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‘So you’ve been given your own corner of my station?’

‘I haven’t been given it, Sir. It was recently vacated by Operation Hawthorne, the Human trafficking enquiry. And I’ll be briefing you all the time as we’ll be using civilian support staff. And I’ve also requested DC Mc Gorry join the team. He was with me when I recovered the body, and he’s a great officer.’

‘You think I can spare him?’

‘It would be an opportunity for him to join, well what I believe is a murder enquiry. He’s got a good people skills. People respond well to him. We’re going to have to tease a lot of information out of people who might be reluctant to talk. He puts them at ease.’

Yale scratched at his hair, which stood up in a messy red fuzz.

‘Okay.’

‘And I’ve requested two officers from my old nick in Lewisham, DI Peterson and DI Moss. Brilliant officers.’

‘It’s your team.’

’I’m just keeping you in the loop, Sir.’

Marsh appeared at the end of the corridor behind Yale,

‘I need your final report on my desk for the Jason Tyler case. I’m handing over everything to the CPS. He was denied bail, he’s got a preliminary hearing next month.’

‘Very good, Sir. I’ll have that report done for you.’

‘Good afternoon,’ said Marsh. Yale turned and clocked his uniform.

‘Good to see you, Sir.’

‘I’m here for the first briefing. DCI Foster will be reporting to me, but of course I respect that this is your nick and I will endeavour to keep you up to speed with everything, and so will Erika, DCI Foster.’

There was an awkward moment before Yale excused himself and moved off down the corridor. Erika took a deep breath and they went into the conference room. Four long tables were arranged in a square, and all seats were full. It was a mixture of support staff, the police media liaison team, some new faces she didn’t know yet, the CID officers she’d been assigned.

‘Good afternoon everyone,’ said Marsh. ‘I’ll make my part of this brief. This is complex case, wth a great deal of emotion attached to it. Two previous MET police investigations have failed to solve this, and Jessica Collins disappearance captured the public’s attention. We also have to tread a fine line with the Collins family, and remain sensitive but alert. As I always say, everyone is a suspect… DCI Foster is SIO on this case and you will take everything to her. She will be reporting to me on all aspects. Thank you in advance for being part of this investigation and I’ll now hand over to DCI Foster.’

Marsh went to a corner and stood by the door and Erika moved to the front. There was a knock at the door as another delivery of cardboard file boxes were brought in on a trolley and placed with a growing pile along the back wall. Erika stared at the rows of faces, waiting expectantly.

‘Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for making yourselves available so quickly…’ Erika went on to give them a brief outline of the Jessica Collins case, and the developments so far. ‘With this case we’re opening a Pandora’s box, or should I say, many boxes,’ she added alluding to the case files which had grown as she spoke and were now piled high, filling the length of the back wall. ‘What we all need to do is focus in on the facts pertaining to Jessica’s disappearance. Ignore the fiction, of which there is much. As well as this vast amount of paperwork generated by the two previous failed investigations, there are two documentaries about Jessica’s disappearance, four books have been published, and there are reams and reams of tabloid articles. We all know the saying that yesterdays news is todays chip paper, but unfortunately a lot of those chip papers will have stuck in the minds of the public. Ingraining the lies and inaccuracies that have been written… We can’t predict how the discovery of Jessica Collins remains will run in the media, but we have to stay ahead of things. And unlike the 1990s, the challenge may be even greater. We now have rolling news, social media, blogs and online forums, all of whom will dredge things up and regurgitate them twenty-four seven. So, these files along the wall need to be re-visited, top to tail, and fast. We also need to build up a profile from the results of the autopsy…’

There was a knock at the door and John entered, looking worried and breathless.

‘Is this where I’m supposed to be?’ he asked looking around.

Erika nodded. ‘This is Detective Constable John Mc Gorry. He was with me when we discovered Jessica’s remains. Take a seat, John.’ Erika went on,

‘I need all witness statements to be re-visited and cross-checked, and I want a timeline of events up here on the boards. The days leading up to and Jessica’s disappearance. I want to know everything about Hayes Quarry. What it’s been used for over the years. Why was Jessica’s body never found? I’m going straight from here to inform the Collins family, who will no doubt have many questions for me. The moment the family is informed, we’ll be making a statement to the media. I need you to hit the ground running with this one. We’ll report back here tomorrow morning at 10 am. John you’re with me.’

The incident room leapt to life.

‘Sorry, Boss. I only just heard I was with you, which is great…’ said John coming over. “Where are we going?’

‘We have to inform the family. Detective Constable Nancy Greene was the original family liaison officer for the Matthews family. She’s now retired, but has agreed to accompany us.’

‘Where do they live now?’

‘In the same house they were in when Jessica disappeared,’ said Erika.

 

 

13

 

 

Marianne Collins unlocked her front door and staggered into the porch, laden down with shopping bags. She used her elbow to open the inner door, and was greeted by the large, empty carpeted hallway. It was a dark and dingy afternoon, and she’d left all the lights on. At a push she could cope with the gloom, but it was the emptiness. She felt it in her house and her heart. She left the shopping pooled on the carpet by the large wooden staircase, took her coat off and hung it on the coat stand by the mirror.

Her shoulder length gray hair was parted and tied back at the nape of her neck. It seemed to drag her face down at each side, further accentuating her broken-heartedness. On the wall behind her was a large picture of Our Lady, the blessed Virgin Mary. It’s beauty never failed to move her. Mary stood on a cloud swathed in red white a turquoise robes, the christ child was in her arms, so beautiful and above her head she was watched over by winged angels. She liked to stand here for a moment when she came home, drinking in the peace and knowing that Mary was watching over her.

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