Wrongful Arrest

Now that’s got you wondering……..

Well, It was around 07:00 on a Tuesday morning, in the previous Millennium (mid 90’s). My wife was sitting in the living room getting ready for work, when there was a rather loud, urgent knocking at the front door. Door opened, policemen moved in demanding to know where I was: Outside are two police cars and a police van (where we were then living, near Chichester, was not an area where the police were generally needed so the event must have excited the neighbours somewhat). He’s not here, she said. He’s in Gloucester on a course, why do you want him anyway? she asked (I don’t know the exact words, I wasn’t there: I was on a course in Gloucester, nursing as it happened, a bit of a headache).

There had been an incident at Membury Services the previous day and the Thames Valley police were [very] keen to have a word with me about it.

Eventually, convinced that I was wasn’t in the house and that I was actually away on a course, and having confirmed that I did possess, and was driving, a Ford Granada Scorpio 4×4, they left. They did however leave strict instructions that I was to be contacted and told to telephone Newbury Police Station as early as convenient! So, within the space of 30 – 60 minutes what started out as a dawn raid with squad cars and vans reduced to a “can you please phone us when you can”!

The previous day, having packed my bag for a 5-day trip, I bid my wife farewell and set off to Gloucester. Having spent the weekend doing a little too much gardening my back was giving me grief so I elected to avoid taking one of the company pool cars and took my own car, which I had only recent bought. It was a nice shiny Ford Granada Scorpio for which I had traded in my shiny red Ford Sierra XR4 (both cars had a nice 2.8 V6 engine). The main difference, apart from all the sexy trim you get with a Scorpio, was that it was a four wheel  drive – Yummy.

My journey took me across to Winchester then up the A34 to Newbury (the by-pass didn’t exist then so getting through Newbury took some time) then on to the M4. Once on the Motorway I took a break at the Membury Services to make myself comfortable and get a drink so that I could ‘pop some painkillers’ before continuing my journey. Having purchased a coffee I decided to go and sit in the car, take the tablets and relax for 10-minutes – having elected not to take a pool car I hadn’t needed to go to the office first, so I was well ahead with my time.

4X4’s corner really well

The mighty V6 ‘roared’ into life after which, gears selected, we (the Scorpio and I) made our way from the parking lot and onto the road that would once more take me onto the M4. It was at this point I noticed that the road ahead was kind of bendy and twisty and was pleading with me to test the roadholding of my four wheel drive beast. So I floored it taking her up through the gear box at each red line and round the twists and turns before hitting the motorway at approximately 69.999999 miles per hour(!). This car was a good car. I had done well in choosing this car. This car and I were going to have such fun together.

So, where was I? Oh yes, I was [in a perverse way] about to declare my undying love for my new Ford Granada Scorpio! Thinking back, I wish I had taken / kept photographs of her. She was indeed a thing of beauty (in an ugly sort of way being based as it was on an enlarged Sierra) with all sorts of of added extras such as electric seat adjust (up, down, forward, backwards and even tilt). Even the back seats had electric recliners! Ah, I do miss her. Mind you, I miss the XR4 as well, She just went like S@*t off a shovel. 🙂 Maybe I’ll tell about the time when the police in their XR4x4 stopped my in my XR4 and then spent half an hour comparing notes on our cars; or even the time I forced a Police Volvo off the road. The Police and I seemed to be common acquaintances 😦 but I never got into trouble(!) thank goodness. 🙂 These are all true by the way…. But things were about to change………

Back to the story.

Scorpio and I (I just realised, Scorpio is also my star-sign!) continued along the M4, A419, A417 (eventually reaching the Air Balloon Pub roundabout before dropping down into Gloucester and eventually my place of learning for the next 5-days.

My first day in class was a relatively painless one spent mainly getting to know each other, working out who was going to be the swot at the front and who was going to be disruptive one at the back. I was neither: I just sat an acceptable distance away where I could observe both teacher and students. Now, if I remember rightly, this was the course (I went on many in the 90’s) for Operational Supervisors, of which I had been one for some time! and this course was going to involve much role-play. Good-oh, I like role play.

Come the end of the first day, we all checked into our rooms, tidied ourselves up and arranged to meet down in the bar for drinks and dinner. The dinner was secondary, the drinks were primary. That first night was a late night and the following morning was an early morning with an early breakfast of pain-killers and of course a fry-up. And then, much coffee consumed, we all headed back to class.

Day 2 was to be Principles of Supervision, it was also to be the day my spinning head was to spin more than it’s ever spun before: During the mid-morning coffee break, I was passed a message to call my wife urgently, like now. Now all us men know that when your wife says now, she really does mean now, so I had my coffee, a sticky bun, another coffee then I went back to the class acknowledging that I must phone her at lunchtime, which of course I did.

The Awakening

“Where are you” comes the demanding question over the phone: “I’m in Gloucester of course, on a course, why”.  ‘Well”, she says, the Police came around this morning to arrest you” my head reeled then my head laughed. “oh really, what have I done then?” I asked. “I don’t know” she said, “But they need to talk to you about an incident that took place on the M4, a very serious incident” – “Cripes” I thought, “What have I done?” I ask myself. “You [must] phone Newbury Police Station as soon as you can”. This last sentence was delivered with such insistence and urgency that I knew instinctively that I must phone the Newbury Police Station as soon as I can. So I did, there and then.

Just What Did I Do?

I phoned the Newbury Police Station, introduced myself and asked why they wanted to talk to me so urgently and why they had felt the need to attack my home so early that very morning. Naturally, they wouldn’t say. All they would say is that they wanted to speak to me with regard to a very serious incident that took place yesterday morning from which my car was seen leaving rather quickly. They asked if I could come to the station right away. Naturally, I said NO. I was on a course all week and wasn’t expected to finish before Friday Lunchtime. I could if they really insisted on it, call in on Friday on the way home. There was a long pause, and then some muttering, then they came back and said ok. But if I failed to arrive, they would arrest me and bring me in.

So, The Police want to speak me urgently about a Very Serious Incident (from which I had made a quick getaway in my Scorpio), so serious that they sent cars and vans to arrest me, but settled for me phoning them. As soon as I phoned them, half a day later, they wanted to me to come to the station immediately, but they settled for four-days later on Friday.  Whatever it was I’d done, it was clearly very bad but not too bad, so clearly I hadn’t killed anybody. I reached back into my memory banks. I tried to retrace my journey to Gloucester. Had I run any red lights? None that I knew of. Had I seen any accidents around or behind me (that I might have caused)? None that I knew of. Had I felt any untoward bumps, such as running somebody over? None that I knew off, though the Scorpio was a pretty solid car, so I was left with nagging doubts on that one. I could think of nothing else. That must be it, I thought, I’ve knocked somebody over. But, having, subsequently, checked over my car, I could find no such evidence. All I could do was finish the course and head home, via Newbury Police Station, which was, as luck would have it, en-route. Tales of role play can wait for another day.

The Arrest!

I walk into the Police Station and introduced myself. They thanked me for calling in, all very politely and asked me to accompany one of the officers to an interview room. It was here that I found out the extent of my supposed wrong-doing. It would appear that at the time I was in Membury Services, an Asian family had been mocked, ridiculed and then attacked leaving one of the family in need of medical attention. The perpetrators of this incident were two men, one of which matched my description, who was also described as wearing a blue and white jumper. Shortly after the event, a witness noted that my car left the services extremely quickly as if trying to get away from something. This was why why they wanted to speak to me. But, they did give me a let out clause. As already mentioned, the perpetrator who matched my description was wearing a blue and white jumper. If they could search my luggage and found no such garment then it was likely that the meeting would be brought to a swift conclusion. I gave them my keys, with a sudden realisation that in amongst all my, now smelly, clothes was indeed a blue and white jumper. Somehow, I knew I wasn’t going home early.

Predictably, the office came back and with a stern face revealed the jumper. That was that, I was immediately arrested in connection with an assault on an Asian Family and possible ABH or even GBH against the family member requiring medical attention.

The Interview

Following my arrest, I was allowed to make the one customary phone call, to my wife. I told her I had been charged with GBH: the snotty desk sergeant quickly corrected me to say that I had only been arrested, not charged. “I couldn’t give a f@*k” I said, ‘It’s all the same to me”. Actually, they are very different but having never been in such a situation before I felt pretty frightened, so arrested or charged made no difference to me. I was looking at time behind bars, and I didn’t like it.

Following my ‘arrest’ and ‘phone call’ I was taken into a proper interview room with recording equipment and everything. The officer then started to question me. Why was I at Membury Services? Why did I leave so quickly? who was my Accomplice?  Why did I take so long to come to the station? What is my problem with Asians? How many more of those cigarettes are you going to smoke? (as many as I feel like, I replied, with venom). And so the questions went on. “you know, he said, “if you told us who you accomplice was, it make things easier for you”. I racked my brains. Why was I racking my brains. I had no accomplice. But still I racked my brains. Jesus, I think to myself, maybe I did do it but I’m damned if I remember it. The questions continued: What is my job? Who do I work for? What was my car like, it sounds very nice? What are my hobbies? They were trying to be nice and buddy up but I knew their game. They weren’t getting me that easy. My answer with monosyllabic, although there were a few, actually a lot, of expletives. Try as they might however, I couldn’t give them what they wanted. I explained my rapid departure, hence their interest in my ‘nice’ car. I explained how a large number of my work colleagues were Asian. I explained how I didn’t even see or hear of the event until this day. I explained what a bunch of twerps they were. Actually, I didn’t use the word Twerps, but you get the gist.

Bailed

Eventually after 4-hours and 20 Benson and Hedges, they conceded that were going to get nothing from me that evening and they had no substantial evidence with which to detain me any longer. So with that they were to let me go, but on bail. I was to return to Newbury Police Station at a date & time to be advised for further questioning and to attend an identity parade which would be attended by the five family members, one at a time. I was put on notice that if I failed to return, I would be arrested and brought back and it wouldn’t look good for my defence.

I walked out of the Police Station into a now cold, dark, misty night with my luggage, minus my blue and white jumper, clutching copies of my arrest papers and climbed into my nice Ford Granada Scorpio. I sat there bemused and dazed, and even frightened. I fired up the V6, put on the heater, switched on the heated seat, open up another pack of Benson and Hedges and drew on the first fag, finishing it in almost one draw. I sat, gathered my thoughts, composed myself, lit up a second fag, and eased the car out of the station car park and set course for home.

The Identity Parade – Farce

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, I subsequently spent the rest of that late afternoon / evening in an interview under arrest and helping the police with their enquiries 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.

The Brief

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.

Relief

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.

Later on in this same year, I was gassed (see Gas Attack post) in an accident at work: that year was truly [my annus horribilis]!!!

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