Clean Cut(10)
Author:Lynda La Plante

    Within hours, the team had been given an address for Murphy, two streets away from Irene Phelps. There was a huge amount of press and TV coverage, warning the public that they should not approach Murphy but contact the police if he was seen. In the hostel that he had been allocated by the probation services, they found Murphy’s possessions: bloodstained clothes, a pair of trainers that had blood on the soles and over the laces, stacks of pornography and a few items of no significant value that had belonged to Irene Phelps. There were also all his social services records and probation contacts, and twenty-two pounds in cash stuffed into an envelope. But there was no sign of Murphy himself; no one at the hostel had seen him for two days.

    Sheldon was in a fury as the details came in. He was standing behind his desk, shaking his head. The fact that nobody from the probation service or the community management of offenders had reported the disappearance of Murphy to the police was disgusting. His face had gone puce with anger.

    ‘It’s fucking unbelievable; this bastard is released halfway through a life sentence for rape and manages to just walk out of his hostel to kill another woman without anyone knowing what was going on! The probation services just bleated on about lack of funds and serious staff shortages, especially here in London; well, that doesn’t help us, that doesn’t help us one fucking iota, because that son of a bitch is out there and we know he’s going to do it again!’

    Anna let Sheldon wind down, not that she disagreed with a word he was saying; the entire system was a farce. It was obvious there were serious deficiencies in the way Murphy had been managed.

    ‘I was just wondering, sir, if we have any details on Murphy’s parents, or any relatives? We know he left the hostel in a hurry, and with money left behind, so he has to be on the run somewhere. Maybe someone is hiding or protecting him.’

    ‘What kind of person hides this animal? And don’t give me mother love; if she is hiding him, then she’s as bad as he is.’

    ‘So do we have anything on his parents?’

    ‘Some bitch spawned him, yeah.’ He checked through a file. ‘Father dead eight years ago. Mother is named as Beryl Dunn–God only knows where she is. Brother also dead, but younger sister, Gail Dunn, living at an undisclosed address. We can check her out, but I want you to get onto his probation department and get them to give us as many details as they can.’

    Murphy’s probation officer, one of a team allocated to him and numerous others, was surprisingly young. She was slim and neat with large rimless glasses, and very much on the defensive.

    ‘You know we have two hundred thousand offenders under supervision at any one time.’

    ‘But not in the specific area.’ Anna tried not to sound angry.

    ‘No, of course not, but we do have over a hundred. What I was going to say was that, out of that two hundred thousand, we know that only about a hundred will commit a further serious offence. That is a fraction of one per cent.’

    Anna gritted her teeth. ‘I am here about one specific offender, Arthur George Murphy.’

    ‘Yes, yes, I know that, but I am trying to explain to you: we get so much pressure–blame, in reality–when we do not have the resources to monitor offenders, even those that we have been told are high or very high risk.’

    Anna took a deep breath. ‘That is irrelevant. The fact is Arthur Murphy was able to walk out of his hostel and kill a poor defenceless woman. I am not here to listen to the problems within the probation services; it sounds very sobering and appalling and for you, obviously, deeply distressing. I need from you any possible friend, relative, any previous known contact of his that he might have been able to get to, anyone who could be protecting him.’

    ‘I am not allowed to divulge personal details.’

    That was it. Anna jumped up and banged on the woman’s desk with the flat of her hand. ‘Irene Phelps was raped and sodomized, her throat cut, her body slashed, and she was found by her twelve-year-old daughter. Now, that child will live for the rest of her life with that nightmarish image of her mother. We need to bring this man in and charge him; we need to put him away and this time, for life, so if you have anything, and I mean anything, that might help us trace him, then would you please assist me to the best of your ability and not make excuses for the total failure of your department!’

    Anna slammed the door of her Mini so hard the car rocked. She could not believe the amount of time it had taken to get three possible contacts that their killer might or might not have approached. His sister, Gail Dunn, had requested anonymity after her brother’s last rape and prison sentence: she had moved away from London in the hope of losing all contact with him. The other two names were recently released prisoners who had spent time with Murphy. Both these men were installed in different hostels in London, one tagged, so they should not be too difficult to track down.

    Anna reported back to the incident room. Blunt took the job of tracking down the two ex-prisoners; she and Brandon were to visit Murphy’s sister. To be cooped up with Brandon and his cologne for a long drive to the New Forest was not a prospect Anna relished. She would have preferred to do it alone.

    When she had suggested this, Sheldon had one of his nasty turns, pointing his finger at her. ‘This man is dangerous. No way would I allow you to visit his sister alone; neither of you can take the risk if he’s hiding out there, and it’s a possibility. So, I’ve already contacted local police for back-up; you touch base with them as soon as you arrive and they’ll be standing by. You are not working with risk-taker Langton now, Detective Inspector Travis–I look out for my team. Now get on out there!’

    Anna made no reply. He’d made her feel two inches tall, and she was beginning to loathe him, but at the same time she knew he was right. Murphy could be anywhere, and he was dangerous.

    Gail Dunn, Arthur Murphy’s sister, had been traced to the New Forest. She had been using the surname Summers when she first moved, but now called herself Sickert. Gail was living in a rented bungalow with numerous outhouses used as a small market garden business and piggery. Judging by the state of the entire premises, it was none too successful. The gate hung off its hinges and there were deep puddles and potholes in the drive leading to the bungalow. Numerous wrecked cars littered the land, rusting and tyreless. Kids’ bicycles and toys were left in profusion on a balding patch of lawn.

    Brandon sniffed and pulled a face. ‘Jesus Christ, what is that stench?’

    ‘Pigs. There’s some pens out the back.’

    Brandon looked around uneasily. ‘You know, the Gov was right. I don’t like the look of this place. I’ll call in for the back-up. If Murphy’s hiding out in any of those outbuildings, he can just do a runner.’

    ‘Maybe we should have just tipped them off to search and not waste time.’ Anna followed his gaze. The place looked awash with mud. ‘Or don’t you want to get your shoes muddy?’

    Brandon glared at her; he was not amused, but walked away from the front door to make a call. He gestured for her to go ahead and ring the doorbell. Anna pressed the bell, but it made no sound; she pressed again.

    Brandon joined her. ‘We got two cars on their way; not answering the door, huh?’

    ‘Bell’s not working.’ Anna rapped with her knuckles on the door.

    Brandon walked to a window and cupped his hands to peer inside, then rejoined Anna at the front door.

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