Sandi shouted her war cry, swung her Asp. Her opponent blocked, parried, lunged; Sandi dodged to one side and aimed her next blow for the knee, but her opponent parried again, then swung at her stomach. They locked blades, Sandi bared her teeth as she fought to hold her ground. A deep voice rumbled,
‘No, Sandi. I am your father.’
Sandi couldn’t help it, she snorted with laughter. ‘Nope, you’re just old enough.’
‘That’s not the line!’ someone called from the corridor.
‘Well her name’s not Luke,’ PC Wynne retorted. Sandi took advantage of his distraction to tap him on the head with her Asp. ‘Oi!’
‘You are unwise to lower your defences,’ she said, in as good an imitation of Darth Vader’s voice as she could do, being a natural soprano.
‘That’s not fair, I was distracted.’
‘All’s fair in love and war.’
‘Remind me who does your appraisals?’
‘Touché,’ Sandi grinned. She wondered how exactly she’d complain to HR if Wynne gave her a bad report on her next appraisal. I believe that PC Wynne is biased because I beat him that time we had a swordfight with our Asps in the station canteen.
‘And what the hell’s going on in here?’ their boss’ voice demanded from by the canteen door. Sandi and Wynne both snapped up straight and held their hands behind their backs, although that was more to hide their racked Asps from their boss than from any great sense of deference. ‘PC Wynne? PC Hendriks? Don’t both speak at once.’ Inspector Milner regarded the pair of them with a raised eyebrow.
‘Yes, that much I can see,’ said Milner. Sandi kept her eyes on the Milner, but PC Rigby was well within her line of vision. He was going red from the effort of not laughing.
‘I… didn’t realise you were going to be here tonight, ma’am,’ Wynne eventually managed. Milner, as the senior officer on the night shift, would normally have been at Eastern Division HQ in Wrexham.
Hence why the officers at Mold had felt safe to practice their fencing skills.
‘Evidently, PC Wynne,’ Milner said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. ‘I swung by because I wanted to see some committed, capable, serious professionals at work.’ Sandi bit her lip to stop herself giggling. ‘If you see any, you’ll be sure to let me know?’
Nothing for them to do but nod, mumble ‘Ma’am,’ and be grateful that they were working for an Inspector with a sense of humour, and enough common sense to know that daftness was the natural by product of a slow night shift.
No shift was ever ‘quiet.’ That word had been banned long before Sandi had started.
‘712 from Sierra-Alfa, over,’ Milner’s Airwave radio crackled. Sierra-Alfa was the callsign for the force control room, 712 was Milner’s Force Identification Number. Sandi’s was 2187.
‘712 receiving, over.’
‘We’ve had a report of some kids hassling the shoppers and staff at the Tesco in Broughton Shopping Park. Any units free to deal, over?’
Milner’s eyebrow crept back up as she rotated her head slowly to look at both Sandi and Wynne. ‘712 to Sierra-Alfa, rest assured that I’m sending you two of my very best, over.’
It was hardly chasing bank robbers through Downtown LA. They didn’t even get the blues and twos on; Wynne didn’t see the need. Kids hassling shoppers was hardly the crime of the century after all.
The Tesco, being a 24-hour superstore, was the only thing open at this time of night. Light spilt from its main entrance over the pedestrian walkway, illuminating five boys on bikes circling in front of the doors, pulling wheelies and whooping at a man trying to leave with a ready meal and a fourpack of beer. The store security guard stood glaring at them, right at the edge of the store’s threshold and therefore his authority. One of the boys saluted him with what looked like a can of cheap cider. Sandi heard peals of mocking laughter as Wynne turned the engine off.
So intent were the boys on the store that they didn’t notice her and Wynne approach until it was too late.
‘Evening, lads,’ Wynne called out, fixing his cap on his head. Sandi mentally kicked herself when she realised she’d left hers in the patrol car. One of the kids made to bike off. ‘Don’t bother!’ Wynne ordered, pointing. The boy put his foot on the ground and swung around so that the bike was between himself and them. ‘What’s this then?’
‘Just having some fun, innit?’ one of the boys shrugged.
‘Not hurting anyone, is it?’
‘Some of the customers might not agree,’ Wynne said. ‘We’re going to ask you to move along, I think.’
‘Oh come on mate!’
‘Where the fuck else are we supposed to go?’
‘Watch your language!’ Wynne barked. ‘It’s “Officer,” not “Mate.” You’ve been asked by the store staff to leave, and now we’re asking too.’
‘Aw, we’re just messing, like.’
Sandi was watching the two at the back. One of them had pulled his phone out to show something to the other one; they both gave her what they thought was a surreptitious look and grinned. ‘What’s the joke, lads?’
The one with the phone looked at her startled, and something about his expression, something about the glint in his eyes, tripped her internal alarms. He mumbled, ‘Nothing,’ and made to put the phone away, but Sandi took a pace forwards.
‘Show me your phone.’
‘No!’ the kid snapped, trying for outrage to mask a sudden fear. Sandi tried to work out how old he was. Twelve, thirteen maybe, with blond hair cut close to the scalp. Skinny and acne-ridden underneath his trackie bottoms. She held her hand out.
‘Let me see your phone, please.’
‘You can’t make me! You can’t touch me!’ the boy spat at her.
‘Want to bet?’ Sandi asked. ‘I can talk you through exactly why I’m going to arrest you for obstructing a police officer in a minute, or you can just give me your phone and save us both the trouble.’
‘You’ll get it back,’ Wynne added. Sandi could tell from his tone that he was unsure about where she was going – if she could actually make a case for obstruction.
Fortunately they didn’t have to find out, because the kid pulled his phone out of his pocket. His frame became almost physically smaller as he handed it to her. She unlocked it, checked the texts. Nothing obviously out of the ordinary or worth being furtive over, she opened the pictures folder –
Her breath caught in her throat.
She showed the image to Wynne. He needed a moment to process it, and another moment to get himself under control. ‘We’ll need to check all their phones. We can’t ask him any more questions without an appropriate adult present.’
‘Should I arrest him then?’ Sandi asked softly, thinking that if they needed to get the boy’s parents in quickly, an arrest was probably the best way to do it. The most reasonable and proportionate way to do it.
‘I think so,’ Wynne said. He turned to the other boys. ‘Right, all of you, show me your phones right now.’
Sandi turned to the first boy. He’d evidently heard some of what they’d said, because he was sobbing, tears running down his cheeks.
She felt no sympathy for him. If he knew it was serious enough to cry about, he knew it was serious enough not to have shown the pictures in the first place. She unzipped the pouch on her stab vest and pulled out a pair of Speedcuffs. ‘I’m arresting you for showing an indecent photograph of a child under the age of 18, contrary to Section 1 of the Protection of Children Act. You do not have to say anything…’
Three of the five had the photos on their phones. Wynne eventually radioed for a prisoner transport van to take them in. The other two looked just as pale and shell-shocked as their friends; they weren’t under arrest, so Sandi was able to ask them a few questions – who they all were, which school they went to, what their addresses were. Made it clear that, although they weren’t going to be arrested, they’d almost certainly be spoken to by police as witnesses in the next few days. That if they received any such photos themselves, they were to contact the police immediately, or they could be arrested themselves.
She gave them a few words about hassling shoppers as well, but they didn’t seem to be listening, and she didn’t expect that they’d prove a problem with them again that night. They biked off so fast the road was almost glowing beneath their tyres.
They’d put the other three next to the patrol car, and now they huddled together. One of them still seemed to be on the verge of tears. Sandi thought of the girl in the pictures, their giggles as they showed each other the pictures under her nose thinking she wouldn’t notice, and couldn’t find any sympathy for them.
They’d known it was wrong. The crying was because they’d been caught.
Bad news travelled fast. By the time Sandi and Wynne had filled in the arrest reports, handed the three boys over to the custody staff at Mold for processing, and made their way to the canteen to grab a cup of tea each, two sets of parents were in the station’s main reception, shouting the odds at PC Rigby.
‘…bloody thirteen! How can he be a paedophile?’
‘This is against their human rights!’
PC Rigby’s reply was quiet and reasonable so Sandi didn’t hear it, but Wynne rolled his eyes and muttered, ‘No it isn’t.’
‘How’d they get here so quickly?’
‘The other boys must have told them,’ Wynne shrugged. ‘I bet they went straight home and woke their parents up, and word’s spread from there. They’ll probably try to file complaints against both of us.’ Something must have shown on Sandi’s face, because Wynne smiled gently. ‘You’re not a proper copper until you’ve had a few bogus complaints filed against you.’
A harassed-looking Inspector Milner appeared in the canteen doors, shaking her head and muttering under her breath.
‘Hendriks, Wynne, CID are here. Can you brief them on what you found on the boys’ phones?’
‘Sure,’ Wynne nodded. ‘How are the parents?’
‘How would you be if the police arrested your child for looking at kiddie porn?’ the Inspector shook her head. ‘Angry and scared.’
‘I expect the parents of the girl will feel worse,’ Sandi said. ‘When they find out.’
‘I don’t think there are any winners in this situation, PC Hendriks,’ Milner said. She headed back for the reception area whilst Sandi made her way upstairs to the CID suite. One of the dads asked if arresting the boys was really necessary. Milner explained that arrests were necessary and proportionate as the police needed to ascertain as fast as possible that the victim was safe.
‘Victim?’ another dad roared. ‘All the bloody slags are taking photos of themselves with their tits out these days. My boy’s the real victim here!’
The on-call detectives from CID yawned, stretched, and smelt strongly of coffee. Two male Detective Constables called Manson and Gemmill that Sandi had seen at briefings, and a man and a woman she didn’t recognise. The woman wore a long black wool coat, sat perched on the end of one of the desks, and from the way the men’s heads tilted towards her, Sandi guessed that she was the senior officer.
‘Morning, Sarge,’ Wynne said, confirming that for her.
‘Don’t even start,’ the Sergeant said, fighting back a yawn. ‘PC Hendriks, right?’
‘DS Ani Hunt,’ she said, holding out a hand for Sandi to shake. ‘Ok, I got the short version from the control room, kids with pornographic photos on their phones. What else do I need to know?’
‘PC Hendriks noticed the photos when we spoke to the boys about the behaviour outside the Tesco superstore in Broughton,’ said Wynne. Hunt nodded at Sandi to continue the story, how they’d come to arrest a thirteen year old boy called Llew Jones, and two twelve year olds called Dyllan Evans and Michael Edwards for possession of child pornography.
‘There were nineteen separate photos between the three phones. All of them appeared to be of the same girl, and all of them were sexually explicit in nature,’ she finished. ‘The girl appears to be aged between thirteen and fifteen. From the poses in the photos, I believe that she knew that they were being taken.’
‘Could she have been photographed with her consent then?’ the DC Sandi hadn’t recognised asked. Hunt shook her head.
‘It doesn’t matter either way, Hooky. If she’s under eighteen it’s child pornography. And it’s illegal for these kids to view it,’ she said. ‘From the wild rumpus downstairs, I gather we’ve got at least some of the parents in. Do we know which school these kids go to?’
‘Penyffordd High, Sarge,’ Wynne supplied. They’d got that out of the two they hadn’t arrested.
‘Ok, before we start calling the CEOP lot and Interpol, let’s rule out that she isn’t a local teen,’ Hunt decided. CEOP was the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre, although Sandi’s understanding was that they only got involved if a case crossed force boundaries, or a force needed specialist officers that it didn’t have itself. ‘Hooky, get onto the school, start looking at photos of all their female students, see if you can make an ID.’
‘All the staff’ll be in bed now, ma’am.’
‘Then wake them up,’ Hunt said, her tone hardening to make that an order. Sandi looked at DC Hook. He was definitely the oldest of the three men, balding and running to fat. He was giving Detective Sergeant Hunt a very surly look, but she was already moving on from him.
‘Manson, Gemmill, I want you to pick a kid each and ask them some initial questions – who sent them the photos, do they know the girl, if so what can they tell us about her. PC Wynne, before we lose you back to Response, can you call the Cyber Crimes Unit and ask for the phones to be fully forensicated?’ Wynne nodded. ‘Rumour has it,’ Hunt went on, ‘That PC Hendriks rather fancies a transfer to CID when her probation’s up. Think you can spare her for a couple of days?’
‘I’m sure we’ll manage, Sarge,’ Wynne smiled. He winked at Sandi and patted her once on the shoulder as he left, Hunt promising to square that away with Inspector Milner.
‘Ok, Hendriks, you interview the other boy, please,’ Hunt asked. ‘Manson, Gemmill, Hendriks, prep your questions, I’ll speak to the parents, see if we can calm any of them enough to act as appropriate adults. Right, that’s it for now, thanks.’
Manson and Gemmill drifted back to their desks. Hook parked himself in front of his computer, muttering about what a waste of time the whole thing was. Sandi found herself approaching DS Hunt.
‘Yes, PC Hendriks?’ Hunt smiled at her.
‘I’m… not that I’m not flattered and all, but how did you know…’
‘They’ve made some wonderful technological advances in Nottingham in the last few years,’ Hunt said, her eyes twinkling. ‘They even have phones now.’
Sandi nodded, wondering how she hadn’t realised that sooner. Ani Hunt would, of course, be a colleague of Paul Quinn’s – a close enough colleague that Quinn had apparently asked her to give Sandi a chance at CID.
Manson and Gemmill had each chosen one of the boys to interview, leaving Sandi with the one she’d secretly been hoping for – Dyllan Evans, the youngest of the five, but also the one who’d been showing the photos to his friends. His mugshot was on the system now – he looked faintly ridiculous, with too-large ears, acne spreading across his chin and the bridge of his nose. The other two boys looked scared in their mugshots, but the tears that had fallen from Dyllan’s eyes when he was first caught were gone now; there was a defiant streak in his eyes, like he fully expected to get away with whatever was thrown at him.
It took about an hour for DS Hunt to calm the parents down, and then to explain what would happen next. Dyllan Evans’ father had been the one shouting that his son was the real victim, it turned out; Hunt had been very firm with him, that he would not be allowed into the interview room as his son’s appropriate adult following what she considered to be aggressive behaviour. Dyllan’s mother could accompany him, or the police could bring in a social worker. Geraint Evans stormed about in the reception area screaming blue murder, whilst his wife flinched every time he walked past her. Sandi found herself looking for any signs of bruising on her body, but she couldn’t see any.
Eventually, Hunt had enough and told Geraint that if he didn’t calm down and sit down, he’d be thrown out of the police station, and if he carried on creating after that he’d be arrested for Breach of the Peace. Megan Evans would accompany Dyllan into the interview room, deciding that they should have a solicitor present as well. It was nearly six in the morning by the time the solicitor had arrived and availed himself of tea and a biscuit, and gone six thirty before he’d chance to speak to Dyllan and Megan and considered that they were ready to be interviewed. Sandi’s was the last of the three to start.
She intoned the usual formalities. The date, the time, the place, who was present. What the interview was in connection with. Whether or not Dyllan Evans understood that he did not have to say anything, but that it might harm his defence if he did not mention when questioned something which he might later rely on in court, and that anything he did say would be recorded and could be used as evidence.
The solicitor, a man a couple of years older than Sandi with what might politely be described as an aspirational beard of scraggly ginger hair called Ioan Berry, confirmed that all of this had been explained to Dyllan. Sandi opened the manila folder in front of her and indicated that Berry should open his. She showed Dyllan a picture of the phone she’d taken off him. Dyllan confirmed that it was his.
‘Can we turn to Document 2 in the folders?’ she asked. ‘For the benefit of the tape, Document 2 in the interview folders is Image 1. Image 1 was detected on Dyllan’s phone when it was examined by myself leading up to his arrest, and is one of twelve such images detected on Dyllan’s phone. Dyllan, in your own words, can you tell me what this image shows?’
Dyllan looked at Berry, who nodded. ‘It’s a naked girl.’
‘How old do you think she is?’
‘Dunno,’ Dyllan shrugged.
‘Do you think she’s over eighteen?’
Megan Evans laid a hand on her son’s shoulder and had a quick whispered conversation with Ioan Berry. Berry murmured in Dyllan’s ear. ‘No comment,’ he said.
‘Ok Dyllan. You don’t have to comment,’ Sandi said. ‘But you should know that a court will be told that you didn’t answer the question, and will draw any proper inference. Would you like me to explain what a “proper inference,” is?’
Another shrug, one shoulder this time. ‘Means they might decide that I’m lying, like.’
‘They will be allowed to ask themselves why you didn’t want to answer, and they can come to any logical answer,’ Sandi clarified, although Dyllan’s answer had been close enough for a twelve year old. Ioan Berry had done his job properly with the kid. ‘Dyllan, do you know how this photo came to be on your phone?’
‘Did you take the photo, Dyllan?’
‘No,’ Dyllan said firmly, without any hesitation. Meaning that Berry had asked him that in advance, and knew that he hadn’t.
‘Do you know who took the photo, Dyllan?’
‘Was the photo taken with your phone, Dyllan?’
This time Dyllan had to have a quick consult with Berry and his mother. His mother looked like she wanted to be sick. Her eyes kept being drawn back to the photo on the table, before she looked away with reddening cheeks. ‘No, it wasn’t,’ Dyllan said eventually.
‘So it was sent to you?’
‘I… no comment,’ Dyllan said after a quick glance at Berry.
‘Do you know who sent you the photo, Dyllan?’
Beads of sweat were starting to stand out on Dyllan’s forehead. They were in Interview Room Three, which was kept deliberately hot. It had been toned down somewhat for interviewing a child, but enough that Dyllan kept reaching for his plastic water cup.
‘Dyllan, do you know who the girl in the photo is?’
‘No comment,’ Dyllan said, almost before Sandi was able to finish speaking.
Sandi told Dyllan that she was sure that Mr Berry would have advised him not to answer any difficult questions for now, but that his friends were also being questioned, and that only one of them needed to answer the police’s questions for the case to proceed. When that happened, any offers of leniency were off the table.
Dyllan leaned back, folded his arms, and sneered at her in a voice that hadn’t fully broken yet, ‘I ain’t no grass, fed. Neither are the others, like.’
‘Ok Dyllan,’ said Sandi, trying not to laugh at him. ‘We’re going to take a quick break now. I’d like you to think about what I’ve said.’
DS Hunt had been watching from the observation booth; Manson and Gemmill were with her, having already ended their interviews.
‘Ok,’ said Hunt. ‘No one wants to answer any questions about who the girl is, or how old she is. This tells me Hendriks, you were right, she’s underage, and they know who she is.’
‘I don’t know how we’ll break them, Sarge,’ Manson said. He was the youngest of the DCs, in his early thirties, and wore a leather jacket over a striped shirt. ‘Dyllan ain’t no grass, fed.’
‘That’s all we need, another twelve year old suburban white kid who thinks he’s a gangster cause he threw a few eggs on Hallowe’en,’ Gemmill added.
‘Ok, let them stew for now,’ Hunt said. ‘We’ll have another crack at them when Hooky gets an ID on the girl.’
Detective Constable Hook had dragged the Deputy Head of Penyffordd High School out of bed kicking, screaming and protesting, apparently. She had been forced to wake the site manager to unlock the school at half past dark on a wet Sunday morning in February, and the result of all this was that no one had even offered Hook a cup of tea. By the time he called back with the girl’s identity, he was even grumpier than he had been at the initial briefing.
Eleri Taylor. Fourteen years old. And just like the three boys, a student at Penyffordd High School.
‘Dyllan, I’m now able to confirm to you that we’ve identified the girl in the photographs on your phone,’ Sandi told him when she resumed the interview. Dyllan, Megan, and Berry all had new plastic cups of water; Sandi had run down to the Costa on Mold High Street for a takeout coffee, with her shift having ended two hours ago. ‘I’m not able to name her on the tape, as it will be entered into evidence and therefore could become public, so we’ll call her Miss F for now. I can tell you that Miss F is a student at Penyfford High School, and that she is fourteen years of age. Dyllan, would you now like to comment again on whether you know Miss F?’
‘Maybe you don’t know her to speak to, as such, but you’ve surely seen her around,’ Sandi said. ‘You attend the same high school, after all.’
‘PC Hendriks, several hundred students attend Penyffordd High School. Dyllan can’t be expected to know all of them,’ Berry interjected.
‘Maybe not. We’ll explore that in the course of our investigation,’ Sandi said. ‘Dyllan, now that you are aware that we know the identity of Miss F, and we know that you both attend the same High School, do you want to comment on who sent you the photos?’
‘No. I don’t,’ Dyllan said. ‘You can’t do nothing to me. I’m only twelve.’
‘You should ask Mr Berry to clarify this for you, Dyllan, but as you’re over ten years of age you can be held criminally responsible for your actions,’ Sandi said. ‘That means you can be charged with crimes. You can even be imprisoned for them if the circumstances warrant it.’
‘Whatever,’ Dyllan waved a dismissive hand.
‘Dyllan, your mobile phone is going to be examined by our Cyber Crimes Unit,’ Sandi said. ‘They will be able to trace the phone which sent you the pictures, and we will also speak to Miss F. We will, very shortly, know the identities of everyone who has seen them. At that point, any offers of leniency will be withdrawn – in plain English, there won’t be any deals, we won’t go easy on you. If you have any information… well, Dyllan, now is the time to tell me.’
‘I already told you, I don’t speak to no feds, like,’ Dyllan said.
‘Well, Dyllan, that’s your choice,’ Sandi said. ‘I have a few more questions for you, and then I’ll leave you to think about what you want to do. I’d choose soon. When we get those phone numbers, your chance to help us, and help yourself, will be gone.’
Dyllan didn’t answer any of those questions. His top lip stayed curled into a slight sneer the whole time. Sandi thought of the way his mother had flinched when his angry father had stormed past her, wondered what kind of male role model he was seeing at home. Suspecting she knew entirely too well.
She met the others in the CID suite, a little more full now that it was past nine and the Sunday shift was in. DS Hunt was on the phone, not looking especially happy. Manson, Gemmill and Hook all sat around her, trying not to look as though they were listening. Gemmill, in his late thirties with a developing paunch and thinning hair, mouthed DCI Jenkins at Sandi. She nodded, not really knowing who DCI Jenkins was but guessing he, definitely a ‘he,’ because Hunt kept calling him ‘sir,’ would be the Area Crime Manager, Hunt’s direct boss.
‘…matter for the Crown Prosecutor, sir… Well, sir, I think we have to assume that this may be the first time we’ve seen offences such as this, but it won’t be the last… sir, I think we can safely assume that the technology used in mobile phones is only going to improve, meaning more pictures, of a better quality. I think that we need to press for the strongest possible charges now, as a deterrent… I do appreciate that sir, but there is no defence to child pornography offences of being a child yourself… I’ll discuss it with the Crown Prosecutor, of course, sir, but right now I’m going to seek authority to charge all the boys with possession of indecent images of children, and anyone else we find has these pictures… yes sir, will do, sir.’ She flipped the phone back into its cradle. ‘Right, now that we’re all here, quick catch-up.
‘Dyllan Evans and Michael Edwards are still refusing to answer any questions, but Llew Jones has disclosed to DC Manson that he was sent the pictures by another child, his older brother Aaron Jones. He believes that Aaron was sent them by his friend Sam Webb. He has confirmed to DC Manson that Webb is the boyfriend of Eleri Taylor, and that Eleri is a friend of both Aaron and Dyllan Evans’ sister Rebecca. Eleri, Aaron and Rebecca are all Year Ten pupils at Penyffordd High School. Sam Webb is a Year Eleven pupil.
‘Llew did not send the pictures to either Dyllan or Michael, and maintains that he hasn’t looked at them, and didn’t tell either his parents or the school because he didn’t know what to do. Whether or not that’s a defence is up to the CPS, but it seems reasonable enough for a twelve year old,’ Hunt said. ‘What we now know is that at least one more child is in possession of these photographs.’
‘Got to say Sarge, if the Year Eight kids already have them they’re probably halfway round the school by now,’ Manson said. ‘We could end up arresting every kid and his cousin.’
‘We’ll discuss charges with the CPS when we have an idea of the scale of the problem,’ Hunt said. ‘Although you’re probably right, Ted. Ok, here’s the plan. Ted, I want you to bail Llew Jones for now. We’ll hold onto Edwards and Evans until Cyber Crimes give us the phones they received the photos from, that should be about midday sometime. Then we’ll take another run at them. I’ve asked the Neighbourhood Police Team to arrest Aaron Jones and Sam Webb; Hooky and Gemmy, I want you to question them when they get here. Make sure their phones get over to Cyber as well.
‘Hendriks, you’ll be with me, we’re going to speak to Eleri Taylor.’
As much as Sandi was starting to like Detective Sergeant Hunt, there was still the issue of rank between them – an issue that compelled Sandi to make another run to the Costa whilst Hunt, presumably, practised making paper planes out of some of her paperwork. But the coffee was a necessity – Sandi with nearly twelve hours on duty, Hunt having been up since two thirty a.m.
Eleri lived in the village of Treuddyn, nestled in the hills south of Mold and seeming to consist mostly of one long street sloping away uphill from the Corwen Road.
Hardly Sandi’s image of the cutting edge of Cyber Crime.
The Taylors were aware of the photos of their daughter. Sandi’s suspicions were first aroused when a man she presumed was Eleri’s father opened the door with eyes red-rimmed from crying, not looking at all surprised to see them. Ani held up her warrant card.
‘Mr Taylor? I’m –’
‘You’re here about the photos, right?’ he asked.
‘Yes sir, I’m afraid we quite probably are,’ Hunt said. ‘I’m Detective Sergeant Annabel Hunt, with North Wales CID based at Mold, and this is PC Sandra Hendriks, also based at Mold. Might we come in?’
Taylor led them through into a small living room, where a large TV stood over an enormous tangle of cables and an X-Box, and Eleri Taylor cried onto her mother’s shoulder. Hunt introduced them, and explained that they had found some photos, of a sexually explicit nature, which they believed were of Eleri, and that they needed to ask her some questions in the presence of an appropriate adult.
Eleri chose her mother, who introduced herself as Sioned. Her father left, shaking his head and muttering, ‘I can’t believe you could be so bloody stupid. How could you do this?’
‘Mr Taylor, with respect, Eleri hasn’t committed any offence,’ Sandi said.
‘None of this would have happened if she’d just kept her fucking clothes on!’
‘Eleri is also not responsible for the actions of anyone else,’ Sandi continued as though Taylor hadn’t spoken. ‘She is the victim of these offences, and victims are in no way responsible for the crimes committed against them.’
‘Just go, will you, you aren’t helping!’ his wife snapped at him. Taylor stormed out without another word, making sure to slam the door behind him, making Eleri jump.
‘Ok, Eleri,’ said Hunt. ‘When I say that we’ve discovered photos of you, of a sexually explicit nature, do you know the photos that I’m referring to?’
Eleri nodded. She kept her face buried against her mother’s shoulder.
‘We’ve found nineteen separate photos so far. Is that all of them?’
‘I don’t… I don’t know how many he took. They were private, he said that they’d be private…’
‘Eleri, can I just ask you to please clarify, when you say ‘he,’ are you referring to your boyfriend Sam Webb?’ She nodded again, then burst into another round of sobs. Sandi chewed her lip, feeling her throat clog.
‘I hate to have to ask you this, Eleri, but are you sexually active with Sam?’ Hunt asked, her tone gentle and soft. Eleri nodded again. A thump out in the corridor made her jump. Sandi guessed that her father had just punched the wall. ‘Can I ask please how Sam came to take those photos of you?’
Eleri needed to take a few soft deep breaths to centre herself, and Sioned had to whisper a few things about how she and her father would always love her, no matter what. Eventually, in a small, trembling voice, Eleri said, ‘We were at his place one afternoon, and his sister and his parents weren’t home. We’d just had sex, and he said it’d be really cool if he could have some pictures of me. Naked ones. I… wasn’t sure, but he said he’d thought I was cool, and it was normal, and if I didn’t then he’d get urges, go look at stuff on the internet… he said, he promised, that they’d be private.’
Sandi clenched her jaw and focussed on taking notes whilst Eleri described the poses that Sam Webb had asked her to do. She’d already seen the resulting photos.
‘It was really stupid of me, wasn’t it?’ Eleri asked when she’d finished. ‘To let him do that. I should have said no.’
Hunt opened her mouth to say something, but Sandi cut her off. ‘Eleri, Sam had promised that the photos would be between you and him. You had a right, a reasonable expectation, that Sam would keep his word.’
‘I’m just a stupid slut, like they said on that website…’
Sandi looked at Hunt in alarm, but Hunt waved her down. ‘PC Hendriks is right, Eleri, you made it clear to Sam that you expected the photos to be private. You’re not responsible for his decision to share them with anyone else.’
‘You’re supposed to be able to trust your boyfriend,’ Sandi added, but her eyes were still on Hunt, who was still shaking her head. She paused for a moment before asking Eleri how she’d become aware that the photos had spread beyond her and Sam.
Someone had sent them to her brothers, to both of them. Max, the thirteen year old, hadn’t said anything, had actually been caught by their father staring at them, and Brian Taylor, whose wife couldn’t recall ever raising his fists and who disliked squashing spiders, had punched his son hard enough to give him a fifteen-minute nosebleed. All the same Sandi had been shocked to hear that, until Eleri said that Max had tried to spy on her dressing or in the shower. Then she noted Max Taylor’s name down as someone who’d be on the Sex Offenders’ Register before too long.
The Taylors were already aware of the photos when Brian had found Max drooling over them in his room, though, because they’d also been sent to their eldest son Kyle, who was seventeen, along with a text saying Lol ur sis is a slag m8. They’d managed to persuade Kyle to go to his Sunday job at a pub down the road in Hope, rather than down to Sam Webb’s house to have it out with him, but Eleri gave them the name of the girl who’d texted her brother as Lucy Jones. As far as she knew, Lucy and Sam Webb weren’t close despite being in the same year at school. It all suggested that the photos were as widespread as Manson and Hunt had feared at the briefing.
‘You’re doing really well, Eleri, I know this must be very hard for you,’ Hunt went on. ‘Now, earlier you said something about a website. Can you explain what you meant by that?’
‘Someone’s put the pictures up on a site,’ Eleri wailed. ‘Anyone can see them! Anyone can see me… like that.’
‘Do you have a web address for this site?’ Sandi asked. She tried not to visibly react when she heard that it was called Eleri Taylor’s Tits, all one word. ‘This sounds like it’s probably a hosted site. We’ll contact the hosting company on your behalf and have the pictures removed and the site deactivated. Hopefully that should only take a day or so.’
‘It’s been up since Friday!’ Eleri said. ‘Everyone’s seen it by now.’
And she buried her head on her mother’s shoulder again.
Sandi held her tongue, not having anything helpful to say, nothing that would make any of Eleri’s suffering any better. For her, this was a complete humiliation, something that would scar the rest of her days at Penyffordd High School at the very least. She wouldn’t tell Eleri that this wasn’t the end of her world, because for Eleri, it very probably was. Everyone whose gaze lingered on her a second too long, she’d wonder if they’d already seen her recorded during her most intimate, private, vulnerable moment. Many of them would have.
Back in DS Hunt’s unmarked car, the radio crackled with the news that Sam Webb had been arrested, was being taken back to Mold for processing.
‘Excellent,’ Hunt said with no sort of enthusiasm. ‘Let’s have a go at him then.’
They arrived in time to see PC Darmon present Webb to the Custody Sergeant. He presented a good clean-cut boy-next-door image, even wearing a long-sleeved shirt with a collar. He had a dark-brown emo fringe cut long to hang over his left eye, and squared his shoulders at the Custody Sergeant, looking amused by the whole thing.
If his display of Teenage Charisma caused any shivers in the Custody Sergeant the man hid it very, very well.
Sandi hooked her hands under her stab vest.
‘Wanker,’ Hunt agreed.
Manson had finished with the three boys Sandi and Jamie Wynne had arrested that night – the three with whom the whole chain of events had begun. Dyllan Evans still refused to answer any questions, but this no longer mattered. Forensic examination of the phones had shown that he’d sent the pictures to Michael Edwards, and when Michael was questioned he’d broken down in tears and confessed that Dylllan had asked him if he wanted to see ‘those photos of that bitch from Year Ten.’ He’d said yes, of course, had thought it was just a bit of fun.
All three of the boys had been bailed whilst the CPS decided what to do with them. Llew Jones and Michael Edwards would probably get either warnings or reprimands in view of their ages. Dyllan Evans appeared to have sent the photos to five other children besides Michael.
‘We might press charges against him then, if he was distributing the photos as well,’ DS Hunt said.
‘At this rate we’re going to have to press charges against half the bloody school,’ Manson said.
‘It’s up to the CPS of course, but I think anyone who just has the photos may get a formal reprimand only. Maybe final warnings for anyone who only sent them to one or two people,’ Hunt said. ‘But six… that makes Dyllan Evans a major distributor of these photos. I feel like we need to make an example of that. Unless anyone has any objections, I’m going to recommend formal charges against him.’
No one had any objections. DC Hook looked like he wanted to make a ‘Boys will be boys,’ comment, but bit it off.
‘Ok, everyone grab some lunch now, it’s going to get crazy this afternoon,’ Hunt said. ‘We have Sam Webb down in the cells now, along with Aaron Jones, to whom he sent the photos; I’ve asked uniform to pick up a girl called Lucy Jones, no relation to Aaron, who received the photos and sent them to Eleri’s older brother, and to arrest Eleri’s brother Max so he can be questioned under caution about who he got the photos off. Hooky, you stay on Aaron Jones. Ted, take Lucy Jones. Gemmy, I know I told you to speak to Sam Webb, but I’ve changed my mind, talk to Max instead. I’ll speak to Webb myself with Hendriks.
‘Cyber have sent someone down to speed up the process of logging the photos from the phones into evidence.’ Sandi guessed that the man from Cyber would be the bloke with the long hair and the Lord of the Rings T-shirt who looked like he hadn’t washed in a week, with the pile of mobile phones on his desk. ‘It’ll be an hour at least before we can interview any of them, so lunch, type up any notes, we’ll start again at one thirty.’
It was nearer two p.m. before they ready to interview Sam Webb, and Sandi was already starting to run on adrenalin and coffee. Fifteen hours on duty.
The kind of crazy hours CID worked on a big case. She didn’t actually feel the least bit tired.
The tape made its annoying buzzing sound. DS Hunt went through all the preliminaries. Sam’s appropriate adult was his father. And they’d retained a solicitor, a woman called Jade Lowry who had not been expecting to have to be on-call on Sunday and looked extremely grumpy to be there.
Sam gave them both what Sandi supposed was supposed to be a smouldering look. Hunt frowned and looked behind her, and, catching on, Sandi did the same. They looked at each other, shrugged, and looked back at Sam. He suddenly looked a lot less sure of himself. He was supposed to be irresistible, after all.
Hunt showed Sam a picture of his phone. Sam agreed that it was his. She nodded at Sandi, who indicated another document in the interview folders.
‘This is Image 1 of item reference SLH-1, a Motorola Razr V8 mobile phone. SLH-1 is the property of another child, whom I cannot name on this tape for legal reasons.’ Dyllan Evans’ phone, in fact.
‘What’s the purpose of this, Detective Sergeant?’ Lowry asked Hunt.
‘One moment please Mrs Lowry.’ Hunt said. ‘I’m turning to Document 6 in my interview folder. Document 6 shows Image 1. Image 1 was detected on item reference SLH-1. The person in the image we have identified as being below the age of 18. With that, and with this enquiry being into a sexual offence, namely the production and distribution of indecent images of a child, we’re going to refer to this person as Miss F. Sam, do you recognise Miss F?’
Sam looked at his father, who gestured for him to answer. ‘She’s my girlfriend.’
‘Image 1 was also detected on item reference AD-1, Mr Webb’s mobile phone,’ Sandi said. ‘Can you describe what Image 1 shows, Sam? In your own words?’
Sam’s father looked away in disgust. Sam shook his head. ‘No comment.’
‘I’ll describe it then, you tell me if you’d agree. It shows Miss F, a child of fourteen, naked, posing in a sexually suggestive manner,’ Sandi said. ‘Do you agree with this description, Sam?’
‘I… I guess,’ Sam said.
‘Did you take this photo, Sam?’ Hunt asked.
‘No comment.’ Hunt explained what would happen if Sam answered no comment, nodded at Sandi.
‘Can we turn to Document 35 in the interview folder?’ Sandi asked. ‘Document 35 is a photocopy of forensics report FB 5467/2/09, a report of the forensic examination carried out on item reference AD-1. There is a highlighted section in yellow, explaining that all the Images we have entered into evidence for this interview, 1 to 29, were taken by the said mobile phone.’
‘In plain English, Sam, there are 29 photos of Miss F, your girlfriend, and they were taken on your phone,’ Hunt said. ‘So, did you take them or not?’
‘Document 36 please, PC Hendriks.’
‘Document 36 is item reference SLH-7, a photocopy of a pocket book entry made by myself earlier today,’ Sandi said. ‘These notes were taken during a discussion with Miss F, and we’re using them because we haven’t yet had time to take a formal signed statement from her. The highlighted section is in yellow.’
‘“Sam asked if he could take photos of her naked. Persuaded her by saying it would be cool and everyone was doing it. Miss F said yes, Sam told her how to pose.”’ Hunt read aloud. ‘Is that an accurate description of how the photos came to be taken?’
‘Sam,’ said Sandi, leaning forward. ‘Your phone. Your girlfriend said you took them. You took those photos.’
Even his lawyer couldn’t stop herself from rolling her eyes at that one.
‘Sam, we really do have all the evidence we need,’ Hunt said. ‘We’ll walk you through each individual photo in a few moments, but, subject to what you say, I will almost certainly be recommending to the Crown Prosecutor that you be charged with taking, distributing, and publishing indecent photos of a child. This interview is your chance to help yourself. What we’re interested in is finding out exactly who has these photos. We know that they ended up on the other mobile phone we’ve shown you, item SLH-1. But we also know that you didn’t send them to that phone. The forensics report on your phone showed no activity between it, and this other child’s.’
‘Sam, try and think about your girlfriend,’ said Sandi. ‘She is humiliated right now. These photos, now that they’re on the internet, they could follow her around forever. If a future employer saw them, they could cost her a job. They could put her at increased risk of being the victim of a serious sexual offence. For her sake, we need to track down as many copies of them as possible and stop them from going any further.’
Sam leaned back in his chair and sneered. ‘My word against hers that I took them. And anyway, if she’d kept her knickers on it would never have happened anyway. It’s her fault really.’
Sandi bristled, felt her teeth grit, and it was probably fortunate that Hunt spoke before she did. ‘Well, Sam, that’s quite an incredible statement. Are you maintaining that someone took your phone, and took explicit photos of your girlfriend on it?’
‘I guess so, yeah.’
‘And that your girlfriend willingly took off all her clothes and struck sexually suggestive poses for this random someone?’
‘I guess so, yeah.’
‘In your bedroom? I’m sorry, Mr Webb, you can confirm that this is Sam’s room, right?’ Webb senior nodded. ‘Verbally for the tape please, Mr Webb.’
‘So, how did this happen?’ Hunt asked. ‘This impostor, who took your phone and seduced your girlfriend in your own bedroom… how did they accomplish this? A magic spell? Should I be looking out for Harry Potter?’
Sam had to think about that one for a moment. ‘I bet he broke in, and when she saw him she offered to pose for him. You know what these sluts are like. Can’t wait to get their tits and fannies out.’
‘I see,’ said Hunt dryly.
Sandi wondered how the hell she was so calm; she was seething, barely able to contain herself from punching Sam Webb in the face.
‘Have there been any signs of a break-in at your property, Mr Webb?’ Hunt asked his father. Webb senior shook his head miserably. ‘For the tape, Mr Webb is shaking his head. Do you recall a time when Miss F arrived at your property and had to wait for a lengthy period for Sam to arrive?’ Webb shook his head again. ‘Out loud for tape, please.’
‘No. I don’t,’ Webb said. Sam looked disgusted at his father, but Sandi knew that Webb senior was smart enough to realise that whatever he said, would be checked with his wife immediately, and that two separate lies would drag their entire family down into the wreck their son had now made of his life.
‘So, how did this imposter get in?’ Sandi asked. ‘Without breaking in?’
‘Bet Eleri saw him skulking around and let him in to take the pictures,’ Sam retorted, but he looked sullen. The look of a boy who could see his master-plan unravelling. ‘Bet she asked him to,’ he said after a moment.
‘Please refer to the girl in the pictures as Miss F.’ Hunt said calmly.
‘Miss F let him in and asked him to photograph her naked. And he didn’t take the phone with the pictures? For the tape, Sam is declining to answer,’ Sandi said when Sam shrugged.
‘How do you know her dad didn’t take them?’ Sam said eventually.
‘Sam,’ said Webb senior in a warning tone, looking faintly revolted. He tried to lay a hand on his son’s shoulder but Sam shrugged him off.
‘I’ve seen the way he looks at her, dirty pervert. Makes you think he didn’t take them? Daddy’s special little girl,’ Sam said.
His father looked at him as though he’d never seen him before.
‘Her father,’ said Hunt. ‘On your phone. In your room.’
‘Maybe she caught him snooping, asked if he wanted to get a proper eyeful. Do anything for a thrill, these slags.’
‘Sam, please…’ Webb senior said, but Sam just shook his head at him.
‘Don’t you fucking tell me what to do, old man. They’ve got nothing.’
‘Photos of your girlfriend, on your phone, in your bedroom,’ Hunt said. ‘Sam, I think we’ve more than demonstrated that you took these photographs. You’ve got three choices. You can either keep trying to spin this yarn about some random impostor that your girlfriend invited in to take sexually explicit photographs of herself in your bedroom, continue with the same story but try and blame her father, or you can stick your hand up, take responsibility for your actions, and tell us who else has these photos.’
‘Carrying on lying’s not going to help you, only hurt your girlfriend,’ Sandi said. ‘You’re her boyfriend. You’re meant to care. You’re meant to look after her.’
Webb senior and Lowry both whispered into Sam’s ears, probably something about minding his language, but he shrugged them off. Webb senior had the same look that Megan Evans had worn earlier – like he might be sick. Hunt nodded at Sandi.
‘Well Sam, shall we look at another of these photos you supposedly didn’t take? Document 7 in the interview folder is Image 2. Is the girl in this image your girlfriend, Sam?’ Sandi asked, hearing her voice go taut and brittle as she tried to keep it level. She thought she’d done a very good job, although she felt anger coiling in her stomach again when Sam pushed it away, barely looking at it.
‘It’s Eleri, my ex-girlfriend, and she’s completely naked and she’s groping herself. There, happy?’
‘Dumping her by police interview, how classy,’ Hunt observed.
Sandi couldn’t help herself, she let out a loud gasp of laughter as some of her tension broke. Hunt gave her a raised eyebrow before continuing. ‘Sam, I’d be very grateful if you could refer to her as Miss F. Did you take this photo?’
‘No. Must have been the same bloke who took the other ones…’
And so on and so forth, for all 29 of the photos. Even his lawyer looked incredulous as Sam straight-facedly maintained that he had no idea how 29 photos of his girlfriend had appeared on his phone. Anyone but him, but most especially Eleri for allowing the photos to be taken in the first place, was to be blamed, it seemed.
‘Well, Sam, that’s quite a story,’ Hunt said. ‘You may be interested to note that forensics report FB 5467/2/09 found no fingerprints on the phone other than your own.’
‘Well he obviously wiped it,’ Sam said.
‘We’ll have our Scene of Crime Officers check that,’ Hunt said, and when Sam went suddenly pale she smiled, the predatory smile of a hungry wolf about to pounce. ‘You see, we can generally tell from how much dirt is accrued on an object when it was last cleaned. Within a few weeks, anyway. If your phone has been wiped, or handled by a person wearing gloves, we’ll be able to tell.’
‘Good for you,’ Sam swallowed.
‘So you see, Sam, we’ll be able to say with great certainty whether or not anyone but you has handled your phone in the last few weeks,’ Sandi added.
They paused to let that sink in. Jade Lowry asked if they might have a break. Hunt nodded. ‘If I were you, Mr Webb, I’d talk to your son about the importance of taking responsibility for his actions and choices. Interview paused at 3.09 p.m.’
Webb senior wanted to stay in the interview room to have a word with Sam. The boy had a supercilious teenage sneer on his face, the kind that said that he knew everything and didn’t need the advice of his forty-something dad who didn’t know the first fucking thing about how life worked.
‘Yeah, thanks for this one,’ said Lowry once the door was closed.
‘Well, that was an experience,’ Hunt agreed, as soon as Lowry was out of earshot on her way to the coffee machine. Shared moment of humanity aside, they were still on opposite sides.
‘Does he honestly think that’ll hold together?’ Sandi asked.
‘You saw the look on his face when I mentioned we could tell if his phone had been wiped down, right?’ Hunt said. ‘Maybe his lawyer can talk some sense into him. But he’s sixteen. I don’t know about you but I thought I knew everything at that age.’
‘He should move out now while he still does,’ Sandi observed.
They had faced Sam Webb together, and yet Sandi was still the one who had to go and get the coffees from the Costa down the road; Hunt apparently fancied the station’s own coffee machines even less than Sandi did.
‘You all right?’ she asked when Sandi set them down on her desk. ‘You seemed a little tense in there at times.’
‘No worries, I’ve just realised you’ve been on duty even longer than I have and it’s always harder to keep control when you’re knackered,’ Hunt said.
‘It’s just… there’s someone like him in my life. Sam Webb. Someone who hurt me, who wouldn’t take responsibility for it.’ Who’d been so desperate to avoid taking responsibility for raping her that he’d even had his lawyer object to her testifying against him in her police dress uniform because it could prejudice the jury about her credibility as a witness. Eventually the judge had agreed that, as by the time of the trial she was a serving officer in a uniformed role, she should properly take the stand wearing it… after half a day’s legal arguments. ‘Someone who blamed me for what they did.’
Sandi could count the number of North Wales Police officers who knew she’d been raped the previous March on the fingers of one hand – actually, with just one finger. Paul Quinn had smoothed her need to take three days’ leave to testify with Inspector Milner, explaining that she was needed as a witness in a trial in Nottingham without explaining why. And as much as she liked Sergeant Hunt, she was in no way comfortable telling her what had actually happened to her. She was relieved when Hunt gave her a sad, knowing smile. ‘I think every woman knows a man like that, Hendriks.’
‘Sandi,’ she blurted before she could stop herself.
‘Sarge on the job, Ani in the pub,’ Ani smiled at her. The Cyber Crime nerd waved her over from his desk. Sandi followed her over.
Seemed that he’d traced the IP address of the website showing the photos. He had a real world address for it. Sandi’s eyes widened despite her growing tiredness.
‘The brother?’ Hunt asked.
‘He didn’t get the photos until Saturday afternoon, the site went live on Friday evening,’ said the Cyber Crime nerd.
‘Eleri Taylor’s Tits,’ Sandi mused. ‘I mean, it’s not great, Sarge, but considering the content of the photos, if Sam Webb or one of his mates had made it, they’d have called it something far worse, something more objectifying. That… it sounds like a parent trying to sound like a teenager.’
‘Not her father, he was furious…’ Hunt said.
‘Her mother?’ Sandi asked. Hunt darted over to the door to the CID suite, shouted for PC Darmon to drive over to Eleri’s house and arrest Sioned Taylor for publishing indecent images of a child under the age of 18. And to impound her computer.
Brian Taylor was already at the station. In view of his giving Max a nosebleed the night before, they’d decided to use a social worker instead of him as Max’s appropriate adult, but the uniformed Inspector in charge of the current Response shift had already decided to give a Caution, given the extreme circumstances of the offence. He’d stayed to give Max a lift home when he was done.
By the time PC Darmon escorted his wife into the Custody Suite in handcuffs, Sandi had learnt that he was at Max’s rugby practice when the website showing the photos of his daughter had gone live. She’d explained what the police suspected his wife had done. He’d broken down in tears, and all she could do was pat him on the back and offer him a cup of tea whilst the family he’d thought was normal forty-eight hours earlier crashed and burned around him. She managed to get the statement typed and signed before his wife was ready for interview.
Sam Webb was on pause whilst they spoke to Sioned Taylor, but one of the three other kids they were interviewing was talking, it seemed; six uniforms were being briefed by a Sergeant in the main office when Sandi walked through it to go and interview Sioned Taylor, each being given the address of two kids to arrest, with more expected apparently. They’d soon have to draft in extra hands to process and question them all.
‘We want to ask you a few questions about the website that the pictures of your daughter are on,’ Ani asked when they’d done the preliminaries on the tape.
‘Ok,’ Taylor shrugged. Ioan Berry was back in the solicitor’s chair; there were so many children now implicated in the scandal that it was going to be impossible for North Wales’ small cadre of defence lawyers to represent only one each.
‘I’m going to turn to Document 1 in the interview folders. This is forensics report FB 5472/2/09, which details the IP address of the computer which created the site Eleri Taylor’s Tits dot com, and its corresponding real world address,’ Sandi said. She pushed it across the table to Taylor. ‘Do you recognise this address, Mrs Taylor?’
‘You know I do.’
‘For the tape, please,’ Ani said.
‘It’s my home address,’ Taylor said.
‘Document 2,’ said Sandi. ‘Document 2 is Statement 23. Statement 23 is a signed statement from Brian Taylor, Mrs Taylor’s husband, stating that he was with their son Max at Max’s rugby practice when the website was created.’
‘PC Hendriks, do I need to remind you that under common law a man cannot be compelled to testify against his spouse?’ Berry piped up.
‘No one’s compelled Brian Taylor to do anything, he gave the statement entirely voluntarily, and as you well know, Mr Berry, a man can volunteer to testify against his wife if he wants to,’ Ani said. ‘Did you create that website, Mrs Taylor?’
‘You can’t prove that,’ Taylor said.
‘Statement 23 also confirms that Kyle Taylor, your oldest son, was at a shift at the King’s Head pub in Mold where he works – and in any case we know it would be another 24 hours before Kyle saw the photos,’ Ani said. ‘The only people home were yourself, and your daughter to whom we’re referring as Miss F. So, Mrs Taylor, the site is either your work, or Miss F’s.’
‘Miss F, whom we have observed to be absolutely devastated at the prospect of these photos being easy public viewing,’ Sandi said. ‘Either she created the site, or you did.’
‘You can’t prove that she didn’t,’ Taylor said.
‘You too, Mrs Taylor?’ Sandi asked. ‘You’re also going to blame your daughter for being the victim of these crimes? You’re going to claim that she’s responsible so that you don’t go to prison?’
‘If she’d just kept her clothes on…’
‘You wouldn’t have been compelled to put sexually explicit photos of her on the internet, for all the world to see?’ Sandi finished for her.
‘I can’t prove that you created the site and not your daughter right now, Mrs Taylor,’ Ani interjected. ‘But, believe me, I will. The web hosting company that hosted the site has already been contacted. By tomorrow morning, I will have the details of whichever credit or debit card you used to pay for the hosting.’ Taylor opened her mouth, but Ani kept talking. ‘Your laptop computer has been impounded. Our Cyber Crimes Unit will examine it. They will examine which other websites were open when Eleri Taylor’s Tits dot com was created – any social media profiles, for instance.’ That scored a hit, Sandi saw, as Taylor’s face changed. So many people left their Facebook profiles open whilst they browsed these days. ‘By tomorrow morning I will have all the proof I need that you created that site, Mrs Taylor, so I’m asking you now, to save us the time, and explain why.
‘I’d be as interested to hear it as PC Hendriks. And it would save your daughter any further pain.’
‘My daughter… oh, you all want what’s best for my bloody daughter!’ Taylor snapped. ‘Hasn’t got a brain between her ears, she’s just got boobs and an arse, so I’ll tell you what’s best for my daughter.
‘Fame. Notoriety. Getting noticed. Stripping off and getting on Page Three, because she’s never going to be a vet, let me tell you! Yes, I stuck those photos on the web. Now Eleri can sell her story to the tabloids. Make a mint. Get on Big Brother, or get a modelling agency to pick her up. She might not be able to add two and two, but she can pose and pout. That’s what’s best for my daughter.
‘Humiliated? She’s going to make a career out of splashing her naked arse all over the internet for every dirty pervert to have a wank over, cause she’s got nothing else going on up there. She might as well get used to it now.’
Sandi and Ani looked at each other. Sandi forced air from between her cheeks, let Ani round off the interview. She was just better at it than Sandi was, but Sandi would learn. She knew she would. All they needed was for Sioned Taylor to confirm who’d sent her the photos – the mum of one of the boys in Max’s year, who had another son in Sam Webb’s year who said he’d been sent the photos by Sam Webb.
‘Ok, thank you Mrs Taylor, I think that’s all we need,’ Ani said. ‘Further to your statement, I will be seeking authority from the Crown Prosecutor to charge you with the following offence, namely publication of an indecent photograph of a child, contrary to Section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978. If you aren’t charged within twenty four hours of your original arrest you will be released on police bail to await a decision being made. Interview terminated, 6.14 p.m.’
‘Such faith you have in your daughter,’ Sandi said as she gathered up the interview file.
‘Piss off,’ Taylor snapped, looking at her defiantly. ‘Stuck-up tight-arsed bitch like you’s got no fucking clue. What I did will set Eleri up for life. In ten years, she’ll thank me.’
‘I wouldn’t count on that,’ Sandi muttered as she left the room.
Aaron Jones and Lucy Jones, no relation to each other, had spilt their guts. They’d sent the photos of Eleri to four and five of their friends respectively. According to Aaron, Sam had sent him the photos ‘as a laugh.’ Lucy had got them from a friend of Sam’s, who’d asked her if she wanted to see what a whore Eleri Taylor was.
The final analysis of Sam Webb’s phone showed that he had sent them to nearly ten, all male, friends, accompanied by messages like My dirty bird and Lol luk wot im fkng. No chance that he would be reprimanded or warned. Full charges beckoned for him.
‘Ok, thanks for your efforts today everyone,’ Ani said, with the four of them gathered by her desk again. ‘Obviously we have a lot more names to get through tomorrow, but it’s getting on for seven and some of us have been up for nearly twenty four hours.’ A knowing smile at Sandi. ‘Everything that can be done today, has been. Go home, get some rest, and we’ll start again at eight tomorrow. See you all then.’
Gemmill, Manson and Hook all creaked, groaned, yawned and stretched their way to their feet. Sandi had found a swivel chair; she swung herself out of it, jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
‘Well done today, Sandi,’ Ani said.
‘Want to stay with this till it’s done?’
‘I’d prefer it if I could, Sarge.’
‘I’ll run it past your Inspector, make sure she knows,’ Ani said. She smiled again. ‘Go home, get some rest.’
Sleep came hard that night.
She tossed them over in her mind – Sam Webb, Sioned Taylor. Who had let Eleri down worse? She a reasonable expectation of trusting both of them.
And both of them blamed her. Sam Webb was prepared to tell the world that his girlfriend would let a stranger, even her own father, into his bedroom to take naked photos of her, rather than admit any responsibility for his own actions. Sandi found herself hoping that the other prisoners decided that he was a paedophile, and treated him as such.
Sioned Taylor, deciding that her daughter’s only future was as a porn star. Law or no law, wild horses probably couldn’t drag her husband away from testifying against her.
Same as always with sex crimes. Anyone was to blame but the criminal – and always most especially, the victim.
If you’ve enjoyed this story, then please have a read of the preceding story, HK Mosh, at https://attemptedmurder.uk/shortstories/hk-mosh/, or the next to feature Sandi Hendriks (and Paul Quinn), Sound and Vision, at https://attemptedmurder.uk/shortstories/5-sound-and-vision/. To look through all the stories featuring Sandi and Pauk, 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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