Informed by the police
"Excuse me Sir, Miss, are you Ronald Greaves and Jennifer Craven?"
I looked at the two police officers as they approached, disturbing the tranquillity of the evening. Jenny and I had finished our evening meal but hadn't cleared the plates away, and sat drinking tea at our picnic table outside my small caravan parked on a site above Settle on the Yorkshire moors. "Yes, we are," I confirmed.
"I'm constable Ray Williams and this is constable Megan Jones." They showed their I.D. "We're sorry to interrupt your meal but we believe you know a Benjamin Bingham."
"BB? Is he okay? Did he ride that bike again before he sobered up?" Jenny asked looking worried.
"He's dead Miss. I'm sorry."
"How? Did he hurt anyone else? I knew I should have taken the whiskey from him but I didn't want to get into a fight."
"No Miss, no one else was involved but we've been asked by the Leicestershire Police to take statements as you were probably the last people to see him alive."
"But how did he die?" He was alive when we left, or I think he was."
"We need to take statements separately from you of your time at the Rutland Water Caravan site before we go into details, Miss."
"You think we killed him?" I asked, quickly visualising the scenario that we killed the boyfriend so I could take his girlfriend.
"No Sir, at this moment, foul play is not suspected but we need to get a picture of the events leading up to his death ready for the coroner."
"Perhaps I could speak to Miss Craven inside the van and take her statement while you talk to Mr. Greaves at the table here?" the woman constable suggested.
He produced a pad of paper and for the next hour I sat and explained in detail, the events that happened at the Rutland Water site. "Please start by stating your name and address and then give as much detail as you can of the time you spent whilst you were at Rutland Water and how you became involved with Jennifer Craven."
PC Jones made a similar arrangement with Jenny and afterwards went through our statements. Mine read:
'I'm Ronald Greaves of 28 Rochester Way, Canterbury, CY1 8BJ and I'm 29 years old and work as a Civil Servant in a Government Office.
Unusually for me, I had to spend a couple of hours at work on the morning of Saturday 6th June, 2009 and therefore didn't start out before noon. Towing the caravan kept my speed down and with heavy traffic and an accident on the M25, I didn't arrive at the Rutland Water site until 6 p.m. I'd booked an overnight stay there before heading for Yorkshire. When I backed into my allotted space I noticed a tent set up in the next plot and a young woman I now know as Jennifer Craven, sat outside looking fed up. I didn't know her then.
"Did you see a motorcyclist with a red helmet on your way?" she asked as I set the caravan on its legs and began preparing for my stay.
"When I said I hadn't, she said, "He went for fish and chips over three hours ago." She looked very worried and frequently looked at her watch, but I continued to set up the caravan and pulled the awning out to give a little shade when I made a meal. While I did this Jenny and I talked about inconsequential things like the weather and the amenities on the site but all the time I knew her thoughts concerned her boyfriend as she kept getting up and looking along the path. We heard the bike approach and both watched as he drove haphazardly along the pathway, first on one side then the other and when he turned onto his plot, he clipped the peg holding my awning causing it to collapse on one corner. When he had difficulty in getting off the bike and Jenny had to help him get it on its stand, I knew he was well and truly drunk and thought it a miracle that he hadn't had an accident on his way there.
While fixing the awning I was close enough to hear their conversation. "You promised you'd given up on the booze, BB, you promised." Jenny started crying as BB (pronounced Beebee) fumbled with the pannier clasp and pulled out a six-pack of beer. He pushed her aside. "Where's my fish and chips then?" she demanded loudly.
In very slow slurred words he said he'd bought them but when he felt unsteady before the ride back, he stopped and ate them.
"Where's the change from the £20 I gave you?"
Still fumbling and muttering, BB eventually pulled out a large bottle of whiskey and stuttered, "They had it on offer at the supermarket." Jenny tried to snatch it away but he pushed her on to the grass. "You bastard, you spent the little money I have on booze that you're supposed to have given up and now you're on a binge again!" He didn't answer.
I went stood close by but Jenny signalled me to keep away. BB sat next to his bike and opened the whiskey and swigged it straight from the bottle. Jenny cried. I connected the van to the power supply, sorted out a few things inside and micro-waved and fried, egg, sausage, bacon and beans and did double the amount I needed. Several times I saw her look at the window and I expected she could smell the food. "It's not a gourmet meal but it's all I can offer," I told her as I took the food to the folding table I'd set up outside. BB clutched the whiskey bottle and crawled into the tent and, with the front still wide open, lay down on top of the double sleeping bag and appeared to sleep. Jenny showed a token reluctance to accept the offered food but I guess her stomach and a few words from me, persuaded her.
"I'm not supposed to have too much fat as I'm mildly diabetic as is my mother but I've only had a sandwich since breakfast and not having any food at all could trigger an attack. We mustn't drink alcohol so I never have any in the house and when BB comes round there's no temptation for him." I found we could talk easily and she told me that Ben, who she always called BB, had been in rehab for a drink problem before they met and had been clean for the three months she'd known him and couldn't understand why he suddenly changed. "His mother told me that once he has one glass of beer, he is a compulsive drinker and is unable to stop until he passes out," she told me, "But so far he's always adamantly refused when offered alcohol."
She helped me clean up and we chatted for a while and I found out they came from Faversham, not ten miles from where I lived. After that she went back to the tent and sat outside looking miserable. BB had woken up and sat sipping from the whiskey bottle again.
I prepared for bed about 10 p.m. because I wanted an early start in the morning, and had just put on my pyjamas when Jenny knocked at the door. "Sorry, to disturb you Ron, but can I sleep in here tonight. The mess and the smell is unbearable in the tent and I don't want to sit outside all night." I let her in and cleared the spare bed while she explained, "He's been sick over my side of the bed, and shit his trousers and pissed over the sleeping bags. I'll have to try and make my own way home in the morning. This was supposed to be my first real holiday without my parents and it's turning out to be a disaster. I'm 21 and mother's always treated me as a child but she liked BB and he's a nice person until he gets drunk but I hadn't seen that side of him before, although his mother warned me many times not to give him any alcohol, not even a sip. Perhaps you could drop me off somewhere on your route so I can get a train or a bus?"
I agreed and suggested, "We'd better get the rest of your stuff because I want to make an early start to get to Settle by midday." There was enough daylight to see without torches and when she opened the tent, the appalling smell hit us and I tried to hold my breath. BB lay on his side with a pile of vomit nearby and where Jenny had expected to sleep, and he'd very obviously messed his trousers and the sleeping bag underneath him. He moaned when I moved him a little to get at Jenny holdall, so he was definitely alive when we left him shortly after ten that evening. I only zipped the tent door halfway to let some fresh air in and dissipate the smell.
A little after 3 a.m., I heard Jenny weeping and I put the light on. We were both wide awake so I made us mugs of tea and we spoke about her options and BB for a short while and gave her a hug. When I returned to my bed she came in with me but we only cuddled for her comfort and didn't have sex. One of the options I suggested was for her to stay with me for the holiday. I'd booked a week at the Settle site and another five days near Whitby, and she could return to Kent with me. She didn't commit herself at that time but she did when we'd had a light breakfast of cereals and were headed for the A1. That pleased me partly because I wasn't very keen on driving through Stamford or Grantham town centres towing a caravan to find a railway station. From what I found out later, she probably didn't have enough money for the train fare home either.
I suggested she ought to leave BB a note to say she intended to go home by train; at that time she hadn't decided to stay with me and we opened an empty cereal box and she wrote, "Getting the train home, we're through. Jenny." While I readied the caravan for leaving she went to the tent and posted the note through the open part of the door. I didn't see her look in but she remarked afterwards he appeared to be sleeping when she peeped through the opening and the tent still smelt vile.
For the first part of the journey she sat quietly in the passenger seat but cheered up when I pulled into a service station (can't remember which one but we'd been going about an hour and a half) for breakfast. This time she chose her food carefully. For the rest of the journey we talked and even joked at times but I could sense leaving BB was a major trauma in her life.
We stopped in Settle for a meal and by the time we reached the site in the hills above the town and connected the caravan to the supplies, the clock read 1:09. I felt shattered from the long, rather slow drive and from the disturbed night, and lay down on the bed. She lay beside me and thanked me for saving her.
We didn't hear any more about BB until the police arrived and informed us of his death.'
"How did he actually die?" I asked after PC Williams finished going through my statement and I'd signed it. Jenny came out and sat alongside and I hugged her tightly. From the tears in her eyes, I guessed she'd already been told.
"From the reports, it seems that he died by choking on his own vomit and they think sometime between 2 and 5 a.m. but they cannot be precise because his body wasn't discovered until three days later when a couple were given the plot you occupied and complained about the smell. They found his I.D. and contacted his parents and they contacted yours," he added looking at Jenny, "But they had no idea where you were until you sent a postcard from Settle. The police knew why you didn't take your mobile when they found it in the dried vomit."
"I offered her mine," I told them, "but she decided phoning them would only lead to a row so she sent the card."
"Have you any idea why Mr. Bingham went on a binge after being clean for months, Miss Craven?" the policewoman asked.
"No, everything seemed fine and I looked forward to the holiday. He seemed happy enough when he left and I expected him back within the hour so I was pretty worried when Ron came and hadn't seen him. I thought he might be in hospital somewhere. What happens now?"
"There will be an inquest, probably in Leicester and I expect they'll want both of you to attend and it could throw some light on the why question if they find any local witnesses. It's not our area so we don't know what's going on there. We will need to know where you are in case we need to contact you again but I doubt that will be necessary."
They left soon after.
Until that evening our relationship had been platonic. Yes, I'd hugged her a few times when she needed comforting and kissed her forehead while I held her but we'd slept in separate beds and didn't have sex. In the confined space of the caravan, of course, I'd seen her near naked body a few times and liked what I saw. She'd a slim figure, with curly mouse coloured hair and fairly small breasts. Not a glamour girl but certainly not ugly. During the day, we walked in the hills and I sketched a little, not as much as I would have if I'd been on my own, but Jenny didn't appear to begrudge the time waiting for me, and even without proper walking boots, was able to keep up with me. Fortunately the weather remained dry.