You will no doubt have heard the phrase [annus horribilis]: well I’m afraid my last two weeks could be considered [dies quinquaginta horribilis]. In the first week, I lost my Mother – at 84, an inevitability of life but no less painful – while in the second week I went in to hospital for a Cardioversion (stop and start my heart) to bring it back into normal rhythm. Unfortunately, that failed: obviously the restart worked, but it didn’t go into a normal rhythm. This is my excuse for the lateness of Part 3 of Wrongful Arrest: but it’s here now!
Returning home, I found a note from my wife. Go round to next door as she was round there having drinks and waiting for me. Drinks? That is just the ticket, God knows, I could do with one after the day’s ordeal.
Having stopped off at Newbury Police Station to establish their motive for conducting a dawn raid on my house (see Wrongful Arrest – Part 1), I subsequently spent the rest of that late afternoon / evening in an interview under arrest and helping the police with their enquiries (see Wronful Arrest – Part 2) with respect to an assault on an Asian Family. I was eventually released on bail to return at a later date. Having smoked the best part of 40 Benson & Hedges and my mind spinning with all sorts of thoughts, mainly about ‘what was life like behind bars’, and having been driving for over an hour and half I now needed a drink, possibly a number of drinks.
I knocked on the neighbours door, quick as a flash the door opened and my wife pulled me in and closed the door and took me through to the lounge where a large drink was thrust into my hand. And then it started: the interrogation. What had happened? Why was I so long? What did they ask? Why do you smell so much like an ash tray? Why are your eyes so read? Did they hurt you? and then, Did You Do It? This latter question was to become a recurring question always being returned with the same answer (an emphatic NO) to which I was told that they didn’t think I had but needed to ask anyway. The rest of that evening / night was spent smoking and drinking until eventually, we had all exhausted every possible aspect of the preceding events and, gave into our bodies desire and need for sleep.
Over the weekend, my friends and family rallied round, first of all to establish whether I was guilty or not and then to offer their views on what was going to happen next, and more to the point, what I should do next. The most obvious course of action was seek a solicitor, which I did. So, I made an appointment with our family Solicitor and, having explained the reason for seeing them, they arranged for me to see one of their criminal briefs.
The Hungerford One
You may have heard of The Maguire Seven, The Birmingham Six or the The Guildford Four? Well, by the time I returned to work on the Monday Morning, I had become the Hungerford One. There were signs all over the office declaring support for the Hungerford One, with calls to ‘Free Him’. There was also, of course, the occasional depiction of the hanging of the Hungerford One.
That first day, the Head of Computer Operations and the IT Director took me out to lunch at Rowlands Castle Golf Club (Ve_ry Nice) and offered any help they could, having first established of course that I hadn’t done it. If I needed time off to see a solicitor I was to take it: if I need time off to go to the Police Station again, I was to take it. Other that the offer of understanding and moral support, there was, in all honesty, little else they could offer but they had offered more than enough and for that I was, and remain, grateful.
My meeting with the solicitor, from hereon in called ‘The Brief’ went well. Having satisfied himself that I hadn’t done it! we then went on to discuss the next steps. From his understanding, the Police would now be arranging to hold an identity parade which would entail the five witness, one at a time, to checkout a line of similar looking people. The similar looking people would generally be people the Police use on a regular basis and / or people ‘in the street’ that had been asked to take part. If they [the witnesses] failed to ID me then the case would be closed and I could return home, if however one or more did ID me then I would be charged and court proceedings would be the next step. I was also advised that the date would be very soon as they needed to conduct the ID Parade while memories were still fresh. Sure enough, the date was 10 days after my first visit to the station. And so on that allotted day, I drove(!) The Brief and my wife to Newbury.
This is where it gets farcical:
Arriving at the station, The Brief suggested that I stayed in the car while he went in and spoke with the police. No worries I said and promptly lit another Benson & Hedges and sat there and waited. After two smokes, he came back out with news that I, nor he, was expecting. It would appear that they [the police] had been unable to source enough people that looked similar to me to hold an ID Parade and we were therefore faced with two options:
- Option 1 – A one-on-one ID with each of the witnesses
- Option 2 – We could go and sit in the Chieveley Services and have a coffee or even a meal and they would send the witnesses round one at a time (this would of course, I was assured, be carried out discreetly).
After much thought and discussion with my wife, we agreed that Option 2 was the preferred. With the decision taken we went into the Station. We were then taken into a room to be met by the arresting officer, the duty sergeant, the police solicitor and a couple of others who I suspect were there just for the show. They explained the process in that we would be invited to sit anywhere (free choice) in Chieveley Services ‘Restaurant’ and have a coffee, a meal, or whatever we chose to do: we could even sit and just read a paper if we wanted. It was also explained that before the ‘ID Parade’ took place, they would read the details of the event and explain, formally, why I was here and that this was an ID Parade to allow the witness to try to identify the assailant. With that, we all drove in convoy (Police cars and Vans) to Chieveley Services. There was to a subsequent convoy for the witnesses.
Once there, we were escorted in to the Restaurant whereby my Wife and I selected a place to sit: I want to say we elected to have a full fried breakfast at this point (that’s would I would do today) but I suspect we stuck to coffee; a lot of coffee as it turned out. It was at this point that I started to question (inwardly) their [the police] translation of the word discreetly. I was surrounded by at least three police officers plus their brief and of course The Brief, all with overcoats on so that nobody could see their police uniforms, although their keys and paraphernalia hanging down and jangling about gave a clue as to who they were, while they formally read out a prepared script detailing the event, the suspicion that I was one of two assailants and that there were five witnesses, one of which would now be allowed to come into the restaurant to see if they couple pick out the assailant they saw at the scene of the attack. They then [discreetly] vacated the room and left us in peace. We sat: we drank coffee: we smoked (it was allowed in those days); we talked. I have no idea what we talked about though I believe we picked on a subject from the newspaper and discussed it in detail. We never saw anybody who looked like a witness, mostly because for most of the time our heads were down and looking at the paper or talking, but eventually The Brief came in and sat with me, while Witness 1 was taken away and put into a separate mini-bus than the remaining witnesses. We were advised that I had not been identified and that they would now conduct the same process with the second witness.
At this point, I was again surrounded by at least three police officers all still in their overcoats on [so that nobody could see their police uniforms] plus their brief and of course The Brief, and again they formally read out a prepared script detailing the event, the suspicion that I was one of two assailants and that there were five witnesses, the second of which would now be allowed to come into the restaurant to see if they could pick out the assailant they saw at the scene of the attack. Wow I thought, this is so discreet. I was then told that if we wished, we could move to different table. We decided to stay where we were. They then [discreetly] vacated the room and left us in peace. We sat: we drank more coffee: we smoked (the ashtray was filling); we talked. Again, I have no idea what we talked about, we were most likely taking gibberish now. Again, we never saw anybody who looked like a witness, and eventually The Brief came back in and sat with me, while Witness 2 was taken away and put into a separate mini-bus than the remaining witnesses. We were advised that I had not been identified and that they would now conduct the same process with the third witness.
Repeat Paragraph above two more times
The time came for the fifth and final witness. Again, the same process as per previous four witness, the first mini-bus now empty, the second mini-bus now holding four witnesses, with details of the event being read out, us being asked if we wanted to switch tables, us electing to stay where we were but, we did switch our now overflowing ashtray, for a nearby empty one. We were left once more in peace. We sat down to yet more coffee and even more cigarettes. We sat, we smoked, we drank, we smoked, we talked, we smoked (we smoked a lot in those days, which is probably why I now have COPD). After a while we became aware of a commotion at the food counter. Somebody was pointing an causing finger at a guy at the counter: a number of gentlemen in overcoats then surrounded the man being pointed to and was asked to accompany them to a nearby table. I think you’ve guessed by now: the one pointing the finger was witness 5. The one being pointed to was supposed to have been the assailant: the gentlemen in overcoats were the police. I don’t know what discussions took place between the police and the man at the counter but do know that was he allowed to continue purchasing his meal and was left in peace, assuming he still had an appetite. The gentlemen in overcoats then turned their attention to me. They formally advised me that I had not been fingered (my expression) by any of the witnesses and that I would now need to return to the Police Station so that I could be de-arrested (not sure if that was the phrase but sounds cool) and formally released.
As we sat in my nice shiny Ford Granada Scorpio and lit up yet another cigarette, we looked back on what had just happened and breathed a sigh of relief. Life behind bars was not for me. It was at this point that The Brief told me: Had I gone for Option 1 and I’d been selected as one of the assailants, my defence would have been strong on the basis that I was the only option given to the witnesses. Having gone for option 2 however, my defence would have been weak and the prosecution, very strong. “Now he tells me” I think to myself. Anyway, it’s all over now, lets go to the pub. OK says The Brief. “I’ll switch the ‘meter’ off in that case”. This obviously meant that not only had I driven The Brief the sixty miles to Newbury, and subsequently back, but I had paid for the time he was sitting there. On top of that , given what he told me about the two options possible ramifications, after the event had taken place, I wasn’t too sure of what value be brought to the event. But, I was free, all had been resolved and I no longer had the fear of ‘life behind bars’ hanging over me so I wasn’t about to question it.
As we sat in the bar enjoying a pint of the local brew and smoking more cigarettes, we obviously discussed the recent events. The Brief told me that one of the witnesses had to be pulled out as he was going round and round, determined to find somebody, even going into the ladies and gentlemen’s conveniences: it was going into the ladies convenience that caused them to ‘pull him out’. The man at the counter? well he could easily account for his whereabouts at the time of the incident so he was let go. The Brief then told me that the arresting office confided in him by telling him that his thoughts were either I didn’t do it, or I was the best teller of lies in the land.
So, brew’s consumed we once more settled into my nice shiny Ford Granada Scorpio and set course for home, a Free Man.
2-months later, my blue and white jumper returned.