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chapter fifty-one

He that is down needs fear no fall, He that is low, no pride

(John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress)

whether Morse had been expecting something of the kind, Lewis wasn't at all sure. But certain it was that the Chief Inspector appeared less than surprised when the telephone call came through from Dr Alan Hardinge the following morning. Could he see Morse, please? It wasn't desperately urgent but well, yes it was desperately urgent really, at least for him.

Morse was apparently perfectly content for Lewis to interject one or two obvious questions, just to keep things flowing the meanwhile himself listening carefully, though with a hint of cynicism around his lips. Perhaps, as Lewis saw things, it had been the preliminary niceties that had soured his chief a little:

morse: I was very sorry to learn of your daughter's accident, Dr Hardinge. Must have been a a terrible -

hardinge: How would you know? You've no children of your own.

morse: How did you know that?

hardinge: I thought we had a mutual friend, Inspector.

No, it hadn't been a very happy start, though it had finished far more amicably. Hardinge had readily agreed to have his statement recorded on tape; and the admirably qualified WPC Wright was later to make a very crisp and clean transcription, pleasingly free from the multi-Tipp-Exed alterations that usually characterized Lewis's struggles with the typewriter:

On Sunday, 7 July 1991,1 joined four other men in Seckham Villa, Park Town, Oxford. I am more embarrassed than ashamed about the shared Interest that brought us together. Those present were: Alasdair McBryde, George Daley, David Michaels, James Myton, and myself. McBryde informed us that we might be in for an Interesting afternoon since a young Swedish student would be coming to sit for what was euphemistically termed a photographic session. We learned she was a beautiful girl, and desperately in need of money. If we wished to watch, that would be an extra lb50: lb100 in totol. I agreed. So did Daley. So did Michaels. I myself had arrived first. Daley and Michaels arrived together a little later, and I had the impression that the one had probably picked the other up. I knew next to nothing about these two men except that they were both in the same line of business forestry, that sort of thing. I had met each of them two or three times before, I had never met them together before.

The fifth man was Myton, whom I'd known earlier, I'm ashamed to say, as the editor of a series of sex magazines whose particular slants ranged from bestiality to paedophilia. He was a smallish, slimly built man, with a weasel-like look about him sharp nose and fierce little eyes. He often boasted about his time with the ITV Zodiac Production team; and however he may have exaggerated, one thing was perfectly clear: whatever he filmed for videotapes, whatever he photographed for 'stills', Myton had the magical touch of the born artist.

The first part of the afternoon I can remember only vaguely. The room in which we were seated, the basement room, had a largish, erectile screen, and we were there (all except Myton) watching some imported hard-porn Danish videos when we were aware that the eagerly awaited Swedish star had arrived. The doorbell had been rung; McBryde had left us; and soon we were to hear voices just above us, in the garden outside the voices of Myton and the young woman I now know to have been Karin Eriksson. I remember at that point feeling very excited. But things didn't work out. It soon transpired that the girl had misunderstood the nature of her engagement; that she was happy enough to do a series of nude stills but only behind a closed door, with a camera, and with one cameraman. No argument.

It was about half an hour later that we heard the awful commotion in the room immediately above us, and we followed McBryde up the stairs. The young woman (we never knew her name until days later) lay on the bed. She lay motionless there, with blood all over the white sheets vividly red blood, fresh blood. Yet it was not her blood but Myton's! He sat there crumpled up on the floor, clutching his left side and gasping desperately, his eyes widely dilated with pain and fear. But for the moment it was the naked girl who compelled our attention. There were horridly bright-red marks around her throat, and her mouth seemed oddly swollen, with a trickle of blood slowly seeping down her cheek. Yes, her cheek. For it was the angle of her head that was so startling craned back, as though she were trying so hard to peer over her forehead to the headboard of the bed behind her. Then, not immediately perhaps but so very soon, we knew that she was dead.

If ever my heart sank in fear and froze in panic it was then! Often in the past I had been in some sex cinema somewhere, and wondered what would happen if there were a sudden fire and the exits were blocked with panic-stricken men. The same sort of thoughts engulfed me now: and then, behind me -terrifying noise! I heard a sound like a kitchen sink clearing itself, and I turned to see the vomit of dark-red blood suddenly spurting from Myton's mouth and spilling in a great gush over the carpet. Six or seven times his body heaved in mighty spasms before he too, like the girl on the bed, lay still.

Of the sequence of events which had led up to this double tragedy, it is impossible to be certain. I can't know what the others there thought; I don't really know what I thought. I suppose I envisaged Myton filming her as she took up her various poses; then lusting after her and trying to assault her there. But she'd fought him off, with some partial success. More than partial success.

What was clear to us all was that she'd stabbed him with a knife, the sort of multi-purpose knife scouts and guides carry around with them, for she still clutched the knife even then in her right hand as if she'd thought he might make for her again. How she came to have such a weapon beside her as I say, she was completely naked I can't explain.

My next clear recollection is of sitting with the other three in the downstairs room drinking neat whisky and wondering what on earth to do, trying to devise some plan. Something! Anything! All of us certainly three of us had the same dread fear in mind, I'm sure of it: of being exposed to society, to our friends, families, children, everyone exposed for what we really were cheap, dirty-minded perverts. Scandal, shame, ruin never had I known such panic and despair.

I now come to the most difficult part of my statement, and I can't vouch for the precise motives of all of us, or indeed for some specific details. But the main points of that day are fairly clear to me still albeit they seem in retrospect to have taken place in a sort of blur of unreality. Let me put it simply. We decided to cover up the whole ghastly tragedy. It must seem almost incredible that we took such enormous trouble to cover ourselves, yet that is what we did. McBryde told us that the only others who knew of the Swedish girl's visit were the model agency, and he said he would see to it that there was no trouble from that quarter. That left how terrible it all now sounds -two bodies, two dead bodies. There could be no thought of their being disposed of before the hours of darkness, and so it was agreed that the four of us should reassemble at Seckham Villa at 9.45 p.m.

For the last few months Myton had been living out of suitcases out of two large, battered-looking brown suitcases. And in fact had been staying with McBryde, on and off, for several of the previous weeks. But McBryde was still cursing himself for letting the two of them, Myton and the girl, go out into the back garden, since if any of the neighbours had seen Karin Eriksson they would quite certainly have remembered her clearly. His fears on this score however seem to have been groundless. As far as Myton's suitcases and personal effects were concerned, McBryde himself would be putting them into the back of his van and carting them off to the Redbridge Waste Reception Centre early the following morning. Myton's car was a much bigger headache but the enormous rise in the number of car-related crimes in Oxford that year suggested a reasonably simple solution. It was decided that I should drive the Honda out to the edge of Otmoor at 10.45 p.m. that same night, kick in all the panels, smash all the windows, and take a hammer to the engine. And this was done. McBryde had followed me in his van and indeed assisted me in my vandalism before driving me back to Oxford.

That was my role. But there was the other huge problem -the disposal of two bodies, and also the ditching somewhere of the girl's rucksack. Why we didn't decide to dump the rucksack with Myton's suitcases, I just don't know. And what a tragic mistake that proved. The bodies were eventually loaded into the back of McBryde's van which drove off under the darkness of that night this is what I understand first to Wytham, where after Michaels had unlocked the gate leading to the woods the two foresters had transferred Myton's body to the Land-rover, and then driven out to dispose of the body in the heart of the woods somewhere I never knew where.

Then the same men drove out to Blenheim where Daley, naturally, had easy access to any part of the Great Park, and where Karin Eriksson's body, wrapped in a blanket and weighed down with stones, was pushed into the lake there again I never knew where.

Looking back, the whole thing seems so very crude and cruel. But some people act strangely when they are under stress and we were all under tremendous stress that terrible day. Whether the others involved will be willing to corroborate this sequence of events, I don't know. What is to be believed is that this statement has been made of my own free will with no coercion or promptings, and that it is true.

The statement was dated i.viii.1992, and signed by Dr Alan Hardinge, Fellow of Lonsdale College, Oxford, in the presence of Detective Chief Inspector Morse, Detective Sergeant Lewis, and WPC Wright no solicitor being present, at Dr Hardinge's request.

Whilst Hardinge was still only some halfway through his statement, George Daley, eager as ever to take advantage of overtime, was boxing some petunias in the walled garden at Blenheim Garden Centre. He had not heard the footsteps; but he felt the touch of a hand on his shoulder, and jerked nervously.

'Christ! You got 'ere quick.'

'You said it was urgent.'

'It is bloody urgent.'

'What is?'

'Now look-!'

'No, you look! The police'll have that statement some time this morning probably got it already. And we've agreed you've agreed remember that!'

Daley took off the ever-present hat, and wiped the back of his right wrist across his sweaty forehead.

'Not any longer I haven't bloody agreed, mate. Look at this!' Daley took a letter from his pocket. 'Came in the post this morning, dinnit? That's why I rang. See what I could get done for? Me! Just for that fuckin' twerp o' mine. No, mate! What we agreed's no good no longer. We double it or else no deal. Four, that's what I want. Not two. Four!'

"Four? Where the hell do you reckon that's coming from?'

'Your problem, innit?'

'If I could find it,' said the other slowly, 'how do I know you're not going-'

'You don't. Trust, innit? I shan't ask nothin' more never though not if we make it four.'

'I can't get anything, you know that not till the bank opens Monday.'

There was a silence between them.

'You won't regret it, mate,' said Daley finally.

'You will, though, if you ever come this sort of thing again.'

'Don't you threaten me!'

Im not just threatening you, Daley I'll bloody kill you if you try it on again.' There was a menace and a power now in his quiet voice, and he turned to go. 'Better if you come to me fewer people about.'

'Don't mind.'

'About ten no good any earlier. In my office, OK?'

'Make it outside your office.'

The other shrugged. 'Makes no difference to me.'

| The Way Through The Woods | chapter fifty-two