Sirens screamed through central Nottingham.
Patrol cars skewed in at crazy angles to block off the street. Uniformed officers in fluoro yellow jackets shouted at civilians to get back, roping off both ends with swathes of blue and white tape. An Audi A4 Estate in police Battenberg swooped in at one end and the Firearms officers jumped out, coaxing various metallic clicking sounds from their MP5s. At the other an unmarked VW Golf shrieked to a stop, and DI Quinn and TDC Lewin ran to the back for their body armour.
The Firearms Officers approached the bank from one direction, the detectives from the other, Asps held against their shoulder. A couple of officers from the Nottingham Central 999 Response Team ducked behind a parked car whilst shouting and thumping emanated from within the bank.
The Firearms Sergeant caught Paul Quinn’s eye and nodded. They both swung towards the bank.
And swung away, fighting to stay on their feet because they were laughing so hard.
The Sergeant from the Response Team looked up to see what was so funny, and quickly joined in the laughter, shaking his head. From the bank came more enraged shouting and thumping.
‘Dear God,’ said Paul, wondering if he really needed his baton. The detective with him, TDC Lewin, poked her head around to see why they weren’t storming in like the Magnificent Seven to save the day, and started giggling as well.
‘Jesus fucking Christ,’ said the Response Sergeant. ‘Malky, Malky, Malky.’
Paul pulled himself upright and took a couple of deep, calming breaths to get the giggles under control. ‘Do you know that individual, Sergeant?’ he asked as po-faced as possible.
‘Malcolm Dunning sir, goes by Mad Malky in St Ann’s,’ said the Sergeant.
Paul looked back at Mad Malky Dunning, still fulminating strange anathemas in anger at the outrageous hand life had dealt him. ‘Not exactly a criminal mastermind, is he?’
‘No sir, sort who thinks a criminal record is something by S Club 7,’ said the Sergeant. He frowned at Dunning. ‘Mind you, even by his standards that’s thick.’
‘Not exactly a promising contender for Nottingham’s Young Delinquent of the Year Award, even by the usual criteria,’ Paul agreed.
He looked at the crowd, who had gone from the terrified-but-thrilled he had seen at other major incidents in the past to confused – presumably as to why the police were standing around laughing rather than going all Hot Fuzz on the villains. A few camera phones were out though. They might end up on World’s Dumbest Criminals yet.
‘You want to tell him sir, or can I?’ asked the Sergeant.
‘Sergeant, you are not denying me of this pleasure,’ Paul shook his head. ‘I’d ask you to cover me, but…’ he called to the Firearms Officers. Their Sergeant just shrugged whilst Paul walked to the door, where Malky Dunning was still shouting and thumping away.
‘Hiya, mate. Is it Malky?’ he called.
Malky stopped shouldering the door. ‘Yeah…’
‘What’s the problem then, Malky?’
‘Fucking self-locking door!’ Malky shouted, gesturing at the door handle angrily with the claw hammer he’d used to hold the bank up.
‘Self-locking door, I see,’ Paul nodded. ‘Yes, I can see how that might be distressing for you, Malky.’
‘Fucking door!’ Malky shouted again, giving it a kick.
‘Ok Malky, I can see you need help,’ Paul said, fighting to keep his face at some vague semblance of straight. ‘So, right, you see how I’m a police officer?’ He pointed to the POLICE stencilled across his stab vest.
‘What I can do, Malky, is I can give you the secret police code that unlocks self-locking doors,’ Paul said. Malky glared back at him suspiciously. ‘Would you like that, Malky?’
‘Er…’ Malky racked his brains for a second. It was a short second. ‘Yeah.’
‘Ok Malky. First, I’m going to need you to drop that hammer,’ Paul pointed at it. ‘Can’t really help you while you’re holding it, Malky.’
‘Oh. Ok, sure,’ Malky said. He let the hammer fall to the floor of the bank, where it rested on the head. Skills, Quinn.
‘Alright Malky, thank you,’ Paul said. He had to take a couple more deep breaths and remind himself that for the bank customers this was still a highly dangerous situation and no laughing matter.
Well, maybe a little laughing.
‘Here’s the code. You see above the door handle there’s some letters?’
‘What are those letters Malky?’
‘What does that spell?’
Paul gestured for Malky to do just that. His jaw sagged slightly as he pulled the door open. Paul caught it with his hand before Malky could think to shut it again, walking forwards as Malky went backwards until Malky backed into the bank wall.
‘Malcolm Dunning,’ he said when Malky was well and truly cornered, and the cogs were turning as he tried to figure it out. ‘Detective Inspector Paul Quinn, Nottinghamshire CID, and I’m arresting you for robbery, contrary to Section 8 of the Theft Act.’
But he couldn’t keep it together. ‘You have the right to remain stupid. Anything you say will be totally incomprehensible and I just can’t, even… Sergeant, take over,’ he gestured for the Response Sergeant. The Sergeant span Malky around and hooked him up, whilst Malky made fish mouths at Paul.
‘You know, legally, I have to start from scratch now,’ he told Paul.
‘Sorry,’ Paul shrugged. The Sergeant read Malky Dunning his rights and led him out of the bank. Paul turned to the customers, who’d all huddled together in the corner furthest away from Mad Malky’s mad efforts to push his way through the door.
Now he really couldn’t help himself.
‘And there, Ladies and Gentlemen, you see it. Proof that, within the criminal mind, there lurks… very little.’
The last time Paul had faced down an armed robber, he’d wound up with a George Medal, but there was no such illustrious gong awaiting him for that morning’s work. He did get an ironic handclap from most of his team. Someone had mocked up a photo of him wearing a Batman outfit and stuck it up outside the Detective Inspectors’ office though.
His unbelievable bravery wasn’t entirely unrecognised then.
The rest of the day failed to live up to the morning’s promise, and was mostly spent shuffling paper around his desk until lunchtime, then a bit more shuffling after. It wasn’t until the day’s end that a call came in.
‘Afternoon sir, DS Casey here from Nottinghamshire South CID.’
Nottinghamshire South: D Division, which as well as all the rural land south of Nottingham covered the city’s western and eastern suburbs. Paul knew the suburbs well enough, but virtually nothing of the Rushcliffe area that made of the rest of the division. This came partly because of being a North Walian loaner to the Nottinghamshire force, partly because Major Crimes Unit dealt largely with Nottingham proper, only ever venturing into more rural areas when murders or serious robberies occurred, or when the local CID wanted reinforcements for surveillance on some drug dealers. The area south of Nottingham was pretty quiet at the worst of times, with no real major population centres for the gangs to get stuck into. They ran cocaine and heroin wherever there was a demand, of course, and in the bad old days might have loaned out the odd gun or two, but generally speaking, the threat of violence from the Rathbone brothers or their competitors was enough to keep the petty local dealers in line, and the Rathbones were hardly going to send muscle in to sort out a dispute between some chav from the arse end of nowhere and Mr Middle England. Not exactly the front line of the Nottinghamshire Police Force.
‘What can I do for you Sergeant?’
‘Er, well sir… you see, it’s quite a delicate matter,’ Casey said. She sounded an older woman, with a strong Brummie accent. ‘My team’s been investigating a series of burglaries in the Ruddington area sir… Do you know it?’
‘Just next to Rushcliffe County Park?’ Paul asked.
‘Yes sir,’ Casey sounded impressed, not knowing that Paul was looking at the map of Nottingham and the surrounding area pinned up on the wall of the Inspectors’ office. ‘As I say, sir, we’ve had a spate of burglaries in Ruddington in the last few weeks. We thought we had a breakthrough at the latest incident when we found blood on a broken coffee table. Near as we can make out, the offender dropped a heavy plastic object, like a tele, through the glass and cut himself trying to retrieve it,’
‘Ok. I’m assuming there’s more if you’re calling MCU,’ Paul said.
‘Yes sir, that’s the thing. See sir, well, we ran the DNA, and… well, we got a familial match.’
‘All sounding good,’ Paul said, thinking that it sounded anything but good that Casey was informing him of this in such a strained, taut voice.
‘That’s the thing sir. It was a familial match to DNA from an old case,’ Casey said. She sounded thoroughly, utterly miserably. Paul wondered why she would be so upset to have what sounded like a great lead… and then it hit him.
He asked Casey to get over to Sherwood Lodge as fast as she could, and started trying to track down his boss.
‘…the DNA from the blood in Ruddington is a familial match to that in the semen recovered from the body of Elsie McAndrew, sir,’ Paul said.
He sat facing his DCI across the DCI’s desk; DS Casey had declined the offer of a seat and a tea, preferring instead to stand at attention and look like she was praying for the ground to swallow her up, as close to the door as humanly possible without actually being outside it.
‘And this is a problem because?’ DCI Dale asked. He ran MCU3, which mostly focussed on north and central Nottingham, although the MCU teams chipped in all over the Force Area for things like murder or armed robbery.
‘An arrest was made in the McAndrew case, sir,’ Casey supplied. ‘A twenty year old man was convicted of her murder in 1980.’ When she wouldn’t go any further, Paul went on.
‘Jamie Ledford, sir. The issue Detective Sergeant Casey is having is that Forensics believe that the DNA in the Ruddington case is probably from the son of whoever left the semen. Ledford had no children, and at his trial maintained he was a virgin.’
‘A twenty year old virgin?’ Dale said sceptically.
‘You can see why he was a suspect, sir,’ Paul agreed. ‘But if he has no son, then…’
‘No son that we know of,’ Dale said pointedly. His voice was a Scouse rasp, accentuated by the fags that he’d managed to cut down from twenty to ten a day recently, although he showed no signs of quitting altogether.
It was a voice that left Paul Quinn feeling distinctly unimpressed. Dale’s riposte had been weak, and the DCI must know it. Paul was working for him because Dale was an old friend of Detective Chief Inspector Jenny Brown, Paul’s CO at his parent North Wales force. Jenny trusted him to teach Paul the lessons he needed to learn before his promotion to Detective Inspector could become permanent. In the eighteen months he’d been in Nottingham, Paul had so far had nothing but respect for the man. He wondered if that might be about to change.
Dale stretched expansively in his chair, yawned, and reached for the coffee on his desk. It smelt strong, but the wince on the DCI’s face told Paul it was lukewarm at best. ‘Thank you for bringing this to my attention DS Casey,’ he said now. ‘Obviously this is a matter for the Major Crimes Unit now, although if you’d like to stay you’re more than welcome.’
‘I think I’ll leave you to it, sir,’ Casey said. She looked positively relieved as she left Dale’s office. She’d done her part, referred what she knew to MCU, and now she wanted to leave before the inevitable shit started flying and keep her head down back in Rushcliffe.
And there would be a shitstorm. Or at least, there should be.
‘Fuck’s sake,’ Dale breathed after she’d gone. He leapt out of his chair and paced the carpet twice, before leaning in to pick up his phone. ‘Pearl? Can you set me up a meeting with Assistant Chief Constable Church ASAP? Thanks, love.’ Pearl was his secretary, who was mistaken by many for an empty-headed bimbo, due, Paul suspected, to her strong fake tan and enormous hoop earrings. Having taken the time to actually get to know her, Paul had learnt better. She dealt with paperwork quickly, efficiently, and kept the DCI’s days on track and organised. ‘Where’s Ledford banged up then?’ Dale asked Paul.
‘Wakefield, sir. Still protesting his innocence, apparently.’
‘Right. Find out who his solicitor is, and if he doesn’t have one get him one, then get someone up there and get a DNA sample from him,’ Dale said. ‘Let’s at least rule out that he didn’t shag at least one person before he went inside, before this turns into Stefan Kiszko all bloody over again.’
‘Yes sir,’ Paul said. The DCI was starting to rise in his estimation again. He had a face like he’d just found shit on his meet-the-Queen shoes, but he was doing the right thing, and doing that thing right.
‘I’ll speak to the ACC and make sure he knows we’re looking to re-open… what was the case called?’
‘Operation Torpedo, sir,’ Paul said.
‘Operation Torpedo again. Meantime of which, Paul, I want you to review all the old case files from back then and get an idea of how that investigation progressed and who their suspects were,’ Dale said. Paul nodded. And he’d need to speak to DS Casey again, find out who her standout suspects in the Ruddington burglaries were.
‘One final question, Inspector,’ Dale said.
‘Why’s this shit always happen to you?’
Paul grinned wryly.
‘Just lucky I guess, sir.’
It took most of the next morning for Paul to get all of the Operation Torpedo files out of the vault, and it was nearly sodding-off time before he’d read them all.
And what he read, he hadn’t liked.
Some of it had made him smile, like the photos of the crime scene. He’d half-hoped to see panda cars that actually looked like pandas, maybe even Ford Anglias, but by the time Elsie McAndrew was murdered in 1979, Nottinghamshire Police had already moved away from the old powder-blue-and-white livery to the more familiar white-and-orange jam sandwiches, and the cars were Capris. But it brought back memories, because the jam sandwich livery had adorned patrol cars when Paul had first walked a beat in Newcastle-under-Lyme as a Staffordshire Special Constable. Paul missed the uniformed officers wearing tunics and Custodian helmets by a few months, they’d moved to the NATO-style pullovers and stab vests by the time he’d joined in early 1995. Nottinghamshire had now gone one further and issued a separate operational uniform: black wicking T-shirts replacing the white office shirt for anyone not stuck behind a station desk, with black webbing now adorning the stab vests. The only people you saw regularly wearing blue tunics now were Superintendents or higher. The new uniforms were far more practical, and Paul was thankful to have missed the tunic.
He couldn’t help but smile at them in the photos though. Half expecting to see Gene Hunt scowling past the camera with Sam Tyler moping after him. The jeans were flared, and the hair was big. The photos were largely black and white, so Paul couldn’t see if everything was as brown as the 70s were always depicted now. His oldest memory dated back to 1979 or 1978, posing with his little sister and big brother for a family photo. It stuck because he’d been the one holding Trish.
1979, almost 1980 – Maggie Thatcher the Milk Snatcher was already Prime Minister, if Paul recalled correctly, and it wouldn’t be long until You Shook Me All Night Along charted. Times they were a-changing, and before long the Police and Criminal Evidence Act would be the first of several attempts by the government to make the police tighten up their act. Paul knew of the classic mistakes that had led to miscarriages of justice in the 70s and 80s. He wondered how many would apply to Operation Torpedo.
Elsie McAndrew had left a friend’s house in the Beeston area to walk the four streets back to her home on the 17th of November 1979. Those were the days when a fifteen year old girl being allowed to walk home alone after dark wasn’t seen as abhorrently neglectful parenting. Only, Elsie hadn’t made it. When she hadn’t returned by midnight, her mother had gone to her friend’s to get her, and been told that she’d left almost two hours previously.
The police were called, and a search began. They found Elsie’s body on a patch of waste ground just off her route home that same night. She’d been beaten so badly that several of her teeth had been knocked out, her nose broken, and then she’d been strangled with a piece of washing line. Her knickers were found twenty yards away. A murder inquiry was launched, and Detective Superintendent Marcus Thurwell was brought in from Force HQ at the-then new Sherwood Lodge building to investigate.
The modern Murder Investigation Manual stressed the importance of the ‘Golden Hour.’ The sixty minutes after the body was found in which key decisions taken by the Senior Investigating Officer could make or break a case. Paul had absolutely no idea what decisions Marcus Thurwell had made during his Golden Hour, however, because as far as he could tell Thurwell hadn’t maintained any kind of decision log. The reports stated that Elsie’s body had been found at quarter to three in the morning, so he should have been there by no later than five. Although if anyone had bothered with a crime scene sign-in sheet, they hadn’t included it in the file.
What Paul could tell was that Jamie Ledford had been the prime suspect almost from the start. A local shopowner had approached the Deputy SIO, Detective Chief Inspector Capistrano, and told him that he’d seen Ledford hanging around his shop at about nine thirty, and that he’d followed Elsie as she walked past. Ledford, he said, looked at his thirteen year old daughter in a way that he didn’t like. He wanted something done about him.
Various of the reports described Ledford as a retard. Paul found his latest evaluation by an educational psychologist attached to the file as an appendix – it was from 2005 and stated that Ledford had severe Attention Deficit Disorder, as well as some Oppositional Defiant behaviours and an overall developmental delay. The educational psychologist assessed that Ledford had a mental capability roughly equivalent to an eleven year old.
Ledford’s arrest report stated that he had been arrested by DCI Capistrano at eleven in the morning, so that had happened very fast. But the questioning had been done by Thurwell, without the presence of either an appropriate adult or a solicitor. There were no tapes of interviews in 1979, of course, so all Paul had was the transcript.
Even from that, he could tell that Thurwell hadn’t had much of a strategy beyond making Ledford sweat. It looked as though he’d just questioned him for eight straight hours, no breaks, and his questioning technique had been to alternate between telling Ledford that he’d killed Elsie, and demanding to know why. They’d stopped when Thurwell had needed a break, it seemed. Ledford must have asked for something to drink, or a toilet break, in those eight hours, but Paul could no sign of it in the transcripts.
Whilst Thurwell had been locked in interview, DCI Capistrano had been busy. His officers found two of Elsie’s friends willing to state on record that Elsie had been scared of Ledford, that he’d followed her home. He’d managed to extract alibis from her father, Graham McAndrew, and stepfather David Hollis – the latter he’d questioned personally. Paul could see no sign that either alibi had been checked. Why should they have been? The police already had their man.
It was clear why Thurwell had made Capistrano his Deputy. Elsie’s friend, the one she’d been visiting, stated that she hadn’t left until ten, so that she couldn’t have walked past the shop until ten twenty at the earliest. Capistrano’s other personal intervention that day had been to requestion the shopkeeper, who’d given a second statement explaining that he’d been wrong before, and he’d actually seen Ledford at ten thirty.
Then the blood typing had been done overnight, and by the morning Thurwell knew that Jamie Ledford and the man who’d raped Elsie shared O negative blood. He’d charged him before breakfast.
Jamie Ledford had always protested his innocence. Before his trial, during it, after the jury found him guilty. Even after the judge, describing him as a pitiless monster incapable of remorse, sentenced him to life in prison. Someone had included a cutting from the Nottingham Post describing Ledford crying as he was sentenced.
He was still in prison. He was still maintaining his innocence. But his parents had died in 1998 and 2001, his sisters didn’t want to know him, there was no left to fight his corner. Until yesterday, he had seemed set to die in prison.
It was possible, Paul thought, that Ledford had done it, and had a son that no one knew about it. Thurwell might have been right.
Even a stuck clock was right twice a day, after all.
The voice belonged to DI Charlie Dennis. MCU3 boasted three DIs to support its Chief Inspector. Paul was one; DI Dennis was another and DI Turner was the third. Paul despised Turner and the feeling was mutual; Turner was an arrogant, racist, lazy bastard with more ambition than sense. One day he would surely be a Chief Superintendent, if not higher; for now, he was banished to Bassetlaw running surveillance on a couple of cannabis farms.
‘Hiya Charlie,’ Paul yawned, stretching in his chair. Charlie Dennis was a different kettle of fish entirely, thorough, conscientious, and welcoming. ‘Heard the news?’
‘I have not,’ Dennis said, flopping into his chair. He frowned at all the paperwork spread around Paul’s desk. ‘Well, I’ve heard that something’s set the cat amongst the pigeons on the Executive Corridor, but not exactly what it is.’
‘You’re looking at it,’ Paul confirmed for him.
‘Operation Torpedo. Thirty year old murder case,’ Dennis peered at one of the folders. ‘Have we missed a serial killer for thirty years then?’
Paul laughed humourlessly, wondering whether or not the brass would hate that less or more. ‘Try, man’s been in jail since ’80, but now there’s new DNA evidence that might exonerate him?’
‘Ah.’ Dennis put the folder down cautiously, as though damaging it might contaminate the rest of the evidence against Ledford in some way. ‘Have we missed a serial killer for thirty years then?’
‘No, it’s familial match on a DNA sample from a burglary,’ Paul said. ‘Small mercies I guess, God knows how the brass would be taking it if it was anything more.’
‘Thurwell, huh?’ Dennis had started leafing through another one of the folders. ‘There’s a name I’ve not heard in a while.’
‘You know DSI Thurwell?’
‘Knew, past tense. He was in my Lodge until he lost his marbles. Alzheimer’s,’ Dennis clarified when Paul frowned. ‘I was only a Trainee DC at the time, so I didn’t really speak to him too much. From what I could gather though, he was old school like the old school, you know? Fists first, questions later, surveillance is for sissies, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act ruined it for everyone.’
‘He didn’t retire in ’85 did he?’
‘Matter of fact I believe he did,’ Dennis nodded with a knowing gleam in his eye. 1985. One year after PACE ruined police work for everybody, apparently. Funny thing about that was, PACE hadn’t really ruined anything at all. Unless it was the taped interviews, pretty much everything that the police had done before PACE they were still able to do after it – warrantless entries, stop and searches on ‘reasonable suspicion,’ lengthy periods of detention, delay of the right to inform a third party of arrest. PACE had simply started requiring more record keeping of how it was all done, when, and by whom and why it was authorised.
Basically, lazy thugs like Thurwell had quit when the law required them to start justifying their actions to their superiors every now and then.
‘Any other names on there you recognise?’ Paul asked. ‘The bloke who was Deputy, Capistrano…’
‘Don’t know him,’ Dennis shrugged. ‘But if he was a DCI in ‘79 he’d have been before my time.’
‘Not another member of the Lodge then? Only, Thurwell seems to have relied on him a lot.’
‘It’s not a name I recognise,’ Dennis said. ‘Thurwell would have had mates who weren’t Masons, you know. I have the odd one or two myself.’ And he gave Paul a pointed look. Paul raised a hand in acknowledgement. Reminded himself of one of the rules of police bureaucracy – when something goes wrong, nine times out of ten it’s a cock-up not a conspiracy.
‘Ok. So how does it read to you?’
‘From what I’ve skimmed? Fit up the local weirdo,’ Dennis said. ‘You’ve been in, what, twelve years?’
‘Fourteen, counting my times as a Special,’ Paul said. Dennis had served a bit longer, fifteen or sixteen years. Paul wasn’t entirely sure.
‘So, we both know how the job has gotten thorough, more professional in that time?’ Dennis asked. Paul nodded – he’d joined too late to know much about the worst excesses of the past, and by the time he’d started serving full time the force had seemed to be well past the worst of it. He’d heard stories from the old hands, some of them wistful, some of them tinged with relief, but there had been no envelopes marked ‘Swag,’ being passed around the station when he’d first pulled a uniform on, and the tolerance of senior officers for corner-cutting and shortcuts had been diminishing year on year. ‘1980, mate… I know it wasn’t even thirty years ago, but… different time. As long as they got their results, nobody really cared how. You know, for Thurwell to have shafted Ledford, would take more than just a few bent cops on his team. The prosecutors, the judge… they must have had their suspicions, and decided to look the other way.’
‘How could you sleep at night? Knowing you’d put an innocent man away?’
‘Ever watch Life on Mars?’
‘Occasionally. I don’t really watch cop shows. They get everything wrong.’
‘There’s a scene where Gene Hunt’s kicking the shit out of a terrorist suspect. When Sam Tyler tells him to stop, he says, “I know he’s guilty!”’ Dennis picked up his mug and examined it for any signs of tea or coffee. He let it clatter back onto the desk when he found none. ‘I reckon Thurwell convinced himself that the guy was guilty. He still might be, you know. It says here there was a blood type match…’
‘O negative, over a third of the population,’ Paul said. ‘That’s totally inconclusive. The DNA match was to the perpetrator’s son. Ledford had no kids. He said he was a virgin.’
That got a raised eyebrow from Dennis. ‘He must have desperate to say… shit.’
‘On the subject of my fellow Masons. Here comes War.’
Nottinghamshire Police had two Assistant Chief Constables, (Operations) and (Crime). The ACC (Operations) was known as Plague, and Paul had never met him. The ACC (Crime) was War, his real name was Robert Church, and he was striding across the main MCU3 office with a face like thunder.
Heading straight for them.
Paul stood up when he entered without knocking; so did Dennis. No fraternal Masonic ties visible today; the Assistant Chief Constable didn’t bother with the funny handshake, didn’t even look at Dennis, just fixed Paul with a death glare and snapped ‘Thank you, Detective Inspector Dennis, you’re dismissed.’
So, he was in real trouble then.
Dennis left without a word. Paul fought hard not to swallow and reminded himself that he’d done nothing wrong. He’d followed every procedure, every protocol…
‘Remain at attention,’ War said, in case Paul had thought for a moment he was allowed to relax. ‘What, just exactly what, have you released to the media regarding the Elsie McAndrew case?’
‘I’ve had the Nottingham Post on the phone. Seems some idiot’s told them that the pervert who’s been locked up for twenty eight years might have to be released because of new evidence,’ War said, his eyes blazing. ‘So, again, Inspector, what have you authorised to be released?’
Once upon a time, Robert Church had led the fight against the organised crime groups that had threatened to run the city. Paul knew this, because he’d been told – the ACC had once been a real detective. But there must have been something in the rarefied air up on the Executive Corridor, because all Paul saw before him was an angry, red-faced bureaucrat in a nice blue uniform whose values he was currently doing his best to undermine.
If there was any reason to believe that Paul had leaked anything to the Nottingham Post, Church would have gone straight to Professional Standards – and they were hardly Paul’s BFFs.
The only other reason for War to have come down to MCU3 himself was to try and intimidate Paul into dropping the matter of the exculpatory DNA evidence. The Nottingham Post providing nothing more than a handy excuse for doing so.
‘Sir, when the DNA match was made, it was disclosed to the firm representing Ledford as a matter of course. Further, the initial match was made by D Division, several of whose officers are aware of the familial match to the semen sample recovered from Elsie McAndrew. There are numerous potential sources for a leak besides myself,’ he said, trying to keep his voice from wobbling. Very much aware that after the previous December he was out of favour with Nottinghamshire’s top brass, who were making no secret of how much they were looking forward to packing him back off to North Wales in five months’ time.
‘Why is it, Quinn, why is it,’ War carried on as though Paul hadn’t spoken, ‘That whenever there’s a problem on this force, you’re never very far away?’
Paul was spared having to answer that, including having to decide whether to find an answer that the Assistant Chief Constable might accept versus a smart-arse riposte, by the arrival of Detective Chief Inspector Dale. Dennis had come with him but now seemed to decide that standing outside the Inspectors’ Office and looking awkward was preferable to going into it. ‘Hello sir, didn’t realise youse was coming down,’ Dale said blandly, guilelessly, closing the door behind him. ‘This about the McAndrew case? Some concerns about the media coverage?’
‘Have you authorised Inspector Quinn to speak to the press in this matter, DCI Dale?’ War asked.
‘I haven’t, sir, but Jamie Ledford’s solicitor informed me this morning that he was asking for leave to appeal Ledford’s conviction, and that he was informing the Nottingham Post of the developments,’ Dale said. ‘I’m sorry you didn’t ask me about this earlier, sir, I could have saved you the trip down.’
The ACC seemed to deflate as Dale spoke. After a moment he cleared his throat and tried to adjust his tie, which as a clip-on was already straight. ‘Yes, well… it’s obviously a difficult situation. PR disaster of course.’
‘With respect, sir, my department’s followed procedure from start to finish,’ said Dale. ‘A PR disaster isn’t our problem.’
‘This doesn’t disprove Ledford’s guilt, you know,’ War said. ‘The DNA. All it proves is that the McAndrew girl had sex shortly before her death. Ledford could still be guilty.’
‘Sir, if I may?’ Paul asked Dale, who nodded. ‘Sir, the central plank of the case against Ledford was the blood type match to the semen recovered from Elsie’s vagina. Without that, we have an eyewitness statement saying that he was out of his house on the night of the murder, and two statements that Elsie knew and was afraid of Ledford. It’s not a case.’
‘How reliable is the eyewitness?’
‘He claims to have recognised Ledford across the street on a dark autumn night from inside his shop,’ Paul said. ‘And, after previously saying that the sighting had occurred an hour earlier, his story changed following Ledford’s arrest. So, the answer, sir, is not very.’
‘Why was the DNA profile even entered into the system?’ War wanted to know. ‘If the murder took place in 1979 then there was no DNA.’
‘The DNA from the semen was typed and added to the database as a matter of course in 2001, sir,’ Dale supplied. ‘It was never compared to Ledford’s because, well, as far as the Court of Appeal was concerned there was no need. He’s always maintained his innocence, but he could never provide any new evidence to suggest that the case needed to be re-examined.’
War shook his head, looking as though he’d just smelt something deeply unpleasant. Paul was certain that if he’d had his way, the DNA evidence would never had left Sherwood Lodge.
It would have been cloaked in the right language, of course, ‘Doesn’t disprove Ledford’s guilt,’ and ‘The case is solved, and this does not undermine the conviction.’ But it would all have been about sparing the Force from the embarrassment and awkward questions which would surely come now, never mind the innocent man rotting in jail and the guilty one still walking free.
‘How do you intend to proceed then, Chief Inspector?’
‘Only way we can proceed sir, reasonably,’ Dale said. ‘I’m going to fully reopen the case tomorrow.’
They fluffed and guffed back and forth over resourcing and how much they should say to the public – eventually deciding that Dale and the ACC would go before the press together tomorrow morning in time for the lunchtime news. And then Dale reminded the ACC that, if he needed to speak to any of his officers, he really ought to let him know as a courtesy beforehand. He winked at Paul as he showed War out of the MCU3 incident room. Paul found Dennis, still loitering outside the Inspectors’ Office.
‘Don’t mention it,’ Dennis said.
The bad news about reopening the case was that Dale recalled Adam Turner from his cannabis farm surveillance, and he sat next to Paul throughout the briefing grunting and complaining about guilty perverts like Ledford twisting the law to get off, almost like the DNA comparison all but exonerating him had never happened. It was, therefore, no surprise at all when Dale assigned him to take charge of ‘A full review of all the old witness statements from the 1979 operation, to see what may have been missed.’
Nice and far away from any actual police work.
In 1979 there had been no point in thoroughly examining it, its surface area was too thin to retain prints and, of course, DNA profiling was still six years away, but in 2009 the piece of washing line which with Elsie had been strangled was a brand-new forensic opportunity. There was a good chance that it was covered with skin cells. Dale had ordered it to be retested the previous night.
Charlie Dennis would go to Wakefield to re-interview Jamie Ledford.
And then it was Paul’s turn.
‘An initial review of the Operation Torpedo files turns up one obvious line of inquiry that was not adequately pursued in 1979,’ he said. ‘Alibis were requested from Elsie’s father and stepfather. Her father, Graham McAndrew, had recently moved to Southampton, but her stepfather, David Hollis, informed the Deputy SIO that he was drinking in the Royal Oak pub five streets away from where Elsie was found. Now, with no decision log, it’s hard to be entirely sure, but no statements corroborating this alibi exist, so it appears that the Deputy SIO, DCI Capistrano, took Hollis at his word.’
‘Boss, question,’ DC Knowles raised his hand. ‘Bit odd for a DCI to speak to a witness personally at that stage, isn’t it?’
Paul and Dale looked at each other.
‘We’re unable to confirm this, but our strongest suspicion is that Hollis was an informant for Capistrano,’ Dale said. ‘We’d have to trawl through whatever records are left from 1979 to confirm that, which we don’t have time to do. Professional Standards and the IPCC might decide to do so at a later date.’
‘For now, DC Knowles, yourself and DC Brookes will be part of the team I’ll assign to try and confirm that alibi now,’ Paul informed him, causing Knowles and Brookes to groan. ‘In preparation for this briefing, I ordered TDC Lewin to perform a background check on David Hollis. Constable,’ Paul nodded at Lewin, whose transfer out of uniform and into CID proper had been made official that January.
Lewin cleared her throat and started with a bit of a nervous stammer. Since becoming a fully-fledged Trainee Detective Constable she’d found herself presenting her own findings at briefings, and she was still getting used to it. Of course, as a young woman, she had to be twice as good at everything as the men on the team just to be acknowledged as their equal, and Paul could see that some of the faces turned towards her now were just waiting for her to slip up.
‘Ok, so, David Hollis was thirty at the time of Elsie’s death. He’d married her mother five years previously, and they divorced three years after her death,’ she said. ‘Now, Hollis has three sons – one by Elsie’s mother, two by his second wife Caitlin. One son is currently serving overseas with the Army in Afghanistan, and the last-known address of the other is in St Helens, in Lancashire. One son, however, still lives in the Nottingham area.
‘Billy Hollis is interesting because, although he’s never been arrested, he’s known to Force Intelligence,’ Lewin said. ‘His name’s been mentioned as a known associate of three convicted burglars, with some sources suggesting that he’s been involved in burglaries himself.’
‘Rushcliffe CID have confirmed to us that Billy’s on their radar for the burglary that yielded the DNA trace, among others,’ Paul took over.
‘So, we have to consider David Hollis a suspect,’ Dale finished. ‘After thirty years, verifying or denying his alibi could be difficult, let alone placing him anywhere near Elsie when she was killed.’
‘Best bet’s probably nailing Billy Hollis for the burglaries and working from there,’ Charlie Dennis said.
‘Paul?’ Dale asked.
‘I’ll see what D Division have,’ Paul nodded.
D Division had nothing on Billy Hollis himself. They did have an eyewitness to one of the other burglaries though – for all that she’d looked like she’d wanted as little to do with the reopened Ledford case as humanly possible, DS Casey had anticipated that MCU would come calling soon and had managed to get her DCI to action a re-canvas of all the sites that she suspected were linked.
One neighbour remembered seeing a maroon Ford Focus that she hadn’t recognised on her street on the evening of the burglary. She’d even seen who’d sat in the driver’s seat, thought she might recognise him if she saw him again. Since one of Hollis’ suspected associates drove a maroon Focus, Paul and Dale agreed to bring him in and ask the Duty Inspector at West Bridgford Police Station to arrange an ID parade.
The neighbour picked out Number Six. Number Six was Joey Breen. Joey Breen was also Billy Hollis’ friend with the maroon Focus. And Joey Breen had hung onto a necklace stolen from another of the burglaries, to give to his latest partner.
He wouldn’t give them Billy Hollis. He sat in the interview room and no-commented the whole way through, which was to be expected, it wasn’t his first time at the crease. He knew better than to grass up his mates and make his life hell inside – and he’d already done a two-year stretch. Prison didn’t scare him.
‘Ok then,’ said Dale when Paul briefed him on their progress. ‘Pull his phone records.’
‘I’ll also try and access his social media accounts,’ Paul said.
‘Facebook, sir. Hollis might have been more unguarded on the personal message service.’
‘If you say so,’ Dale said, leaving Paul in no doubt whatsoever that Dale had no idea what Facebook was. No wonder Paul had never been able to send him a friend request.
The phone records to Billy were ambiguous – they knew enough not to openly discuss the burglaries in their texts. But the personal messages on Facebook were different. Hollis either hadn’t known, or hadn’t appreciated, that the police could gain access to his account, and there he and Breen had been much more relaxed, discussing how much they’d flogged their stolen goods for.
And that was enough to arrest Billy Hollis and compel a DNA sample from him.
That very same night, David Hollis ran.
He tore up the A50 at ninety miles per hour, jumped onto the A51 at Stone, cut across to the A5 and headed out west. He pushed through Snowdonia in the wee small hours and arrived at the caravan park in Abersoch with the sun in the sky.
They couldn’t know about this place, he was sure. They’d come here as kids, him, his Mam and Dad, and his brothers, to splash around on the beaches and eat fish and chips and huddle up in the caravan when the rain blew in, cursing the locals for speaking to each other in Gobbledegook when they though the English tourists weren’t listening.
It had been years since he’d been here last. Not since he was a kid. But the caravan park still existed – the Grandson of the bloke who’d owned it in the Fifties ran it now. Somebody Jones, like every fucker round here. And they still took cash. He knew, because he’d Googled it the second the Post had broken the story about the police reopening the murder case.
He paid Jones the Caravan with a few twenties he’d pulled out of an ATM in Stone. Nice and near the M6, he could be running anywhere, north or south, and he had nearly one fifty left after paying for three nights. Enough time to figure out what he was going to do next.
It’d have to be Ireland, he decided. He had a mate there from way back when, out of the game now with a nice little cottage on the south-west coast. Last place any Nottingham copper would think to look for an old lag on his toes. He could sneak onto the Dublin ferry and disappear into the fog by the sea.
In the caravan, he made a cup of tea and scowled at some mould running up the inside of one window sill. Bet the miserable Welsh bastard had put him in the worst one he had deliberately. Didn’t look like he’d ever bothered cleaning it.
Rain started lashing at the windows. Just like it had when he was a kid. Bloody Wales.
He thought about Elsie. With her smiles and her short skirts, just leading him on. Little bitch. Little tease. She’d had it coming, no doubt about it. She’d wanted him since she’d been twelve, he knew. And he’d wanted her at least that long. Should have just given in and let him do it…
Jones the Caravan knocked on his door. He got up, cursing his creaking bones and the bloody Welsh busybody and wrenched the door open.
It wasn’t Jones the Caravan.
It was a woman and a man. They were wearing black body armour and bright yellow jackets. The rain was filling up the brim of the woman’s bowler hat and dripping down onto her jacket. She was the one who spoke.
‘Mr Hollis, I’m PC Sandra Hendriks, attached to Caernarfon Police Station, and I’m arresting you for the murder of Elsie McAndrew. You do not have to say anything…’
Hollis lowered his head, roared, and charged at her.
Home. Where the road signs were bilingual.
North Wales Police were holding David Hollis at Caernarfon Police Station. He still couldn’t believe that they’d found him so quickly, but it was simple really. DCI Dale had ordered surveillance on him as soon as he’d reactivated Operation Torpedo, borrowing the specialists from the East Midlands Special Operations Unit. They’d followed him as he’d run, calling for air support from the East Mids helicopter as soon as Hollis began to tear up the A50. They had radioed for permission to stop him and arrest him, but the control room had woken Dale by then, and he didn’t want to risk the arrest being improper because the surveillance specialists were in plainclothes. It made their authority to stop a vehicle unclear at best.
So instead, the East Mids helicopter had tracked Hollis as far as Staffordshire, then the Staffs’ chopper had tracked him across to Shropshire, where the West Mercia Police helicopter had followed him to the Anglo-Welsh border, at which point North Wales Police had had their helicopter track Hollis all the way to a caravan park in Abersoch, where a patrol car had quickly been dispatched to arrest him.
Paul and Dale were following his route at a much more leisurely pace the entire time.
For all that he was enjoying Nottingham, Paul couldn’t help but appreciate the familiar sights. The mountains had shed their snow by now, but heather crawled up their slopes. Driving didn’t give him much chance to look and appreciate, and as a Flintshire boy his knowledge of Snowdonia National Park was sketchy – he couldn’t name any of the easternmost peaks.
It was still home.
The A5 afforded them a nice long look at the Swallow Falls, where the foam glittered gold beneath an unusually sunny day, although Dale was annoyed to discover that no, they’d be going nowhere near Harlech, and Glyder Fawr would be between them and Snowdon, although he’d been mollified when Paul had explained that Snowdon was visible from Caernarfon. He’d shaken his head in wonderment as Paul correctly pronounced Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
Jenny Brown had come down from the Force Major Incident Team HQ at Colwyn Bay to supervise Hollis’ detention. She greeted Dale with a bear hug and a hearty ‘Callum! Fy ffrind hen!’ even going so far as to Welshify the double ‘ll,’ in Callum. Paul gave her a hug too. ‘Sut wyt ti bore?’
‘Dw i’n wedi blino iawn,’ Paul said, feeling a jaw-cracker of a yawn come on as he did so.
‘Wyt ti’n eisiau paned coffi?’
‘Ie,’ Paul nodded decisively.
‘I know you’re both just fucking with me,’ Dale interrupted. Paul chuckled – his Welsh was actually barely conversational. Jenny, who was from Conwy farming stock originally, was entirely fluent and had been prodding him into learning more since he’d first joined the force.
The second car pulled into the car park. DCs Lewin, Knowles, Brookes, and a DS called Sharpe had all travelled together – Dale, not wanting to lose any time on their detention clock (PACE gave them twenty four hours to charge or release, although they could extend that to ninety six hours if a magistrate allowed it), had brought across a full interview team so that they could get stuck into Hollis right there, rather than wait for the custody transfer paperwork to be completed and filed.
Dale and Jenny disappeared into one of the conference rooms to complete and file that paperwork. Paul watched them go, thinking. He knew that they’d served together in the Royal Military Police; that Dale, older and the more senior of the two, had recognised Jenny’s talents and pushed for her to be given a greater role during a time when women in the Redcaps were as rare as blue snow. He knew that, years later, Jenny still considered Dale a friend. But he’d never seen them together, the last time they’d met in person had been over a year ago at Paul’s own George Medal ceremony and Jenny had spent most of that with Paul, for moral support.
He’d noticed, a few years back, that he wasn’t seeing his friends as much as he had done. Not his workmates, obviously, but friends from university, from his police training, who had seemed so much of a fixture, he now saw once or twice a year, if that. His best friend at university, Leo Aldridge, had moved to York to do a doctorate in Investigative Psychology and Paul hadn’t seen him since. They’d had a couple of phone calls, Paul had sent him a card when he’d got engaged, but it was three years since they’d been in the same room. He was beginning to get used to the idea that there were some people he’d just see less of now, and that one day he’d say goodbye to Leo and never see him again, but he wasn’t sure if friendships with contact once every few years could last.
Listening to Jenny and Dale was reassuring in that regard.
It sounded like they’d picked right up insulting each other where they’d left off.
Paul told DS Sharpe to arrange an interview with the Caernarfon Custody Sergeant and went to the canteen to grab that coffee. A uniform leapt to her feet and stood at attention.
‘I’ve told you before, PC Hendriks, it’s “Boss.”’
‘Yes, boss,’ Sandi smiled back and relaxed. Paul hadn’t seen her since Harvey Denison’s trial, and never in her operational uniform; some officers looked like the stab vest and chunky High-Vis jacket might swallow them whole, but Sandra Hendriks looked at ease and comfortable in them.
‘So, I hear you made the arrest, PC 2187?’
‘Just happened to be the nearest car, boss.’
The story as Paul had heard it had Sandi flinging Hollis to the ground single-handedly after he’d tried to rugby-tackle her. It was probably exaggerated, but Paul wondered by how much. ‘How come you were nearby? I thought you were working out of Wrexham?’
‘I am, boss. Western Division got hit by a D and V bug last week, so I volunteered to pull a few shifts out over here. Thought it was a good chance to get a look at how the rest of the Force operates,’ Sandi said.
‘I like your thinking,’ Paul nodded.
‘Sierra-Alfa to 2187 receiving, over?’ Sandi’s Airwave handset burbled into life.
‘2187 receiving, over.’
‘We’ve had a call about a possible domestic incident taking place in Llanberis,’ the Control Room said. ‘Neighbours say they’ve heard shouting and sounds of objects breaking, and we’ve had complaints about this address before, so we’re classifying it as a Grade II cause for concern. You free to deal, over?’
‘All received Sierra-Alfa, show me dealing, over,’ Sandi radioed back.
‘No peace for the wicked,’ Paul said.
‘I’ll catch you later, boss.’
‘See you later, Constable.’
‘2187 to Sierra-Alfa, what’s the address, over?’ Sandi asked as she left the canteen, scooping up her hat as she went.
Paul thought about what he’d been told about her from a couple of officers in Eastern Division. His instincts about her had been right, he reflected. For all the damage that life had dealt her, the shit she’d been put through, the Job was in PC Hendriks’ blood.
He and Dale watched the first interview with Hollis from an observation booth. DS Sharpe, as the Interview Coordinator, was with them; Paul had decided to put Lewin and Brookes in with Hollis first. He wanted to see how Hollis would react to a young woman.
‘…understand that this might be confusing,’ Brookes said. ‘Obviously you know that someone was already convicted for Elsie’s murder. But, we’ve received new information that casts doubt on that past conviction, and we’re obliged to follow that. You understand what I’m saying, right?’
‘No comment,’ Hollis said, with flat dead eyes.
Sharpe threw up his hands and shook his head. ‘Oh, here we go!’
‘That’s to be expected,’ Dale said. ‘He was an informant, remember? He’s been that side of the glass before.’
Lewin went through the explanation of what a no comment answer meant. Hollis shrugged when she asked if he’d understood. After a moment she explained for the tape that Hollis was declining to answer, finding safety in silence.
He wouldn’t comment to confirm that he had, in 1979, been Elsie’s stepfather, or that he’d married her mother in 1974. He wouldn’t even comment to confirm his old alibi from 1979, that he’d been drinking in the Royal Oak pub.
‘That’s pretty telling,’ Sharpe said.
‘He must think that the alibi’s breakable,’ Dale said.
Charlie Dennis’ team hadn’t been able to confirm or deny Hollis’ alibi. They’d found four or five men so far, all between fifty and seventy, who remembered drinking in the Royal Oak on the night Elsie was murdered. Two of them thought that David Hollis might have been there but couldn’t say when he’d left, three of them couldn’t remember seeing him at all.
Lewin and Brookes asked a few questions on what Hollis’ relationship with Elsie had been like, what he’d thought of her boyfriend, whether or not they’d got along, stopping short of asking him if he fancied her, or thought she fancied him for now. Hollis wouldn’t give them anything. He just kept repeating, dead-eyed, ‘No comment.’
They broke for lunch. The Custody Sergeant took Hollis back to his cell. Jenny came through to the conference room where the Nottinghamshire team had set up.
‘Transfer paperwork’s all sorted.’
‘Ta, Jen,’ Dale said. He ordered Sharpe and Knowles to get Hollis out of his cell and get him in the car for the journey back to Nottingham. Paul heard him on the phone to the Detective Superintendent in charge of MCU, trying to get the first, 12-hour extension to Hollis’ PACE clock authorised.
Jenny caught Paul as he was heading back out to the car to drive back to Nottingham.
‘It’s what, three months before you’re back?’
‘About that,’ Paul agreed. His secondment to Nottinghamshire ended in mid-August; it was currently late May.
‘This is between you and me, but Wynne-Evans is retiring July next,’ Jenny said quietly. Detective Superintendent Wynne-Evans was Jenny’s boss, head of the Force Major Incident Team. North Wales’ version of Nottinghamshire’s Major Crimes Unit. ‘The ACC tipped me the wink last night that he sees me as the natural successor.’
‘Congratulations!’ Paul said, grinning.
‘Well, it’s not a done deal yet by any means,’ Jenny said. ‘But Detective Superintendent Brown sounds like it’s about time, don’t you think?’
‘Absolutely!’ Paul agreed. ‘Who else knows?’
‘For now, you and Emlyn.’ Her husband. ‘So mum’s the word.’
‘No fear,’ Paul smiled at her. Thinking in the car on the way back, Detective Superintendent Brown sounded like it was about time, and after that, how about Detective Superintendent Quinn?
As far as he knew he was one of three black Inspectors in Wales, and there wasn’t a more senior black officer than Inspector rank.
All that meant though, he thought on the road south, was that someone would have to be first.
Hollis was no chattier in Nottingham than he had been in Caernarfon. The interviews proceeded at a rather leisurely pace; the first 12-hour extension had been granted by Dale’s boss, then the magistrates had granted a further extension from 36 hours to 72 to allow the various DNA comparisons to go through, hinting that they’d be happy to give the police the full 96 if they needed it.
The analysis of the DNA swabs taken from Hollis on his arrest would probably take almost all that time, actually. But the swab taken from Billy was 24 hours newer. Comparison to the blood from the Ruddington burglary, the semen from Elsie’s vagina, and the skin cells from the washing line used to strangle her were at a far more advanced stage.
Hollis had retained a lawyer on his return to Nottingham, and he sat next to him answering ‘No comment,’ to every single question put to him, even when DC Knowles implored him to provide them with the name of any single person who could confirm that Hollis had been drinking in the Royal Oak when Elsie had died.
Of course, there were no such people. That didn’t stop the solicitor demanding that his client be charged or released twice. Dale reminded him that he was under no obligation to release Hollis until the PACE clock ran out, and that as Hollis was a flight risk and serious lines of enquiry were still to be developed, he would not be released until the said PACE clock did indeed run out.
It stood at 90 hours when the first DNA comparison came through. Paul decided to present it to Hollis himself.
‘We’ll turn now to Document 6 in the interview folder,’ he said once he was in the box and all the preliminaries had been dealt with. ‘Document 6 is a copy of forensics report CL 1428/5/09, a DNA comparison between a sample obtained from Mr Hollis’ son William Hollis, known as Billy, and Operation Torpedo item reference A-7, a sample of semen recovered from the vagina of Elsie McAndrew.
‘Forensics report CL 1428/5/09 states that the DNA of the donor of sample A-7 is a familial match to the DNA of William Hollis. This report further states that the most likely match is to William’s father. The probability that the donor is not a family member of William Hollis is stated to be one in sixty three thousand.’ Paul concluded. He met Hollis’ dead-eyed stare. ‘The semen in Elsie’s vagina was left by Billy’s father. That’s you, Mr Hollis.’
‘You had sex with a fifteen year old girl.’
‘Very well, Document 8 in the interview folders,’ Paul went on. ‘Document 8 is forensics report RG 4134/5/09, a comparison of DNA between Operation Torpedo item reference A-7, and item reference RG-1, a DNA swab obtained from Operation Torpedo item reference A-3, the washing line believed to have been used to strangle Elsie.
‘Now, this analysis found two DNA donors on item A-3. One has been identified as belonging to Elsie McAndrew, with a one in twenty four thousand probability that it belongs to someone else.’ Actually, they had no sample of Elsie’s DNA, it was another familial match to a swab her younger sister had given them. ‘The other DNA donor has been confirmed to be the same individual as the donor of item reference A-7, the semen found in Elsie’s vagina. The probability,’ Paul finished, ‘That the donors are not the same person is stated to be one in seventy nine million.’
He met Hollis’ eyes again.
‘In plain English, Mr Hollis, Billy’s dad had sex with Elsie, and then he strangled her,’ said TDC Lewin from next to Paul.
‘Billy’s dad being you.’
‘Mr Hollis, if there is some other explanation for these findings, now is the time to tell us,’ said Lewin.
When Hollis didn’t reply immediately, Paul went on. ‘Mr Hollis, we need to know. How did your semen get into Elsie’s vagina? How did your skin cells end up on the washing line that strangled her? Because, from where I’m sitting, this a mountain of evidence, and it is going to crush you. You’re not stupid. You can see that for yourself.’
Hollis leaned back in his chair and frowned. Thought. He closed his eyes for a long moment and hissed out some air. Next to Paul, Lewin sat forward, folding her arms tightly.
Hollis opened his eyes again. Paul saw the decision there. ‘She wanted it.’
‘Mr Hollis…’ the solicitor laid a cautionary hand on Hollis’ arm, but Hollis shrugged it off.
‘She wanted me. From the moment she hit puberty. I could just tell. And she was gorgeous. I waited… I’m not a paedo. I waited until she was a proper woman. I would have waited until she was sixteen, but when I saw her coming back from her mate’s house…
‘She was a tease, she played hard to get. I decided to teach her some manners… it went too far.’ That was one way to describe knocking five teeth out and breaking her nose, Paul thought. ‘She said she’d tell her mum. I just… snapped. I saw the washing line, I went for her. It was just a moment, just this red rage. Just a moment.’
‘A moment?’ Paul asked sceptically.
‘Just a moment,’ Hollis confirmed again.
Strangulation took at least two minutes to kill, and often longer. It wasn’t the work of a moment. But it was for a lawyer to pick that apart, in a court. For now, Paul just nodded.
‘To be clear, Mr Hollis, you are stating that you killed Elsie McAndrew?’
‘And that you acted alone?’
‘Well. Thank you, Mr Hollis, that’s been very helpful,’ Paul said. ‘What I’m now going to do is pause this interview so that I can ask for authority from the CPS to charge you with the rape and murder of Elsie McAndrew. When we resume, maybe we can go over the events of that night in more detail?’
‘Good. Interview paused, three forty-nine a.m.’ Lewin switched off the tape recorder.
‘It wasn’t rape,’ Hollis said suddenly.
‘I’m sorry?’ Paul asked. No need to worry about whether this was being recorded, the interview rooms had twenty four hour CCTV as well as the tape recorder, and the footage of his interview with Hollis was being burned onto two separate discs.
‘It wasn’t rape. She wanted it. She shouldn’t have been a tease.’
‘She was your fifteen year old step-daughter,’ Paul said. ‘Whether she wanted it, which I doubt, or not, you had a moral duty not to have sex with her.’
‘Fuck off,’ Hollis spat as Paul pulled the door closed.
The CPS authorised charges against Hollis with twenty seven minutes left on the detention clock. The four days of interviews had left Paul exhausted, and he was happy for Charlie Dennis to lead him off to be charged.
The bubbly would wait until they knocked off that evening, but that didn’t stop a quick celebration breaking out in the MCU3 interview room. Tea, biccies and cakes were passed around, and War himself, the ACC (Crime), came down from the Executive Corridor to congratulate them.
He pointedly ignored Paul. Dale came over instead.
‘Good job on this one, la.’
Paul restrained a laugh. Dale very, very rarely used ‘La,’ but it always made him think of Flintshire, where it appeared in the local Scouse-lite dialect.
‘Thanks, boss. Quick question, boss?’
‘Weren’t there any good detectives in the 1970s?’
‘Asking the wrong man, it was before my time,’ Dale laughed. ‘Will tell you this much though, there’s a few blokes still hanging around from back then. Half of them reckon the Job’s gone soft. I reckon we’ve gone thorough.’
‘So Charlie was saying the other day.’
‘Ledford’s filed an appeal,’ Dale said. ‘CPS say that they won’t contest it. He should be out by the end of June.’
Out to what? Paul wondered.
Two sisters who didn’t want to know, parents long dead, moderate to severe learning difficulties. The last twenty eight years in a prison. Nearly fifty now. Would Ledford even recognise Nottingham if he came back? Would he be able to cope with life on the outside?
David Hollis had stolen Elsie McAndrew’s life because he’d raped her and couldn’t let her tell. Marcus Thurwell and his deputy, Capistrano, had stolen Ledford’s life because they were too lazy to do their jobs properly.
Despite what Dale was saying, Paul couldn’t help but think that there were no winners in this case.
If you’ve enjoyed this story, then please have a read of the preceding story, Reasonable Expectation, at https://attemptedmurder.uk/shortstories/reasonable-expectation/, or the next to feature Paul and Sandi, Hawthorns, at https://attemptedmurder.uk/shortstories/6-hawthorns/. To look through all the stories featuring Paul and Sandi, please check out https://attemptedmurder.uk/shortstories/. If you like this, or any other story, please help the site grow by recommending and sharing far and wide!
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