28. Oct, 2016


There are grey areas in Common Law, one of which is the extent to which a householder can exert “reasonable” force to defend self and home. Please read my following short story and see if you agree or disagree with Vicky Martins. Why?

Kevin John Richardson, on the run burglar and serial rapist woke in a sea of excruciating pain handcuffed to the iron frame of a hospital bed. Guarded by two large, hard-eyed police officers, he was never to remember how he got there. The subsequent 24 year prison sentence did not help.

At the same hour, young Detective Constable Vicky Martins was interviewing sweet elderly spinster, Edith Thompson. She had been Richardson’s potential victim before the fall down her stairs that presumably left him so badly injured.

While Edith fussed over making tea, Vicky took in the chintzy interior of the large house set in the green Lancashire countryside.

Despite it being a hot summer mid-day, the central heating was on, making things just too warm for the 24 year old, already down to blouse and skirt but perspiring freely.

At last the rattle of cups announced the long awaited tea. Before she knew it, the young DC found herself attempting a desperate balancing act. Sinking further into the deep, soft settee to which she had been shepherded, she just managed to hold the delicate bone china cup and saucer without spilling the contents over herself or the expensive seat covers. Her discomfort was compounded by Miss Thompson herself who artlessly sat plumb in front of the window, forcing Vicky to squint into the strong sunlight just to see her silhouette.

Short of time, thanks to the tea making ceremony, feeling increasingly uncomfortable and disorientated Vicky had to force herself to concentrate on the routine of the interview.
“So can you tell me exactly what happened when you realised that you had an intruder, Miss Thompson?”

“Certainly my dear,” and after pausing to pat the bun in her silvery hair she gently asked if the tea was alright. “Not too weak I hope, my dear? Would you like a piece of fruitcake to go with it? I made it myself you know!”

Adding to her increasing discomfort was Vicky’s need to keep a constant eye on her watch. There were so many others to contact

“The intruder, Miss Thompson?”

“Yes dear. You must make allowances for an old lady. I was in bed reading when I heard this bump from downstairs. My memory is not what it was, so thinking I had left a window open I went to see. As I opened my bedroom door, I came face to face with the man. He must have been as shocked as me for he seemed to rear backwards. He lost his footing and crashed down the stairs!” He was clearly badly hurt so I dialled 999. Would you like some more tea?

Vicky broke in…
” Miss Thompson, was there any thing else you saw or heard that you have not mentioned?”
“Such as what my dear?”
“Well you see, Kevin Richardson’s injuries were unusual for a fall down some stairs… serious concussion, what looks like a gouged eye, a dislocated shoulder, multiple bruises to the body and a ruptured testicle“.
“Oh dear” the elderly householder replied, “will you hold me responsible?”
“Hardly Miss Thompson” said Vicky, at last managing to struggle to her feet, still part blinded by the sunlight but with the china still miraculously intact, “Unless you are in the habit of beating up dangerous criminals. I will make my report to a senior colleague who will contact you about making a formal statement here in your home. That should be the end of matters. Thank you for your cooperation. Now I must go!”

Before leaving she found herself having fruit cake forced upon her by a sweetly smiling Miss Thompson.
Walking down the drive to her car, Vicky was struck by a single thought. Who had actually controlled that interview… her, the young police officer or that sweet beautifully mannered old lady whose cake she was at that moment eating?

Chief Constable Victoria Martins head of a large south coast police force, found her eye caught by a newspaper item….
‘Former Senior Intelligence officer dies aged 95.
Known to only a select few, Edith Thompson was one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable women.
Daughter of a Wigan coalminer she was educated at the local Girls High School; graduated from Girton College, Cambridge and the Sorbonne just before the German invasion of France in 1940.
Making her own way back to London, highly intelligent and a gifted linguist, she was snapped up by that undisclosed service she was later to head for thirty five years.’

“Edith Thompson? Surely not MY Edith Thompson?” thought Vicky or Victoria as she was now known to befit her rank, reading on with growing incredulity. The article continued.

‘After the war and in recognition of her outstanding abilities Edith Thompson became head of the service until her enforced retirement in late 1979. She then later concentrated her energies on becoming a celebrated connoisseur of malt whiskies, one of the best poker players in Europe and supporter of her beloved Wigan Warriors Rugby League club.

Amazed, Vicky turned to Google and read through comments from friends and ex-colleagues… “A brilliant intellect”, “An inspiring head of service,” “A courageous war record-three times in occupied France” etc. But it was the last three of over 50 quotes that really riveted Vicky’s attention… “when necessary, totally ruthless“, “a brilliant interrogator” and finally from a book written by a wartime instructor…“Edith Thompson might have been physically slight but was the most fearsome student, man or woman, I ever trained in unarmed combat”

Stunned, Chief Constable Victoria Martins stammered aloud three words she had not spoken since as a young detective constable thirty years before…“Kevin John Richardson!” and then reflectively, “But was justice served ?”

Was justice indeed served? Is there anything other than circumstantial evidence to involve Miss Thompson? If there had been how should she have been treated?

Is it feasible that Miss Thompson could have inflicted such injuries on a much younger Kevin Richardson, bearing in mind her background?
If she did, could she not have simply disabled him and then called the police?
Did she deliberately lure him up the flight of stairs and later deliberately mislead Vicky Martins in her enquiry, if so, how and why?
In short, under such circumstances, would Miss Thompson have applied “reasonable force?”

YOU ARE JUDGE AND JURY. What do you think happened and what in your opinion SHOULD have happened?