War Crimes 33 – The Detective’s Story

Blown Periphery, Going Postal
Colin Smith / The Bird Cage Inn, Thame

Chapter 33 – The Detective’s story

Detective Inspector Hope’s mobile phone woke him up. It was still dark outside the hotel room’s partially open curtains. He groped for the phone and noticed the time was 06:15.

“Hullo?” he murmured sleepily.

“Charles, it’s me, Andy Reid.”

“Christ, Guv, you’re early.”

“Charles, can you get into central Banbury ASAP, please. Bath Road to the west of People’s Park. There’s been another murder. Another bloody taxi driver. The pathologist is on his way and we’ve got the first of the SOCOs here. There’s SOC tape around the taxi but the body is actually in the park.”

“Okay, Guv, ten to fifteen minutes max.”

Hope eventually found Bath Road and the taxi surrounded by blue and white tape, its engine still running. There was a clump of SOCOs around a bed of shrubs, surrounded on two sides by a footpath. Officers in blue coveralls were photographing the area around a body that seemed to have been tossed into the undergrowth. The pathologist was crouched next to the body, examining the head and neck.

“Morning, Charles,” Reid said to him, his hands thrust into the pockets of his overcoat. Hope only had his jacket and it was a cold morning, their breath misting in the cool air. “Different MO this time. Killed outside of his cab.”

“Any idea who it is?”

“According to the permit and paperwork in the taxi, he is, or rather was, a Mr Musse Hussen.”
Hope gave an imperceptible start. Well, I’ll be damned. What a small world.

“Joe’s the Taxi again?”

“Reid nodded bitterly. “This is getting beyond a fucking joke, Charles.”

Hope wisely kept his mouth shut. The pathologist had finished his primary observations, stood up and peeled off his rubber gloves. He bagged the gloves and walked towards where the two detectives were standing.

“Mr Cartwright, this is DI Hope. I know you don’t like speculating this early on, but do we have a cause of death?”

The pathologist picked up his medical bag after straightening his coat. “Au contraire, DCI Reid. I’m ninety-five percent certain that the cause of death is a broken neck.”

“Christ, the murderer must be a big, strong lad to break someone’s neck just like that,” Hope speculated. “Can’t be many out there capable of that.”

“Sorry, Andy, but I’m afraid it’s not that simple. The victim’s neck wasn’t broken with brute force. The victim had a contusion to the chin and extensive bruising to the back and left-hand side of the neck. An absolutely classic example of the commando neck-break manoeuvre. A technique developed by the commando forces during the Second World War.

“The assailant approaches the victim from behind, such a sentry. He or she, because as I’ve said, it’s technique and not force, places the forearm against the back or side of the victim’s neck. They reach forward to cup the victim’s chin and then jerk the head backwards while twisting to the side. The forearm is thrust forward to act as the fulcrum.”

Both of the detectives went through the motions with their arms, to work out the technique.

“So we’re looking for someone who has military training and is right-handed?” Reid asked.

“Alas, not that simple, chaps. The technique is easily performed left- or right- handed, and the technique is taught in advanced martial arts training.”

“A man with military or martial arts training?”

“Or indeed a woman,” the pathologist reminded them. “Right, gentlemen. I’ll need to tee up a slab in the John Radcliffe, so I’ll give you a bell, Andy. Probably early afternoon. I assume there’s little to be gained by your watching me saw up that unfortunate gentleman?”

Reid nodded.

“You can move the body as soon as you have all the crime scene evidence. Slightly unfortunate this being a park, as there’s a plethora of footprints. I shouldn’t hold out too much hope of there being any DNA, but I’ll swab the body when it’s in the mortuary. You never know.”

They watched the pathologist leave and then Reid went to chat with the senior SOCO. Hope went to take a look at the taxi, whose engine by now someone had turned off.

“Anything interesting?” he asked the young woman in the blue coverall, who was photographing the interior of the taxi.

“A bloody forensic nightmare, sir. So much DNA on this back seat, you could start a new species.” She put her head on one side in thought. “In fact, if my Saturday nights are anything to go by, they already have.”

Hope grinned and popped a square of nicotine gum into his mouth. He waited for Reid to finish his brief to the SOCOs. Hope was hungry and decided to go back to the hotel for breakfast. Reid returned a few minutes later.

“Right, Charles, we’ve got a bit of a steer. I’d like you and Alice to do some delving into the backgrounds of our resident Nazis. Military experience, even the TA. Nunchaku nutters from the Bruce Lee appreciation societies, sad enactment SS Panzer Grenadiers and Combat and Survival subscribers.”

“How far out, Guv?”

“The whole of the Thames Valley area.”

“We’re not far from Coventry.”

“Later. Let’s concentrate on our home-grown saddos first.”

Hope sighed. He couldn’t help himself. “Guv, have you ever considered why someone is killing off ‘Asian’ taxi drivers, with the single-minded efficiency of a Spetznaz hit squad?”

“Racists. Radicalised right-wing nutters. Whoever it is fits the profile perfectly. Oh, and as my two IC, would you come with me to the JR this afternoon? Take notes and that sort of thing?”

Hope immediately knew why Reid wanted him to go to the autopsy as well. He wanted to keep him under observation and away from the team. Reid’s team of useless no-hopers. He had realised that Alice Warboys was as much use as an ejector seat on a mobility scooter.

“Okay, Guv.”

“See you back at the station.”

Hope decided that he wasn’t going to hurry. If he was going to get his time wasted, it would be on a full stomach.

* * *

There was very little smell, as the body hadn’t gone so far down the stage of decomposition, although rigor mortis had set in. Doctor Cartwright was a lot friendlier than he had been that morning, probably because he hadn’t just been dragged out of bed. The body was on the slab, covered with a rubberised shroud, and samples of its internal organs lay in jars full of formaldehyde.
“Afternoon, gentlemen. No real surprises from this morning. The deceased was a male of East African heritage of around thirty years of age. Judging by the state of rigor mortis, I would estimate the time of death at around one am this morning, with an hour’s leeway either way. I believe you have confirmed that he was a Mr Musse Hussen?”

“That’s correct, Doctor Cartwright,” confirmed DCI Reid.

“As I suspected, the cause of death was a torsion fracture of the upper vertebrae in the T2, T3 region. Death would have occurred within seconds. There were two wounds consistent with the method of killing I outlined this morning, a small bruise to the right-hand side of the mandible, consistent with fingertip pressure, and a much larger bruising and pooling of blood to the distal aspect of the vertebrae. A classic example of the commando neck-break.

“Two other points of note, the deceased had pre-cancerous lesions of the buccal cavity of the mouth, consistent with chewing khat, and untreated gonorrhoea. The chin provided traces of latex, so it is highly likely the assailant wore medical gloves. There was no other forensic evidence on the body, I’m afraid, gentlemen.”

“And nothing at the crime scene, either. It was as though it had been swept, and there was no trace of a mobile phone on the body or in the taxi.”

“Just like the others,” Doctor Cartwright observed. “Makes it kind of difficult for you.”

As they left the mortuary facilities, Hope turned to his boss. “Guv, I need to drop some paperwork off with the Super at Kidlington. It’s about my ongoing investigation. Shouldn’t take long and I’ll see you back at Banbury nick.”

“All right, Charles. Do you think you’ll get off?”

Hope shrugged. “I reckon it’ll be a reprimand. It’ll go on my file but won’t make that much difference in the greater scheme of things.”

Hope headed to the Oxford ring road and while he was heading for the headquarters at Kidlington, he had no intention of meeting with Superintendent Allen or anyone else to do with his investigation. He had already phoned that morning and arranged a meeting with DI Terry Rawlings. They met in the gym changing rooms where it was quiet this time of the afternoon. Rawlings grinned ruefully.
“I hope you’re not going to slip into your arseless chaps, Charlie.”

Hope grimaced but took it in good humour. Terry Rawlings was the nearest thing he had to a friend in the headquarters.

“Have you heard anything, Terry?” Hope asked.

“Not a dicky bird. I reckon they’ve kicked it into the long grass to keep you out of the way. Now why do you want to see me, and why the subterfuge?”

“You’re working on an investigation into serious sexual offences against children, aren’t you?”

“Err, yes. Operation Bullfinch, but it’s a bit hush-hush and you just wouldn’t believe the amount of grief and panic it’s causing.”

“I might be able to help you and me at the same time,” Hope explained. “I know it’s a huge ask, but can you look at a list of names, number plates and photographs of men and young girls that’s on this flash drive?”

Hope held it up. He could sense Rawlings’ unease.

“Charlie, we could be in fathoms of shit for this.”

“Do you know what I’m working on over at Banbury?”

“Yeah, the taxi murders.”

Hope grabbed Rawlings’ arm to show how serious this was. “Terry, I’m afraid that Andy Reid who’s heading up the case is a fucking Woodentop. He is process-driven and has an irrational conviction that the murderer is a right-wing nutter. There was another killing last night and I believe that the two investigations are linked. All of the drivers that have been murdered are Muslims of East-African heritage. The murderers are professional, yes, there is definitely more than one and they kill with military precision. The crime scenes have always been swept by people who understand forensic investigations. The murders are efficient in that they use the minimum amount of force and they are using terror as a weapon.

“Why? Because I’m willing to bet that several of the men and registered keepers of the cars on that flash drive are connected with your operation. The girls in the pictures are the victims. Reid is looking for the killer without understanding the motive. I’m willing to bet that when you look at the pictures and data, you’ll provide me with the motive and likely the killers and you with a hell of a lot more paedophile scumbags to finger.”

Rawlings leaned back and looked up at the ceiling where a florescent tube was flickering. “Jesus, Charlie, I just don’t know. This is so political.”

“I’m the one that’ll be in the firing line. All I need to know is if there is a crossover between the men on the drive and your investigation, and the information should be on HOLMS. I don’t have the permission or access to your investigation on HOLMS. If there is, I can go over Reid’s head and stop wasting our time and look for the murderers of the taxi drivers who are not, repeat not, right-wing nutjobs and internet warriors.”

“Charlie, if you are right, then whoever is killing these taxi drivers may have a very good reason to do so.”

“I don’t doubt that, and part of me says good luck to them, but murder is murder and we’re not a fascist police state yet. Even scumbags don’t deserve to be garrotted.”

* * *

Hope had been late in that morning as he had made several telephone calls before arriving at work. Now he was driving with Alice Warboys and they had taken his car. He had told Reid that they were going to investigate a couple of martial arts centres and a Taekwondo dojo. Reid was told they were going to check membership lists with the internet surveillance information on likely ‘right-wing’ extremists. Reid seemed pleased with the plan and Alice was chatting and seemed in a better frame of mind than the day before yesterday. Hope smiled grimly. That was going to bloody change.
He had spent a sleepless and restless night in the hotel, after his meeting with Rawlings, digesting everything he had been told. The account of what had been happening to children in Oxfordshire over a number of years was deeply disturbing. The experiences of the girls, and the complete failure of public services including the police to protect them, was appalling. Girls as young as twelve would return to care homes half-naked and bleeding. Cigarettes had been put out on their bodies and some had been injected with heroin. That day, Hope had heard enough and he was going to press the nuclear mutually assured destruction button. The clincher was when Rawlings phoned him that evening and confirmed that at least twenty names on his flash drive were persons of interest in the Operation Bullfinch investigation.

Alice was puzzled when he drove the car towards the town centre and the Spiceball Leisure Centre.

“Err, Mr Hope, I thought we were going to the Taekwondo dojo first.”

“You may want to waste your time smelling stale sweat and trawling through lists of names of members, but I’m going to do the job I swore all those years ago to do.”

“But this is…”

“That’s right, love. Oxfordshire County Council, or more specifically, the Department of Children’s Services, the head of which I have an appointment with in fifteen minutes.”

“DI Hope, I can’t let you do this.”

He parked in a named slot in the car park and got out to get a briefcase from the boot.

“You coming in with me, or are you going to phone DCI Reid? I bet you’ve got him on the top of your call log.”

“I will have to—”

“You, your boss and your fucking team who laughably call themselves detectives, may be happy at being complicit with covering up the rape and torture of children, but I am not!”

He stalked off towards the buildings and Alice got out of the car. “Sssshit!” she exclaimed, and delved in her handbag for her mobile.

Hope had a short wait before he gained entry to the Children’s Services Department. He was greeted by a middle-aged lady to whom he showed his warrant card, and was shown into an office.

“Good morning, Detective Inspector, how can I help you? You sounded awfully concerned when you spoke with my team this morning.”

“I’m investigating three murders and I believe that children are in a great deal of danger. I am going to show you a number of photographs of girls and I require you to tell me if any and how many are known to social services.”

She looked evenly at him. “I’m afraid that’s quite impossible, Mister Hope. I can’t comment on wards in our care.”

“In which case, I will arrest you for obstructing a police officer in the lawful execution of his duty, under the Police Act of 1996. I am quite prepared to march you out of this building in handcuffs and take you to Banbury Police Station, where you will be asked the question again under caution.”

Her face seemed to drain of colour and her eyes were round with shock. Hope put the photographs on the desk.

“You are to tell me how many of these children are known to you, in your professional capacity. You will furnish me with their names and addresses within twenty-four hours.”

“You are exceeding your authority, Detective Inspector.”

“Oh really? Let’s put it to the test, shall we?”

Reluctantly, she started to go through the photographs and she looked at them for a long time.

“I know that at least half of the girls you have shown me are known to us in a professional capacity. There may be more, but I’d have to check with the safeguarding team.”

Hope stood up. “You can keep the photographs for reference. You haven’t been doing a very good job on the safeguarding front, have you?”

Back at the car, Alice had gone. He knew what was going to happen back at the station and needed to get his ducks in a row. He would have a snack at a pub and let them stew while he prepared his scheme of manoeuvre. He stopped at a newsagent’s for a packet of cigarettes and parked up at a pub. He sat outside, which was cold, sipped a half of beer and chain-smoked while he waited for his beef and mustard sandwiches. To a casual passer-by, it looked as though a tubby, middle-aged man was deep in thought, but inside, Hope was boiling with anger. He knew that he had enough evidence to support him and decided that he would go on the attack. The bastards weren’t going to get away with it this time. He made a few notes in his notebook for a running script. He intended to control and dominate the inevitable meeting.

Back at Banbury Police Station, he went straight up to the squad room. Predictably, everyone snubbed him except DCI Reid, who seemed to be hopping with anger.

“We’re to go upstairs, now, DI Hope.”

Hope ignored him and went over to Alice, who seemed to be ensconced in some paperwork. “I trust you didn’t walk all the way back here, Alice?”

“Now, Hope!”

“That will be DI Hope to you, DCI Reid. Two juniors and a probationer are present.”

They headed for the stairs and halfway up on a landing, Reid rounded on him. “What the hell are you playing at, Hope? You had strict instructions on which lines the investigation was to take. We are supposed to be catching a triple-murderer and you threaten to arrest the Head of Child Protection Services and show her ludicrous photographs of dirty, little skanks—”

Hope was overweight and an assumed figure of ridicule; nevertheless, Forlorn Hope smashed DCI Reid into the wall. The meaty hand against Reid’s throat was very strong.

“Those ‘skanks’ are children that nonce-enablers like you and social services have allowed to be raped, beaten and abused. You’re a fucking useless piece of shit, Reid. You and your team of hopeless pricks couldn’t catch a cold! And you know perfectly well why those taxi drivers have been murdered and yet you have refused to follow the most obvious line of investigation.”

Reid gasped. “You’ll lose your job and pension for this, Hope.”

“I may, but I’m going to make sure that you go down for perverting the course of justice.”

There was a superintendent and a chief superintendent waiting for them in the top floor office. They didn’t ask Hope to sit and went on without preamble: “Detective Inspector Hope, you have committed a serious breach of discipline in that you have wilfully disobeyed a direct order from a superior officer and—”

“Be quiet, sir, and listen very carefully. Detective Chief Inspector Reid has been wilfully negligent in the conduct of his investigation. He has deliberately withheld crucial information, which has had an impact on not only this case, but Operation Bullfinch.”

Their faces were priceless.

“He has wasted time investigating so-called right-wing persons whose opinions on social media he doesn’t approve of. Because of this, he and his team have allowed the trafficking and abuse of underage girls to continue in epidemic proportions. I believe that there is a culture of cover-up and corruption not only here but within the Force area. I believe that you, as DCI Reid’s superiors, are complicit in this cover-up. I intend to find out what hold the Muslim community has over the police service, and whether your lack of action is a misguided attempt to preserve community cohesion at the expense of young white girls. Or whether you are complicit in these crimes.

“There will be no internal disciplinary investigation or action against me. I have contacted a legal firm that investigates police corruption and I intend to hand over all the evidence I have collected. There will be no involvement from the Independent Complaints Commission because they are neither independent nor competent to deal with the magnitude of corruption I have uncovered. If you take any action against me, I will take a counter action through the courts and all of this sordid dishonesty will be in open court. I have prepared a back-up which I intend to forward to the foreign media, should you try and thwart me through injunction.

“I intend to take paid gardening leave until such time as my period of engagement is concluded, or I am forced down the judiciary route.”

Hope left. He collected his coat and few bits and pieces from the squad room but said nothing to them. As he drove back to Chinnor, he thought about what the hell he was going to say to his wife and what the hell she was going to say when she found out he’d started smoking again.

* * *

A couple of years later in the summer, during a clement Sunday early afternoon, Charles Hope exited the Phoenix cycle trail and rode into the centre of Thame. He hadn’t noticed the man who had been following him, also on a bike, about 300 yards behind. Hope chained his bike, bought a broadsheet newspaper at a newsagent’s and went into the Black Horse pub. He chose an unoccupied table under the vines in the conservatory and bought a pint of bitter from the bar. Hope had lost weight and looked healthy and fit.

The other man who had been following Hope wheeled his mountain bike over the road to a car park opposite the pub, near a man with long grey hair sitting on a bench. He leaned the bike against the back of the bench and pretended to fiddle with the gears and chain. He spoke softly without looking at the seated man.

“It’s him. Usual Sunday ritual. Bike ride, couple of pints and a read of the paper, then home.”

“Anyone follow him, apart from you?”

“No, but his house is being watched.”

The man on the bench stood up stiffly. He had a heavy fringe and cold grey eyes. He wore a ranchman’s coat despite the warmth of the day and walked towards the pub. His gait was slightly stiff and he leaned on an old-fashioned walking stick. The stick concealed an épée with a 30-inch blade. He went into the pub and saw Hope sitting almost alone in the conservatory. Another couple were a few tables away, but lost in each other’s eyes. It was obvious they weren’t married, at least not to each other.

“Mr Hope, do you mind if I sit down?”

Hope looked up and felt tendrils of fear wrap around his vitals. The grey- haired man smiled.

“I mean you no harm. But I have information that may well give you, what’s that expression? Closure.”

Reluctantly, Hope indicated to the chair opposite.

“Thank you. I believe that you are now fully retired from the police and in receipt of your pension. Well done. You fought a hell of a battle. Now, just a few admin points. Could you please put your mobile phone, MP3 or whatever on the table so that I can check you’re not recording this.”

Hope complied uneasily. “I feel I should know you.”

“You know of me. You were bang on with your theory about who shot Gleam. I set everything up, did all the recce, provided the weapon but never took the shot,” the man said in a low voice.

“Are you Edge or Morrison?”

“I used to be Edge in a different life, but as you know, he no longer exists. He drowned off the Algarve. Or did he?”

“The case is still open, you know.”

The grey haired man laughed softly. “Is that arrogant DCI Parry and her little carpet-munching friend still on the case?”

“No, they have gone on to greater things.”

“Which brings me on to another unsolved case, despite all the good work you did on it. You were right about that as well, Mr Hope. The tragedy is nobody listened to you.”

“Why? Did you kill those taxi drivers?”

“Oh, I never killed any of them. I was part of the surveillance team and it wasn’t just Somalians. There were Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Afghans, white British guys. Banbury was, as they say, the tip of the iceberg. Bad people have been slotted in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford and Bristol. But there is so much criminality in those unpoliced cities that nobody misses the odd scumbag. There’s an ISO container full of rotting paedophiles, child traffickers, slavers and murderers, just waiting to be discovered at Tilbury Docks. Or by now it may have gone on to Indonesia.”

“Jesus Christ! What kind of a monster are you?”

“A monster that’s prepared to do the work you lot aren’t. Have you ever heard of a book called The Feather Men?”

Hope nodded.

“Well, it was fiction, but organisations like the Feather Men exist. People who have served their country in certain roles make many powerful enemies. Many who have served in the Regiment still have a price on their heads courtesy of the IRA, Tony Blair and the Good Friday Agreement. The State or the MoD won’t look after us, so ex-serving members have formed mutual help and support groups. Its members have sworn a blood oath to come to the aid of a comrade in extremis or danger.

“I want to tell you about a comrade of ours, who for the sake of argument we’ll call Wayne. Our Wayne was a fine soldier but rather a poor husband and father. His wife grew tired of living effectively as a single parent with a young daughter, so she and Wayne separated. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, Wayne’s daughter became rather wayward and fell in with the wrong crowd, as they say. It’s a long story, but Wayne’s daughter was made a ward of court and placed in care. She was sent to a care home in Banbury, nearly one hundred miles from her mother. While she was in this care home, she was groomed by Muslim men of Somalian heritage. Her mother desperately tried to get social services and the police to do something, and when she turned up at Banbury social services, she was arrested for obstruction and affray.

“When she was fourteen, Wayne’s daughter was raped, infected with sexually transmitted diseases and forced to take drugs. Pleas to the police resulted in her mother being arrested again. This girl was trafficked by taxi to Bristol, Northampton, Nottingham, Leicester and Birmingham. It was estimated that she was raped by over fifty different men of which persuasion? You’ve guessed it. Still, the problem soon went away when the girl walked in front of a train.

“Her death was the result of the inability, or more likely the unwillingness of your lot to do their jobs, protect the public and uphold the law. This includes, whether you like it or not, young girls from ‘difficult’ and ‘challenging’ backgrounds.

“Something went in Wayne’s head and he vowed to track down and kill every single person involved with the degradation and death of his daughter. He asked for our help, but we knew it was an impossible task. He would have to kill members of the police service, social services, you name it, so we tried to get him to see sense and avoid getting caught. Yes, we were accessories, only because your useless and compliant colleagues refused to do their jobs. We formed three teams; surveillance of the targets, the solo killer and the clean-up team. Have you ever read a book called: Operation Wrath of God? You might know the film version, Munich.”

“I’ve seen Munich.”

“It’s an interesting study of how retribution and the single-minded pursuit of revenge corrodes the soul. I’m a classic example of the destructive power of retribution. In my determination to kill Gleam, I lost my wife, my family and my life. Wayne stopped being a human being. In the end, I think he even lost sight of why he was doing this. The realisation that all the people who so badly abused his daughter could never be brought to his version of justice drove him mad. Don’t worry, Mr Hope. Five months ago, Wayne ate both barrels of an antique Purdy and spread his brains all over the inside of a Land Rover. Once again, we cleaned up and made sure poor, sad, tortured Wayne got a fitting burial in a place he loved. They used to call you ‘Forlorn Hope’, didn’t they?”

There was a brief flash of anger across Hope’s eyes.

“Do you know what a forlorn hope is? It’s a band of soldiers or other combatants that have been chosen to take the leading part in a military operation. For example, an assault on a heavily defended position, where the risk of casualties is high. Sums you up to a tee, I would say.”

The grey haired man pushed back his chair and stood up. “I hope it is closure for you, Mr Hope. It is for us and I’m truly sorry for what we did, but an oath sworn between brothers in arms is an oath for life. You may see it as twisted loyalty and perhaps you’re right. Goodbye and enjoy your retirement. We will be keeping a watchful eye on you from now on, because now you’ve made powerful enemies as well. You’re now a brother in arms, so to speak. Don’t follow me out for at least fifteen minutes if you’ll be so kind.”

Hope watched the man walk out leaning on his stick. He closed his eyes and shuddered.

© Blown Periphery 2020

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