When I look back at my life and the events that have led me to this place in time and a decision I now have to make you'd think I'd feel more ... well anger, hate, bitterness to name but a few, instead all I feel is numb. A numbness that currently clouds my judgement, affects my thinking and makes me mourn the loss of any feelings or emotions, or would no doubt if I could mourn.
My name doesn't matter, not really, though you can call me Peter and my tale such as it is goes back over twenty years to a young man, happy, married and a with young child, a daughter for us to cherish and hold.
Life was good, I'd recently attained a promotion, was up to date with the mortgage repayments, had good friends and family, I was quite fit, jogged and cycled during my trips to work and back if the English weather chose to cooperate.
Then the girl went missing...
Everyone remembers the case of Kimberley, the ten year old girl who vanished from my town in the area in which I lived. We were all shocked and for a few days everyone was very careful with their kids. Police conducted house to house enquiries though I suspect they learned very little, certainly I knew nothing. After a couple of days blood spattered clothing had been found in one of the local woods, but not apparently the scene of the crime, I knew the area well, I jogged through it on my way to work, though I never saw the girl in question even though I was in the area at the time, as I told the police. However, once the clothing was found the police concentrated their efforts on those who may have seen something hence calling on me again to go over my story. Again I told them I couldn't help, yes I was in the woods, but no I hadn't seen or heard anything. My wife Susan sat and held my hand through the interview and I could see the police were not too happy. Still, I knew I was innocent so when they asked if they could examine my jogging gear I had no objections. My wife told them that she'd washed the items, but the police took them away anyway along with my trainers.
Next day the local paper announced that the police were following several lines of enquiry but were hoping for a resolution soon. No doubt this was said due to the local MP getting involved along with national newspaper attention despite there being no body as yet. The next day I was knocked out of bed by the police at around 5am and I was arrested and manhandled out of the house despite my attempts to say I would come voluntarily. I was dragged away in handcuffs as my wife was left holding my terrified daughter and trying to comfort her as our neighbours woken by the incident all were craning their heads out of various doors and windows to watch the scene. I was terrified and confused, but certain it was all a mistake and that it would soon be sorted out, after all I had faith in the British justice system, the kind of faith that comes from never having run into the damned thing.
I spent several hours in the cells awaiting some form of action gradually becoming more and more agitated and feeling more and more powerless. Finally I was taken to an interview room and questioned, going over and over the same details I had given the police earlier and giving the same answers which did not appear to please them one jot.
"Look we know you were involved," one of them finally said. "Why don't you just come clean and tell us what you did with her?"
"Because I wasn't involved and don't know," was all I could answer, before finally asking for a solicitor as they showed no signs of either releasing me or verifying my story, other than to insist I was involved and they had evidence to link me to Kimberley. The solicitor duly arrived and I was told to say no more and that a magistrate would probably release me when I saw one, probably later that day. Well, I did see the magistrate, only to end up remanded in custody pending further police enquiries, allowing them more time to check various enquiries and evidence. The small court was packed with reporters and my name was now in the nation's consciousness and some members of the public hurled abuse at me. I thought it the worst day of my life, how wrong I was...
I didn't see the papers the following day, but they'd dug up a pic of me from somewhere and had gone over my life with a fine toothed comb. My wife and daughter had apparently been forced into hiding due to various threats being made and my parents and friends seemed to have gone into total denial of the events surrounding me. Even the company I worked for simply put out a bland statement saying they were cooperating with the police in their enquiries. The press, local and national, of course, were having a field day and anyone I'd ever known or indeed said they knew me was being interviewed and I was not being presented in a good light at all. Trial by media is not supposed to exist, but believe me it does.
The police had naturally ransacked the house taking away various contents; again they were keeping any evidence they had or hadn't found close to their chests for now. Eventually though I was charged, such was the serious nature of the accusation that I was remanded in custody to prevent me absconding and also, my solicitor told me in an aside, to protect me from being lynched, such was the speculation about my part in the crime.
Jail was horrific. I had to be placed in solitary for my own protection, though it didn't stop several incidents from occurring, seems I was not too popular with the staff either. Yet all through this I held to my story, the simple truth, as if it would somehow become clear to the police and courts. My solicitor and the barrister now representing me had warned me that, somehow or other, the forensic evidence found linked me to the scene where the clothing had been found quite specifically.
The trial destroyed all notions I had in fair play and justice. My solicitor even tried to persuade me that if I did know anything I should tell him so that he could plea bargain or seek mitigation for me. As it was, I pleaded not guilty then had to watch as a web of circumstances and what appeared to be falsified evidence was presented by the prosecution. The police had found blood matching the girls on my trainers, there were also other traces on my tracksuit too. The claim was also made that they'd also found traces of semen (mine) on the bloodied clothing they'd found in the woods. They also told the court that several pornographic magazines and videos of a dubious nature had been found in my house. My defence was poor; my wife testified that she had washed the tracksuit but saw no traces of blood. When pressed she admitted she had just screwed it up and thrown it in the machine without inspecting it. She knew nothing about the porn (however, neither did I). In all, she obfuscated and made herself look as if she was trying too hard to cover for me and that I possibly had some sort of secret life. The attempts to challenge the scientific evidence fell on deaf ears too. The company doing the tests simply said mistakes were not made and I never gave a thought to challenge it independently.
I was found guilty of the abduction of a minor, sexual assault and murder, despite Kimberley's body still not having been found. I was sentenced to twenty years in jail. Sentencing ended in uproar as threats from the girl's family were hurled at me, many screaming that I should have got life. One tried to leap the barrier to get to the dock as I was led away. I ended up in the special category sex offenders wing at Durham prison, alone, abandoned by friends and family, none of whom had turned up for the trial unless as witnesses. I hadn't seen my daughter since my arrest. Letters were returned unopened and the world believed I was a child murdering pervert. Even in the 'nonces' wing things were unpleasant. There are degrees of guilty in the prison pecking order and I was right at the bottom of it. Most of the time I spent in my cell, as to venture out was to run the gauntlet of kicks, blows, bites and spitting. Unfortunately I also had to work in the prison workshops making tinsel for Christmas decorations and was frequently and violently attacked there, picking up several scars and once a broken arm. I received no visitors at all, not even my wife who, along with my daughter, appeared to have vanished from the face of the Earth. What little I could learn of the circumstances suggested that she had changed her name and gone into hiding, possibly abroad. My Mum and Dad, fine upstanding pillars of their local community, had almost withdrawn from the world in shock. They blamed me for 'their' disgrace and loss of standing, utterly disowning me and my memory. Friends and acquaintances 'weren't' anymore and I received notice of the termination of my employment in the post.
How I managed to survive the first six months remains a mystery to me. The memories tend to fade now unless I really try hard to remember, then I remember why I don't try to remember. But survive I did, though my name had now become a synonym for a child molester somewhat on a par with the notoriety of Fred and Rose West, Peter Sutcliffe or Ian Huntley. There were still the occasional attacks upon me, though I'd hardened up somewhat and a lone attack was likely to end up with the attacker bruised and bleeding, lone attacks however were sadly rare. Still, I was gaining a reputation as someone you didn't want to mess with, if only because of the constant pressure upon me.
.... There is more of this story ...