured or worse, but when the paramedics examined him, they found that the man had been dead for some time. We informed the duty pathologist, and when the nature of the victim’s injuries were described to him, he requested the presence of someone from CID and forensics. Could I have the names of attending officers for our records, please?’

Even as she was giving the details, Kate tried to imagine the journey that lay ahead of her. Dent’s Bridge was a remote village on the edge of the moors, little more than a hamlet really. Worse still, it was in a remote, all but inaccessible area, especially at this time of year, and with the weather as it had been. The only route there was a narrow, winding country lane. In fact, Kate was under the impression that the village was still cut off following the recent heavy snowfall.

She put the phone down and considered whether to call her boss. Peter would be at home, her home, sitting in front of a warm fire with a can of lager, watching football on telly as he awaited her return. Lucky sod. She decided not to disturb him. She’d brave the elements alone. Her decision failed to cheer her. Life was damned unfair at times.

The post-mortem had been scheduled for the following afternoon. Kate had managed only a short nap on returning home. She reached the mortuary to the rear of Thorsby Hospital and entered the austere, drably painted single-storey building. Supervision of the removal of the body had been a formality. Kate had only been able to interview the man who had found the body, or more accurately, whose dog had found it.

‘It were t’ first time I’d been out wi’ t’ dog since we came back. I’ve been visiting me sister in Scotland for t’ last ten days. He weren’t there afore we left.’ The man jerked a thumb in the direction of the stretcher that was being lifted into the ambulance.

‘Dipper,’ – the man indicated his black Labrador – ‘went straight to it. I wondered what he were on at, diggin’ away in a snowdrift. I told him to come away a couple of times, but he took no notice. Then he started on barkin’ fit to bust. That were when I knew summat were up.’

In the cold, harsh light of the lamps above the dissection table, Kate got her first proper look at the victim. The state of the man’s face made her nauseous. Who could have inflicted such terrible punishment on him?

‘Recognize him?’ The pathologist’s laconic question startled her. His follow-up remark surprised her even more. ‘If anyone should, I thought you’d be the one to tell us who he is … was.’

‘Me? I’ve never seen him before. Or at least I don’t think so, but he’s too badly disfigured to tell.’

‘I took his fingerprints. Thanks to you, they’re still on file. That’s our missing celebrity, Mr Ashley Fortune.’

The disappearance of the TV presenter had made national news six weeks earlier. Eventually, when prolonged searches failed to find any trace of Fortune, the attention of the media had moved onto other topics. Now, their interest would return, intensified a thousandfold when the news that he had been murdered leaked out.

Why, Kate wondered, had this happened on her patch? More urgently, given her previous history with the presenter, should she be involved in the case at all? That should be for others to decide. ‘I’d rather you wait until I’ve spoken to my boss. He may want to send someone else to cover the PM.’

The surgeon nodded. ‘I thought that might be so, which is why I haven’t started.’

Kate’s conversation with DI Peter Lambert was a short one.

‘I’ll talk to Old Bill and get back to you,’ Lambert told her.

Detective Chief Superintendent William Sharpe, ‘Old Bill’ to his subordinates, but not to his face, lost no time in reaching a decision. ‘Pull Kate out of there, and stay away yourself. I’ll send someone from uniform. I’d rather Kate was kept out of the investigation as well.’

Kate was in the process of taking her coat off when Lambert emerged from his office. ‘Leave that on,’ he told her, ‘Old Bill wants to see both of us immediately.’

‘Is this about Fortune?’ Kate asked as they drove to Bainton.

‘It must be, I guess. He sounded a bit pissed off, to put it mildly.’

Which was unusual, Kate thought. Sharpe was normally unflappable. On reaching Bainton and entering Sharpe’s office, they found that he was not alone. The chief constable was seated across the desk from him. Both men looked less than happy.

It was the chief constable who spoke first. Without greeting them, he asked, ‘Sergeant Jackson, where were you two nights ago? Say around 9 p.m.?’

Kate blinked at the unexpected question. ‘I was in Leeds,’ she said after a moment. ‘I went to the Grand to watch a show. Why are you asking me this?’

The chief looked at Sharpe, who leaned forward, his expression one of weary, reluctant acceptance. ‘How do you want to play it, sir?’

‘I think it must be suspension, sadly, if only to satisfy the media and HMIC.’

‘Would someone please tell me what this is all about?’ Lambert’s question was ignored as totally as Kate’s had been.

Sharpe addressed Kate. ‘Detective Sergeant Jackson, you are suspended from duty until further notice. That suspension will take effect immediately. You are not to enter police premises, or contact any members of the force. You are not to discuss this case with members of the public, even members of your close family, and especially not with the media. Is that understood?’ Sharpe leaned back in his chair, obviously believing that the