Sunday, 31 August 2008

Murder Most Foul

Yet another week with murder featuring in the tabloids. Knife crime in Britain, though disturbing has become so common it hardly makes the headlines. Bodies found in a burnt out mansion in Shropshire is more unusual and is more avidly read. One cannot but notice the response of locals interviewed by the press.
"It's not the sort of thing we expect round here" and "he didn't seem the kind to get involved in that sort of thing" are the sort of comments bandied around. Which begs the question, "Are murderers different to anyone else, particularly ourselves, and why do we think it's only other areas that are susceptible to murder?" Could you, yes you, dear reader, recognise a prospective murderer. For they don't have 'murderer' stamped on their foreheads. Stand up the person I hear muttering "More's the pity."
The following is an extract from a piece I wrote in a book of short stories a year or two ago. (There's Nowt So Strange as Folk)
"Truth is stranger than fiction." 19th century proverb
You might think that you need to lead a highly unusual life, or live in exotic places in order to meet exceptional or unusual people. You would be wrong. Look around, listen, watch; they are all around you.
But remember, as George Du Maurier once said, ‘Life ain’t all beer and skittles.’
I used to think murderers are only to be found in the tabloids, or on Coronation Street, but I was wrong, hopelessly, wrong.
I met Bill because of a shared interest in English Bull Terriers. He was a hard, worldly northerner, particularly conversant with the machinery needed to illegally extract gas from a gas metre at no cost to the householder. We would exchange pleasantries at the local flea market on a Tuesday evening. That is, until Bill went home one evening, found his brother in law fast asleep on the settee, took his chance and cut his throat from ear to ear. There was a complicated history behind this horrific act, Bill in fact received only a short prison sentence and eventually returned to his native Newcastle. Thus our little chats ended.
I used to see Harry at a local residential hospital for people with mental as well as physical problems. I taught English in a large comprehensive school and also ran a scheme that involved school pupils working within the community. Harry, a Welshman thirty-two years of age, was a voluntary worker at the hospital one day a week. Harry was good at the work, compassionate, caring, popular. We shared tea, crisps and cakes on our regular, if short meetings on a weekly basis. Until Harry eventually returned to Wales, his sentence served. For Harry was on licence from a local prison for a murder he had committed thirteen years previously, when, at the age of nineteen, he had killed a man in a street brawl.
Grant was a pupil in one of my English classes. Average academically, he would probably have been quite successful had he shown more interest in the work set, instead of doing the bare minimum on a good day and nothing at all when he felt so inclined. Tending to be cheeky, with the distinct ability to disrupt a lesson at will, he was no model pupil. Nevertheless I quite liked Grant, as he was normally a cheerful individual, even his disruptions were accompanied by a humour that made his behaviour almost forgivable.
Several years later Grant was involved in an incident with another customer in a public house. Exactly what happened I know not. What I do know is that Grant left the public house, returned with a knife and killed the person who had upset him. An infamous action not exactly designed to put his name in lights on the wallboards in the school’s hall of fame.
Cyril used to walk past the school where I worked. I admired his fortitude in the face of adversity. Probably only in his late twenties, fate had been somewhat cruel. Severely injured in a road accident, he was left with only one arm and a leg that required a brace to enable him to walk at all, albeit with difficulty. Unable to find employment, the highlight of his day was accompanying his daughter to the infants and junior school down the road from his home. A task he accomplished with distinction for many a year. That is, until the house next door to Cyril’s was discovered ablaze, the old lady who lived there dead in a downstairs room. The murder, for the old lady was indeed murdered, remained a mystery for only a short time. Cyril was duly arrested, charged and convicted of the murder on irrefutable evidence, resulting in a life sentence, and an existence inevitably devoid of the trials and tribulations of walking to school on dark winter mornings however inclement the weather.
My children, and indeed some friends reckon I'm somewhat bizarre having 'known' at least four people who have committed murders. I tell them I'm just an ordinary individual passing quietly through life. What do you think?

1 comment:

Frogdancer said...

I enjoyed reading this one.
(I'm sitting in front of my year 12 English class while they quietly do their exam revision.There's going to be murder committed if Oliver doesn't stop talking....)