I was eventually asked to give the police my witness statement regarding the death of the child, and to my surprise I was also interviewed about the subsequent killings of Skinner and Short.
Seamus O’Malley was being held as the prime suspect for the killings, and my testimony, along with that of other members of the band, was expected to convict him of the crime. I’d expected to be interviewed in a stark interview room, similar to the ones I’d seen on television programmes, but on my arrival at the police station, a constable guided me to a comfortable office room.
Detective Inspector Trimble was leading the investigation; he’d lost most of his hair, except for a ring of predominantly silver hair which travelled around the back of his neck, before curling over his collar for want of a recent trim. The inspector had grown a moustache to compensate for his follicle deficiency, and with a genial face he looked like the stereotypical image of a favourite grandfather. A gold half hunter pocket watch, on a rose-gold chain, adorning a three piece suit, and his shoes were highly polished as if he’d once been in the army.
Trimble sat on a green leather swivel chair behind a large mahogany desk, where he consulted his pocket watch frequently, as if he were late for a more important meeting. Due to its many years of faithful service, not only to Trimble, but to the generations that came before him, the old desk had seen better days, and the once vibrant green leather top with gold tooling, had faded to a greenish grey, never more to return to its former glory.
Framed and displayed on a blue velvet background, a collection of police badges caught the eye; while around the walls hung photographs of police football teams, and the inspector shaking hands with local dignitaries.
On an inferior chair, probably one of a set of dining chairs, sat another plain clothes officer, while a female stenographer, in police uniform, occupied an identical chair with her back against the wall, her reading glasses perched on the tip of her nose, and a writing pad lying expectantly in her lap.
“Please sit down,” invited the inspector.
Trimble may have had a genial face, but his colleague, who appeared to be Savage by name and savage by nature, instigated the interview. His hair was dark and slicked back using Brylcreem, while a flat moonlike face, coupled with a small pointed nose and horned rimmed spectacles, gave the impression of an owl waiting expectantly to pounce.
“Detective Inspector Trimble, and Detective Sergeant Savage in interview with; state your name please,” said Savage.
“Raymond Evans,” I answered, much too loudly due to my nervousness, and I instantly felt embarrassed at my over-exuberant response.
Not even my mother called me Raymond unless I was in some kind of trouble, but under the circumstances Ray would have seemed a little informal.
“How long have you known Seamus O’Malley?” Savage questioned me.
“I only met him last Saturday for the very first time. We were involved in a minor road traffic accident and Seamus was a pedestrian who was injured slightly.”
“Did the accident occur on the street where O’Malley lives?” asked Savage with a puzzled expression. It appeared to be his introduction to the concept of a road traffic accident, and he momentarily floundered while attempting to ask the right questions.
“No, the accident happened on the Shadcroft estate, not far from the Manxman public house.”
Savage appeared to be even more confused by my explanation. “Then can you explain how you came to witness the discovery of a child’s body almost a mile away from the Shadcroft estate, and on the street where O’Malley lives?”
“After the accident we gave Seamus a lift home and he invited us into his house for a bottled beer.”
“Why on earth would a pedestrian, who you’d never before met, invite you to his house for a beer?” He leant forward aggressively as he spoke, and invaded my space as if he didn’t believe a single word of my explanation.
I moved my chair backwards, not because Savage intimidated me, although I have to admit he did, but to avoid the obnoxious smell of his foul breath.
“I personally had never met him before, but he works on the same building site as Freddie.”
“Who on earth is Freddie?” asked Savage, as he shuffled the papers in front of him to discover the answer to his own question.
“Frederick Cope,” interjected the inspector. He’d been studying the case notes avidly, and never once had he raised his eyes from the type written pages laid out before him.
“What was Seamus O’Malley’s state of mind when he was told that the child might be dead?” asked Savage, but before I could answer his question, he added. “Was he angry?”
“He appeared to be angry, he suggested we break into the squat and discover the truth.”
“Were you angry?” snapped Savage, leaning forward once again and giving me another whiff of his halitosis problems.
“Why should I be angry? I puzzled. “I didn’t even know the druggies existed until we went to authenticate Mrs O’Malley’s story.”
“I suggest that you became angry, on seeing the body of the child, Mr Evan’s, and that along with Seamus O’Malley, and others, you plotted to kill Thomas Skinner and Teresa Short.”
“Now wait a minute,” I yelled. “If I’m a suspect, instead of the witness I was led to believe, then this interview is over until I have a lawyer present.”
I didn’t know anything about lawyers, or whether I was entitled to have one represent me, but I’d seen criminals on television react in much the same manner, when the hot seat appeared to be getting a little too hot, and it always appeared to halt the proceedings.
Detective Inspector Trimble held up his hand as a signal for Savage to cease his interrogation.
“You’re not a suspect, at this stage, Mr. Evans,” said Trimble, trying to defuse the tension between myself and his subordinate officer. “If you’re in need of a lawyer, at any time during the interview, I’ll gladly inform you. Now can we continue please?”
I reluctantly nodded my approval and Trimble took over the questioning.
“How did O’Malley appear when he discovered the child’s body? Was he upset? Did he become angry? Did he shout or threaten?”
“He was stunned like the rest of us, and upset,” I answered, selecting one of the options made available to me. “We all were. Seamus collapsed on the floor and began to cry. I never saw such a tough looking guy break down in tears like that.”
“Did he threaten the lives of Skinner and Short?”
“We never saw Skinner and Short, but he said if he ever set eyes on them they were as good as dead.”
“He threatened to kill them?” prompted the inspector, and the stenographer wrote frantically in shorthand on her writing pad.
I could have bitten my tongue for my indiscretion, and instantly tried to make amends.
“People say those things all the time, they don’t mean them literally. My mother threatens to kill me three or four times a week.”
Trimble smiled in recognition. “In your opinion, is Mr O’Malley capable of murder?”
“I’ve only met him once, so I’m not qualified to comment.”
Trimble lit a cigarette and offered one to me.
“No thanks I don’t smoke.”
“Have you never smoked Mr. Evans?”
“I tried them while at school, but they made me feel dizzy and sick so I never took them up.”
“What about Seamus O’Malley, does he smoke?”
“He never smoked in my presence,” I answered truthfully.
“Thank you, Mr. Evans. The sergeant will show you out.
“Cope and Cheshire are both smokers by their own admission; so is Bloomfield,” Trimble told Savage after he’d shown me to the door, “which makes them prime suspects, but that doesn’t rule out any of the others. If the killer was a non smoker, and smoked just to imitate the child’s injuries, he would have felt pretty sick afterwards, there were a lot of burns on the bodies so he must have smoked at least twenty cigarettes. Unless he vomited in the canal, there is nothing at the scene to suggest that he was sick. This may indicate that the killer was a regular smoker, but if he wasn’t I’d like to know about it. Did you get photographs taken of our suspects as I asked?”
“Yes sir, they were told it was routine when they arrived at the station.”
“And did they buy it?”
“They did sir.”
“Good. Show their pictures to the local shopkeepers and see if any of our non-smokers bought cigarettes around the time of the murders.”
“Over what time scale,” asked Savage. “Do we know when the deaths actually occurred?”
“The bodies were in the second stages of decomposition,” Trimble mused, “my guess would be within a timescale of a matter of hours of vacating the squat, until about seventy-two hours ago. We won’t know anymore until we receive the autopsy report.”
As the killer had bought his cigarettes from a dispenser in The Manxman public house, Savage’s enquires revealed absolutely nothing.
Seamus O’Malley remained the primary suspect, despite having been released without charge due to a lack of evidence. The vigilante, whoever he might be, hadn’t left a single clue as to his identity.