The Cuckoo Murders

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Chapter 4

Overnight Grey closed Eastfield Park to preserve the crime scene and keep the public out while the scenes of crimes officers did their job. Close to the body officers took samples and photographs and undertook an inch by inch search of the ground. Further away, restrained against free movement by their white coveralls, in the dark they seemed to float ghost-like above the pitch black ground as they went to and fro, until suddenly revealing human form in the brilliant strobe lighting as they neared the crime scene.

By dawn the body had been transferred to the mortuary ready for the forensic post-mortem to be performed by Jane Edwards later that day. Most of the SOCO’s had already left but a few remained, finishing off a long night’s work. Grey had phoned Jo Giordano before midnight, explained briefly what had happened, and asked her to organise a search party to be ready first thing. Giordano arrived in the early hours and Grey left her to it shortly afterwards, heading home for a few hours of much needed sleep.

The search team turned up in three vans just after dawn and Giordano wasted no time in getting them organised. The grass was still wet from the night before and a ground mist was hovering a few feet above. Leaden clouds blocked out the sun and there was a threat of rain in the air. The park covered sixty acres. Beginning from the Eastern entrance, a strip about three hundred yards long and a hundred wide ran towards the West, ending at the lake. Behind the entrance stood The University of Northampton and Weston Favell Academy, between them holding over a thousand students. They used the park extensively, leaving litter behind them, making the search more difficult. The Northern boundary was lined with trees and behind them houses comprising the Lakeview estate and the main A43 highway to Kettering. To the South the EastField estate comprising mostly of legacy government owned properties, housed many young families whose children played regularly on the swings and slides in the recreation area.

Giordano began the search at the Booth Lane entrance, moving steadily Westward, bypassing the lake, and then stretching out into the wider area that ended at Apple Tree walk. After the lake the park tripled in width and doubled in length. Most of it was open space however, with closely mown grass, and so easy to search. Only the boundaries where hedges and trees grew, and streams flowed proved more difficult and time consuming.

The lake which had been dug out by Manfield in 1900 was a small haven for water birds of one kind and another. Swans nested, and Canada geese, moorhens, ducks, cormorants, and herons visited most days. It had once been a popular spot for anglers and boaters, but now only the birds made use of it. Giordano had organised divers to search it and two frogmen in wet suits were preparing their gear before trawling the bottom.

Riley rose early and decided to take a look before gathering together his men again because he suspected that the park might be closed if the police activity the night before had been the result of a serious crime. Sure enough, as he slowed at the Booth Lane entrance, he could see the police notice and a constable standing guard, and so drove on without stopping.

Later that morning Grey attended the postmortem held at the General Hospital. She was surprised to find Thomas already seated in the gallery. Despite being up half the night, he looked fresh and smart in a blue serge suit, white shirt, and red tie. She took a seat beside him.

Thomas had long amused himself each day by trying to guess the maker of Grey’s legendary designer suits. She wore a different one every day. Today’s was a charcoal grey affair, two buttons to the jacket, and the slacks a slim stretch fit over Grey’s enormous thighs. Expecting the seams to rip at any moment, Thomas decided it was a Hugo Boss.

‘Good timing’, he said, ‘the main event is about to begin.’

‘Any news so far?’ She asked.

‘Edwards found a Driving licence in his coat with the name of Edin Markovic. Photograph matches the victim. Address given as Connor Street. There’s also a mobile phone but it’s a burner. I’ve sent it to Technical Services.’

Grey nodded and peered through the Perspex screen. So now he was calling the Forensic Pathologist ‘Edwards’. A year ago he was rumoured to be having an affair with her. Must have fizzled out Grey thought. Edwards had just pulled on a pair of nitrile gloves and then covered them with oversized gauntlets. She looked like she was dressed for a shift in a highly contagious laboratory. Theatre blues, large rubber wellingtons and a face mask, she held a report in her right hand and was reading intently.

There was a fully clothed body on her table. From the clothes it looked like the body Grey had seen in Eastfield Park. She shivered. Autopsy tables always gave her the creeps. How could a living breathing human being, a life, end by being butchered on something so impersonal? Stainless steel with a convex top to aid drainage, the one Edwards was about to use was balanced on a rectangular pedestal that could be raised or lowered by means of a foot pump. Two hoses snaked away from the pedestal beneath the table, presumably for rinsing the mess left from the examination. A male assistant, known as an ATP, was busy arranging an assortment of drills and saws, knives, and clamps on an adjacent tray. Grey shuddered.

Above the table the ceiling was lined with long oblong fluorescent lights, defused behind opaque cream Perspex. There were seven identical tables in all, although only one was in use that morning. There were no windows, no natural light at all, yet the room was so bright it was difficult to focus without squinting. Grey guessed it was important that the dissecting areas were free of shadows. The walls were painted white, the floor covered with non-slip material, no skirting boards but coving sealed to avoid any cracks through which fluids could escape. Three drains served each table and air filtering units rose from floor to ceiling to keep the air free of pathogens. Grey imagined the air conditioning would be working overtime to keep the temperature down what with all the heat the lights would be giving off. Autopsies were commonly conducted at comfortable working temperatures but depending on how long bodies were kept they were stored at below or close to freezing.

Grey and Thomas watched patiently for an hour and a half until Edwards finished examining the clothes and the body and dictated her report for the Coroner, then they left the gallery and headed for a small office located by the side of the theatre. Edwards joined them a few minutes later. She had removed her scrubs revealing black cotton slacks and a pale blue woollen sweater.

‘Morning Jane.’ Thomas said.

‘Brian, Sheila’, she replied coolly, nodding briefly at Grey. ‘Well we have a very unusual one here.’

‘In what way?’ Grey asked.

Edwards referred to her notes. ‘Well as you probably inferred from last night cause of death was exsanguination from a cut throat. Nothing unusual about that, but he was not killed where we found him. And there was no blood left in the body.’

‘No blood? How can that be?’ Thomas asked, startled.

‘No defence wounds either’, Edwards continued, ‘and no blood on any of the clothes.’

‘That makes no sense.’ Grey said.

‘But there were signs of bruising on the wrists and ankles consistent with what I would expect to see from ligatures. Plus, the wound was exceptionally deep.’

‘So you’re saying he was tied up? But surely there would still be blood.’ Thomas said.

‘Well, like I said last night, it is very difficult to cut somebody’s throat so deeply even if they have been tied up. And cuts like these would need the throat to be perfectly exposed.’

Thomas thought for a few seconds and then said, ‘No blood, throat exposed, no defence wounds but bruising round the ankles and wrists. He was strung up by his ankles with his hands tied. He was naked, that would explain why the trousers didn’t fit. They pulled back his head, slit his throat, and let him bleed out. Then they cleaned him up, dressed him again, badly, hence the trousers not fitting, and took him to the park where they dumped him.’

Grey stared at him in wonder. ‘An assassination. Perhaps a warning.’ She said.

‘Yes, someone has gone to a lot of trouble with this one.’ Thomas said.

‘But wherever he was killed, there will be blood and lots of it. I would expect there to be splatter patterns for yards around.’ Edwards said.

‘Time of death?’ Grey asked.

‘Between seven and seven thirty last night.’

‘Fibres.’

‘Yes, and traces of hair. We will have to wait for the analyses of course, but I suspect DNA is a possibility from the hair.’ Edwards said.

‘Locard strikes again.’ Grey said with a smile.

‘Thank you Jane. Anything else of interest?’ Thomas asked.

‘I will email the full report, but nothing more that will interest you.’

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