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Erika could see there was a complaint letter included in the case file from Councillor Murray, citing DCI Amanda Baker’s abrasive rudeness, and that the excavation had caused thousands of pounds damage to their Zen Japanese garden. There had been an altercation between Amanda and Bob Murray’s wife Angela, where Amanda had called her a cunt.

A few days later, Amanda had discovered the existence of a halfway house in the next street, and reports were coming in that one of its residents, a convicted paedophile called Trevor Marksman, had been seen outside number 7 in the days leading up to Jessica going missing.

Erika saw that Amanda had then briefed the press on the morning of August 15th, saying that they had arrested Trevor Marksman, adding that he had been living in a halfway house four hundred yards away. A halfway house that had been approved by Councillor Murray and the rest of the council the previous year.

‘Amanda, that can’t have done you any favours,’ said Erika as she read through the file. She hadn’t noticed that the cup coffee at her elbow was now cold. She thought about the way she had dealt with cases in the past, and how she’d made a name for herself as difficult, particularly with top brass.

‘But it goes back to the same old thing,’ said Erika to herself. ‘A man is direct and blunt and he’s thought of as decisive and driven, a woman does it and she’s a difficult bitch.’

John had included in the file reports relating to Trevor Marksman. He was questioned repeatedly, but it he had an alibi. He had been in the communal television room at the halfway house from lunchtime until early evening on the day when Jessica disappeared. He had several witnesses, including the parole officer who lived in at the time could confirm this.

Marksman’s room at the halfway house was searched, and officers found an album of photos he had taken of Jessica. He had a camcorder and several tapes where he had videoed young girls, including several videos of Jessica taken at the park. The halfway house was searched and so were the grounds, but officers found nothing.

The Collins family offered some of Jessica’s baby teeth for a DNA comparison, but nothing came back from samples taken in his room, or any of his belongings.

A year later, when the case had gone cold, Marksman had already been moved several times for his protection, when he was relocated to a house in North London. On the night of September 4th 1991 a milk bottle filled with petrol was put through his door. The house burned to the ground, and he was pulled out of the flames badly burnt.

Two women, April Morrow and Kelly Crown had been seen outside his house and were arrested. A search of April Morrow’s flat found photocopies of council files relating to the location of Trevor Marksman. The council denied wrongdoing and put the blame on Amanda Baker, saying she had fed them the information. There was no proof either way, but coupled with revelations of a relationship between Martin Collins, and DCI Baker, her reputation was damaged forever.

Erika got up and made herself another cup of coffee, and saw it was just getting light. She hesitated then made a call. Marsh answered almost straight away.

‘Sorry to call so early,’ said Erika.

‘No probs. I haven’t been sleeping much… Marcie wants to work out visitation times for when I see the girls. She’s not happy about me popping in.’

‘Damn. I’m sorry, Paul…’

‘It’ my own fault. I work too much.’

‘Are you busy?’

‘I was just working…’ he said. His voice tailed off. ‘What is it?’

‘I’ve been working my way through the Jessica Collins case files, which confirm the closest they got to a suspect was Trevor Marksman.’

‘Yes.’

‘And it says that Marksman was seen hanging around Jessica and the family in the days leading up to when she vanished.’

‘Erika, he had a cast iron alibi. And you know what the CPS would say about bringing him in after everything…’

‘I don’t want to talk to him as a suspect. I want to talk to him as a witness.’

‘A witness?’

‘Yes, no one saw anything, no neighbours, no locals, nothing. The only person who we know had his eye on her in the days leading up to her going missing was Trevor Marksman. Yes he’s a sicko, but if we put that to one side for a moment, he could also have seen something, heard something.’

‘He never said he did.’

‘Did anyone ever ask him?’

There was a pause on the end of the line.

‘Okay. You’d need to ask him if he’d be willing to talk. I believe he has health problems, he’s confined to his home, and you need to be diplomatic. He’s sued the MET once before and won, substantially.’

‘Ok, I’ll get DC Mc Gorry on to it, he’s impressed me. He’s a good diplomat.’

‘Maybe you could learn something from him,’ said Marsh.

‘Ha ha,’ said Erika.

‘I’m serious. Don’t fuck it up,’ said Marsh and he put the phone down.

 

 

24

 

 

When Erika arrived at Bromley Station, she came out of the lift on the ground floor and saw a commotion at the end of the hall. A group of uniform officers stood around an old shopping trolley which contained a dummy they’d made for Guy Fawkes’ night. It consisted of a comedy policeman’s uniform stuffed with old newspaper. The head was a balloon, with a mournful face with large eyes drawn on in permanent marker. It was topped by a policeman’s helmet, where a curly red fright wig poked out from underneath. It looked like they’d been stopped by Superintendent Yale, who stood at the front of the trolley and was giving them a bollocking,

‘So instead of worrying about the terror alert being raised to Urgent, you’ve decided to spend your time pissing about?’

‘It’s for Guy Fawkes, and we’re collecting for Great Ormond Street,’ said a small female PC dressed in her stab vest and hi-vis jacket.

‘What if top brass were to come in and do a spot check?’

‘But we’re all coming off shift, Sir… We thought if we stayed in uniform we could collect more money,’ said another officer.

‘Would you have time to explain that?’

Erika reached them, and saw that the Guy slumped to one side in the trolley, with it’s big eyes and mass of messy rad hair had an uncanny resemblance to Yale.

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