Justice

by QM

Tags: Mystery,

Desc: Drama Story: Just how far will a man go to obtain justice? Framed for a crime he didn't commit, a man is prepared to wait years for an opportunity to hit back at those who took his freedom as if it were nothing at all.

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.

After a year I finally started to pull my life together somewhat, my appeals had failed, if anything they just kept me in the public's eye, my barrister sadly told me. I started a study course in law and began making headway towards getting a legal degree in the Open University. Internet access in prison was non-existent back then, but I did have the use of the prison library and what little I earned in the prison workshop went mostly to keep me in pen and paper as I started to go over the details in my own mind, using some of the knowledge I had now to try and pick holes in what seemed to me to be a colossal mistake.

Naturally I didn't have access to the police files, nor the various prosecution reports, well not immediately, eventually my barrister got me access to them. I owe him a debt of thanks, I don't know if he believed me or not, but he never wavered in his duty to me and always gave good and wise counsel. He also freely gave his advice in my chosen area of study and recommended a lot of otherwise obscure points of law in various books relating to my own circumstances. He sadly died before my release, but was one of the few who re-affirmed my belief in the kindness of strangers.

It was in my second year that I started to get occasionally pestered by the police, They seemed to find it either instructive or perhaps funny to send trainee detectives in to interview me, to see whether or not they could open up the case to gain more evidence, including where the body was or at least get a confession of some kind. They didn't have a great deal of imagination and, frankly, I was so starved of outside contact that I would simply agree to speak to them to make a difference to my day. I also started at this time to go to the prison gym to work out, though work out at this stage was merely to get into a position of regaining my fitness and losing some weight. I also chose to grow my hair and a beard at this time to alter my appearance and make myself less of a target, also because I had started to consider my future, a long way off that it was. My work in the prison workshop ended at this time too and I got a new job in the prison library that suited me far better, though I was not permitted to collect books from other wings that were outstanding, which was probably just as well as I was still at risk from attack were my identity to become known.

By the third year I was well on my way to getting my degree in law, though I doubted that any law firm would ever consider taking me on, nor as a solicitor could I see any large client base being available, particularly if my name became known. Still, it was interesting and I learned a lot including some disturbing facts about police corruption and mistakes made with contaminated DNA evidence, though nothing as yet to give me cause to appeal. My name still occasionally came up in the press, there was a rumour circulating that the (allegedly) murdered girl was not my only victim and police were going through old files to see if they could tie me into their cold cases. The mother of Kimberley made an emotional appeal to me to beg me to tell the police where her daughter was, something I couldn't do as I truly had no idea. I also came under psychiatric assessment at this time too, for some reason my cooperation in answering honestly the psychiatrist's questions caused him to label me a classic sociopath. He wanted details of the case only the murderer could know and got irritated when I wouldn't answer him, after all, how was I supposed to honestly answer that? I stuck to the truth and he couldn't accept it.

I finally got my degree in the fourth year and moved on to take the honours course. There was some press agitation that I was being given preferential treatment by being allowed to study, though as this was something all prisoners could do there wasn't a lot they could do other than get my name on the front pages along with an old picture and get the comments section in their pages all riled up. The police still occasionally visited me, though as my story hadn't changed in the last five or so years I think they were getting a little tired of it. I did refuse to see any visitors from the so called 'gentlemen of the press' I knew exactly where I stood with them. My anger, bitterness and confusion had now relented into a cold fury and become a lot more focused as I continued to go over the case files and evidence looking for flaws and it did appear to me that someone, or perhaps more than one, had gone out of their way to deliberately frame me for Kimberley's disappearance and alleged murder. My fitness levels had returned to pretty much where they were just prior to my incarceration and I was now regarded as pretty much off limits to the rest of the block save only the newbies, who rapidly learned the hard way that I was as hard as nails in being able to take it and dish it out at least three times worse. Even the staff now walked carefully around me, though I had never so much as disobeyed any order given and was always unfailingly polite to them. Naturally this somehow got into the press that I was now some sort of king pin enforcer on my wing. I did get a new psychiatrist after refusing to cooperate with the old one any more, seemed that there was still a great deal of interest in the goings on in my head.

My sixth year I gained an honours degree in law and began to help some of the other inmates with legal advice as I was finally able to access a limited internet capable computer in the library. I also began a new series of courses in forensics and the science of crime scene analysis such as it was back in 1999. I did turn down a request from the mother of Kimberley to come in and see me. I knew what she wanted and I couldn't help as I explained in a politely worded letter back to her, expressing my deepest sorrow that she couldn't find closure, but that I could not provide it as I had had no part in her disappearance. An edited version of the letter somehow made it into the press and read like I was mocking her and boasting that they would never get me to confess. They even included an artist's impression as to my current look, which suited me fine as I was tentatively forming a plan of action for what I would do upon my still far off release. I was now certain that I had been deliberately framed for the alleged murder, though was unsure of as to who, or indeed why. Though I did have some very pointed questions I wished to ask my now ex-wife (Decree Nisi and Absolute arriving on the same day for signature, no address of course save her solicitors). I also had some questions for the investigating inspector and his team too, along with the forensics company. Though the only way to cross examine them would be to appeal and I did not believe as yet I could win an appeal. I did start to catalogue and assiduously collect every scrap of information regarding the case that appeared in the news and online including pictures of all involved. I did memorise, though not catalogue, addresses, it might take a while before my release, but I was going to find the truth or die trying.

The seventh year of my sentence also saw the last serious real physical attack on me. It must have been a slow news day, but one of the major newspapers decided to do some sort of exposé on the UK's sex criminals residing in prison and I was in the top five. Naturally it was a complete fabrication, I didn't have a TV in my cell, nor a PlayStation come to that, just an awful lot of books and notepads, nor was I on any kind of special treatment including diet. Yet apparently I was living a comfortable life whilst Kimberley's mother still mourned and lived in poverty as she had been unable to return to work due to stress since the crime. I did note the name of the family member interviewed. It seemed he (a brother-in-law) was always available for a quote in person or via a comment online or in the press. It was constantly bringing my name back to the public's attention and led the 'Justice for Kimberley' pressure group. I certainly had developed a distinct dislike for the man as he seemed to thrive on the media attention and yet I could not put my finger on exactly why yet. I suspected there was more to his relationship with Kimberley than met the eye. It was a suspicion, no more, but my instincts were now highly tuned where it came to sniffing out hypocrisy.

Two days later seven of the inmates who were part of the cleaning crew for that wing decided that I was fair game and attacked me as I left the library. I had been sort of expecting it. You become very sensitive to the threat levels around you when in prison, particularly if you're high profile. I did know my 'card was marked' if I happened to stray from the sex offenders wing, so naturally I never did. But in this instance they thought they could do the public and Kimberley's family a service. How wrong they were. The first thing I knew of it was being tripped and narrowly avoided a sharpened mop handle spearing me. I rolled and came to my feet back against the wall to face seven other sex offenders all armed with various common implements including several toothbrushes in which disposable razor blades had been taken from their holders and re-attached to expose the blade and scar the victim. I yelled for help, but that was simply to gain a little time before I launched a vicious attack myself slapping the broom handle to one side and jabbing my fingers hard into the eyes of another attacker making him scream in agony. Twisting quickly, I grabbed the arm of another holding the razor brushes and spun the weapon and his arm directly into the face of another and launched a swift kick to the groin of the next nearest. I did most of this without thinking, I had too much experience of being the victim that it had enhanced my aggressiveness to almost ridiculous levels and if I was going down then I was determined to go down damned hard. I do believe the only reason I did not get hurt far worse was the fact that the men attacking me wanted to avoid being hurt themselves. Something I knew I could take, though not like. I managed in the confusion to grab the sharpened broom handle, but instead of using it as a spear I used it as a short club instead, breaking knuckles and I suspect a cheekbone of anyone who came too close. Finally the Prison Officers came and piled into the fracas in numbers and I dropped the weapon knowing fine well that some of them would just love to have a go at me too.

Despite claims that I had attacked them, the seven were reprimanded and in one case had his sentence extended. Four were hospitalised and it appeared one might lose his eye. I was simply reprimanded by the governor for being too aggressive in my own defence and that was the end of the matter, save only my reputation in the prison and the wing now meant that I was considered off limits by pretty much everyone. The fight did make it into the press; but it just served to confirm to everyone's opinion that I was a dangerous savage villain. Such is life...

I did receive another letter from Kimberley's Mum though and this one did make me pause to consider.

"Prisoner XXXXXXXXXX

I realise that by now any attempts to ask you for details over the case of my daughter Kimberley will produce the same results, a denial that you were involved in any way shape or form. Yet I would like to visit you and look you in the eye as you tell me this. Whilst it may be possible for you to fool me, I do believe that I can judge a character by how they look and what they say. I would still request that you give me the opportunity to do so, for Kimberley's sake, if as you aver, you had nothing to do with her disappearance.

Regards,

Martha XXXXXXX"

I decided to take a chance, not something I was used to anymore.

"Dear Martha,

If you believe it may help you to decide as to my guilt or not then by all means make an appointment. I do have some questions myself over Kimberley and what happened, though I will understand if it is too painful for you to answer them.

Regards,

Peter XXXXXXX"

It took a week to arrange, Martha nearly cancelled it due to the media circus whipped up (again) by her brother-in-law. Even the prison staff were involved, seemed there was some sort of pool going on a confession, Martha killing me (somehow) or me killing Martha.

The day finally arrived and I was led down to the visiting room, somewhere I'd never been before as my previous police interviews had all taken place in a private room. I was escorted by two officers to protect the other inmates from what I would do to them if they tried anything with me, quipped one jokingly. I was taken to an isolated table in total silence as various people in the room stopped talking to get a look at me. I did recognise a few reporters too; 'apparently' they were visiting friends, though I suspected they had none.

Martha was finally allowed into the room and to approach the table where I sat. The years and the stress had not been kind to her and she looked old and tired for a woman in her late thirties.

"Hello Peter," she finally greeted me when the silence got a bit too much to bear.

"Hello Martha," I replied. "I'm so sorry that your visit here has become a media circus."

"My brother-in-law is highly protective of me and still very angry over Kimberley. He keeps threatening to kill you on your release after parole," Martha responded. "I think it has to do with his job in social services, he's the senior manager in the local care homes scheme for wayward or abandoned children."

"He'll wait a long while, I'm not requesting parole." I replied.

Martha looked confused.

"But you could get out early; perhaps rebuild your life... ," she finally said.

"Parole implies that I have accepted my guilt and wish an opportunity to make amends and start again," I replied. "I won't go for parole, because I am not guilty. The only way I'll leave here early is if I get a Royal Pardon and that seems highly unlikely."

"The evidence did implicate you," said Martha quietly.

"Yes, it did," I replied.

"Yet you maintain you had nothing to do with Kimberley's disappearance?" she asked.

"I did not abduct, assault or murder your daughter, Martha," I replied. "Until she went missing I didn't know who she was."

"Yet there was the blood and semen on the clothing they found," she said.

"I know," I replied. "I don't know how it got there, I believe the forensics company may have cross-contaminated the evidence, but they deny it. The other answer I have is far more disturbing in that it might have been planted, but I don't know why, or why anyone who would do that to me."

"What about the porn?" Martha asked.

"Not mine," I replied. "I do have some questions for my ex-wife, assuming I can find her."

Martha sat back and looked at me for a long time in total silence.

"You may be a very good liar," she said finally. "But I find myself believing you."

"Best keep that to yourself," I replied. "If what I suspect turns out to be true in the worst case, then there's someone out there prepared to go to extreme lengths to keep what happened to Kimberley pinned on me."

Martha nodded, "I'll just say that you were uncooperative and leave it at that."

"Best way," I replied. "I will when I'm released try to find out what really happened, but the trail will be very cold by then."

"I'll have a think about it myself," Martha answered. "You said you had some questions for me?"

"I do, though please, if it causes you distress, do not answer or leave, I'll understand," I replied.

Martha swallowed, and then nodded.

"Did Kimberley's behaviour change in any way in the weeks leading up to her disappearance?" I asked.

"Not that I can recall," Martha replied. "The police have already asked me that."

"No problems with her education?" I replied with another question.

"No ... but, I did have an appointment at her school, I'd almost forgotten, something about her behaviour. She disappeared before it happened though." Martha said.

"Might not be important," I said. "But I'd like to know what it was to do with, if only to rule it out."

"I'll ask," Martha said.

"On the day Kimberley disappeared, can you run me through what she did?" I asked.

"She got up, dressed, had breakfast and set off to school," said Martha with a tear in her eye.

"School uniform?" I asked.

"Yes, why?" Martha replied.

"Just the bloodied clothing wasn't part of the school uniform," I replied.

"I was told it was her vest," Martha said.

"Would she meet friends on the way to school?" I asked.

"She'd meet her cousins, or did, they'd had a falling out recently and she refused to go round there anymore," Martha said.

"A fight with the cousins?" I asked.

"She never said, just that she didn't want to go anymore. I figured it would pass, these things do ... did," Martha said.

I asked several more questions getting to know Kimberley as a person, not a newspaper report. Finally visiting time was over and Martha was about to leave.

"You don't look as I remember you," she said, by way of farewell.

"The beard and hair don't help," I replied.

"No, you look ... aged, more mature and there's both sadness and anger in your eyes," Martha replied.

"I have much to be sad and angry about," I finished as we parted.

The visit was all over the media the following day. Martha's 'no comment' leaving them both enraged and frustrated. We did begin an irregular correspondence as Martha began to do some investigations of her own, if only to clear some doubts that my questions had raised. Several weeks after that though Martha died in a hit and run incident, no one was found or prosecuted and that stream of information to me closed, save only for a letter which arrived the day after her death addressed to me.

"Dear Peter,

I have put together some information on Kimberley's disappearance from the questions you have asked me.

The school wished to see me about her education standards slipping; also she had become violent and angry in the four weeks leading up to her disappearance, something I was not aware of. They told the police of this, but it did not get investigated further as far as I can tell.

Her cousins do not recall any fight that occurred between them, or any other matter which might stop Kimberley calling, she simply did. I asked my sister if she knew of anything and she did not either and would ask my brother-in-law later if he knew anything.

It does appear that there are a few unanswered questions about Kimberley that the police overlooked and I hope at least to speak to the officer who was in charge of the investigation tomorrow.

Regards

Martha."

As you'd imagine my suspicions were raised about such a convenient hit and run 'accident' though again I was in no position to ask or find out just what was really going on.

The following day the police interviewed me, apparently the brother-in-law had suggested that Martha was going to speak to the officer in charge of the investigation regarding something I had 'said' to her. He suggested it was either a confession or where Kimberley's body was. I showed them a scanned copy of the letter and they said they'd look into it.

As ever nothing happened and the letter was not returned to me, though I kept the original.

My eighth year started my 'legal career' with my aid to a prisoner clearly suffering from a case of injustice. I was able to guide him as to the relevant law and the relevant authorities for the grounds of his appeal. He had been let down badly by his legal team and I advised him to get another and hand over the information I supplied.

It worked and he was released, I got no official thanks though I didn't expect any having warned the guy that my name on anything was 'bad news' as far as the outside world was concerned. That seemed to open the floodgates in prison though as I had a few requests to look into cases where it was believed a genuine injustice had taken place. Some naturally were trying it on, but I had a steady if small stream of successes added anonymously to my name.

I was saddened when my Barrister retired owing to ill health, but he did inform me that he could still be called privately for requests, though added that he thought I no longer would need to. I wished him well, via letter of course, and we spoke no more as he died a few weeks later from cancer. I used some of my meagre savings to send a small (anonymous) bunch of flowers to his funeral. It seemed so little to send for a man who had done so much for me. I was also given a small bequest in his will which was unsuccessfully challenged by his family. I received his set of legal books defining the laws of England and Wales which, after a request to the governor of the prison, I was allowed to store in an annex of the library. It was (and is) a very impressive collection and, I'm told, worth quite a bit of money, though cash meant little to me in prison. I was aware that I had a bank account in the 'real' world with several thousand pounds supposedly sitting in it from the sale of my house and worldly possessions. I had my barrister to thank for that too as my ex-wife had attempted to simply claim and spend it all. Martha's brother-in-law had also at one stage attempted to sue me in the civil courts of the UK to try and claim it for Martha, but had failed as Martha had refused any blood money.

The next few years passed quietly for me; there was some consternation when I failed to apply for parole. The press assumed it was because my guilt was so obvious that I thought I wouldn't get it. The prison officers and the prison hierarchy knew fine well why I hadn't applied for it in the last few months before my sentences halfway point and with the majority it gained me a sort of grudging respect.

By 2005 the UK's equivalent of the Freedom of Information act came fully into force and I was able to start sending out FOI requests to various places regarding information about my case with limited success as decisions regarding the legal process were exempt from such requests. Still I was now starting to untangle the various strands of the process which had led me to where I was now. I was still persona non grata to my family though and all attempts to find out where my daughter had gone failed.

With my final release date approaching, though several years off as yet, Kimberley's uncle tried to get a petition going for an extension to my sentence, that it should be changed to indefinite subject to judicial review. I could have told him he was wasting his time, retrograde legislation or trying to apply new laws to past decisions wasn't (generally) allowed in UK law. It didn't stop him trying and keeping once again my name in the press. I did have a few requests from the press regarding having an interview with me which I turned down flat.

I did worry about becoming institutionalised. It had been getting on for thirteen years now and I hadn't had to cook a meal or make any real decisions over my life, simply doing as I was told. My legal work such as it was did help there though. I did befriend a young man who wasn't interested in my past, he was a computer hacker accused of downloading porn. He did assist me to understand computers a lot better, a skill which would benefit me greatly later.

Although I had to be extremely cautious using a prison PC, With the help of my hacking acquaintance I was able to bypass several of the content censoring controls and had an anonymous online presence in the years leading up to my release. Despite several searches of the web to learn more of the company who ran the tests on mine and Kimberley's clothing there was no evidence that they had made mistakes, now or in the past. Still, I kept an eye on them, just in case but I was now pretty convinced that the company were not to blame. I was also able to track down many of the team who had investigated the case and pick up useful bits of information on them. Kimberley's family led by the uncle were constantly campaigning and lobbying parliament to have my sentence extended, though with little effect. However I did strike gold on the 'Friends of Kimberley' Facebook page. It was a picture of a past gathering, taken several years before and contained several faces now burned in my memory. Her face had changed slightly, her hair colouring and length were different too, but there she was, my ex-wife standing arm-in-arm with Kimberley's uncle. I presumed the young lady with them was my daughter, though she was not named. I was able then to use facebook to track down my ex-wife and hence my daughter. Using certain illegal tools I was also able to check the uncle's and my ex-wife's online presence including several emails and correspondence hinting at a much greater than normal level of relationship. The uncle also had several hidden links to child porn sites and the pieces slowly came into focus.

The details were sketchy, I couldn't use the evidence I had to prove anything, nor did I have anything but my own suspicions, but I knew, I just knew. I saw it this way...

Kimberley's uncle had made unwelcome advances or perhaps even molested Kimberley; hence Kimberley had stopped going there. He had then, fearful of Kimberley telling anyone, murdered Kimberley. I also suspected that he and my ex were also involved, perhaps an affair, perhaps not and she had covered up his crime by tampering with the evidence by adding my semen onto Kimberley's found garments and her blood onto my trainers and clothing.

No wonder he didn't want me out and investigating. I also suspected I knew just who the hit and run driver was, I had a choice of two.

I still couldn't quite fathom why my ex had got involved with Kimberley's uncle and why she would do this to me, but I would find out...

My release date was approaching, normally I would have been transferred to an open prison to prepare for my release, though the level of threats made against me made the authorities very cautious. Hence I was transferred secretly to another prison and kept isolated from the other prisoners, few even of the staff knowing I was there. It was here that I shaved my long hair and removed the beard and moustache. I also dyed my now completely grey hairs, making myself look years younger, save only the eyes.

Twenty years to the date of my initial remanding in custody I was released back into the world with a new identity courtesy of the witness rehabilitation program (yes they do at risk prisoners too) and a new look. Normally I would have been expected to check into the police every so often, but someone had decided that this might not be such a good idea. I was rehoused in an almost derelict flat and signed onto the jobcentre benefits system. I spent the next month trying to get my head around a country and a way of life that had changed beyond recognition. I had skills, but anyone seeing the name on the certificates might just put two and two together though I had been assured that eventually new certificates would be issued. The only thing I had going for me was the fact that no one knew I'd been released, they presumed it would be from the day I was sentenced, an easy mistake to make, but not to anyone who knew how the system really worked. I did know the Friends of Kimberley group planned to make a protest outside the prison and I was hoping to be there to get some pictures of a few of them...

I was able to use the money in my old account to purchase a decent digital SLR camera with a telephoto lens and travelled back to Durham on the day of the protest. I watched from a distance as they gathered and I began picking out individuals. I soon spotted Kimberley's uncle, though not his wife or children. It didn't take long before I spotted Susan too. I watched while the demo ran its course and was deciding just who to follow when they made my mind up for me. Susan and the uncle chose to leave together, holding hands...

I trailed them back to a small pub and positioned myself sans camera in a booth next to theirs and listened in to their conversation with a small recording device.

"I reckon they smuggled him out the back," said the uncle.

"Probably," said Susan. "Still, hopefully someone will grass him up and society will deal with him before he starts looking as to why."

"Well if they don't, I will. Bastard's the only one with the motivation to look back at what really happened," the uncle said forcefully.

"Relax, he might just try to keep his head down full stop," said Susan.

"You don't believe that any more than I do," said the uncle. "He already put Martha on our trail. If my friend at the station hadn't destroyed that letter we might have been found out then."

"What's done is done," said Susan. "Martha is out the way thanks to yours truly and that trail is cold now."

"He still knows," said the uncle.

"He only knows what happened to him and suspects what happened to that silly brat," said Susan. "He doesn't know about the others."

"Quiet!" shushed the uncle. "Anyone could be listening."

"For God's sake, this is a pub. No one's interested," said Susan, glancing around but fortunately was unable to see me in the booth behind her.

"Yes, well, if anyone found out about our little 'hobby' what happened to Peter the pervert will look like a child's tea party," said the uncle.

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