The Wanderlust Lady and the Door to Door Salesman - 17
September 12, 2012
New evidence in the search for the name of the unidentified body
Police report they have had an anonymous tip regarding the van they might be looking for in connection with the hit and run fatality of August 31st, when an elderly woman was killed as she crossed Station Road in Marple.
The van in question belongs to a woman from Hyde, who was questioned by P.C. Reilly. She denies all knowledge of the incident, and although she admits having been in her van in Marple on the day in question, to pay her local sales people – she says that she had left the area well before the time of the accident. However, she has no one to corroborate her story. The police have taken in her van which does show some signs of having been repaired on the front end recently – for forensic tests.
The team investigating the identity of the body have widened their search by asking the local banks to see if there are any obvious lack of withdrawals from their local elderly female customers. “Most transactions at banks are done automatically these days, but again withdrawing a weekly sum of cash for incidental expenses would be considered normal,” said P C Reilly, who is heading the investigating team. “So if a lady customer normally took out £30 a week, or whatever amount, and suddenly that has stopped, we want to know about it, and will follow up any leads that come our way.”
September 13, 2012
Having drunk all my beer last night, I slept long and hard, and was confused to be awakened by a knocking at the front door. I checked my watch and found it was 8 a.m. Much too early for a social call. I decided to ignore it, but the knocking persisted, getting louder, and suddenly a male voice shouted out, “Police, Miss Jones. Nothing to worry about, but please come and open the door.”
I was in a quandary. Should I slip out the back door? Probably not, as they might have both doors covered and it would make me look really suspicious. I'd have to go with the lodger plan, and hope that I could convince them that I wasn't lying.
I pulled on my trousers and shirt and eventually made my way to the front door. “Hold your horses,” I said, as I opened it.
“Good morning sir. Police. I'm P.C. Reilly and this is Lt Nash,” one said. “We understand that this house belongs to Miss Wilhelmina Jones. Is she inside?” Without waiting for an invitation the two officers pushed their way past me and came inside, closing the door behind them. They took seats in the living room.
“Aunt Minnie's gone to visit some friends,” I said.
“When do you expect her back?”
“Any day now. She's been gone almost a fortnight and doesn't like to stay away from home for long.”
“You say she's your aunt. What's your name please?”
“And you live here with your aunt?”
“No, well, yes, I am at the moment. She asked me to stay when I called in to see her a few weeks ago, as I'd lost my room in Hyde.”
“When exactly did you last see your aunt?”
“About midday on Thursday the 30th of August. I remember the date because it was just before the end of the month and I was expecting my bonus from work.”
“Could you describe your aunt for us please?”
“She's about 70, about 5'9” tall, fairly thin, with long grey hair.”
“Someone of that description was killed in a hit and run accident on Station Road in Marple on Friday the 31st of August.”
“You mean she was killed?” I said, really truly shocked by the knowledge that what I'd sort of hoped for had come true – not that I wished anything as awful as being hit by a car on the old lady.
“I wonder if you might be able to come with us to the morgue and identify her body,” said the other officer. “She had no identification on her, so we've been unable to contact anyone regarding her death.”
“Haven't you seen the notices in the paper or heard about this in the news?” asked the first officer.
“I don't have a TV or radio,” I replied, “and haven't looked at any local papers, except for the jobs section. I did see a notice on Station Road about the accident – but had no idea that it had anything to do with Aunt Minnie.”
“Can you account for your movements on those two days?” I was then asked. “You say you left her at about midday on the 30th. Where did you go then?”
Knowing that my best bet was to stick as close to the truth as I could, I said, “I had a job selling stuff door to door. I hadn't even realised that my territory included Aunt Minnie's house, so I called in and talked to her for a long time. That was when she said she'd like me to stay here. She said she was going away and it would be good if somebody was in the house to make sure nobody broke in as there've been several burglaries in the area, and she'd had a note through the door from the police – probably from you,” I added, “and she was a bit worried about leaving it empty. As I only had a room which I couldn't really afford to pay for in Hyde, I told her I'd be happy to move in so I did just that after work the next night. After I left her house, I went around this neighbourhood which was my designated patch for that day. And at 6 p.m. I went to the pick up place by Marple Library and went home. The next day was just routine, with being picked up, selling stuff and then going to the pick up place.”
“Did you see your aunt again that day?”
“But you intended to move into her house that night.”
“Carry on with your story.”
“On the 31st, my boss, who owed me some money and a bonus, gave me a lift part way, but we had an argument, and she fired me, so she kicked me out of the van, and I walked back here to Aunt's house – getting here when it was quite late – nineish or so. Aunt had already left, but she'd told me where to find the key.”
“And where was that, sir?”
“Under the flower pot by the front door.”
“You say you drove off with your boss. Could you tell me her name, please?”
“I only know her first name – Sadie.”
“And what sort of van was she driving?”
“A white one – a Nissan.”
“Did you notice anything in the way of damage to the front of her van when you got in?”
“No, but I wasn't interested in that. I was keen to get the money she owed me.”
“You say she got angry with you, fired you, and kicked you out of the van. Can you tell me what the fight was about?”
“She said I wasn't pulling my weight with the company. She said the others sold twice as much as I did.”
“And she fired you for that?”
“Well, I got pretty heated too, and called her a few names, stuff like that.”
“And what sort of time would you say she kicked you out and drove off in a huff?”
“I didn't notice exactly, but I suppose it must have been quarter to seven, something like that. I was a bit late getting to the library and we talked for awhile before we took off, and after she stopped the van.”
“Could you see what way the van was pointing when she drove off?”
“Well, I later discovered that we were on School Lane, so she would've gone down that for awhile. She probably turned right, going back towards Hyde when she got to the main road.
“But she might've turned left towards Marple again.”
“I was too far away and couldn't see the main road.”
“Could you think of any reason why she might've been going back to Marple that night?”
“I didn't know the woman. She probably had somebody to meet up with. She said something about having other people who'd be glad to get my job. She didn't say where they lived.”
“Well, that answers most of our questions. Could we bother you to finish getting dressed and then you can come down with us to identify your aunt's body.”
“Okay, I guess so,” I said, not relishing this one little bit. But I did as I was told, and put on my shoes and socks and picking up my old jacket, went back out to the living room.
“I don't suppose you've had any breakfast,” said one.
“No,” I admitted, “but I often don't.”
“We'll give you some coffee when we get this job over and done with. You might need it.”
“Is she is bad shape?”
“Well, let's just say her face wasn't nice enough to put a picture of her in the paper.”
I sat in the back and the officers talked to each other in the front all the way to the police station in Manchester. I was surprised as I'd expected to stop in Stockport. I hoped I wouldn't get sick when I saw her again.
Answering my unasked question, one of the officers said, “They don't keep unidentified bodies at the hospital morgue more than a few days. Then they're stored at the Manchester police morgue for the whole region. We get quite a few unidentified bodies over the course of a month. We call them Joe Bloggs or Jane Bloggs. In America I guess they call them John or Jane Doe but here that term is used for an unidentified person in a legal case.”
Inside the door, and down in the lift, it was just like in the police stories I'd watched on TV. We went into a large room, and the chief officer told the man at the desk that we were here to see Jane Marple.
“That wasn't her name,” I said.
“We know that. We didn't know what her name was – but because she was found in Marple, some clown thought it'd be fun to call her Jane Marple, after Miss Marple in the Agatha Christie stories instead of Jane Bloggs2. They'd already had one unidentified that day at the hospital.”
“Did you know that Agatha Christie did really name her character after the town of Marple? Apparently she was travelling through it by train and thought it was a nice name, so she used it,” said the other officer.
The trolley was pulled out from its slot, and the white sheet drawn back to reveal the face and head.
I was shocked to the core. Minnie's face was almost obliterated. But the hair and general shape of her head was right.
“Is she your aunt?” they asked.
“I think so,” I just managed to squeak out. “The hair looks right. And I can remember what she was wearing the day before, if that helps.”
“She doesn't have any clothes on now, but there'll be a record of what she was wearing when she came in. What do you say she was wearing?”
“Well I suppose she might have changed since she was going to visit somebody, but she had on some dark grey sweat pants and a dark blue sweater when I last saw her,” I said.
“You know you say she was going to visit somebody. I wonder why she didn't have a suitcase or even a handbag with her when she was hit,” put one of the men.
“I don't think she had a suitcase,” I said. “She probably just had a few things in a plastic bag.”
“Well, we didn't find anything like that on the scene.”
“Maybe somebody else picked it up first.”
“Well, thank you Mr. Barber, for your help. Will you be staying on at your aunt's house? We may need to contact you again.”
“Yes,” I said. “I've no place else to go.”
“Do you have a phone number that we can contact you on?”
“No, I don't have a mobile, and aunt doesn't have a house phone either.”
“Well, we'll drop by and see you again, then.”
“Are you okay to find your own way home from here?”
“I didn't bring any money for the train,” I said. “It's a long walk.”
“Here you are kid,” said one, giving me a £5 note. “We need to do some paper work on this case now we're here, otherwise we'd've given you a lift back. Get yourself a coffee. You look like you need it. We'll charge it to incidental expenses.”
So I made my way from the police station to Piccadilly station and caught the next train back to Marple. The ticket was £3.50 so I thought I'd get a sandwich on the way home with the rest.