The Outcast Dead(10)
Author:Elly Griffiths


    ‘Take Mrs Donaldson into Interview Room 2, Johnson, and then we’ll have a quick team meeting.’

    *

    Nelson begins the briefing at a gallop. ‘We can only keep the suspect in for twenty-four hours without charge so let’s get our interviewing strategy right. How did she seem?’

    ‘Calm,’ says Judy. ‘Self-composed.’

    ‘She asked us to wait while she put her make-up on,’ puts in Tim.

    Judy shoots him another black look. ‘I don’t see that that’s relevant. Most women put make-up on before they leave the house.’

    ‘Do you?’ mutters Clough. Judy pretends not to hear him. Tim gives Judy a sideways glance. Her face looks shiny and make-up free. She has nice freckles, he notices.

    ‘I think it could be significant,’ says Nelson slowly. ‘It could mean that she’s putting on a different face for us.’

    Tim thinks this is a rather perceptive comment. Nelson has grown-up daughters, he remembers. Judy, though, snorts contemptuously. Nelson carries on, ‘Has she called a lawyer?’

    ‘Yes,’ says Tim. Liz made two phone calls before they left the house. One to her ex-husband and one to her lawyer.

    ‘Who’s her solicitor?’

    Judy answers. ‘Nirupa Khan.’

    Nelson groans. Tim gathers that Ms Khan is not a personal friend. ‘Well, we’d better get going double quick. Nirupa will have her stopwatch going. Johnson.’

    ‘Yes Boss.’ The briefing room is small but Tim notes that Judy has moved as far away from him as possible. ‘I want you to take the lead on this. Be sympathetic. You’re a young mum, you know what it’s like to have a crying baby, all that kind of thing.’

    ‘I’m not bringing Michael into this.’ Judy looks mutinous.

    ‘Shall I do it?’ Tanya chimes in. ‘It might be too distressing for Judy, having a young baby and everything.’

    Tim suppresses a smile. He has already noticed that Tanya always volunteers for everything, whether it’s meeting the chief constable or going on the afternoon chocolate run.

    Judy shoots a distinctly unfriendly look at her colleague. ‘I’m all right, Tanya. It’s my job.’

    ‘Yes, I need Judy’s expertise here,’ says Nelson. ‘Tim, you back her up.’

    ‘OK, Boss.’

    ‘In the meantime, Cloughie and I will talk to the husband. We should speak to the grandparents too. Anyone else?’

    ‘Liz mentioned a babysitter,’ says Judy. ‘Justine something.’

    ‘Good. We need anyone who can help us build up a picture of Liz Donaldson as a mother. Tanya, you check her record of hospital attendance with all three children.’

    ‘We’ve already done that.’

    ‘We may have missed something. Do it again. Then you can go out with Rocky and talk to the neighbours.’

    Tim notes that Tanya looks less than delighted. He has already come across PC ‘Rocky’ Taylor, the slowest man in British policing. As a pairing, it’s not exactly Cagney and Lacey.

    Tom Henty appears in the doorway. ‘Miss Khan is here, Boss. She says she hasn’t got all day.’

    ‘Charming,’ says Nelson. ‘OK. Let’s get to work.’

    *

    Tim has to admire Judy’s style. She starts off low key, leaning confidentially across the desk.

    ‘Are you OK, Liz? Have you got everything you need?’

    ‘I’m OK.’ Liz Donaldson is sitting patiently, hands clasped in her lap. The pink tracksuit looks almost shockingly bright in the basement interview room. The hastily applied make-up looks garish, lips too red and eyes too dark. She appears calm but Tim thinks that there is something defeated in her posture, as if she has already been convicted and is waiting for sentencing.

    ‘You kept her waiting nearly half an hour,’ says Nirupa Khan.

    Nirupa Khan is small and neat, with black hair drawn back into a tight ponytail. Tim thinks that she is trying to appear older and tougher than she actually is. The black suit adds a few years, as does the hair style. Her manner is brusque and aggressively charmless. Tim can see why she and Nelson draw sparks from each other.

    Judy doesn’t rise to the comment or mention that the lawyer only arrived ten minutes ago. She continues to address Liz in the same calm voice.

    ‘You know why you’re here, Liz? The autopsy on David has raised a few questions.’

    ‘What sort of questions?’

    ‘The pathologist found traces of fibres in David’s nose and mouth.’

    Tim knows what Judy is doing. Keep saying the name, that’s what the books say. The more you can make the suspect concentrate on the dead child, rather than the manner of their death, the better. He sees Liz flinch away from the words and thinks that Judy too looks rather sick. Must be hard doing this when you’ve got a child yourself.

    ‘What does that mean?’ asks Liz, her voice steady but her hands tense on her lap.

    ‘It suggests that David was suffocated,’ says Tim.

    ‘Suffocated?’

    ‘Liz,’ says Judy. ‘Why don’t you take us through the events of last Tuesday again.’

    Liz looks at Nirupa who nods slightly.

    ‘It was afternoon,’ she says. ‘I’d taken David to the mother and toddler group and he’d fallen asleep in his pushchair on the way back. When we got home I carried him upstairs, put him down to sleep in his cot and went back downstairs. I did some housework then I made myself a cup of coffee. I sat on the sofa and I went to sleep. I was … I was very tired. David wasn’t sleeping much and nor was I. When I woke up it was almost five. I couldn’t hear a sound from the baby monitor. I thought that David had been asleep a long time. It’s usually only an hour or two in the afternoons. I went upstairs and he was lying face down in his cot.’

    ‘Did you put him to sleep face down?’.

    ‘No, I knew it was dangerous to do that. I put him on his side.’

    ‘Was there a pillow in the cot?’

    ‘No. They shouldn’t have pillows until they’re a year old.’

    ‘Was he still in his outdoor clothes?’

    ‘No. I’d taken off his jumper and trousers. He was just in his vest and nappy.’

    She knows all the answers, thinks Tim. He’s read up on it and knows that children can die because they’re too hot or because they’ve suffocated on a pillow. Judy must know this too, that’s why she’s asking these questions again. Christ, why does anyone become a parent? The worry would kill you.

    ‘When did you realise something was wrong?’ asks Judy.

    ‘I think I knew as soon as I went into the room,’ says Liz, twisting her hands together. ‘I turned him over and his face was blue and his skin was cold …’ Her voice dies away.

    ‘What’s the point of this line of questioning?’ says Nirupa, leaning forward to pat her client on the shoulder. ‘I assume you’ve been through all this before.’

    ‘New evidence has emerged,’ says Judy. She, too, leans forward.

    ‘Was anyone else in the house, Liz? When David died?’

    ‘No. I was on my own.’

    ‘When did you call the ambulance?’

    ‘Immediately. I had my phone with me.’

    ‘That’s efficient,’ says Judy. ‘I always leave mine downstairs.’

    Nice touch, thinks Tim. But Liz is ready for it. She looks coolly at Judy. ‘I always have mine with me.’

    Tim, says, ‘It must be tough having a baby who doesn’t sleep.’

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