1. Judgements

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Monday 24th October 2005

Courtroom 1

The Old Bailey

London

Jason was seated in the public gallery for the closing remarks of the prosecution and defence counsels. The three accused were seated to the left of the gallery, and this suited Jason’s purpose. He was a detective sergeant with the Metropolitan Police and the case in question was the murder of his boss, Detective Inspector Paul Gallagher.

Why did Jason want to sit close to the defendants?

He knew that friends and associates of the three accused men would be in the public gallery. Such people invariably turned to support with a nod or give thumbs-up signals to those in the dock. The idea paid off and the young DS recognised four faces sitting in the gallery to his right. Not willing to leave it to memory he pulled out his notebook and listed the names, with brief descriptions.

On the previous day at the trial, Jason had been less than impressed by the case for the prosecution. For all the good he was doing on the dead officer’s behalf, Martin Lindley, the prosecuting counsel might as well hand the case notes over to one of the security men at the doorway. Lindley’s name was already in Jason’s notebook because of his lacklustre performance.

In sharp contrast, during cross-examination Robert Duffy, the defence counsel had used minor technicalities and skirted around what should have been straightforward and damning testimony. His manner was intimidating and witnesses were throwing the case wide open as they were tripped by the ruthless, overbearing man’s observations.

A question to one witness. “Madam, you’ve told the court that you recognise all three of the accused men as the perpetrators of the crime, yet you’ve admitted that you were recently prescribed new lenses for your glasses—are you positive of your identification?”

“No, not really,” she murmured.

A question to another. “You, sir, have told the court that the blue-eyed man on the left was one of the gunmen, but the accused you’ve identified has brown eyes—you’re not certain are you?”

“Well … I–”

“Yes or no, please?”

“… erm, No.” The witness looked sheepishly around at the jury.

A third witness was queried. “You’ve told the court that you used your mobile phone app to take pictures of what happened, but it would be impossible without looking at the screen, so you must have looked away from the unfolding scene. You didn’t witness he entire shooting, did you?”

“Well, obviously, I … no, sir, no, I didn’t.”

In keeping with his confrontational methods, the defence counsel hardly paused for breath between questions. Throughout the day, he left the witnesses harried and made to look unsure. It was all it took to affect the judge and the jury before the closing day of the trial.

During the trial, certain jurors were nervous and avoiding the smirks of two men in the public gallery. Jason had spotted the nervous people, and though it took him several attempts he was satisfied that he could see the two men in the gallery staring at the jury benches.

Charlie Grainger and Neil ‘Jonah’ Jones, were thugs and associates of the gang leader under investigation by Jason and his recently deceased partner.

Intimidation was hard to prove at any time. On this, the final day of such a high profile trial, if it worked, and the defence counsel knew his job, the guilty men might walk free.

Jason flicked his notebook open and sure enough, two of the names he’d written earlier were Grainger and Jones. He was getting a bad feeling about these final proceedings and what made it hurt more was that he was powerless. He’d already given evidence, but knew that anything he said would be labelled as conjecture from a bias ex-colleague. The dead man had been his boss after all.

A guidance statement by the judge hardly helped.

The Right Honourable Clarence Hemingway looked over the rim of his glasses. “Members of the jury. The three men accused of the murder of Detective Inspector Gallagher are known to the Metropolitan Police and admit they were in the vicinity at the time of the shooting. While this may be the case, it does not automatically mean that they should be found guilty. I remind you, that this is a court of law, and without sufficient irrefutable evidence to support a case, any jury would be ill-advised to put forward a finding of guilt. For example, we’ve seen three supposed eye-witnesses changing their statements. This does not bode well for a satisfactory guilty verdict.”

The man in the big black chair had stared at the twelve members of the jury as he delivered the statement. He went on to instruct them that he required any verdict to be unanimous regarding each of the three accused. The case was adjourned to allow the jury to retire and consider their verdicts. It was fairly obvious that the judge had already made up his mind about the result.

The defence counsel had done a sterling job of probing and destroying the arguments proposed by the prosecution so things were looking bleak regarding justice under the law.

Throughout the final hours of the trial, Jason had felt a headache building, but after the judge’s summary, a fiery rage burned within the young policeman. During the jury’s deliberation, he left the courtroom with everyone else and hoped to find a corner where he could be alone to calm himself.

*

The Old Bailey is not a single courtroom, or a place with quiet corners—it is a building with numerous courtrooms and is always bustling with legal eagles, criminals, police officers, spectators, media, and more.

Jason needed a place where he could take deep breaths of fresh air away from those who’d come outside for a smoke.

He stood to one side of the main entrance, stared at the passing traffic and thought back to the many jobs he’d done with Paul Gallagher. The man had been more than a boss and a mentor—he’d been a friend, and Jason’s hero. Paul had served in the military before joining the police and in that career his courage had been recognised with two medals for gallantry and bravery. During his police career, he had continued to demonstrate his bravery and been decorated again. For that man to be gunned down, unarmed in a London street was unbelievable. He’d had a reputation for being tough but fair and this had been respected by those on both sides of the line. The respect existed, except for the person who had sanctioned Paul’s execution.

Jason continued to gaze at the traffic as his mind wandered back to that fateful day when his boss was murdered.

Multiple shots had rung out. Jason abandoned their covert car, and ran around the corner that DI Paul Gallagher had just turned. When he arrived in the main street, Jason had frozen for a few seconds at the scene before him. The DI’s chest had multiple gunshot wounds and a large pool of blood stained the pavement.

Three men were standing nearby and turned casually at Jason’s appearance.

Craig Arnold, a tall and muscular thug smiled at Jason and said, “Oops.”

Matthew Fellowes, a short stocky man grinned. “Shouldn’t you call an ambulance before someone slips in that blood?” He shook his head as he looked from the dead man to his helpless and outnumbered colleague.

The third man was Gordon Craven, a short, wiry individual, who like Jason was a Scotsman. “Maybe you should fuck off back up the road to Glasgow—they don’t use so many guns up there—so I’ve been told.”

Jason had dialled his phone to get back-up, but the three men in front of him made it obvious that they had guns tucked under their jackets. If he did anything rash, he’d be left to die beside his boss. This assassination was a clear message—‘let things drop on your present investigation’. The three thugs got into a car and drove off, and a crowd assembled. A few minutes later a handful of uniformed officers arrived and took control, cordoning the area and taking statements.

By pausing at the car to respond to a radio message, Detective Sergeant Jason Knight had been dragged into a living nightmare. He’d heard the shots, and in his brief absence his superior had been shot dead. The three known criminals had stood waiting for him to arrive on the scene. They must have known about the unmarked car around the corner and they’d wanted to flaunt their weapons before leaving. All three had laughed as they left the scene. Everything had been choreographed.

In other countries, Jason would have been armed, and he could have taken some sort of immediate action, but not in the United Kingdom. He’d been left impotent as the armed murderers drove off. Even when Jason had rallied and asked for some of those nearby to come forward as witnesses, the majority of people had said they didn’t see anything.

Standing outside the famous Old Bailey court rooms now, all of this was playing back over in his mind.

A man nearby laughed loudly and was joined by a companion.

“I’ll tell you what, Charlie, if I was that dead detective’s sidekick, I’d keep my fucking head down and be very careful.”

“You’re right, Jonah—cos if he doesn’t keep his fucking head down, it might get shot to fuck like his boss’s chest.”

The two men laughed again and Jason turned to look at them. It was the same two he’d noted staring at the witnesses and jurors. Charlie Grainger and Neil ‘Jonah’ Jones.

“Well, fucking hell, Jonah,” Grainger said. “Look who’s stood out here among us smokers—a stinking fucking pig.”

“Do you know something, mate—I was sure I could smell a fucking farm animal.” He laughed.

They both flicked their unfinished cigarettes at pigeons which were strutting around nearby. Grinning, and with a slow shake of their heads at Jason the two men went back into the building.

*

In less than fifteen minutes from the courtroom settling down again, the trial was over. The accused were told to stand and the foreman of the jury was asked if they’d agreed unanimously on verdicts. The jury foreman swallowed hard as he looked over at someone in the public gallery. He turned back, and passed the findings to the bailiff.

Clarence Hemingway, the judge, accepted the note from the bailiff, studied it for a few seconds and then glanced at the members of the jury before naming the three defendants individually and declaring them not guilty and said that they were free to go.

While there were sniggers among a few in the gallery, all three of the accused men grinned, turned and eyeballed Jason Knight. The cocky Scotsman, Gordon Craven winked at the detective. In other circumstances they might have become friends—both Glasgow men living in London.

The three accused were escorted downstairs to be processed officially and released from custody, and then they would walk free from court. They had murdered a senior detective in cold blood on a London street and acted as if they’d been given a smacked wrist by a schoolteacher.

*

New Scotland Yard

London

“Come in and sit down, Jason.” Detective Chief Inspector Harry Royston reached down and pulled open a drawer. “I’ve assured the Chief Constable that we could deal with this situation, and put it behind us.” He lifted out a bottle of single malt and poured a generous amount into two glasses.

Jason stared at the glass the senior officer had pushed across the desk to him. “Sir, I—”

“To Paul.” DCI Royston raised his glass and met the younger man’s troubled expression.

Jason picked up the glass of whiskey and stared across the desk. “To Paul.”

Both men took a pull of the strong liquor and placed their glasses on the desk.

“Jason, there is fuck all anyone in this station can say to you or me that will help. I trained with Paul and I served alongside him for years. I knew him well and through his praise I think I know you pretty well.”

Jason remained silent and stared at the man, wondering if there would be something tangible he would take from this meeting.

Royston continued, “Right now, you’re sitting there asking yourself a host of questions, but right at the top of the pile you’re asking yourself how you can avenge your friend and colleague’s murder.”

When Jason reached for the whiskey it didn’t camouflage the momentary narrowing of his eyes that the DCI’s observation had caused.

“Don’t worry about it, it’s natural,” Royston said. “Revenge is on everyone’s mind at the moment but we have to remember that our first allegiance is to the British public. We all know the risks when we go out there every day to deal with the decent people, and the shit of society. Even in circumstances like this, we cannot afford to drop to the level of the lowlifes.”

“Sir, how can we possibly put this behind us, as you put it? Paul Gallagher was let down. We didn’t get the back-up he requested and then after his murder it took days to arrest those three bastards. The only CCTV footage was obscured by a truck parked in front of the camera and we know it was one of their people who was driving. Even the fucking court case was a farce.”

“Jason, if it had been the other way around and you’d been killed, I’d have Paul sitting where you are and we’d be having the same conversation. He’d probably be standing in front of me banging his fist on this desk and telling me he wanted a search warrant and an armed response team.”

“That’s my point, sir. Paul Gallagher wasn’t simply murdered, he was fucking executed. We were briefed to approach from a particular direction towards the gang’s headquarters and wait for a call regarding armed back-up. Our source even told us that Tennent’s men might be armed and put up resistance. We passed on our intelligence, and were told not to go armed in case of a spontaneous reaction. How could it all go wrong so fucking badly?”

“I was right here pushing buttons, chasing the warrant when we got the call. I had the search team and the response team on standby, but we have to do things legally or it all falls apart. One technical hitch in the process and our whole case would be fucked up.” The big man inhaled deeply. “You won’t like this, Jason, but I’d like you—”

“Don’t say it, sir.” He held up a hand, and shook his head. “Don’t suggest a few days off or that I should attend fucking counselling.”

“Look, mate—you’re a bloody good detective but if you go out there now after that fucked-up result in court, you won’t be able to do your job properly. You owe it to yourself—you owe it to Paul—”

“No, don’t lay that on me, sir. I need to be at work. I must get back on the case and put fucking Harry Tennent away once and for all.”

“Jason, it’s the twenty-fourth of the month. Take two weeks or three if necessary but fuck off somewhere and try to chill out. Go back up north to Scotland for a few days. You’re a Glasgow man, aren’t you?”

“Yes, but the reason I left Glasgow was to avoid becoming a part of the problem. Throughout my education I knew more bad guys than good, sir. It’s a great city, full of wonderful people, but I don’t have any family or a reason to return.”

“You need a change of scenery for a couple of weeks—it’s been proven that it helps. How about taking your girlfriend away for a few days—”

“I can’t hold onto a girlfriend and do the job properly—the job always comes first.”

Royston shook his head. “Okay, fuck it, Jason—if you report for work before Monday, seventh of November, I’ll personally assign you tasks every day, and you’ll bloody work from your desk for a month. One way or another, son, you must let this go.”

“Why are you making such a big deal about getting me to calm down?”

“I’m not supposed to tell you, mate, but your promotion has come through. In a few weeks you’ll be a detective inspector, and I think you’ll put that at risk if I let you out on the streets right now.”

Jason nodded, lifted the glass, drained the remainder of the whiskey and stood. “Okay, I’ll take two weeks to get my act together, sir.”

“Good lad—and please, though I know it will be difficult, try to relax.”

Jason left the door open as the DCI preferred and walked through the open-plan office area, passing colleagues who either offered their condolences, or turned away unsure how to approach the fiery young detective. He didn’t register anything or anyone because his focus was on the exit from the department.

He had done the job for long enough to know how his superiors would treat him in such circumstances. On several occasions he’d seen colleagues going through the same post-traumatic stress treatment with the same bland assurances. They never sounded personal or unofficial.

Try to put recent events behind you, take some time out, return for a few counselling sessions, ease back into the job on a different case. The pain will ease, and things will work out all right.

Yes, things would work out all right, because Detective Sergeant Jason Knight already had a plan.

***

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