I spend a lot of time watching people cheat on their spouse or insurance company. Sometimes, I get involved in looking for missing persons. This assignment, though, wasn’t going to be anything like my usual cases.
Clive Richards had been charged with murder. According to the charge sheet, he’d strangled a young woman named Ellen Ford, a sex worker, after an engagement with her in a brothel in Brompton.
The police had lifted Clive’s fingerprints from the crime scene. They had a DNA sample extracted from semen left in a discarded condom found next to the body, which matched Clive’s DNA profile, and CCTV footage of him entering and leaving the brothel.
And, just to top off the case against Clive, his bank had confirmed he’d paid for services at the brothel on the night of the murder with his credit card.
It looked like a watertight case with precious little wriggle room for a jury to give Clive the benefit of the doubt.
But, Clive was protesting his innocence and insisting he’d been framed. The police weren’t buying his story, given the pile of evidence they had stacked against him.
Miranda’s friend, Maggie Clark, was defending Clive, which is why I was sitting in her office. You can probably guess how I got roped into finding out if Clive was telling her the truth or not.
‘What do you think, Maggie? Do you believe him?’
Maggie twisted her hands together and shrugged. ‘I really don’t know, Ryan. He’s an arsehole, if I’ve ever met one, but I can’t let that get in the way of his defence. I owe it to him to at least find out if there’s a possibility he’s telling the truth.’
I picked up the folder she’d asked me to read before our meeting. ‘The police case looks pretty convincing to me. We could be wasting our time,’ I said.
‘He’s got plenty of money,’ said Maggie, ‘and it would be nice to stick one up the police, especially if they haven’t done their job properly.’
That turned it into a bit of a challenge, and I liked a challenge, especially one that could expose a case based solely on the obvious. And, even if I wasn’t convinced of Clive’s innocence, I was willing to take his money.
‘What’s Clive’s story?’ I asked.
‘He’s in the import business. Fairly successful from what I can tell,’ said Maggie. ‘He’s in business with his brother, Charles.’
‘They started in ninety-eight,’ said Maggie. ‘They have a warehouse on Norwood Parade.’
‘C and C Imports?’
Small world. I’d bought stuff from them. ’What’s his version of what happened?’
Maggie looked at her notes. ‘He doesn’t deny going to the brothel. Claims he’s a regular, but he denies killing the girl. Says she was alive when he left.’
‘We know from the police report he was at the brothel the night she was killed,’ I said.
‘Yes. The CCTV confirms that.’
‘Have you seen the footage?’
‘Yes, but it only covers the area in front of the reception desk. There are no other cameras inside the brothel, according to the police,’ said Maggie.
’So, we know he went in and came out?’
‘Yes, and that he left before the girl was found dead,’ said Maggie.
‘How long before?’
Maggie looked at her notes again. ‘About twenty minutes.’
‘Doesn’t look good.’
‘But that’s enough time for someone else to act,’ said Maggie, ‘if Clive’s right about being framed.’
She had a point, but that someone either wanted Clive out of the way or was organised enough to capitalise on his presence in the brothel to terminate Ellen Ford for some other reason.
To be continued…