Clean Cut(9)
Author:Lynda La Plante


    ‘I think, due to the ferocity of the attack, we could be looking at someone with a previous record of violence and assault, so get cracking and let’s see if we can get a better result today.’

    Anna said nothing. She noticed Blunt and Brandon huddle with Sheldon for a while before they broke up. Sheldon then gestured for her to come into his office.

    ‘You were late,’ he said curtly.

    ‘Yes, I’m sorry–I got caught up in traffic.’

    ‘Not a good enough excuse. I run a very tight unit.’

    ‘I’m sorry.’ She changed the subject fast. ‘Have you heard anything from the PM report?’

    ‘Nope. In fact, I’m just on my way over there if you’d like to join me.’

    ‘Thank you.’

    She sat in rather uneasy silence in the rear of the patrol car, while Sheldon had a lengthy call to someone she presumed was his dentist, as he was asking about root canals and the cost; then it went from root canals to implants. He again discussed the cost, and swore, before eventually agreeing to call back.

    ‘Do you have toothache?’ she asked.

    ‘No, my wife, but it’s private and costs a bloody fortune. She had four front teeth capped six months ago and it came to over three thousand quid.’

    ‘It is expensive,’ she murmured, not that interested.

    ‘How is he doing?’

    ‘Pardon?’

    ‘Langton. I heard he was in a bloody no hope situation.’

    She felt her hand tense. ‘Well, he’s far from that and is expected out of Glebe House soon,’ she lied.

    ‘Well, he’s a fighter, I’ll give him that, but not someone I’ve ever got on with–probably why he’s never made Superintendent. Now, he might–if he’s going to be kept on in some kind of desk job capacity.’

    She bit her lip. ‘I think he’s very keen to get back to the murder team.’

    ‘Yeah, they all say that, you know–but you don’t get shipped out there for nothing.’

    She wanted to punch the back of his red neck. ‘He simply requires a lot of physio on his injured knee.’

    Sheldon turned round, resting his arm along the back of the seat. ‘Well, I suppose you’ll be a regular visitor, so send him my regards when you next see him.’

    ‘I will.’ She was annoyed at the implication that she was on such close terms with Langton, as she had attempted to keep their private life just that–private.

    ‘I knew his first wife,’ the DCI went on. ‘Indian, I think she was, very beautiful–had a tumour and died very suddenly.’

    ‘Yes, I believe so.’

    ‘He had a tough time dealing with it–well, I suppose one would. I think he was shipped out to Glebe House that time too, though I may be wrong.’

    ‘Yes, you are. He has never been there before.’

    ‘Ah well, you know how rumours spread.’

    ‘Yes, I do.’ She leaned back and stared out of the window, hoping the conversation was over.

    ‘I worked with your father,’ Sheldon continued. It was bad enough him talking about Langton, but now her father! ‘Yeah, just in uniform. He was a character–scared the life out of everyone, had a right old temper on him, similar to Langton, in many ways. He never could tolerate all the paperwork. Well, he’d hate it even more now–fart and you’ve got to leave a bloody memo.’

    She was saved from any further conversation as they drew up into the car park of the mortuary.

    Unlike Langton, Sheldon was quite the gentleman, holding open the doors for her to walk in ahead of him; he also told her to gown up, as if she’d never been at a post mortem before.

    Irene Phelps had really fought for her life. The defensive wounds to her hands and arms were like a patchwork quilt. The crisscross wounds also slashed her cheeks, neck and eyes, with one incision virtually slicing through her right eye. She had died from a single knife wound to her heart: the blade, a kitchen carving knife, had been thrust into her up to the hilt. She had been raped and sodomized after the attack. They had DNA from the assailant’s semen and blood.

    Returning back to base with Sheldon, Anna remained as silent as they had been while at the mortuary.

    They drove for at least five minutes before he spoke. ‘Well, what do you think?’ he asked, not turning to look at her in the passenger seat directly behind him.

    ‘Well, it was obviously a frenzied attack by a killer who left his DNA and probably his fingerprints all over the weapon and the flat.’

    ‘Yes, and…?’

    ‘I don’t think burglary was his initial motive; he may have ransacked the premises after the kill, but I think he was there to kill. He—’

    She was interrupted. ‘Why do you say that?’

    ‘Because of the severity of the wounds. I think he must have been waiting for the opportunity rather than planning it.’

    ‘Go on.’

    ‘There are no signs of a break-in, which means he was possibly already holding our victim when she let herself in. From what I saw at the flat, it did not look as if he was a professional burglar. It’s just as if he was in such a frenzy after the murder and the sexual gratification: he threw things around, searching for anything of immediate value. We know he must have bloodstained clothes; as we have not had anyone coming forwards, having seen the assailant either in or around the victim’s home, he must have somewhere close that he could walk out to.’

    Sheldon turned to face her. ‘Very good observation.’

    ‘Well, it’s all rather obvious. I also think he will have a record of violence and mental instability; he may not have killed before but he will, I am sure, have done this before.’

    ‘Done what exactly?’

    ‘Attacked. The sex we know took place after the victim was dead, or in the throes of dying. Nothing looked premeditated, apart from the entry to the victim’s flat, so there is a possibility that she knew him or had met him before. I don’t mean she knew him well, but she may have seen him before, which again makes me think he lives close by. He could have been watching her, seen her arrive home and then moved to force her into allowing him to enter. As we know, the timeframe is short between Irene leaving work and her daughter discovering the body, so it must have all happened in less than an hour.’

    ‘What about the sandwich he made for himself?’

    Anna shrugged. ‘He was hungry.’



    At the briefing, Sheldon repeated almost word for word what Anna had said. She listened, taken aback; the way Sheldon talked, it was as if he had come up with the possible scenario. By now, they also had the forensic report: the killer had left fibres, two hairs and fingerprints in the kitchen, hall and the study where he had killed Irene Phelps.

    By four-fifteen, they had a suspect who had a police record for assaults on women. Arthur George Murphy was forty-seven years old and had served fewer than thirteen years of a life sentence for a violent sex attack. In other words, he was on parole! Murphy also had a record of attacks on strangers dating back more than thirty years. This convicted sex attacker, whilst on parole and supposedly under supervision, had been free to kill Irene Phelps.

    As the search went out for Murphy, more details of his past came in. The reports were astonishing. Despite his appalling history, Murphy had been considered a low risk, when he was clearly a serious danger to the public. Even a brief check of his file would have been enough to convince anyone that Murphy should not have been walking the streets. His criminal record stretched back to 1975, when he was first convicted for terrorizing women. In 1990, he had been handed a nine-year term for rape. He served six years, the Old Bailey heard how Murphy turned into a snarling animal when he spied his victims. This was when he was sentenced to life; his crime had been a knifepoint rape.

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