“To the rear of Aelfleda Terrace, towards the Donkey Path,” repeated the controller from the comfort of an air-conditioned control room at Newby Wiske. She was letting her frustration show now, but to her the on screen map looked very clear and she couldn’t understand why the officer was having difficulty finding it. “I mean, how many dead bodies can there be in Whitby today, and wasn’t its finder still there?” Maybe she didn't know, or gave little thought to, the fact that the area had been subject to a massive landslip recently and that as a result walking in that area could be damn nigh perilous. Tom Parsons, a 20 year old newcomer to the police service was still in his first posting. Freshly confirmed as a constable after serving his two year probationary period he had previously led a sheltered and somewhat cosy existence; he felt far from comfortable now as he braced himself against the biting cold winds at the end of another long night shift.
Surveying the scene in front of him he had little inclination to go paddling in the dark, slippery mud below Whitby’s famous Abbey and why had his colleague been allowed to finish early, leaving him single crewed for the final two hours of the shift?
“Over here!” Tom heard the call and on looking across to where the end four houses had slipped down the cliff side, he could see a torch light waving across to him. The torch was only about fifty yards or so away but it was not possible to reach it across the mud-slicked terrain in front of him, why hadn’t the controller said to him that the caller was waiting there? It was another five minutes before the two finally did meet. Joe Starr, a wizened, weather-beaten man, dressed in dark waterproof clothing and wellington boots turned over at their tops to show three inches of thick woollen socks, and whom Tom placed in his late sixties, pointed with his torch to what he had seen only a short while before.
"What the hell are you doing out here, amongst all this?" was the slightly less than professional greeting from Tom. Starr was shivering, either from cold or as a result of what he had seen, Tom was unsure.
"Freezing my bollocks off waiting for you," was the tongue in cheek reply." I was looking around at how much further it's all slipped since yesterday, I know I shouldn't be here but all my stuff is still in there," he continued pointing towards a nearby cottage beneath the slippage.
Starr had been reluctant at first to speak with anyone as the houses had all been evacuated only days earlier when the council declared them unfit and dangerous due to the falling debris from above and the potential for the houses to collapse due to the foundations being washed away but now felt he had no choice. He had hidden in his home having returned in darkness to collect further belongings. Being the only permanent resident of Aelfleda Terrace, the other small terraced houses having succumbed to the booming tourist industry or second homes for the well off, he lived alone when on shore but spent many of his days at sea on one of the few trawlers still working out of the port.
Through the shadows, it was difficult to be certain, but it certainly looked like a corpse, partly covered in mud and underneath the overhanging remains of the damaged houses above, was apparently the upper half of a body.
“It’ll be one of them from t’ graveyard at’ top.” said Joe, “-weren’t there yesterdi any road”
Tom knew he should call his supervisor but wanted to be clear in his mind just what he was reporting. He had gone “state 6”[i] when he saw Joe and knew that both his sergeant and the control room would be expecting an update as soon as possible.
“236 from 877.” Tom spoke into his encrypted radio, which was only the size of a mobile phone but provided confidential communication with his colleagues. “Can you please contact me on my mobile?” This was never really the right way to do things but sure to keep a conversation confidential between just two people rather than have a whole talk group listening.
“Stand by” replied Police Sergeant 236 Leigh James a tall, well built man, ex-forces and with almost twenty three years Police service, the last eight of which were in his current rank. He was known throughout the force area as being hesitant if not reluctant to make decisions. Policies and procedures were there for a reason and should be followed at all times, preferably supervised by someone in at least the rank of Inspector.
Tom Parsons was joined by the only other two constables working the Whitby area that night. Knowing that he was on his own and yet not knowing just what he had found they had attended in order to check that he was all right, not in any danger; but also they had heard the initial call and were curious as to what he may have found? Such was the ethos of policing this relatively remote area, that whenever a single crewed officer was directed to a job, if possible colleagues would provide support, the fact being that they all had to look after each other as best they could.
PC’s John McFarlane and Howard Small were both seasoned cops, each happy with their lot and neither apparently in any rush to gain promotion or seek a move away from the picturesque town of Whitby. Armed with strong torches or ‘dragon lights’ they made their way across to Aelfleda Terrace, Tom being more visible now that that the sun had begun to rise over the Abbey and casting its first rays through the rain and across the harbour and the River Esk below.
“He’s coming up now” Tom said as he replaced his phone in his bright high viz coat pocket, referring to Sergeant James, but John McFarlane was already shining his light across to the body and making decisions in his head before the supervisor arrived. He always felt it best to provide Leigh James with a course of action rather than ask for one, done in such a way as to make him think the directions would be of his own choosing and with which he could brief the CID, who would have to be called out later.
“Tom, get a first account from Starr now, before he disappears or chooses to forget,” directed John, “Howie, will you make sure that we seal off any access, as soon as it’s daylight proper the place will be crawling wi’ folk noseying.” his CID training as an aide earlier in his career was going to be useful and, he thought, “I might even have a chance of being co-opted onto the enquiry if it’s got any legs?”
“1642 to control,” called John McFarlane, “it appears we have a body uncovered, under a building, part decomposed but not accessible at present” he went on to explain the terrain and the fact that it was in the area deemed unsafe by the council so he required the presence of a safety officer. Having also found that Starr had returned to his empty property without authority it was going to be necessary to check the others too and put something in place to prevent further access. “CSI and CID will also be needed on site,” he continued, making the decision before Leigh James arrived and started stuttering and debating.
Howard Small, working on a similar thought process had begun ‘a crime scene log’, a paper record of what was at the scene, what actions had been taken, by whom and who had subsequently attended. Leigh James arrived shortly afterwards and on seeing what had been done knew that his officers believed the incident to be at least suspicious. In the increasing daylight as the end of the shift approached, it was now possible to see that the body was part hidden by a small brick wall and a number of flagstones covering the waist down, it appeared to be the body of adult size but with no discernible features due to decomposition and natures creatures feeding from it. It was most certainly not from the graveyard above as Starr had suggested, St. Mary’s Church was indeed at the cliff top and did have a sizeable graveyard around it but the slippage could now be seen to be quite some distance away from the church, directly above the houses; a steep bank with rows of terraced houses and flats providing accommodation for locals but also increasingly for holiday lets and second homes for incomers, often from the south.
Leigh James concurred with the actions put in place by John McFarlane and informed control room of this; “just for the record,” before seeking out Tom Parsons who had taken the necessary details from Starr and told him that he would be in touch again later.
“You’d better get back to the nick and write up a handover Tom, I’ll see you back there shortly,” said Leigh James, seeing the reality that after already working a nine hour night shift from 10.00pm last night, he was going nowhere soon. The early turn would be on in the next half hour or so and would all need briefing before they could relieve his crew. CID and CSI, still regarded as SOCO by anyone with over five years service and who didn’t watch American TV, would have to travel across from Scarborough so wouldn’t be here for at least another hour, the Borough Council might be even later, at least the rain was letting up a bit.
It was Elli Stanford who broke the news two days later on the front page of the Whitby Gazette that a man had been charged with the murder of Jane Hammond and would appear Scarborough Magistrates court the day after that.
The search had provided a number of items of blue clothing including a rugby shirt that would in time be shown to match the fibre that had already been analysed by the forensic team. Turner could not or would not say how he knew about the ruby and ultimately there was no way he could have done.
Sue Collins had worked through the night to obtain a flawless statement from Mike Davies and who with Des Mason the following day had interviewed Turner for over six hours despite him saying very little, she challenged everything about which Turner had been vague previously and showed his thinly veiled alibi to be what it was, a mixture of fiction and bluster.
Graham Hammond still struggled to come to terms with the fact that his beloved daughter could have led what in his view was such a vile life and his mental health struggled as he blamed himself for not being there when it mattered. His wife Penny retreated ever more into herself and became almost hermit like in her existence.
The Goths, who only ever seem to bring glamour and costume to the town held a minutes silence on the Sunday of the next Whitby Goth Weekend and then got on with their diverse lifestyle in the manner only they seem able to do.
A successful prosecution several months later and a commendation from the presiding judge put the seal on Suzanne Collins promotion to substantive Detective Inspector and a transfer to Headquarters Special Operations team allowing her predecessor, Neil Maughan a return to his beloved coastline.
Whilst the locations described in this book are real the story line and characters are fictional and any resemblance to others either living or dead is coincidental.
Steve Pearse is a former Police Officer who has worked extensively in the coastal areas of North Yorkshire and in particular the historic town of Whitby with its iconic abbey and links with the Gothic community.
Using his extensive knowledge of the area and its people, traditions and events he has created an exciting and contemporary combination of the oft missed 'Heartbeat' style policing and modern day crime detecting methods to bring together the first compelling story of murder and intrigue involving Detective Sergeant Suzanne Collins.
After leaving the police service early, Steve now spends much of his time in his beloved rural Yorkshire and is developing a new career that makes use of his skills and expertise. His first novel, Finding Jane, brings together the diverse culture that is 'Goth' and contrasts it with the day to day life of everyday people across Northern England. When the savage weather of 2011 caused a landslip below the historic Whitby Abbey and destroyed a whole street of holiday cottages he used the scene to develop a sometimes complex and always interesting, detective story commencing with the unearthing of a body below one of the cottages and thereby introduces the myriad characters that are involved in a present day murder enquiry.
Steve still resides in North Yorkshire and is optimistic of creating a series of novels based on the characters introduced in 'Finding Jane' and in the different locations he has lived and worked. Using contacts he retains to keep abreast of new techniques and changes to policing tactics and procedures and bringing a more modern look to the writing about the policing of rural North of England he is confident of cementing a reputation as a crime writer of the future.