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 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.