Saturday, 5 July 2008

Long cold lonely night

I’ve driven round that corner countless times before and since and I am still surprised there aren’t more accidents there. A simple two lane left hander before a roundabout with a concrete wall on the outside edge that ‘encourages’ the drivers on that side to cut the corner, forcing drivers on the inside to brake sharply. The council helpfully placed a lamp post as far out on the pavement as possible to light the corner a few years before. The problem though, is being right on the apex, should you try and mount the soft edged kerb to escape the car cutting into your lane as you both go round the corner, you’re buggered and have no where to go.

The driver of the estate car is standing next to our car having unfortunately found himself planted well and truly into the lamp post, the driver of the car responsible has obliviously carried on, having made no attempt to stop and see if he is ok. Apart from being understandably pissed off when we first turn up, he has chilled out now and is going through the motions of the traffic report with me. Keeping a half ear on the radio as always, I hear the call go out “a unit to attend please, winter estate, ambulance on way to report of a male stabbed, requesting Police support, male at location previously violent to officers and paramedics”

I bet you guys get quite a few calls like that, he says, that place is a shit hole. I agree that it isn’t the nicest place in the world to live but say that we don’t get too many people getting stabbed there, usually just drunk and throwing fridges off the balconies when we turn up to their normally pathetic domestics about who runs the TV remote. I carry on for the next few minutes topping and tailing the bits I need to fill the report and as I am taking some photos of the car position I hear the familiar voice of my tutor on the radio “control, we’ve got one detained for attempted murder, the paramedics are working on one guy now but it’s not looking good, can you jack up CID and get the skipper here ASAP please”

As I finish off with the RTA my driver says “The skippers just phoned me, I’ll have to drop you off at the nick to finish that off, and then blat him round to the address” I jump in and we make our way back to the station. We’d gone straight out to the call after parade so knowing it was going to be yet another busy night I manage to get some food down my neck before I sit down to fill out the traffic form. I grab myself a coffee and sit down in the unusually deserted writing room; everyone available has gone to help out. I’m filling the various stats questions and drawing the scene plan out and I listen to the updates on my radio. I’m gutted I’m not there to see what’s going on but I can get a good idea of what it’s like from the radio traffic.

The victim has all but died at the scene, the paramedics took him straight to A&E but he was pronounced dead on arrival the second he got through the door. Over the next half an hour or so the duty SOCO (scenes of crime officer) has attended along with CID and started their preliminary processing of the scene. They decide that due to the time of day (about 10pm now) it would be better to secure the scene and let the day turn come in with a full team to start the investigation proper in the morning. The suspect was taken straight to A&E as well to be treated for slash marks and was being guarded by two of the guys from my team. I call up the driver I’m posted with and inform him that I’ve finished the traffic report and am ready to be picked up and he tells me to hang around and get some food. I’ll need it along with a book apparently.

As the duty team probie I’ve done scene guard and constant watch god knows how many times and although inevitable and necessary, it doesn’t make it any less mind numbingly tedious. I grab my ‘shafted’ bag out of my locker which contains a book, a scarf, a couple of bottles of water, some boiled sweets and various nibblies, I then go on the hunt for some reasonably new magazines. As I walk into custody I see the custody Sgt and ask her if she knows anything about the murder job. In her broad Geordie accent she says “Yeah, W just phoned me to give me the heads up for when his bod comes in, stabbed at least 8-9 times in the neck, chest and face, apparently over some fuck ugly fat bird. I hear you’re going to be sitting up there all night, you’d best have these, pet” she then hands me a couple of unread newspapers and a mag that is on the desk, she then gives me the rest of her Cadbury’s chocolate éclairs, which is nice.

I go out into the back yard to wait for my lift up to the address and he pulls in a minute or so later. I chuck my bag on the back seat and as I go to get in my driver says “go and grab a fleece and your big coat, you’re going to be sitting outside and it’s freezing up there, they’ve turned all the electricity in the flat off” Oh great, I hear myself say out loud. Seconds later and I’m back in the car on my way out and the driver fills me in with the info. Apparently two mates were getting extremely drunk when one accused the other of fancying his wife, the argument got extremely heated as the wife started to wind her husband up, it came to blows and then the husband grabbed a knife from the kitchen.

The victim apparently chased his mate round the house slashing at his arms and back until the suspect grabbed hold of the knife and stabbed him repeatedly in the upper body and head. The 12 inch serrated kitchen knife did an incredible amount of damage and the paramedics only took him to hospital because they couldn’t ‘call him’ (pronounce death) at the scene. As the wife was on the phone the suspect had apparently disposed of the knife before anyone turned up, it is still outstanding.

As we drive into the main entrance to the winter estate it reminds me, as it does every time, of some of the army estates I used to live on, huge high rise buildings, a token park in the middle and only one main road in. At least we didn’t get people dumping stolen cars and setting them alight every weekend. As I look up to the main building opposite the entrance I see the guys standing outside the address on the 4th floor balcony, the hi vis strips on their jackets reflecting our headlights. I grab my bag and start making my way up to the flat, the stairwell is in desperate need of a clean and a coat of paint and the stench of urine hits me in the back of the throat.

I get to the flat and meet the two officers at the door. A photographer is inside taking preliminary shots so the SOCO team can be properly briefed in the morning. I look into the hallway and see the carnage inside; there are splats of blood on the carpet and up the walls. The lights are off but I can see blood trailing into both of the rooms in front of me. One of the guys sees the look on my face and says “that’s nothing mate, you wait to you get inside” As the photographer comes out he briefs me.

There is a plastic chair in the hall that one of the neighbours lent us, there are SOCO blocks on the floor (raised blocks on legs to make a path without disturbing the evidence) leading into each room, and the power is off so we have to use torches as he shows me in. We go into the hall and round to the kitchen to the right and I see the black pool on the floor where the victim laid and the bloodstained boot prints of the officers and the paramedics who attended. There are empty saline bags and bandage wrappings on the floor. As we go further into the house the metallic smell of blood and death reminds me of an abattoir we visited at school once.

I’m told that I can only go as far in as the hall, ideally I need to stay on the chair to make sure no one comes in. The photographer and the two other officers cheerily wave good bye as they leave to get a lift back to the nick. I sit down on the chair and then look up. The blood is all over the ceiling. I knew that arterial spray was strong, but this house looks like someone chucked a grenade in a vat of blood. There are spray lines, pools and bloodied handprints all over the walls, I look on the floor and I see drag marks and more handprints. What the hell happened here? The smell is making me sick and I try not to look at the walls. It is almost as if someone has used the house to film a scene for a comedy horror flick there is that much blood, but this isn’t funny.

I get my book out of my bag and try to ignore the world of sheer death that I am sitting in the middle of. I can’t get the image of the kitchen out of my mind and I keep re reading the same page. A car then turns onto the estate; the headlights shine right through the door and illuminate the flat. As the car moves the shadows on the walls change as they sweep across the glistening blood still drying slowly in the freezing cold. The temperature has dropped even more and it starts to rain outside.

I look at my watch, it’s just gone eleven and I am going to be on scene until the day turn relieves me just after seven. I can’t read because I'm listening to my radio and every time I lift my eyes from the page I see blood. I keep turning round to look at the kitchen and imagine the awful fight and the terrible injuries that were inflicted on both men, with the woman screaming in the background.

I don’t want to be here.



Ex-RUC said...

Great post and so reminicent of scenes I attended and, yes, stood guard over. Isn't it amazing how blood smells so.

Anonymous said...

MCM, I would not want to be there either, as your tale paints a vivid picture. Stuff like this just proves that it takes a very special person to be a police officer, and deal with the worst that people do to each other.

This post also highlights the injustice done to all those noble cops, doing a valuable service for this country....who are not given the respect they truly the public and the government. This post makes me all the more disgusted by this government with their snouts in the trough, whilst the rest of us suffer. THEY are the real "pigs", not cops who try to protect the people and sort out their messy lives.

This post has also highlighted the traumatic effect that incidents like the one you describe, can have on people. There was some poor cop [now ex] in the Daily Mail on Saturday, who had found that cannabis helped him cope with the traumatic effect of the job. Sadly he was tempted to help himself to stuff that had been confiscated as evidence, and got caught/prosecuted.

It is a fact that cops, and many others, have, for decades, used either alcohol and/or cannabis to help them cope with mental and emotional distress. This government, if it had any common sense and decency, would legalise the original form of cannabis, for self medication.

MCM, I take my hat off to you Sir, for doing such a difficult and vital job. I appreciate you, sincerely.

'er indoors

Anonymous said...

Why did you go into the scene anyway? just to be nosey and "have a look?" .

The minimum number of people possible should go into the scene so congratulations you messed up

Metcountymounty said...

The area I was taken into by the soco had already been cleared and we were on the soco blocks, so no I didn't mess up but thanks for your input anyway.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't want to be there either.

I can imagine the thoughts going through the paramedic's heads as they entered the scene. We're lucky we go in........ we get out. I can't imagaine being in that scene on your own for that amount of time.

Great post, cracking job. Take care!

Anonymous said...

"shafted bag" - I've not heard that one but I'm going to take it forward and use it.

Top post, well written. Good work...

Ex-RUC said...

Anonymous, at 0206, yes we all succome to the booze evetually.

blueknight said...

I had to guard the scene where the wife had stabbed her husband to death.The house had been half soc'd and I had to guard it over night. There were puddles of blood jellifying on the floor, but the worst thing was a pot of greasy stew festering on the stove. It must have been there for weeks. If she wanted to kill him, why didn't she serve him up a plateful?

PCFrankyFact said...

Why is it so cold?
Is this an historic tale coz its summer now?
Know wot u mean about the smell.
Bin in houses with claret everywhere and a field where a plane has came down killing all on board.

Frost said...

Christ, you wouldn't get me doing that alone for love or money. I'd be sitting with my book in one hand and my gun (or ASP in your case :)) in the other...god help anyone who jumps in and shouts boo.


Metcountymounty said...

franky, the incident was years ago in winter - I can imagine a summer night with that much blood would have been ten times worse!!

Blue Eyes said...

I've said it before, but this is the kind of stuff which should get more publicity. Hats off to you and your colleagues for dealing with the shite which no-one else wants to.

A brilliantly written post once again.

Area Trace No Search said...

A horrible feeling - but God Bless the custody skipper though.

Metcountymounty said...

she was and still remains an absolute legend, one of those skippers where you knew exactly where you stood with them and said what they meant!!

Fishpaste said...

Just wanted to say 'thank you' to you and to all the others, uniformed and not, who look after this sort of thing for the rest of us. There are many out there who truly appreciate what you all do. It's just a shame that you don't get to meet us, normally.

Anonymous said...

ex-ruc....Yeah, I know. Some of my family are/were ex armed forces and survivors of WW2. Alcohol was used to block out the bad memories.

Personally, I have a medical condition which alcohol just makes so much worse - M.E, which is triggered by very severe stress and chemical contaminants in our environment. So I resort to tears, because I'm a girlie....and the occaisional naughty splif in the past....which has kept me sane. ;0)

'ER Indoors

Bill Quango MP said...

Very good post.

Police coming under attack on a lot of blogs at the moment. I guess its the 'knife crime' frenzy getting people worked up.

If you keep pointing out the disaster that is politically sensitive target based policing then when this current maladministration limps off in 2010 you may have some support from the new lot to really make some changes.

Stuart McIntyre said...

My God I had no idea that that sort of thing happened. Can I ask why they don't just shut the door and lock it? Would there not be possiable health issues?

Blueknight with the description of all the blood and death that had taken place. Just HOW bad was that stew?

Metcountymounty said...

Stuart, the door had been damaged for some reason during entry and couldn't be secured but I can't remember why. Where I worked in winter is bloody horrible - cold wet and gale force winds most of the time, the area I was in had been cleared for entry by the duty CID as safer than being outside, I wouldn't have been the first copper to be standing/sitting on scene guard and got mild hypothermia.

blueknight said...

stuart mcintyre
The stew was grim. Others can back me up on this, There are quite often other 'yucky' things found at the scene of a violent crime and surprising number of house searches reveal a stash of porn.

baz said...

MCM, what do you consider your contribution was to all this ?

Metcountymounty said...

Baz, my contribution to that investigation was to sit in the freezing cold for 8 odd hours gathering fuel for a few nightmares and making sure no one came in, just like everyone else who does scene guard and isn't part of the actual investigation.

Blueknight, just as I'm sure most people have, I've found porn in some houses that would make squaddies sick!!

Happy Met Copper said...

Its this kind of contribution that they certainly don't shout about when they are recruiting. Couldn't see the description of this going down well on an advertising poster on a train.
It's definitely one of the untold sides of what we do, it can also be one of the best learning experiences in the job and will teach you a lot, such as self reliance and how you will react to such sights.

The most amusing porn found in a flat was when we went to make an arrest enquiry, the suspect was there and promptly nicked. I was amazed that you couldn't actually step anywhere without tripping over porn, mostly home made. Sitting on the sofa was his other half and it was then that the skipper picked up one of the pictures. The person in it was in a very, VERY compromising position, he then held the picture up to her face and promptly exclaimed "This is you, I thought this was still illegal". Cue one very embarassed girl, coppers who couldn't stop giggling and, even though he was being taken out the door in cuffs, a suspect who had the biggest grin across his face.

Anonymous said...

So in other words, no real contribution at all apart from standing around?

Argos security-guard like.

Metcountymounty said...

anon, would you be saying that if a case collapsed where your family member was a victim because the Police couldn't guarantee the scene was secure and evidence wasn't planted but was actually left by the suspect??

Scene guard is extremely boring and seemingly pointless to uninformed and over opinionated plebs, but preserving the integrity of evidence is as essential as collecting and processing it properly. If any link in the chain isn't correct and certifiable then the evidence is worthless and would be dismissed at court along with every other piece of evidence associated with or generated from it.

So are you going to actually make a suggestion how 'your' taxes could be better used to insure the integrity of a scene instead of paying a warranted and security cleared Police officer to stand next to a door or at an open scene (in a time before PCSO's) or are you just going to yap away on the sidelines?