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Claire, another story



The Blue Bell Inn
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Synopsis

A young teenage girl’s life drastically changes and she realises that she has an unknown past. She decides to go and search for it with dire consequences

Claire.

A resounding officious type of knock echoed from the front door. The teenage girl rose from her studies at the dining room table to answer it. She opened the door to a fresh faced young police constable, who asked.

“Mrs Elizabeth Hargreave?”

“Yes?” Said Claire almost answering the question with a question “That’s my mother but she’s not here, she’s at work. Why do you want her?”

“Can I come in?”

“Yes of course. What is it you wanted?

“Is there a Mr Hargreave?”

“No, my mother and I live alone. Will you please tell me what you want?”

” Can we sit down?” He asked “I’m afraid I am the bearer of bad news”   

 

Claire was just over nineteen of age, born in 1991. A little tall for her age but her slimness made her tallness an asset.

She had blue eyes and dark brown wavy shoulder length hair.

If anyone had directly asked her if she considered herself beautiful, or even good looking, she would have certainly denied the fact but to others she was attractive, in a very natural and naïve sort of way.

She had just completed her 2nd year of full time education at Newcastle University studying for a Media BA degree in Applied Social Sciences. Her aim someday was to break into Television production in one way or another. A Television director at Tyne Tees Television was her ultimate dream but that vision was way too far away to even contemplate, as yet

   Her grandmother Mary, until a year ago, had assisted her mum in her upbringing.  Nana had often sung the old lullaby songs of yesteryear and Claire was comforted whenever she thought of her. A large part of her life ended when Nana Mary died. ‘

When Claire asked about her father mum explained that He had died in Leeds a year after Claire had been born.

Further questions as to why they had moved from Leeds to Northumberland her mother had always been very guarded in any reply. She explained that after her husband’s death she wanted a change of life and ‘Geordie land’ seemed to offer a nice peaceful life.

Claire often fantasised about her father; reasoning that because her mother had brown eyes and rather straight hair she must have got her blue eyes and wavy hair from him.  Had he been tall like herself? All questions about her father had been evaded with the reply; we’ll talk about it when you are a little older.

 “Will you tell me what’s happened? Why do you want to know about my mother?” Claire implored of the police officer.

“All I can say at this stage is that a lady, who had been involved in a Road Traffic Accident, was carrying a driving licence identifying her. It’s reasonable to assume that she is related to…..”

“Where is she now” she interrupted. “I’ve got to go to her.”

“She is being taken to the Wansbeck General Hospital. She may be already there by now.”

“How bad is she?” she said and was already putting on her coat and looking for her mobile phone. “I’ll have to phone for a taxi”

“No need for a taxi I have a patrol car outside I can take you there.  I may need to take a statement some time later.”

“That sounds as if she’s not too bad then? What happened?

“My knowledge about the accident is very limited. They only tell me what they want me to know I’m afraid,” replied the officer. I only know that I’ve been instructed to take you to A&E at Wansbeck hospital. Hopefully we’ll know more when we arrive at there.

During the drive the officer reported to his HQ that he was conveying his charge to the hospital and their ETA would be in ten to fifteen minutes.

As the officer and girl entered the Accident & Emergency department at Wansbeck General Hospital they were met by a young lady nurse who, seeing the accompanying policeman, asked if the young lady was Claire Hargreave and when she answered, “Yes” The nurse asked that she follow her. The police officer remained in reception taking notes from the in-patient secretary

Claire was led down a long corridor that had wards on either side to a small ante room that contained a few chairs, an armchair, a settee and a table. The nurse suggested that she sit down.

“There must be some mistake I’m here to see my mother.” Claire protested.

“Yes I know. Mr Edwards will be along to see you in a few minutes.”

“Mr Edwards?”

“He’s the surgeon who is dealing with you mothers situation.”

“Situation?” she objected. ”Surely you mean her treatment?”

“I’m sure Mr Edwards will explain everything.”

The nurse remained with her almost twenty minutes when the room door opened and in strode a tall thin man in green surgical coveralls with a face mask that had been lowered to beneath his chin.

“Miss Hargreave? He asked and without waiting for an answer he continued. “My name is Paul Edwards I have been dealing with your mother’s accident.” He paused for a moment then continued. “I’m afraid I have some rather bad news.” Again a slight pause before he continued. “Your mother has passed away. She was already dead on arrival, her internal injuries were too bad to contain. There was nothing we could do. May I express...”

It was at that point that the young girl collapsed to the floor in a deep faint.

Coming round from the faint she found herself seated in an armchair; slowly remembering the circumstances and then almost feeling physically sick.

She seemed to be coming out of a deep sleep and could vaguely remember dreaming, about what, she struggled to remember. Then she remembered the surgeon’s words ‘Your mother has passed away.’ Claire was lost for words  there was so many questions she wanted answering and all she could think of what to say was “Where is my mother can I see my mother now? “

Claire still didn’t believe, or was refusing to believe, that it was her mother who had had the accident and died. There surely must have been a mistake somewhere along the line.

A nurse was offering her a small glass half full of a colourless liquid which she said contained a slight sedative and would help to calm her nerves. She tried to refuse the drink and attempted to stand up but still felt a little light headed. The nurse urged her to remain seated and insisted that she drank the liquid. She did so under a slight protest but it tasted just like water, which it probably was.

“Can I see my mother now? “ Claire repeated

“If you give us ten minutes or so I’m sure that can be arranged.” I heard Mr Edwards’s reply.

“Are you sure it’s my mother who has had the accident?” It was all she could think of to say

“I’m sorry I have very little knowledge of what happened. The police are the ones to answer any questions you may have.

   If it’s of any help to you, your mother did not suffer any pain. Her injuries were internal and instant.” The doctor still seemed to be confirming it was her mother, his words just reiterated that her mother’s death was final and there was little that could be done to change the fact.

 Mr Edwards asked if there was anything more he could do. Claire shook her head then he suggested to the nurse that she remain with her and left the room.

Sitting there in this waiting room Claire felt desolate she didn’t know how to think straight. She wanted to turn the clock back to this morning before her mother had gone to work then she could have stopped her somehow. Why hadn’t she stopped her mother? She realised she was thinking stupid thoughts but could not help it.

The door opened and a male nurse popped his head around it and nodded to the nurse who was still with her. She nodded back and then said to Claire. “Would you like to see your mother now?”

The nurse took her arm as she got up from the armchair and lead her down a corridor into a small single ward with a single circular curtain drawn around the only bed.

The nurse looked at the young girl inquiringly and as she nodded in agreement, drew the side curtain and there was a lady lying in the bed. She looked fast asleep and Claire almost felt that if she shook her she would wake.

It was Claire’s mum and all doubts about her identity disappeared.

Reaching out to her mother she grasped her shoulders and snuggled her head to hers.

She was not outwardly crying but she could feel tears streaming down her cheeks and for a brief moment hoped it wasn’t wetting her mum’s white hospital nightgown.

Claire had never seen or touched a dead person before and had always assumed that they would feel cold. Thinking about it sometime later she would confirm that a dead body is colder than normal but now she felt surprised that her mum was quite warm and normal. Inwardly she felt that she could shake my mum back into life and at the same time knowing full well she couldn’t.

She wouldn’t remember how long she had been at the hospital but the longer she was there the more she realised that nothing more could be done. Giving her mother one last kiss on her cheek, she said her goodbyes and got up to leave.

The attending nurse said something to Claire that the police had requested that all her mother’s belongings be handed to them and that they would be, at a later date, returned to her.

In the foyer the young policeman who had driven her to the hospital had been waiting for her. He offered his condolences and asked that he might have a few words, Claire nodded. He guided her to a small room to the side of reception and asked if there was any more help he could give. Claire shook her head and mumbled a few thanks for him being so understanding. The policeman then asked if the person whom she had been attending was definitely that of her mother. Claire nodded. He asked if that that was affirmative and she said “Yes”.

“Could you sign to that affect, here in my notebook, that it was your mother that you identified?” He the proffered his notebook and a pen asking her to sign an already written short statement to the effect that it was her mother Mrs Elizabeth Hargreave’s that she had definitely identified. She duly signed the statement and he thanked her. Could he escort her home in his patrol car?

Claire decided she wanted out of the hospital and to be alone. She thanked the officer and declined his offer, sooner or later she would have to be alone and go home to an empty house anyway.

They both left the hospital exit together but Claire walking up the road that led away from the hospital and him going to his parked patrol car.

 

“I’m sorry to hear about your loss your mum was a good woman, one of the best.”

Mrs Coulson, their next door neighbour, was offering her condolences. She had almost been on the doorstep as Clair arrived home alone. The first thing her neighbour did was to put the kettle on and brew up some tea.

As they sat at the study table Claire felt at a loss and said. “I don’t know what to do. I feel as if I should be doing something. What is there to be done?”

“First you must drink you tea, you’ve been through a lot today. The tea may help you to relax a little.” Mrs Coulson said. “Is there any next of kin or family you’ll want to inform?”

“None that I know of.”

Mrs Coulson nodded and said” Might I suggest that we telephone an undertaker. You’ll need one; they organise things and make all the necessary arrangements, having first discussed it with yourself of course. Do you have anyone in mind?”

She shook her head.

“Shall I phone the Co-op for you? They are as good as any”

This time she nodded.

 Mrs Coulson made an appointment for the undertaker to call in the morning.

The two friends discussed the past events of the day but Claire slowly began to realise the finality of the situation she suggested that she might have an early night. Mr Coulson nodded her agreement saying “Best thing for you.” and got up to leave. “Just remember I am only two doors down, if you need anything please do not hesitate to knock on my door. Or even telephone me; you have my number in your book.”

All the next day friends and neighbours called to express their condolences assuring her how well liked and respected her mother had been and promising to attend the coming funeral.

As promised the undertaker called in person and took down all the details surrounding her mother’s demise. He asked if there were any special requirements or arrangements Claire might have, which she didn’t. They discussed how many family cars, to escort the hearse, would be needed.

This was a point she hadn’t thought of, family and friends. The many friends would be no problem; most of them had their own cars and would probably transport themselves to the cemetery.

Now family was another matter, as far as she knew herself and mum didn’t have any direct family. Mum had at one time said she had family members down in Leeds, Yorkshire. How would she get in touch with them? Would they want to attend even if they could be found? At this stage just the one attending car was ordered. The undertaker confirmed that a second one could be ordered from him at short notice, if her circumstances changed.

During the conversation the undertaker asked if there was a budget for the funeral expenses. What he really meant, could she afford to pay for the funeral, was her mother insured? This was one thing the young lady was certain off her mother had always worked and saved. Many times her mother had confirmed that if anything happened to her then her daughter would be well cared for. She had said that she was fully insured and at one time had even mentioned that money, that had been left to her from her parents, had been put aside for any rainy day.

The enquiry from the undertaker made Claire make a mental note to find her mum’s will she was sure one had been made and knew exactly where it would be found.

Her mum had always kept an old large leather handbag for the purpose of storing important documents. She had often said, “If it’s important then it’s in the handbag!”

After the undertaker had gone and she was alone she retrieved the handbag from within her mum’s wardrobe. It made her feel a little intrusive rummaging around in it but it had to be done.

Sure enough a large manila envelope was found, in large type, ‘WILL’, was printed on the front.

It came as no surprise that she was the sole beneficiary of her mother’s estate which included the house they lived in. She was relieved that there was no mortgage on the house. At least she had the assurance of a roof over her head for life.

Also within the envelope were numerous other documents and another, smaller envelope. It was sealed and handwritten on the front that spelled out:-

 

 

 

Only to be opened at the advent of my death.

E Hargreave, 

E. Hargreave.

 

 

It had her mother’s signature on the envelope.

Should she read it now? Or wait until after the funeral? Her impatience got the better of her and she tore open the envelope.

 Inside was a single sheet of paper handwritten by her mother, it read:- 


 

Dear Claire,

 

If you are reading this then I’m sorry that you are having to cope with my death.

I had hoped that someday I’d have had the courage to tell you all this before I died.

When I was 15 your father and I had a baby girl, we called her Sarah she was a lovely child and looked a lot like you. Your father and I had a very hard time whilst we were young but we made a life for ourselves although we didn’t have much we were happy living with my parents in Middleton, Leeds.

When Sarah was 15 I found that I was pregnant with you. Around that time she started staying out late and missing school. We had always tried to be good parents but whatever we did never seemed enough for her. She soon got involved with much older boys and then drugs.

We tried everything we could to help her but she died just after you were born, your father not long after.

I know I should have told you all about this when I was alive but I was scared and ashamed and didn’t want you to grow up and get involved in the same sort of thing. That was why your grandmother Mary and I decided to leave Leeds.

Leaving and moving to West Sleekburn was our only hope of giving you a secure future. Hopefully I’ve achieved that, I believe I have. I’m so proud of you and always remember I love you so much.

 

Please forgive me.

 

Your loving mother.  

 

E Hargreave, 

 

X X X X X

Claire had tears in her eyes. What had she to forgive? All her life, Claire felt as if her mother had never put a foot wrong. Yes she had worked full time at Boots chemist in Ashington during the day whilst her nana Mary looked after her, but as soon as mother came home she was there for her.

Reading mums letter Claire realised her father and nana had once lived in Middleton, Leeds? The only thing she’d heard about Leeds was that they had once had a great football team; almost as good as the Newcastle’s ‘Toon’ but where on earth was Middleton? She had no idea and made a mental note to look up the place up on ‘Google Maps’

A knock at the door shook her from her thoughts.

It turned out to be a gentleman who introduced himself as the manager of the Station Road branch of Boots chemist in the Ashington Centre, where her mother had worked. Claire vaguely remembered him from the occasional visits she’d had when visiting her mother at work and also at the Christmas dinner dance that both had attended last year.

He began by offering his condolences in a very genuine voice. He said that her mother had been very popular at work and asked that he and his work colleagues be allowed to attend the coming funeral.

She readily agreed that they would be more than welcome at the service

He re-iterated how popular and well-liked mum was and always seemed to enjoy her work and how she would be sorely missed. After a very pleasant conversation the manager made his excuses and left.

It heartened her a little, to realise that mum was well liked at work and that though there would not be relatives in attendance at least quite a few friends would be at her funeral

For the second time in two days she felt physically and mentally exhausted and decided to have another early night rather that explore her mums handbag any further. What else could be in there other than her main insurance documents and bank-book? At this time she felt sure these two items would not appeal much to her interest.

On the third day after her mother’s passing the undertaker rang. At their earlier meeting he had advised her that there may have to be an autopsy and probably an inquest after. These were usually held very early after demise. He had assured Claire that it was usual in the case of a sudden death.

He was now ringing to inform her that an autopsy was not to be performed. The doctor attending was certain that the injuries sustained were consistent with all the facts of the road traffic accident.

The undertakers call reminded her that she had meant to enquire about the circumstances around the accident.

He further said that a coroner’s inquest would be held in the morning at 10am. It wasn’t a necessity for Claire to attend as she wouldn’t be called as a witness; she replied that she would certainly be there.

The reality that her mum was not be ‘cut open’ comforted her somewhat.

 

The coroner’s courtroom in Ashington was quite small really. Claire was expecting a proper court something like she’d seen on Television with a judge, jury and legal representatives. The room was just over twice the size of a normal house sitting room. A large wooden desk with a chair behind was obviously for the coroner’s use. Two rows of chairs faced the desk with a single chair to the right of the desk. On the wall behind the desk hung a small but very officious looking seal of the Royal Legal Coat of Arms.

There were five other people in the room besides herself and all stood up when a court usher pronounced that Mr Arnold Cummings QC was the coroner in attendance. A door behind the desk opened and the coroner appeared he gave a slow deliberate nod to the room and sat down; after which they all did. It surprised her that the coroner was dressed like any normal business man in suit, white shirt and conservative tie, rather than wearing any legal attire.

An usher announced that the business in hand was to determine the exact causes of death of a Mrs Elizabeth Hargreave aged 48 of 224 Church Avenue, West Sleekburn, Northumberland.

The first witness was a uniformed policeman who identified himself as 3234 Police Constable William Owen of the Northumberland Police. He placed his right hand on the ushers proffered bible and affirmed that he would be telling the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The coroner said to the Policeman. "Tell us, constable, in your own words what you know of the death of Mrs Hargreave."

PC Owen then went on to describe how he, with a colleague, had been patrolling the inner town when they were radio summoned, by control, to attend a Road Traffic Accident at the pedestrian crossing at Lintonville Terrace and Woodhorn Road.

On their arrival they witnessed a lady, who he now knew to be, Mrs Elizabeth Hargreave laying face upwards and being surrounded by onlookers. He took charge of the scene, whilst his colleague questioned those about who may have witnessed the accident.

He stated that his first action was to check on Mrs Hargreaves breathing and pulse. None could be traced.  He stated that at first appearances Mrs Hargreave was obvious dead but that as he was not a doctor or a Para-medic he could not legally pronounce death, he was not qualified for that.

“Did you begin artificial respiration or heart massage?” the coroner asked.

“No Sir” replied the constable, “Outward appearances to the body showed that the entire midsection had suffered severe crushing injuries. She was certainly beyond my help.”

The coroner asked a few more question about identification of the body etc. Mr Cummings QC thanked him and said he could now stand down.

PC John Collis was next in the witness’s chair. He stated that from witness statements taken at the time they all suggested that Mrs Hargreave, had without warning to others, stepped from the pavement of Lintonville Terrace into the roadway just as a number X20 bus was passing. He said that he had four verifying statements, all very much alike, in the fact that Mrs Hargreave must have had a lapse of presence of mind and stepped into the road against the red traffic light without thinking.  He stated that copies of the four witness statements and also a statement given by the bus driver had already been submitted to the court in advance.

Mr Cummings stated that he was aware of the statements and had read and studied them. He then asked Pc Collis if any witness he had interviewed had suggested anything other than it was a genuine accident. The policeman answered “Negative sir, no one”.

Again after a further few collaborative questions, the coroner dismissed the PC.

The bus driver was called and he merely confirmed that her mother had just stepped out in front of his bus, against a red light, and there was nothing he could have done to avoid the accident.

Claire had expected, nay wanted, to feel malice towards the killer of her mother but on hearing all this evidence the driver of the bus was completely innocent it wasn’t his fault, if anything it was her mother not looking where she was going. She even felt a little sorry for him.

Next was called the paramedic that had attended the scene of the accident. He reiterated that there was very little he could have done. Mrs Hargreave had obviously died at the scene before his arrival. He couldn’t add much further evidence,

Claire got up to leave the room just as Mr Edwards, the attending surgeon, was about to give evidence about her mother’s internal injuries and cause of death. She’d heard enough. She certainly didn’t want to hear of the gruesome details of her mother’s crushing injuries

The undertaker rang later that afternoon to inform her that ‘The Coroner’ had pronounced a verdict on her mother’s death as that of ‘death by misadventure’.  The undertaker further suggested that as a death certificate had now been issued, the funeral could now go ahead as planned at ten thirty on the coming Thursday morning, two days away, if that was acceptable. She agreed.

Later that day a policeman telephoned her and asked if she could call into the station to collect her late mother’s possessions that had been left in their care until after the inquest. She agreed and called in later that day.

Amongst her mother’s possessions was her car keys and Claire, being the sole beneficiary of her mother’s estate, was now the proud owner of a new car. Well, not a new car but certainly new to her. Her mother had owned a two year old bottle green Renault ‘Clio’ and parked it in the Co-op car park and was on her way home from work to retrieve it prior to her accident.

Claire recovered it the same day

The funeral two days later seemed to go off without any hitch. There were more visitors than had been expected; it gave Claire reassurance that her mum had been so popular. She just felt a little disappointed that no relatives were in attendance but in effect she did not have, to her knowledge, any relatives.

Claire had now to decide what her future held without her mum.

She began to study her options. She had already taken and passed her second years degree courses therefor her 3rd year at University continues this coming September.

As for now she had a couple of months with nothing much to do. Her mum and herself had, before her death that is, discussed having a foreign holiday together in August but obviously that was out now. She could still take a holiday abroad or even take a gap year out and go ‘back-packing’ in Australia but it didn’t rally appeal to her.

Middleton! Why did her mind suddenly latch on to that name? A few days earlier she had before promised herself to look the place up on Google Maps, now might be an opportune moment as any

Logging on to Google maps on her laptop was easy enough and soon She had brought up a map of Leeds and found that Middleton was quite a large estate about five miles from the city centre. It looked quite a prosperous square area bounded on two sides by the M1 and M62 motorways with a golf course and large park on the other two sides. There seemed to be plenty of space around the area and all the houses had front and rear gardens. It was hard to tell whether the houses were council or privately owned.

She clicked on ‘Google Street View’ and toured around the region.

It appeared quite a nice area with plenty of trees and shrubs around. Claire instantly liked what she saw and felt as if she knew the place. But that was stupid she told herself, yes she may have been born there but had only lived there only a year or so and couldn’t possibly remember anything. Middleton meant nothing to her she told herself. Or did it?

 Of course, she reasoned, the photos had been taken when it had been a sunny day and she wondered if that had anything to do with it looking so nice.

Might even visit the place sometime, she thought, at the same time saying no, better not, don’t rake over old coals, as they say.

Claire decided now might be as good as any time to investigate further into mum’s handbag. She had remembered that it contained various other documents other than the will and letter that she’d already read.

First opened was a Barclay’s bank-book that stated a little over Two Hundred and Twenty Four Thousand pounds was credited into an investment account, which was gaining annual interest.

A further current account bank statement was credited at over Seven thousand pounds.

Premium bonds bought in Claire’s own name credited her with eleven thousand pounds.

A further document stated that her mother held five thousand shares in Boots Chemist. Obviously her mother had taken up all the options the company had offered during her employment.

An Insurance Policy certified that mother had been insured for a little over fifteen thousand pounds

The figures astounded her. Totalling it all up, without counting the shares, came to over two hundred and fifty seven thousand Pounds. She knew mother would be leaving her a little something but nothing like as much as this.

Her first impression was that she was rich. Then her second was depression, she would give it all back and more just for her mum to walk once more though the doorway

Rummaging further into the handbag amongst medical cards, old identity cards, past receipts and guarantees she came across two death certificates and two birth certificates.

The first Birth certificate opened was her own; she’d seen it before but had never really read it. Now it was interesting.

It stated that she had been born on the 25th of February 1991 at St Mary’s Hospital. Armley, Leeds. The box that contained the name and surname of father stated it to be that of a David Hargreave and another box Mother was Elizabeth Hargreave; formerly Howcroft, both of 71 Throstle Grove. Middleton, Leeds 10

The second Birth certificate was that of her sister Sarah whom, until a few days ago she never knew she had. The certificate was similar in design to hers; the birth being recorded as at the same hospital on the 25th of November 1976. There was no name of father inputted. The mothers name and address was Elizabeth Howcroft also of Throstle Grove, Leeds 10 her own mother.

Both Certificates had confirmed that Howcroft was her mother’s maiden surname before she had married her father and become Hargreave.

The next document she opened was that of her sister’s Death certificate. It stated that she had died at 34 Bayswater Close Leeds on the 1st of November 1991 Her full name was given as Sarah Louise Howcroft.  Her usual Address was also at 71 Throstle Grove Leeds 10.

The cause of death recorded as Death due to Anaphylactic shock, after an ingestion/injection of Heroine/amphetamines/alcohol.

It suggested that Sarah, her sister, who was living with her mum and dad in Throstle Grove, Middleton at the time, had been a drug user.

Her sister’s detailed cause of death really brought Claire down to earth. It was something one only read about in Sunday papers. Sister Sarah had been only 15 years old at the time and still of school age. Claire then remembered her mother’s letter saying how her sister had begun staying out late and missing school.

No wonder her mother had been ashamed to tell her and worried that she might turn out something like her sister.

Next document opened was the death Certificate of her father, David Hargreave.

It stated that the Date & Place of death being the 25th November 1991 at The Pegler Hotel. Leeds.

His occupation and usual address was listed as Coal Miner of 71 Throstle Grove, Middleton Leeds 10. The same address as her mother’s. She made a mental note to look up this address on Google maps.

Moving down the certificate;

Inserted in the number 8 box was.

 Cause of Death:

1.                      Penetration wound to Left Lung

2.                      Severed Coronary Artery

3.                      Haemorrhagic shock

Certified by G.M. de Boer. MB

 

Penetration wound to Left Lung! Wow! Does that mean her father was stabbed? If he was that really means he probably had been murdered? How did he come to get the stab wound? This fact really shook her it had come right out of the blue. Her sister’s death was bad enough for her to read about but this was certainly a double whammy.

Mother’s letter of apology now made a lot more sense. It’s little wonder that she didn’t want to discuss her past life in Leeds with her

So many jumbled thoughts began to clutter her mind. The who’s where’s and what’s. What were the circumstances surrounding both deaths? Was one connected to the other? Especially, looking again at the dates of the two deaths, there was only a month or so apart.

She went to bed that night knowing full well she was in for a restless night; her mind was in turmoil and she had to know more.  

Claire awoke the following morning knowing what she had to do; visit Leeds and get to the bottom of it.

Before any arrangements could be made for the visit she had a few loose ends that needed tidying up. A further rummage through her mum’s handbag revealed the name and address of the solicitor who had acted for her mum in the past. A quick phone call made an appointment to see him.

After providing documentation and other facts, Mr Craig, the solicitor, assured her that the entire mum’s estate could easily be transferred into her name. She briefly made her solicitor aware of the problems her mum had down in Leeds, showing him the documents. Claire then told him of her planned visit to Leeds. He advised that she should be very careful in any actions she might take.

Claire left the numerous documents with her solicitor for him to deal with and on his advice, visited the two banks her mum had accounts with. After providing her mums death certificate and her will, the change-over of her accounts to her own name presented no problems. As she already had a bank account with one of the same banks and a credit card in her own name she merely transferred two thousand pounds into her account for if and when she might need instant money.

Three weeks to the day of her mum s death and she was driving down the A1 and just passing the ‘Angel of the North’ statue on her left hand side. She looked up at it and called to mind how indicative it was of the North East. It had been erected in 1998 and overlooked the A1. At the time it was being built practically the whole of the people of the North East were divided. They either loved it or hated it. Now 12 years after, almost everyone loved it. It greeted you as you came into Newcastle and virtually said goodbye as you left. She silently said to herself “Au revoir” meaning literally ‘Till I see you again.’

The rest of the journey down the A1 M1 was uneventful and just over two hours later she was arriving into the Leeds outskirts. She was already aware that Middleton was to the South of Leeds but just let her sat-nav. direct her from the M1 to the heart of the area.

One of the first things she noticed on entering the Middleton estate was a Pub situated on a large roundabout. The very large building was very ornately built and quite imposing it was called, ‘The Pegler.’  It was the unusual name that had caught her eye, had she had seen the name before.

What do I do now that I’m here? Claire thought. Well I suppose I could do a slow drive around the estate, at the same time looking for somewhere to stay for a couple of nights at least. Although from what I can see Middleton just looks like the many council estates we have up in Newcastle and doesn’t appear large enough to boost of a hotel or travel lodge or the like. Who do I ask?

Parking the car in a car park near a parade of shops she spotted a small café and decided to kill two birds with one stone by having a cup of tea and then enquiring about accommodation.

The answer to her question of accommodation came in a broad Yorkshire twang was. “Nay love, there’s nowt like that round here. Nearest Travel Lodge I knows of, is opposite t ‘Armouries’ on Clarence Dock, darn into Leeds” Responded the café proprietor.

The assistants answer in a broad Yorkshire accent almost threw Claire she wasn’t sure what the answer had meant.

 She vaguely understood that there was a Travel Lodge near Clarence Dock. “Clarence dock. How do I get there?”

“Just go round roundabout and turn Right. Follow t main road darnhill allt way.  After abaht four miles, ask further. It’s easy to get there if tha knows tha way but It’ll confuse yer if I ge yer too many directions.”

“Thank-you.” Claire said at the same time hoping all Yorkshire people didn’t speak as broad as the assistant had, she had hardly understood a word that had been said.

“You’re welcome love.” Came the reply.

The slang word ‘Love’ in this context seemed to be a word of endearment. Rather like ‘Hinny’ in Newcastle or Northumberland. She supposed that if a Yorkshire person on visiting Newcastle would come across a people who spoke with a broad ‘Geordie’ accent. He or she may not understand what ‘Divn’t’ or ‘whyiman’ meant.

Now where did the assistant explain where Clarence dock was? Claire then realised that she had the sat-nav in the car, it would get her there and it did.

The ‘Travel Lodge’ on Clarence Dock that she was given directions to turned out to be a ‘Holiday inn’ which is adjacent to the Armouries Museum. She made a mental note to look into the armouries museum at some time during her visit to Leeds, she’d heard it was quite famous and well worth a visit.

 She booked in to stay for 2 nights at just under £40 per night. Not cheap but a very clean and modern type of room. She was sure she’d sleep well tonight. She decided she would have a nightcap with her evening meal then retire to have an early night.

After a very pleasant meal of steak pie and mash, basic but quite tasty she decided small sherry would finish off the day. As she sat back in her chair she recalled that whilst driving around Middleton she’d seen a building that appeared to be the library. If I need any information I’d probably find it there she considered. And now to bed

 

The library on ‘The Avenue’ was a flat topped building not overly large but reasonably sized.

“Hello.” Claire was greeted on entry to the library by an older lady.

 “Good morning.” She replied. “I wonder if it’s possible that I could use one of your internet computers?” she asked the librarian.

“Yes of course, my dear. Use any one of those that are not in use.” Indicating to the side of the room.

There was a bank of five computers’ alongside the far wall, only one was in use. She sat down at an empty one and logged onto Google Maps and inputted ‘Middleton Leeds UK’. Almost instantly a map of Middleton appeared in the screen. Quite a fast connection she noted. Pressing and raising the left hand ‘slider’ she enlarged the area to reveal road and street names. Despite a thorough searching for Throstle Grove it didn’t appear to be there, she could not find it. There was a number of Throstles, Lane Road etc. but no Throstle Grove. She clicked her tongue in desperation in not finding what she was looking for. A young man at the only one of the other computer stations in use asked her, “Having problems?”

Looking over to the voice she saw a youth who had asked the question.

“Well yes. I’m looking for a street name here in Middleton but it doesn’t seem to exist. But I know it should be there somewhere.”

“What’s its name? I live around here I might know it.

“Throstle Grove.”

“Throstle Grove? Can’t say I’ve ever heard of that one. Are you sure that is the right address?”

“Well both my mother and father lived there and so did I for the first year of my life.”

The youth, or really after looking at him again he was a young man of about her own age was fresh faced and quite smartly dressed, came across to her station and looked over her shoulder. His aftershave smelt quite pleasant she noticed.

After a few minutes of him searching around with the mouse he said. “You are right it doesn’t appear to be there. Wait a minute Mrs Thompson may be able to help.” He then walked over to the librarian’s desk and spoke to the librarian, Mrs Thompson.

She wasn’t very busy at the time so she came over and began to explain about Throstle Grove.

“Chinatown or just ‘The Grove is what we as children used to call it in my day. Many’s a happy hour I’ve spent playing in Throstle Grove.”

“But where is it? We cannot find it on the map” The young man asked.

“Oh! It’s been long gone. Knocked down, about fifteen years ago. Was it important?” She asked.

“My dad and mum once lived there”, Claire began to explain, “and the first year of my life was spent there as well. Mum and myself moved away from Leeds about 18 years ago, went to live up in Northumberland. I have some time on my hands and I’m trying to locate my roots.”

“Well! What a small world it is. I lived at 23 Throstle Road for the first fifteen years of my life. I knew ‘Chinatown’ rather well.

“Chinatown?” That was the second time she’d used the word.

“It was nicknamed Chinatown because there were so many children who lived, or came to play, there during the daytime The Grove was always full of children playing, not much traffic drove through it you see. I can see you are logged on to Google maps. I can show you where it was.”

Mrs Thompson leant over, enlarged the area, and then moved the computer cursor for it to hover on a very small junction off of Throstle Lane that wasn’t name-marked nor appeared to go anywhere.

“That was Throstle Grove.” she said “It was a street that connected Throstle Lane to Throstle Road. In its day it was quite famous. It consisted mainly of flats with individual gardens.  The council in their wisdom decided flats were not in keeping with the estate and demolished them; then grassed over the area, it’s now part of the large playing field.”

Claire was a little dismayed. She wanted to physically see where her mum dad and sister lived and must have looked a little crestfallen.

“Now I know the area that Mrs Thompson has shown us I could show you where it was.” suggested the young man. “That’s if you want to, that is?”

“Yes. Yes I’d like that is it far?”

“It’s just a few hundred yards. Not that far.”

As they both got up to leave, the librarian asked what was the number of the flat that Claire’s parents had lived at. To which she replied “71”.

“71? That was at the lower end of the street just round the corner from where I once lived. What was your mum’s name? I might have known her.”

“Hargreave. Well my dad’s name was Hargreave but the house was in my nans name, hers was Howcroft.”

For a brief second a look of concern appeared on Mrs Thompson’s face but just as quickly it disappeared. She looked about to say something but then decided against it. “Must get on.” She said and walked back over to her desk. Claire was about to ask her about it when the young man said.

“My names Chris. What’s yours?”

“Claire. As I’ve said this is the first time in the area. Well for eighteen years that is. Have you lived here long?”

“All my life.”

Chris was just over nineteen years of age but his fresh face made him look a little younger. He was tall, thin and lanky. He obviously hadn’t stopped growing yet. He had the makings of a very handsome man when he thickened out a little. He was presently employed by the Yorkshire Evening Post newspaper as a ’Goafer’. A ‘go for this, go for that’ type of job, he explained. He was being trained as a junior reporter attending a day release and two nights a week reading a journalistic course at the Leeds Polytechnic. He had lived with his mum and dad in Sissons Road all his life.

What an attractive looking woman she is, he thought. Maybe a little bit out of my class but I’m still going to try and impress her.

“Shall we take my car?” asked Claire.

 “Not really unless you want to. You could leave it in the library car park. It will be safe there. We can walk; it’s just around the corner, a few hundred yards or so.”

As they began walking Claire told him a little about herself. How she had been born in Middleton but after her father had died, her family, her mother and grandmother, left to live in Northumberland. She was at present studying for a BA in Social Science at Newcastle University.

What a lovely accent, he thought, quite lilting if that’s the word. I love hearing her talk. If that’s Geordie speak I’m hooked. Her body’s not too bad either.

As they walked Claire asked. “Did you get the impression that the librarian knew of my family?

“No, what gave you that idea?”

“When she asked me what number the house was and then heard my father’s name she seemed as if she knew something and wanted to say so. But she held her back. She seemed to decide that she didn’t want to say anything further.”

We could go back now and I’ll ask her if you want. Chris added.

“Would you really do that for me? It is rather important.” she requested.

“Of course I will.” There was no way he wouldn’t walk over hot coals to please this lady, he thought. “You say it’s important can you tell me a little more?”

Claire then went on to describe to him how her sister had died at an early age and that she had reason to believe that the death of her father soon after, was maybe somehow connected.

The more she explained the more he was interested, he felt ashamed to think that he had begun to see a newspaper article in there somewhere. To get the newspaper, he worked for; to have a report written by him and then printed would be his wish come true.

They visited the place where Throstle Grove had once been, although as the librarian had said there was little there to see, other than a minor road opening that led onto a large grass field.

Chris pointed out to Claire where the Grove would have been with houses or rather flats on either side. He explained that as house numbers always began nearest the city centre then so Number 1 would have been to their left as they looked down and the even numbers on the right. He reasoned that number 71 would have been on the left almost at the junction of Throstle Road.

There was little more to see and on the walk back Chris tried to probe a little more information from Claire. Although she had told him a little, He was sure that she had kept a lot more back.

Claire further said that she believed her dad had died in ‘The Pegler pub and wanted to learn more about his death. That fact in itself was very intriguing especially with her sister’s early death.

“Will you ask the librarian again if she knew my family? I’m sure she can tell me more.” She asked. Chris replied that he would but explained to her that it might be wise if he went in alone to ask her. Claire agreed and he suggested that they meet at the café, at around 6-0clock tomorrow evening after he finished work on Friday.

As Claire drove off in her car he was already looking forward to seeing her again. Hopefully, when he did, he thought, he’d have a little more of the information that she was seeking. They might even spend some quality time over the weekend together.

Mrs Thompson, the librarian, was a little hesitant to talk when Chris further asked her about the address at 71 Throstle Grove and the name Howcroft or Hargreave.

She said there were many rumours around at that time and she was in no position to enlarge on them, other than to confirm that Mr & Mrs Howcroft originally lived at 71 and that they had a daughter called Elizabeth.

The daughter Elizabeth had a baby at a very early age when she was still at school. This daughter had died in mysterious surroundings when she was in her teens. It was also a matter of record that the father had died in unusual circumstances soon after. If the two instances were connected it was never proved but she said that at the time, all had their doubts.

She further went on to say that Elizabeth Howcroft, who was about her own age, later married a Mr Hargreave and they had a further daughter which sounded ominously like Claire.

Chris did try and probe a little deeper but Mrs Thompson said she felt that she had said enough already. Anything more would be total speculation on her part. She suggested that if Chris sought more information he might try the ‘Yorkshire Evening Post’ Newspaper files for it should be on record.

“Good idea. I’ll do that.” He promised, a little peeved that he hadn’t thought of the idea himself.

“Oh! By the way.” The librarian said, just as he was about to walk off. “David had a brother; I think they called him John. Whether he’s still alive and living in Middleton I wouldn’t know.”

Chris thanked Mrs Thompson for the information and she had given him and the suggestion to research files that may be on record.

During Chris’s lunch hour the next day he accessed the Yorkshire newspaper archives and was a little disappointed that he could find only two references that surrounding the death of Claire’s father. The reports gave very little definite information other than Claire’s father had died in a pub fight. A man had been arrested at the time but was later released and not charged.

He could find no further references to anyone being charged afterwards with the murder.

Chris met Claire in the café, as arranged, that evening. He described the conversation he’d had with Mrs Thompson. How she had explained, that her younger sister had died under suspicious circumstances and her father had been killed in a pub. He realised that he was only giving her information which she already knew. Then he showed her Photostat copies of the newspaper reports.

 

Young Girl Dies from Drug Overdose  

This morning a young female was discovered in a Bayswater flat. Leeds.  Suffering from a drug overdose.

She was confirmed as DOA at St James hospital, Leeds and has not been identified at this time.

Unconfirmed reports have stated that she originally resided in the Leeds 10 area.

Police are appealing for any information concerning this case.                                         

YEP. 01:11:91

 

 

 

Man dies after pub fight.                YEP 22:11:91   

A 30-year old man has died after a fight at a pub in Leeds.

Police were called to The Pegler Hotel in Middleton at 2150hrs BST on Saturday, after reports of a disturbance.

The man, who appears not to have been involved in the fight was found collapsed inside. He was taken to hospital but was found dead on arrival a police spokesman has said.

A number of persons and witnesses have been interviewed and a 29-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of assault and remains in police custody.

Det. Sgt. Claire Brennan said: "Our investigation is at a very early stage so it would not be appropriate to speculate about what exactly happened.

"We want to build up a picture of the events that led up to this fight, I would appeal to anyone who was either at the pub or had left before police arrived, or anyone with any information, however slight, to come forward.

"At this time, our thoughts are with the family of the man who died so if anyone does know something, please call us."

 

 

Man released after pub fight. YEP  27:11:91   

A 29-year old man who had been arrested after a fight at a pub in Leeds, where a man died, was released earlier today.

 

The 30 year old dead man can now be identified as David Hargreave of 71 Throstle Grove, Middleton Leeds 10.

He was not thought to be involved directly in the fracas.

He is survived by his wife Elizabeth and Daughter Claire

Police are still appealing for witnesses to come forward

 

 

Claire, after reading the three newspaper reports that Chis had showed her didn’t seem too surprised. When he gently asked her about it she said that she had suspected as much from reading the death Certificates of her sister and her father. She went on to explain a little more about her discovering her mother’s documents and the information that they contained.

The more Claire told him the more intrigued he became.

“Surely you cannot leave it like this you’ve got to enquire further” He urged.

“Course I need to know more. I certainly cannot leave it like this. I need to know the full truth.” she replied

“But you said you’d only booked your accommodation for the two nights. Tonight’s your last.” He reminded her. He had brought up the subject because he wanted her company in Leeds longer.

That’s not a problem.” She replied, “When I return tonight I’ll just book in for another week. Time is not a problem”

Chris was greatly relieved to hear the news of her staying. He’d hate to lose touch with her now.

“Oh! I almost forgot.” He said. “Mrs Thompson also said that she thinks that your father had a brother. He used to live in Middleton but wasn’t sure where he lives now.”

Claire was obviously excited at the news said. “How can we find where he is and where do we start?”

“I already checked the Electoral roll for a John Hargreave of Middleton.” He proudly announced.

“And what did you find?”

There are six D. Hargreave’s that are listed in Leeds but only two of them live in the Leeds 10 area and both of them are within your father’s age. I reckoned he would be between forty and fifty five years old.

“Oh! Chris you’re a star. Yes that would be about his age range, that’s if he’s still alive that is. When can we start looking for them?” She was raring to continue further, fast.

“Well it’s a little late to start now. Would you like to go for a meal somewhere?” He was cringing she would refuse and want to return to her hotel.

“That’s a good idea.”

Chris’s face lit up at her acceptance but then frowned when she said.

“And I know just the place. How about ‘The Pegler’?”

“That might not be a good idea; it’s not a very nice place for ladies like you.” He was trying to put her off. ”Besides they don’t sell food.” He added.

“Don’t worry about me I can take care of myself. Besides I’m not hungry” She seemed adamant and so ‘The Pegler’ it was. He nodded his head reluctantly and said “OK”

Claire was surprised that Chris had agreed to her suggestion that they visit ‘The Pegler.’ From what she’d gathered the pub was a very rough place certainly not the sort of place he would normally visit. By his agreement it was obvious that he wanted to please her.

“We’ll take my car then I can drive you home before setting off for my hotel. I’ll only be drinking coke.” Claire said and he agreed.

The Pegler pub was much like other pubs, although a little larger than most. It being around seven on a Friday night the lounge bar was slowly filling up. Claire spied an empty table at the top end of the room that commanded a panoramic view of the inside of the pub. As Chris handed her a coke she suggested they make our way to it. Chris said that he believed that table may be taken and that he’d rather prefer a seat more to the rear of the room anyhow. Claire was about to contend that the table was empty and available but as it made no difference to her she followed him to a table that he had suggested.

They had been in pub about ten minutes when a loud voice raised above the normal noise of the pub.

“Who’s is that Green Clio that’s parked in my spot? Whose ever it is had better move it before I get it moved.” The voice was emanating from a large squat man. He must have weighed nineteen stone if he weighed an ounce. He seemed to have no neck; his large red haired head seemed to just carry on down to his shoulders. His chest was massive as was his belly. He was big in anyone’s estimation. Everyone in the room ceased taking and all were looking around for the offending driver.

Both Claire and Chris looked at each other both realising it might be Claire’s green Clio that the man was shouting about.

She turned her head to look at Chris and found he was already looking at her in a forlorn manner. “If it’s mine I’d better move it” Chris nodded in agreement.

They both got up and Claire approached the man and at the same time saying “Sorry if it’s mine.”

The man followed her out as she walked over to her car where she had parked it at the front of the car park entrance. There were plenty of spaces for the man to park his large BMW car saloon elsewhere and remarked. “I can’t see any signs that this space is marked as private.”

The man slowly walked up to her and putting his head very close to hers said. ”Just move it. I will not tell you again.”

Her knees shook. She believed the inherent threat. That was the first time in her life that she had felt fear. It was the first time in her life that she had been the point of aggression and she certainly didn’t like it. She couldn’t get into her car fast enough and drive it to the far end of the car park well out of his way, as she got out her knees were still shaking.

Going back towards the pub entrance Chris was waiting for her. She said to Chris “I want to go. I don’t like it here.”

He said something like. “Don’t you want to go back in and finish your drink first?” but she shook her head almost as fast as her knees were still shaking. Chris got the message and they left.

As they were walking over to retrieve her car Chris began to apologise to her saying he had no idea that she had parked in a private spot in the park and wouldn’t knowingly have put her in that position.

She replied. “I know you wouldn’t Chris please be assured of that. I just couldn’t see any signs to say that that was his private parking space. I’ve never met such an aggressive, man in my life before. I was so frightened of him.”

“I can tell you now.” He began to explain “That’s why the table at the top of the room was not available even though no one was sat at it. No one dare sit there; that is Jed’s table. I didn’t know about the car park though. I promise you if I’d known I wouldn’t have let you park there. I’m sorry that it happened it was my fault for bringing you her in the first place.”

Claire put her hand on Chris’s forearm and said “You have done nothing wrong it was me that had insisted we visit the pub. You warned me it was a rough pub I just didn’t listen. You couldn’t have known what was going to happen. I’m sorry for doubting you”

The apology helped him a little.

“You mentioned Jed, who’s Jed?” Claire asked as they walked to her car.

“Jed Gedbury He’s the driving force in Middleton. No one dares cross him; even the police seem to give him a wide berth.”

“Well I hope we never cross paths with him again.”

“I sure hope you don’t. Remember the newspaper report I showed you? He was the man the Police arrested initially the night your father was killed. The same man who was released the day after.”

“What a horrible man.”

“He certainly is. He rules the roost around here. Very little goes on in Middleton that Jed doesn’t know about, especially crime. It’s a well-known fact that crime in the Leeds 10 area is very low. Many people say that is due to Jed. Most young wannabe criminals steer very clear of Jed. Although any crime that does happen here it’s probably due to Jed, or Jed has his hand in it. And he certainly controls the drug scene.”

Those last words ‘drugs scene’ made my ears prick, up was my sister Sara involved with Jed all those years ago?

“I’ll drive you home” she said “After all that I really feel as if I’ve had enough for one day.”

She dropped Chris off at his mother’s house and as he alighted she said. “Can we meet up tomorrow?”

“Of course we can.” he replied. ”We have to find your father’s brother. Shall we meet outside of the ‘Yorkshire Bank’ at around noon? Twelve-o-Clock OK?”

She nodded her head “Twelve sharp it is then. See you”

Before Claire retired to her room she booked a further four days at the Holiday Inn. That should be enough time to do what I need to do, she considered.

 

“Where to?” she asked Chris as he climbed into her car.”

“Well” he replied “As I said I have two addresses for a John Hargreave both are in the Leeds 10 area.  The nearest one is down the Avenue so I suggest we try that one first, the other is in Newhall Road which is strictly not in Middleton but in the Belle isle estate but it’s still in the Leeds 10 area.”

Chris knocked on the door of 231 Middleton Park Avenue, an old lady answered it. “Does Mr John Hargreave live here?” He asked.

“Yes love, who wants him.”

“This young lady,” he looked back to me, “Is looking for her Uncle. Does, Mr Hargreave have a brother call David?”

“No.” she answered. “I know for a fact he has no brothers, or sisters for that matter.” I’m his wife so I should no. He’s not in at the moment. You can call later when he’s home from work but I am sure you must have the wrong address”

“Sorry to have troubled you” Chris thanked her and they left.

That left just one more, the one in Newhall Road.

This time knocking at the door it took rather a longer time before it was answered, in fact they were just about to turn around and walk away.

“Yes?” an old man with a stick had answered our knock on his door.

“Mr John Hargreave?” Chris asked.

“Yes. What can I do for you?”

“This young lady is looking for her uncle. Did you have a brother called David?”

He looked over to Claire and said “What’s your name?”

“Claire. Claire Hargreave.”

 

John Hargreave looked a lot older than his 60 years. He began working at the Middleton Broom Colliery after leaving school at sixteen. Rather than training to become a ‘coal getter’ he decided to learn a trade and become a mining electrician. He had visualised that if ever he became redundant from the mining industry he would have trade to fall back on. By the time he was twenty one he was a fully qualified mining electrician.

In the late seventies the pits began closing down and he had been made redundant. He had not reckoned that being a qualified mining electrician did not qualify him as an electrician for surface jobs. There were very few jobs for fully qualified electricians let alone mining ones. For the next five years he flitted in unskilled labouring jobs but soon began to realise that the dusty atmosphere of a coal mine had already taken its toll. During the 12 years of constantly breathing coal dust, unbeknown to him he had contracted pneumoconiosis and emphysema. The lung diseases had took 10 years before it showed up on a radiological cat scan.

His whole life now revolved around being seated in his armchair with the television control to hand. 

He now existed on his pit and disability pensions.

A home help lady came in twice a day to cook or clean and help him in any way she was able.

He was now almost becoming bed ridden. He could walk unaided but then no further than across the room and even then he would have to stop, to catch his breath.

Occasionally when his breathing became heavy he had to make use of the oxygen bottle situated to the side of his chair. He would often have breathing difficulties and then he placed the plastic mask over his face to breathe in pure oxygen for up to half an hour.

A specialist, at the hospital he attended as an out-patient, had recently given him the news that he had only three to six months of life left in him. No one knew of this fact other than himself and his doctor.

John being a realist accepted his fate the best way he could. His quality of life was now rather miserable.

“You’d better come in love.”  John invited. “I’ve been expecting you.”

“Expecting me?” Claire answered. “How did you know I was coming? We only decided to come this morning.”

“I’ve been expecting you, ever since you came of an age and old enough to think for yourself.”

“You are my father’s older brother then?”

“Aye lass. I was almost twelve years older than your dad.”

“This is my friend Chris.” She introduced the young man at her side. “Is it OK if he comes in as well?”

“Of course it is come on in you are both welcome.”

They both entered as John slowly made his way back to the arm chair. Sitting down he reached over to his oxygen mask and placed it over his mouth for a few minutes just to catch his breath.

“Can we help?” Chris asked.

“No. I’ll be ok in a minute. “He mumbled through the plastic face mask. “You can make yourselves a cup of tea if you want.”

They both graciously declined the offer.

After a couple of minutes of silence whilst he recovered, he took off the mask and said. “Sorry about that. I’m Ok now though.”

“Not at all” she pleasantly replied. “Better now?”

I nodded. “How is your mother?”

“I’m afraid she had a fatal traffic accident a month ago. That’s really why I am here.”

“I’m sorry, how did it happen.”

Claire then went on to tell the story of her mother’s accident and how her mother had left her a letter explaining why she had left Leeds all those years ago to begin life up in Northumberland. How she had discovered her fathers and sisters death certificate that certified how they had both died from unnatural causes.

”That’s why I am here, can you tell me what went on around that time? I really know very little.” She asked.

“What part of it are you most interested in?”

“All of it.” She replied, the emphasis being on the ‘All.’

Where do I start?  He considered. She looked very determined to know all and she deserves to know it all warts and all. I’d better start right at the beginning.

“Your Grandmother Mary lived with her husband James at 71 Throstle Grove. They had a daughter, your mother Elizabeth. When your mother was barely fifteen she became pregnant with your sister Sara. You know you had a sister I’m assuming?” John looked directly at Claire.

Claire nodded. “Yes I know a little of her but not much.”

“It is a real credit to them that your Grandfather James and his wife Mary stood by their daughter.” John Continued. “A pregnant school girl was very out of the norm then. Your father David, my younger brother and a schoolboy himself at the time, accepted full responsibility that he was the father of Sarah and he accepted his responsibilities. Your mother and father remained together until the very day your father died.”

All the time John was talking, Claire was listening carefully, obviously not wanting to miss a word of what was being said.

He paused for breath before carrying on.

“Both your mother and your Sister Sarah remained living at 71 with her parents. Your grandfather died when Sarah was about twelve years old.

John stopped talking almost mid-sentence. He had suddenly realised, that her grandfather’s death may have had something to do with 12 year old Sarah going off the rails?

He paused again but this time it was to study what he was about to say.

“I’ve never thought about this before but now I come to think of it that was around the time that young Sarah began to go off the rails. I’m wondering was your grandfather’s death a contributing cause. Your sister doted on her grandfather. He really looked on her like his own daughter.”

Claire pensively said. “Mmm. That does sound a likely reason doesn’t it?”

“Anyway,” he continued. “Just after your Grandfather died, your father and mother got married and they were invited to live with your surviving grandmother Mary at 71 Throstle Grove. Soon after that you were born. That was in the very early nineties I think.”

“I was born in February 1991. So that would be about the right time.” Claire nodded in agreement.

Again after a little pause for breath John continued. “As I have said after your grandfather died your sister Sarah went off the rails somewhat. I never really saw anything of that; I lived down here in Belle Isle. But I did hear it all first hand from your dad. He used to visit quite often and open his heart to me. At that time you could tell he wasn’t a happy man. Although when you came on scene it made him happy for a time at least.”

“He told me that Sarah had begun mixing with older boys staying out late of a night, that type of thing. Despite your father grounding her she would just sneak out or climb down the drainpipe, that type of thing. We now know she had begun dabbling in drugs. Of course in those days very few people came in to contact with drugs so Sarah’s signs and symptoms were not really recognised by anyone.”

Again another short pause for breath

“Towards the end she started just not returning home, stopping out for days on end. Your parents tried to get help from the authorities but whatever they tried was never enough for Sarah to mend her ways. We now know, though we didn’t at the time, that she was in the clutches of drugs and we suspected a man called Jed though nothing could be proved.”

“Yes we have briefly met Jed.” Interrupted Chris.

“He was a nasty piece of work then,” he continued, “but now he thinks he’s untouchable. He’s been reported to the police many times, for many differing reasons, but he never seems to get his comeuppance. Its common knowledge that he’s been to prison a number of times for short sentences but when he gets out he seems powerful more-stronger that when he went in.

Your dad went to see him the night before your sister died. He told me how he had started off pleading with Jed to let her go. Jed just laughed in his face denying all knowledge of Sarah. Then your dad started threatening Jed that he would report him to the police for child abduction and of him having carnal knowledge with an underage girl. Jed denied any knowledge of Sarah but he told your dad he would do what he could to help. Your dad seemed appeased by this assurance and left.

Two days after, your sister Sarah was found dead in a flat in Chapletown. How or why she was there we never did get to know.

I think the he autopsy declared she had died of Cocaine poisoning.”

Claire interrupted and said. “The death certificate states it was heroine that had killed her.”

“Yes.” John agreed “Whatever it was, drugs caused her death.

John had another little pause for breath and continued.

“Your dad always blamed Jed for the death of his daughter by supplying her with the drugs but of course he could never prove it.

You’ve got to remember in those days the drugs scene was in its early infancy and very few people knew about them even fewer came into contact with them.

Your dad tried every which way to find evidence that Jed was linked with the death but he had always reached a dead end. No witnesses would dare come forward to show that Jed was involved. Sarah had a friend at that time called Lily. Your dad told me that Lily knew a lot more than she was admitting. He felt that if he could gain Lily’s confidence then she might tell him how Jed had been involved with his daughter. Just as he thought he was making headway with Lily she clammed up and refused to say any more. She refused to even see your dad, let alone talk to him. Your dad was sure Jed had got to her and had threatened that she would go the same way as Sarah if she opened her mouth. But again it could never be proved.

Anyway less than a month after Sarah’s death your father died. I don’t know whether you know it but he died in a fight in ‘The Pegler’ although it was said he wasn’t involved in the fight but he had got caught up in it.”

Claire nodded and said she’d seen the newspaper reports.

There was an inquest into your father’s death which stated that he died of a stab wound but although there were many persons present at the scene of the stabbing no one would or could come forward to give evidence of who actually did the actual stabbing. The paramedics found him outside of the pub bleeding his life away.

It was said, though this is only hearsay, that your father went into the crowded pub that night shouting the odds that he knew that Jed had been involved in your sister’s death. He is supposed to have rushed forward to grapple with Jed but had been bustled outside by others when the actual stabbing occurred no one knows or won’t come forward to tell exactly what happened. Many witnesses had come forward to say that he never reached Jed and that Jed had not been within distance of the stabbing. I have my doubts on that evidence. But who am I?

Many times I’ve wanted to avenge my brother’s death but I’m ashamed to say that I was scared. Frightened at what Jed would do to me if I interfered.

Your visit has brought it all back to me. I’m not afraid anymore my life is almost at an end but I’m so infirm, other than getting a gun and shooting him there’s nothing I can do.”

“You say my sister had a friend, what was she called again?”

“Lily, Lillian Clarkson.”

“Does she still live around here?”

“I’m told she lives at Swan Lodge in Hunslet.  It’s a block of ten that was specially designed for single people in need.

“Do you know it?” she asked Chris

Chris nodded his head.

“Do you think we can go there when we leave here?”

Again Chris nodded.

After a few more pleasantries Clair and Chris left promising to visit him again sometime in the future.

As they left he promised himself to make up for something that he hadn’t done all those years ago because he had been frightened. Too frightened to revenge his brother’s death.

 

Lillian looked older than her forty years. Life had not treated her kindly. Her drug induced teenage years and the life on the streets, selling her body, had certainly taken its toll. Her body, once the envy of other teenage girls and the desire of many men, was now at its lowest point of her life. She often recollected of her past life in Chapletown and Manningham Lane, the red light districts of Leeds and Bradford. Money in those days was easy come by and more easily gone by. The payments to her drug habit and pimp made sure that not a single penny could be saved; indeed her outlay was often more than her income.

Now she was down on her uppers living, or rather surviving, on social support in a one bedroom small upper council sponsored flat.

She had kicked her drug habit in her thirties through a rehabilitation course organised by the local health authorities and was still on a course of methadone treatment. Another main reason she had remained clean was that she simply now did not have wherewithal to afford her addiction.

For as she became older her slowly degrading looks ensured that her male clients were few and far between and the clients she got were, like her-self, the dregs of society and could not afford anyone better than herself. There was there was no way she could pay for the drugs anymore but even now, a little over five years later, she still got a minor craving for a fix. Now she had to make do on her Methadone and forty cigarettes a day. She lived in a semi-secure one bedroomed flat. The flat was one of ten that had been built by the council as housing for the needy. It was an experiment in social housing. Although in terms it was a success and it certainly looked after the needy folk who lived there, all costs were fully borne by Leeds City council. In value for money it certainly was not a success.

 

“Lillian? My name is Claire.” the young lady introduced herself.

Surely my eyes are playing tricks, the women thought, I know I’m seeing a young girl who is introducing herself as Claire but she is the spitting image of my old schoolmate Sarah, or how she would have been, if she had survived.

 “Call me Lily, everyone does. “I’ve been expecting you. I got your message from the warden saying that you’d called earlier this morning and that you would call in later. I’ve been to see my doctor for a repeat prescription.” She explained her absence.

“Come in love, sit yourself down. Shall I make us some tea?”

“That would be nice.” Answered Claire although having furtively looked round the untidiness of the flat she was sure she wouldn’t been drinking much of it. “This is my friend Chris. I hoped you didn’t mind my bringing him along?

“No, of course not, please come in.” Lily replied. “The more the merrier. I don’t get many visitors these days.”

She set about putting the kettle on and washing a couple of extra mugs. “How is your mother? I always liked her.” Lily called over her shoulder.     

“She died four weeks ago I’m afraid. A road traffic accident.”

”Oh! I’m sorry to hear that, a nicer woman never drew breath.”    

 A quaint turn of phrase thought Claire but realised it was meant in the kindest possible way. “My father died when I was...”

“Yes I remembered it at the time.” she interrupted. “I wasn’t exactly there but I heard all about it.”

 “It’s so important to me that I know what went on.” Claire urged. “I’ve heard so many tales about what happened; at least I should know what happened not many details could shock me anymore. If it’s a question of money I might be able to help.”

“No. No it’s not a question of money.” she replied. But there again, she thought, the idea of making a few bob for cigarettes certainly appealed to her. I could tell her details that are common knowledge, no harm in that.

“Of course it’s not about money, tight though it is,” she said “especially with the price of ‘cigarettes’ today. I’m only on benefits you know. No, But if you are up to it I’ll tell you what I know.

 Lily handed Claire and Chris a mug of tea each and said. “What is it you want to know?”

“Well we already know a lot of what happened.” Confirmed Claire. “We know you and my late sister were involved with the drugs scene at the time. Perhaps you can tell us how you both became involved. As I’ve said if its money then maybe we can come to some arrangement.”

It was a direct open invitation for Lily to come clean.

 “Years ago when your sister and I were thirteen we were in the same class at school and became the closest of friends. Wherever you saw Sarah you saw me and vice versa.

We started to go to the Parochial Hall, in the old village, on Saturday nights for the dance. Yeah! We were only thirteen at the time but we made ourselves up to look a little older. Everybody did at that time just as they do now. We started smoking, as you do, more to look older than our years I suppose. We started getting the attention of boys it was a fantastic feeling being wanted. Not that Sarah ever needed to be wanted; your mother and father gave her all the love any parent could ever give. Me, I suppose I being dragged up, just loved the attention. Anyway we were young and both enjoyed lads buzzing around us, like you do.

One night an older person came on to us, he seemed very powerful and sophisticated. I’ve wished to this day we’d never met him. But, remember we were young and headstrong; we enjoyed an older man’s company. He must have been around twenty three or four at the time but looked much younger.”

“Was that person called Jed?”

The direct question from Claire came as an unnerving shock to Lily and the look on her face showed that the question had greatly disturbed her.

Lily considered; what did they know about Jed? It was a question that she certainly didn’t want to answer. Too much information might still get her into a lot of trouble. “No, we never knew him.” she lied.

“Are you sure about that?” demanded Chris. “We have certain information that it was.”

Lily was now on the back foot. She was unsure what or how much they knew. “Well I suppose he was around at the time but so were a lot of others.” she evaded

“Please carry on Lily.” Claire urged

“To cut a long story short, one night we were each given a cigarette which they said contained ‘brown sugar’. At the time we were really naïve, we really thought it was brown sugar. It was only until much later that we learned that ‘Brown Sugar is a nickname for a heroine substance.  Heroin is more commonly known as ‘smack’ but at that time we just called them special ciggies.

It was the most wonderful feeling ever. I don’t know about how Sarah felt but I felt that all the troubles of my life mattered for nothing. Sadly that was the first of many.

At the beginning the special ciggies never costs us anything. Then one Saturday night when we asked for a special, they said it would cost us. We told them we didn’t have any and they said, “No we don’t want your money just…”

Lily hesitated she was struggling to find the exact words to describe what had been suggested.

She carried on. “To cut a long story short and to put it quite bluntly, we each did a sex act on one of them. I suppose that was the starting point of our downfall.

“One of them you say. Do you mean Jed?” Chris again asked.

Was he reading my mind? She thought, in my mind’s eye I was thinking of him but I certainly hadn’t said it.

“Jed? No, we never really knew him.” Again she told a direct lie. There was no way she was going to admit that Jed was directly involved. Her life wouldn’t be worth living if it got out that she’d put the finger on him.

“Sorry Lily for butting in, please carry on.”

“Where was I? Well quite soon we were doing this ‘sex act’ for want of a better word, quite regularly to others in exchange for a few special ciggies.

As I’ve said, at the time, we didn’t know what the special ciggies contained but eventually we realised we needed the special ciggies rather than just wanting them. We’d no idea that we were slowly becoming addicted to Heroin. We were young and at that time we had no idea what drug addiction really meant

Later we began to ‘Chase the dragon’ inhaling, directly through a straw, the fumes from heated heroin on a spoon just to get the same effect.

But at the same time we were enjoying our experiences. We thought we had the best of both worlds. We didn’t feel we were really doing anything wrong, well not in our eyes anyway we weren’t. We thought it was quite daring really. You have to remember how young and naïve we were. Talking about all this in the cold light of day and so many years after, it was so stupid. I have to admit that now but then it was different.

Anyway to carry on in only a matter of months we were doing smack every night. We had now become dependent on it.”

“Why didn’t you just tell some-body?  Your parent’s, a teacher, anyone.” Chris interrupted.

“It’s easy to say that now in the cold light of day, I’m clean now but if you’ve never been in that position or addicted you’ll never know what it’s like.”

“Sorry for Chris butting in, Lily please carry on.” Urged Claire

“Like I said, we were ‘hooked’ and before we knew where we were we were doing’ tricks’ in Chapletown Road.”

Both Claire and Chris were aware that doing tricks was just plain prostitution

“One day we both realised that we were in too deep and things had gone too far. We discussed reporting to the police. Claire was more adamant than I. She definitely wanted out and was in no uncertain terms.

When we suggested to him that we wanted out, he was enraged I’ve never seen him so wild. I regret to say it now but it was then that I backed down and retracted what I’d said. I chickened out of quitting the game; I hadn’t been that enthusiastic about quitting anyway.

 You must try and understand that at that time I was getting more money than I’d ever seen. I was brought up never really knowing my mother; she just flitted in and out of my life all the time. I lived with my dad but if the pub was open he was in it, so I saw very little of him. I wasn’t brought up I was dragged up. Money, to me at that time, meant security.

But your sister remained obstinate. She told them that that nights ‘trick’ was her last and if he didn’t leave her alone after that she would report him to the police for having sex with a minor.”

“You keep saying ’him’ do you mean Jed?” Lily realised Claire was trying to trip her up. She had said ‘him’ quite a number of times rather than ‘them’.

“No it wasn’t Jed.” She again directly lied “There were two or three men in the gang.

“Who were they?” Urged Claire.

“It was long time ago, love I don’t remember them. I don’t have any contact with them now.” She felt her face begin to redden with her lies and wondered if they would notice.

“Sorry, carry on please Lily” Claire apologised.

 “It was the last time I saw Sarah.” Again Lily lied. “That same day I was driven to Bradford.” That part was partially true but Sarah was already past any help she could give by then.

“I did hear later how Sarah was found dead in a flat off Chapletown Road but I don’t know any details about that other than common gossip.”

“Common gossip?” Chris asked.

“Just what I’ve been told, it was in the papers at the time. That she had died in Chapletown.”

“What do you think she was she doing up there?”

“I’m assuming that what she was doing in Chapletown was what I was doing in Bradford, was earning money,”

In her mind’s eye she was remembering the day after Sarah’s death, how Jed and his mate Brian came to her house. They had threatened that the same would happen to her if she informed anyone, especially the police, of their involvement with Sarah.

She honestly believed then that Jed would kill her if she opened her mouth. She still believed that now.

“Lily can I be honest with you?” Claire began, “We have reason to believe that Jed Gedbury is the person behind Sarah’s and my dad’s death. He can’t touch you now after all this time. You tell me you are clean of drugs. Why not tell us, or if you’d rather the police, what you really know? “

“I already told the police all I knew at the time. They interviewed me and I made a full statement to them.”

That was partially true. The police had interviewed Lily and she had given them a statement but what Lily had refused to confirm who her ‘pimp’ was and who supplied the drugs. At that time only Lily had evidence that could put the finger on Jed but she was infinitely more frightened of him than she was of the police.

“Do you know anything that happened to my father? Claire interrupted Lily’s thoughts, striving for further information.

“I thought you knew. He accidently died in a pub fight.” she replied.

“Yes I have seen the death certificate and I’ve seen the newspaper reports but it doesn’t say how he really died.”

“First of all I cannot tell you anything that happened to your father. I had been away from Middleton at that time. As I’ve said a few days after Sarah’s death I moved to Bradford. I lived there for a couple of years. All of what I know now is what I’ve heard from others. Anything I say would be second hand.”

“Surely you’ve got some idea?”

“Perhaps you should be speaking to your uncle he was around at the time.”

“We’ve already spoken to him. He’s given me a little insight on what went on I just thought you may be able to add a little more information.” Said Claire

“Sorry love. I know I haven’t been very helpful. I wish there was more I could tell you.”

“I think we’d better be going Chris.” Claire said as she was getting up from her chair. “Thank you Lily. We’ve learned a little but it’s a pity there’s not a lot to go on.” She sounded despondent. “If you at any time remember anything that may be of help to me then please call me on this number.” Claire wrote her mobile number in her pocket diary, tore the page out and gave it to her.

“Can I buy you a few packs of cigarettes?” she said and then without waiting for an answer opened her purse and extracted a twenty pound note, placing it on the table.

Obviously Claire was not pleased that she had not been more open but what more dare she say? She felt that she’d already said enough. Big Jed is still not very far away and more powerful than ever. If he found out she’d been talking, even after all these years, he’d still be round to do her in.

No thank you very much, she thought, I want none of that.

 

“What do you think? Claire said as she was just about to start her car.

“I think she was lying,” replied Chris. “At one point when you asked her ‘Do you mean Jed’ she said no we never knew him but then when you said ‘We have certain information that it was,’ she retracted and admitted saying she supposed ‘he was around at the time’

She was lying through her teeth. She definitely knows a lot more than she’s saying. I even got the impression she knows more of what happened to Sarah that fateful night.”

“I got the same impression too but how do we prove it? How do we get her to talk? Where do we go from here?” Claire heard herself saying ‘we’. “Sorry I meant to say where do ‘I’ go from here?”

“No, you were right the first time.” Confirmed Chris. “I also think of the situation as a ‘we’. That is if you want to include me?”

            “I’d like that very much. Thank you for your support. Fancy a visit to the Armouries whilst we think about it?”

            “Good Idea. There’s nothing much more we can do. Might as well enjoy the rest of the day visiting ‘The Armouries’.”

            As they were walking around the many galleries that make up the Armouries Museum Chris suggested that they could go to the Police with the evidence we had.

The gist of his answer was what evidence did they have? All they knew was what is already on record. They didn’t really know much more.

“She told us that she was involved with my sister at the time.”

“Yes, I agree but she also said that she had given the police a statement. I hardly think she dare say any more now. I think she’s still afraid of what Jed can or will do to her.”

Chris had to agree. She then suggested that we pay another visit to her Uncle John. He agreed.

They continued their tour of the museum. If they hadn’t have had more pressing thoughts they could have enjoyed the visit much more.

As a consolation though, Chris was enjoying her company. The more he was with her the more he wanted to be with her. He was ‘smitten’ as they say in Yorkshire.

They had a great day together and as she dropped Chris off at his parent’s home he gave her a little peck on the cheek. It wasn’t the first kiss Claire had ever had but it certainly felt like it was the most important kiss she’d ever had, she was looking forward to more. They arranged to meet up for Sunday lunch.

Whilst back at her lodgings Claire phoned her uncle John. He had given her his phone number when she had last visited him. His mobile phone must have been to hand for he answered it almost immediately.

 

John was looking forward to meeting Claire again; she had made a very nice impression on him at their last meeting as he hoped he had on her. After all he reasoned she is my new found niece.

He could see Claire and her boyfriend walking down the front garden path and rather than getting up to let them in he shouted in a very loud voice” Come on in.”

He had been doing a lot of thinking since their last meeting and had come to some decisions.

Firstly he had admitted to himself, but certainly to no one else, that he had been very frightened of the events leading up to his brother’s death. Frightened might not have been the proper word; terrified was the word that described his fear at the time.

Fear of what Jed had done. Fear of what Jed could still do.

But now, after his visit from Claire, he realised that now it was all in the past. He had only months to live and if he was to avenge his brother’s death then now was the time. Jed could do nothing to hurt him anymore but more important Jed could hurt his new found niece; he had no intention of letting that happen.

“Nice to see you again Claire, come in Chris make yourselves at home. Put the kettle on Claire, make us a cuppa tea.”

As Claire poured her uncle’s cup of tea out he asked “How you both been since I last saw you?”

“As you know we went to see Lillian Clarkson.”

“Yes you did say. How is she?”

“She looks very old. Time has not been kind to her, in years. I’d put her nearing sixty.”

“That was one of the reasons she got that sheltered flat from the council.” John explained. “From what I gather she was in a real state eight or nine years ago. It was common knowledge of her being a drug addict and whilst in prison she was on suicide watch, whatever that means.”

“From the look of her we can believe that.” Chris reacted.

“Did you get any further information out of her?” he asked.

 Both Claire and Chris related to John what Lily had told them. How they had both come away thinking that she was lying. How she flushed and retracted her words whenever they asked directly if it was Jed who had been involved.

They gave him a brief outline; how Sarah and Lily had got into the drug scene but always refusing to say who the supplier had been. That they had suggested quite a few times that it had been Jed. And though each time a look of concern came across her face she vigorously denied it. They had both come away convinced she was lying.”

“And we both now believe she was with Sarah on the night she died.” added Chris.

“Do you both think that?” John asked in amazement

 “Yes we do.” Confirmed Claire “But we realise that would be impossible to prove unless she confessed to being there.”

“Middleton would be a better place if Jed wasn’t around.” Said Chris

“I’d like to send him where my father is.”

“Nay lass your father is in heaven. Jed will certainly not be going there.”

“It’s all very well us talking but we all know that’s it’s not going to be possible to prove anything against Jed.” said Claire in desperation.

John was deep in thought when he said “Perhaps there is.” He hadn’t meant to really speak out loud.

“What do you mean?” they both asked in unison.

“Since last time you visited me I’ve been thinking a lot. I’ve a few ideas buzzing around in my head. Can you both trust me?”

Again in unison they both said “Yes.”

“You may not like what I am about to suggest but I want you to both not to involve yourselves any further. Try not to do any more information gathering, for the time being at least.”

Both tried to speak at once by saying “What are you going to do.”

“I asked you both if you trusted me and you both said yes does, that still stand?”

They both nodded their heads in agreement.

“I just do not want both of you to get involved any further at this stage that’s why I cannot tell you anything further.”

“OK.” said Claire but can I phone you now and again to see how you are?”

“Yes of course but please don’t visit until I ask you. Did you get Lily’s phone number when you were there?” he asked.

Claire nodded and pulled out a small diary from her pocket and then recited the number to him and he wrote it down.

“Are you going to ring …?” Claire stopped herself mid-sentence realising she was going back on her promise.

 He held his hand up and said.” Let’s change the subject, now tell me all about your life up in Geordie land.”

After about a two hour visit Claire and her boyfriend said their goodbyes to John. As they were walking up the front garden path he could see them waving and he waved back. They had made arrangements to keep in touch by phone rather than visiting for at least for a fortnight anyway.

John’s mind was in a turmoil had he bitten off my than he could chew? He had asked them to trust him. Trust him with what?

 Since the first visit from Claire he had deliberated what he could do, how he could do it. His dream was to kill Jed with his bare hands but the reality told him that was not possible. He had realised that the more his niece searched for evidence about her father and sisters death the more she became in danger. He believed that Claire didn’t realise the danger she was in, that danger had to be removed.

Being housebound there was no way he could go to where Jed hung out. It took him all his time to walk across the room without his oxygen supply. Jed would have to come here.

 How was he to do it? He couldn’t get his hands on a weapon even if he had the strength to use it. Shooting him with a gun was out, where would he get a gun from?

Poison? There was no way he could get to administer it.

And then it hit him like a bolt from the blue. That’s it. All I need is a little knowledge which I have, planning and a lot of determination which I have in abundance.

His first plan of action, phone Lily and persuade her to call on him.

That part turned out to be the problem with the plan and no amount of his pleading with her would change her mind.

Until he offered her money that is.

After Claire’s previous visit to her she was very suspect that John wanted some further answers. He assured her that that was not his intention; he needed her professional and physical abilities. The offer of two hundred pounds for just an afternoon’s visit soon changed her mind.

When Lily arrived the first thing she wanted to be sure of, did he have the money he had offered? To show her he was genuine John gave her a hundred pounds up front with the promise of the rest at the end of the afternoon’s session.

He explained to Lily how lonely he was and talking to someone was very important to him. She agreed, as long as she got the balance of the promised money she would be happy.

They chatted in general terms for a while, him trying to make her feel at ease until suddenly he told her that he had evidence that Jed, all those years ago, had lured his brother to the Pegler pub and that  the fight that followed had been orchestrated by him so that the stabbing could take place.

The look on Lily’s face was one of surprise. This was a subject she wanted no part of.

He further told her that he was on the verge of discovering who had actually done the stabbing of his brother.

Lily spluttered “I don’t know anything about that. I can prove I didn’t even live in Leeds at that time. Anyway you told me on the phone you didn’t get me here to talk about that. You know why I came here.” She had the urge to get up and leave, that would be the sensible thing for her to do but she still wanted the other hundred pounds. She was in a catch 22 situation.

He ignored her and further told her that he had evidence that Jed had deliberately given his niece Sarah heroin and to help her to inject herself. Also to procuring clients for her to prostitute herself and having sex with an underage girl.

Lilt’s eyes were now wide open.

“How do you know all this? Who told you?” she stammered. “What are you going to do?”

He could see he had hit a nerve and said “Lily you obviously know I cannot tell you that. My sources are costing me a lot of money, what I’m paying you is chicken feed. I’ve just got to get a few more facts together. Within a day or so I can present all the evidence I’ve got to the police.

I also wanted you to know that my sources implicate you. At this point in time I don’t know how yet. I wanted to give you a chance to explain before I go to the police.”

“I didn’t have a hand in killing her if that’s what you are suggesting.” Lily protested.

John carried on “I just wanted to know if you can add to the facts as I know them at this time. I don’t know how exactly you are implicated in all this but the truth will definitely come out. I just thought that I would give you the chance to admit to being involved before the Police come to arrest you.”

“How do you mean I’m implicated in all this?” she demanded

“According to my sources I have reason to believe that you were with Sarah on that fatal night and at some point you left her. This is why I’m asking; can you tell me anything more about that night.”

He was clutching at straws and he knew it. He knew that he had no proof to suspect that Lily had been in Chapletown on the night Sarah died.

It was at this point that she clammed up and said she was going. She hurried out without even asking him for the balance he owed her.

 

Wow! Am I glad to get out of there? Lillian thought. Where has John got all his information? Who has blabbed about the night that Sarah died? There were only four of us there at the time. It can only be one of those. No one else can possibly know.

I know it wasn’t me and I’m just as sure it wasn’t Jed. Sarah’s dead so that only leaves Brian. That’s hard to believe Brian has always been the right hand man of Jed’s surely he wouldn’t be the one to have grassed, he’s got as much to lose as we all have.  But what if he has and made a deal? What did John say about its costing him a lot of money for the information that he already had and was expecting more before he could go to the Police? Has Brian turned traitor and getting as much money together before he flees the country?

If that’s the case where does that leave me?

What do I do now?

I could tell the police before they come to get me?

I could tell Jed, let him sort it out.

I could tell John and get paid for what I know.

 

If I tell the police Jed will surely come and get me.

If I tell John and collect the money Jed will still get to me.

If I do nothing, when it all comes out Jed will believe it’s me who grassed him up and will definitely come and get me.

She tussled with the problem the rest of that day and night. By the morning she had decided what she must do. See Jed himself in person. Tell him what she knew, and when it all comes out at least he’ll know it wasn’t her that had grassed him. He won’t be coming after her at least.

I’ll go see him tonight. She decided. He’s always in the Pegler after eight o clock.

 

Jed had a chip on his shoulder a chip he had received from his early school days. He was short and stout an exact description of an endomorph. Because of this ‘puppy fat’ other children called him fat neddy, as in neddy the donkey. He hated the nickname preferring to be nicknamed Jed as to him that sounded ‘hard’. That’s how he liked to be thought of ‘hard’. The teasing stopped as he became bigger and slowly he became the school bully of Middleton Secondary Modern School for boys. Only weaker characters now congregated around him, basking in his presence.

When he left school at sixteen he was determined not to go down the pit like his late father had. Coal mining was not for him. He began ‘hanging’ around the stalls of the Leeds City Market, running errands for the many street traders. As he filled out and because of his short squat size he could carry far greater weights than the other young boys. Hundred weight sacks of potatoes presented no problems for Jed. He boasted of his ability to carry a sack under each arm. His services were often in demand and slowly he became a ‘known’ face.

As he grew up he was still a bully at heart but now he had the sense to curb the urge when others around him were stronger. He could listen as well as act.

In the markets there were many opportunities of graft and activities that were only just or beyond the verge of legality.

As he grew older he frequented the many pub dives of the Leeds City Centre where all manner of ‘deals’ could be made. He became a regular face at both the Nags head pub and the Market Tavern. The latter being nicknamed the ‘madhouse’ for the many fights, disagreements and the vagaries of the many different characters that drank in there.

Gangs of shop lifters held meeting in the many pubs and all manner of merchandise were illegally sold. It was often jokingly said that if you wanted to buy a battleship the only question asked would be ‘What colour do you want it in?’

John always took advantage were any advantages could be taken

By the time he was twenty Jed had discovered drugs. The drug scene in Leeds was in its infancy in the early 90s but they could be acquired if one knew where to look for them and Jed knew where to look. He had made a rule with himself ‘don’t use them, use them’. To anyone else that adage wouldn’t have made a lot of sense but to him it meant do not consume them yourself but supply to others for a profit.

The more profit he made the more powerful he became. Slowly as he became more experienced in his illegal ways Middleton became his ‘Manor’ and he made sure others did not encroach upon it. Jed slowly accrued a small gang of seven around him with Brian his main henchman. He maintained their loyalty by making sure their money supply, girls and drugs were plentiful to them.

He began to believe that he was the driving force on the estate and anything that took place there he ensured that he knew about it or was a part of it. Any usurpers had to have their schemes passed and a share donated to him or else he would run them off the estate, which he had to do quite often without any remorse.

Because he would not tolerate petty crime on his ‘Manor’ small crimes in Middleton fell and because of this ‘Big’ Jed was accepted but certainly was not liked.

“What you doing in here slag?” Jed demanded as he recognised the old prostitute Lilly Clarkson who was walking up to his table.

“Jed I must talk to you. It’s urgent.”

“You’ve had all the money you are getting out of me, now piss off.”

“It’s not money I need Jed. I’ve got to tell you something that you will definitely want to hear.”

“Tell it to Brian. He’s over there by the pool table then get out”

“Jed it’s about…” She then placed her hand to the side of her cheek and mouthed, without speaking, “Sarah.” She had done it so that he was the only one who could see what she had mouthed

“Who?” He demanded. Although he was almost sure what she was meaning to say

The name came out of the blue and set him back a little. She now had his undivided interest

 Again without saying the word she mouthed ‘Sarah’.

Jed dismissed Harry and Joe who were seated beside him and then said to Lily

“Sit down and spit it out, now what do you want?”

Lily then began to tell him about the conversation that she’d had with Sarah’s uncle John. How she’d also had a visit from Sarah’s sister, Claire He didn’t even know Sarah had a sister, not that he was bothered in any case.

“What exactly did you tell them? Have you been opening your big mouth or what?

“I told them nothing, honestly Jed. You know I wouldn’t dare.” She pleaded. “I thought I’d better tell you before you found out and accused me.”

“Exactly what did they say?”

Lily then went on to describe to Jed her conversation with John Hargreave. She felt that someone had disclosed information about that night in Chapletown when Sarah had overdosed. She said John seemed to know that there were three other people in the flat besides Sarah. She was trying to prove to him that it had not been her who had given him the information. Otherwise she wouldn’t have dared come to see him. That left only Brian. Was that why Lily didn’t want to speak Sarah’s name out loud when she came to the table? He wondered.

She went on to tell him how Sarah’s sister and her boyfriend had also been to visit her. How they had kept suggesting to her that the person who got Sarah on drugs was himself. How she had denied even knowing him. Lily said that to all intents and purpose she felt that they knew very little about the circumstances at the time. John, although was another case. He seemed to know, or he was nearly in a position to know, what exactly went on that fateful night.

 

That fateful night!  In his mind Jed recalled that fateful night.

If only they knew the truth. Even Brian my second in command doesn’t know exactly what went on. He, like Lily, thinks that Sarah’s overdose was an accident. No it was planned. I planned it fully down to the last detail.

I was aware that Sarah had been plotting with Lily, for some time, about going to the police to tell all. The day before, I had calmed Lily down with the many promises that I’d no intention of keeping. As long as she got her ‘fix’ of heroin she was happy to let sleeping dogs lie.

But Sarah, there was another kettle of fish. The more I promised her of better things to come or even seriously threatening what could happen to her, the more resolute she had become.

On that last night both Sarah and Lily were coming ‘down’ from a high and were about ready for their next shot of Heroin. They were now needling it and were serious users. Earlier I had given them both a speed tablet. I was well aware that Benzedrine, or speed as it is commonly called, does not readily mix with heroin. I also had an opened bottle of Rum from which they all had the occasional nip.

The four of us arrived at the flat in Bayswater Grove that I sometimes use. I left Sarah and Brian in the front room leaving some cut ‘gear’ for Lily to use.

Sara was still protesting and insisting that she definitely wanted out and that tonight was to be her last. I inwardly knew that sooner or later she would end talking to the police, exposing all. Both she and Lily were still under sixteen. I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. A few months or even a year of a prison sentence I could do, standing on my head. I’d done it before and I could do it again but this would get me a serious sentence. No! I could never allow that to happen.

That night I gave Sarah one last chance but she was still adamant, she wanted out she was now even refusing to do her next ‘trick.’

I had said to her OK you can have your ‘out’. You stay here while I just drive Brian and Lily up to Bradford for her ‘trick’. Then I’ll come back to take you home. That OK? She was very fidgety and shaking, showing anxiety and stress but she seemed to understand what I was saying and nodded in agreement.

Just as I was leaving the room I placed on the bed beside her a large fix of heroin. She was shaking her head telling me she was through with drugs. I bluffed and said “OK I’ll take it with me shall I?” She did not agree or disagree and I knew I had her. I also left the half full bottle of rum in the room. I had earlier cleansed any fingerprints from the bottle. Yes the police may be able to connect me to the flat Sarah would be found in but there were many others that used it just as much as I. There was no concrete evidence connecting me to Sarah. As I left her I promised I’d be back with the hour to take her home. A promise I had no intentions of keeping.

Brian drove myself and Lily to Bradford where we left her at a flat waiting for her ‘trick’. Brian then drove me back straight to Middleton. We were nowhere near Chapletown at the time Sarah died.

Both Brian and Lily knew all this other than that I had left the fix for Sarah. What they further don’t know is that the fix that I had left was Pure undiluted Heroin.

Very rarely could I buy pure Heroin from my dealer, it was always pre ‘cut’ with some other substance. I’ve even cut it further myself with milk powder to make it go further for more profit.

I was well aware the amounts that both the girls were used to and that if Sarah injected the dose that I had left her, helped on with the Benzedrine already given to her, then her system was bound to fail. I further reasoned that if Sarah chose to inject the dose that I had left, then that was her decision and therefore it was her problem. My problem had solved itself.

Now that problem seems to have returned. No matter I’ll sort it.

First thing I have to do is see John Hargreave and stop the problem at the root. Find out what he knows and just as important where he’s getting his information from. I cannot believe that it is my trusted Brian, he’s been with me from my market days but as is often said, trust no one in business.

Where did that idiot say John Hargreave lived? 356 Newhall Road.

 

It was mid-evening, the sun was just going down when, as expected, there he was striding down the front garden. His thick neck still almost as wide as his red haired head. The same bulky, not fatty body; a little older than when John last saw him but he would have recognised Jed Gedbury anywhere anytime. He reluctantly had to admit that he was still a very impressive figure of a man.

He just very briefly rapped on the door and tried the handle. John had purposely left the door slightly ajar and Jed strode into the living room as though he owned the place. John and was hopefully ready for him.

“Hello! Jed I’ve been expecting you please sit down.” He pointed to the wooden chair beside the table by the window.

As Jed sat he said “Right what’s all this I’ve been hearing?” His tone and attitude spoke volumes.

“Can you close the curtains? I don’t want others looking into our business.” Instructed John

Obviously Jed agreed at the suggestion; it was convenient for him not wanting to be seen in the house either. He got up from his chair and closed the heavy draw curtains together.

“What have you been hearing Jed?” He tried to sound relaxed, a feeling he was very far from.

“You know what I’m talking about. You’ve been prying into my business and I don’t like that.”

“What can you do about it?” it was a direct challenge to Jed and he knew it.

You are very well aware of who I am and what I can do so don’t come all fearless with me.”

“I’m not frightened of you Jed.” Inwardly he was lying and definitely frightened of Jed but hopefully he would not show it for he needed to overcome that fear.

“You know what’s happened to other people. The same can happen to you.”

“That sounds like a threat to me Jed. Other people, do you mean my brother and his daughter Sarah, my niece? I have evidence that you had a hand in both deaths. ”

“We both know you are shamming. Even if you did you’d have used it well before now.”

“Maybe I cannot prove it now but I certainly will be able to a day or so.” It was a bluff but would it work on Jed? All his plans relied on it. The ball was now in Jed’s court, balls to you he thought.

It was at this point that John had a coughing fit. He struggled to reach over for his plastic facemask and began to place it over his mouth, managing to snatch a few quick breaths. Then he began to choke violently and beckoned Jed over to the oxygen bottle. Pushing his mask to one side he spluttered and indicated that the bottle had run out and needed changing to the spare one at the side.

He was coughing and spluttering and in obvious great stress.

Jed got up from his chair and quickly strode across the room to the bottle to detach the empty bottle nozzle for the change-over procedure.

As he gripped the metal bottle and it’s connector he looked at John’s distress and suddenly stopped the detachment process and began to reattach it back fully to the empty bottle. Jed had instantly realised that John was probably on the verge of death and more importantly dying quite naturally, if he didn’t get the oxygen he most vitally needed. Jed realised that his problem had now almost solving itself.

Jed looked at John squarely in the eye shaking his head slowly. “Too late old man you shouldn’t have meddled in my affairs now you can go the way of your brother. You were right I did dispose of them both but the information is not going to do you any good now. I’ve got a treble up.”

That was the exact moment that John flicked the switch open.

Jed’s face and body suddenly contorted in violent pain. Over four Thousand volts were now passing through his body and because his arm muscles had contracted into a spasm he was unable to un-grip the Oxygen bottle.

He was looking now looking at John for help but all he saw was the smile of satisfaction on John’s face.

Only as his body slumped backward did his death grip on the bottle release.

John’s job was now done; his brother and niece were now avenged and his other niece Claire could now begin to carry on with her life without endangering herself trying to settle old scores.

The last few years of John’s life had deteriorated and the quality of life had been meagre but now he was ready meet to his maker in peace.

He had reasoned for the last few months of his life, the action that he had now taken was murderer. He could expect the law to treat him like one; he could never live like that.

Slowly, but also very deliberately John clasped the still live bottle.


Leeds City Police

Beeston Division

.

Report ref.                                      ZP/67/65/37/D

Date.                                     7/7/2010

Time Report Made.          14:14hrs

By whom.                             J. Jordan. Insp.

 

I am 4053 Inspector Jordan of the Leeds City Police

At 11-30 on Thursday 23rd of July 2010 I was duty detective at Dewsbury Road Police Station. I was instructed to attend a reported incident at 356 Newhall Road Leeds 10. On arriving there I was met by a uniformed officer who had already secured the scene.

Entering the front room of the house I saw two Male Bodies lying on the floor both apparently dead; a doctor later confirmed this fact.

Mrs Florence Booth who is a home help at the house had earlier entered and discovered both bodies. Mrs Booth confirmed that one of the bodies was that of the householder Mr J. Hargreave but could not identify the other.

I now know that to be a Mr Jack Gedbury aka. Jed Gedbury of 233 Acre Circus. Leeds 10.

It had soon became apparent to me that a compressed oxygen bottle had been wired up to a transformer and then on to the house mains electric system and fuses strengthened. The system had an on/off switch circuit breaker beside an armchair that could make or break the live circuit on the Oxygen bottle. The discovered breaker switch had been secreted in the armchair.

Anyone touching the live Oxygen bottle would automatically be earthed and become live.

Apparently both bodies had been electrocuted at the scene.

I later ascertained that Mr Hargreave was an ex mining electrician and there is evidence tending to prove that the mains power had been transformed to a maximum of 4200 Volts, by him.

I informed my duty officer who organised a murder enquiry squad to be set up.

  Signed :-  JosephJordan Det. Insp. 4053 LCP     24-07-2010

 

21,500 words   45 pages