“Donald, the company accounts show you have been helping yourself to money out of the business once again. We are not here to bail you out of your gambling debts,” Peter blasted out at his brother, as he entered the office.
“I own part of this business, and that money is just as much mine, as it is yours…I earned it,” replied Donald, surprised at how quickly he had been found out.
“You may own a share of the business, but don’t expect me to work all hours, for you to gamble it away at the tables,” Peter replied in a forceful manner, as anger was beginning to surface.
“How could I, you keep reminding me, every time I withdraw money from the business account for my social night’s out,” Donald responded.
“This can’t go on indefinitely” suggested Peter.
The room reigned in silence for a few minutes…Peter raised his head from the desk, breaking the silence. “You owe the company £75,000. Either repay the money by the end of the month, and no more will be said…or you will give me no alternative but to dissolve the partnership.
“You can’t. You wouldn’t. We are brothers,” claimed a stunned Donald by the threat.
It was the 15th August 1991, a date that would be remembered: Donald held his breath, positioning himself flat against the wall in response to the creaking sound, as the outer cellar door creaked as he opened it.
What was only a matter of seconds, seemed like ages, fortunately no one put their head out to see what the noise was…relief passed through Donald, or was it fear of being caught.
“No one heard. No one cared.” Donald said quietly to himself with a smile, heading for his brother Peter’s gun cabinet; removing his prize and joy; a double-barrelled shotgun, left to him by our father.
Donald slipped into the main part of the house by means of the staircase from cellar to study. All he had to do was wait for Peter…he didn’t have to wait long; he knew his brother’s daily routine.
Peter entered his study, and was taken back by the sight of his brother, standing before him with his shotgun, aimed in his direction. “Donald, have you lost your senses, that gun might go off?”
“That’s the general idea,” replied Donald watching his brother’s face turn white with fear. “You knew very well I could not pay back the money. If you dissolve our partnership, my share will barely cover my debts.”
“So let’s talk about this?” pleaded Peter.
“It is too late for that,” replied Donald. “You have left me only one course of action. I am truly sorry it has come to this.”
The first shot blasted him in the heart, causing his legs to buckle under him…Peter looked up at his brother. “Donald. Donald, what have you done?” his words faded as another shot rang out.
Peter, Peter, what are you doing discharging the shotgun in the house,” screamed Samantha his wife as she burst through the door into the study.
Her eyes fell upon her husband on the floor, then Donald pointing a shotgun in her direction.
Before she had a chance to speak, one shot blew part of her face away, followed up in quick succession, by another, which thrust her body clear across the room, crashing into the wall by sheer force. She was dead before her body fell to the floor.
My heart started racing, as I made my way up the regal looking stairs to the second floor landing, walls lined with closed doors, and adorned with family photographs.
Christina their only daughter was unaware as I entered her bedroom; eyes closed listening to music on headphones. Her eyes opened in utter shock, as the first of two shots slammed into her chest, she died almost immediately.
Michael the older of their two sons saw me coming out of Christina’s room, bloodied shotgun in hand, he made a run for it…but it was useless. One shot to the back, sent him sprawling to the floor, and a second smashed through an artery in the leg … he bled to death.
Daniel huddled in fear, listening to the sounds, of a crazed killer prowling the house, hoping they were just figments of his imagination running wild. He closed his eyes. “Yes, that was a creak from the floorboards in the hallway, leading to his room.”
Daniel gasped and looked at the door. It was all that stood between him and certain death…From the corner of his eye, witnessed the door knob turning, and with pulse racing, huddled down in one corner.
The door cracked open and slowly widened. A bloodied gloved hand appeared around the door’s edge.
“Daniel, where are you? Don’t be afraid,” called out Donald gazing around his attic bedroom. Our eyes met…he was crouched down in the corner, with fear in his eyes.
I pulled him up, gave him a big hug, transferring much of the blood on my clothes to his, and then we both sat together on the bed. It was at that moment, I knew I couldn’t kill him. I just couldn’t do it.
“If you ever speak of the events that have happened here this day, I will hunt you down, and kill you. Do you understand what I am saying Daniel?” As Donald placed the bloodied shotgun on his lap, and placed his hands around it.
Fear reeked through every part of Daniel’s body, as he spoke those words, Donald expected to hear. “I understand. I understand.”
“It was done. It was done.” Donald said out loud to himself, pulling books and papers off shelves, as he returned to the cellar where he stripped off his jeans, top, trainers and gloves, putting them into a plastic bag, and putting on clean clothes he had brought with him.
Fear of being seen by inquisitive villager’s forced Donald to flee quickly across the farmer’s field adjoining the rear of the property, to his car parked in the lane beyond.
The adrenaline pumped through every part of my body as I drove from the scene…how I drove I will never know!
I reached the home of Louise Purdy; a short woman in her mid-thirties, who lived on the outskirts of the village. She burst out of her rented cottage, with its run down garden, white front door with peeling paint, ran to the car, wearing a spring rose dress and a light green sweater, which hugged tightly to her body.
“I have done it! I have done it” stuttered Donald. “I have killed them,” bursting into tears. Were they tears of joy or guilt?
“All of them…every last one?” asked Louise.
“I left Daniel, holding the shotgun, covered in blood, he won’t speak of these events, I put fear into his mind,” stated Donald. “The police will think him guilty; they won’t look for anyone else.”
“I hope you are right? For I am not going to prison as your accomplice,” responded Louise, as thoughts of protecting herself raced through her mind. “Give me those clothes, I will dispose of them,” as she grabbed the plastic bag, Donald was holding, containing the bloodied clothes
As the guilt welled up in Donald, he stumbled into the cottage, as the images of the murders danced behind his eyes. Looking in the direction of Louise, she had that wicked half-smile about her. Thoughts raced through his mind; could I trust her to keep quiet? Well I did it all for her!
The shots could be heard clear across the village, one or two shots, one would take it to be a farmer, but eight shots, that was a far different matter. Something was definitely not right.
By deduction of sound, PC Roberts and Bracks the Church Warden, sensed where it originated from, and were first on the scene. First signs indicated a possible burglary, as books and papers had been strewn across the floor. But the true nature proved to be more gruesome, for Peter James, wife Samantha, children Michael and Christina had been discovered murdered.
It was PC Roberts who finally found Daniel, the James’ youngest son sitting on his bed in his room at the top of the house, supporting a bloodied shotgun on his lap. Later, it would be proved without doubt, that it be the murder weapon.
Roberts, draped a sheet over Daniel, even though it was in the upper seventies, to protect the evidence, and wrapped the shotgun in a sheet taken from the cupboard.
“Why did you do this, Daniel? You were always a peaceful child,” asked Bracks, as Roberts brought him down.
Daniel turned his head, and gazed into their eyes, he did not speak, just dropped his head…was it guilt?
Blue lights flashing, sirens blaring away, as police converged on the former Victorian Rectory in the village of Stowmarket. Set back from the road, it stood proud and tall, overlooking the village, in its own grounds, backing onto farmland.
“Morning sir” Detective Sergeant Jonathan Weaver, greeted his superior, Detective Inspector Nelson, the officer who would take charge of the case, arriving only moments earlier, emerging from his car.
“Well, what have you got for us?” asked D.I.Nelson, in a gruff sounding voice, of the uniformed Sergeant Hearne, who was approaching him, as his officer’s gathered around to hear.
“PC Roberts, along with Mr Bracks the Church Warden, heard eight gunshots fired over a ten minute period. Questioning the where and why…they investigated the source. It led them straight here; where they found an open door, four bodies, and a house in chaos.
“Brave, but stupid,” commented the Inspector. “Let’s take a look at the murder scene?”
“If you would like to follow me,” gestured Hearne.
The officers’s entered the former rectory, and were faced by chaos; books and papers flung about. The Inspector gazed at Hearne, expecting some sort of explanation.
“Just as we found it,” commented Hearne, as they entered the study, where Peter James and his wife Samantha lay.
“I see S.O.C.O. and the Pathologist have beaten us to the scene,” stated the Inspector.
“They have been here some time,” replied Hearne.
Noticing the Inspector, standing in the entrance, Pathologist Sheila McCormack, called out. “This is a bad one Mike.”
“I know you have only just started, but is there anything you can tell us, to help with our investigation?” asked the Inspector, in a begging manner, desperate for that snippet that would assist the case.
“Well, we have four bodies, and a total of eight shotgun pellets, estimated death, less than two hours ago, based on PC Roberts report,” stated McCormack as she walked over to him. I intend to perform the post-mortem’s later today, and if you would like to attend … Oh sorry. I forgot you haven’t got the stomach for it,” she commented with a gleeful smile across her face, with that she turned and waked back to the body of Peter James, the first victim.
“She brings life back, to one on cases like this,” commented the Inspector, watching her depart.
“As I understand you have a suspect, for these murders?” asked the Inspector.
“Yes. Daniel James (14), covered in blood, and discovered in his bedroom holding the murder weapon. He’s been taken back to the station, and the weapon has been bagged and tagged accordingly,” stated Hearne.
“Good work,” replied the Inspector, as thoughts raced through his mind, questioning the simplicity of this case, as he gazed around the house. “Have you checked for possible intruders?”
“Everything’s been done by the book: four of my officer’s searched the house, top to bottom. As expected nothing indicated the presence of an intruder,” replied Hearne.
Daniel was a quiet boy with dusky coloured hair, and light brown eyes. He had that baby face look about him, and a sickly complexion. For his age he was fairly broad shouldered, with a slim figure. His manners were impeccable, but those who knew him well, stated he had an especially disagreeable temperament.
Daniel James, their prime suspect, never spoke to confess his guilt or innocence, during the course of two, fifty minute video-taped interviews with D.I.Nelson, D.S.Weaver, with consenting adult: Donald James.
What the police never knew, that they had in their presence, the one who had a motive to kill…money.
Perhaps it was inevitable that Daniel would become the prime suspect, and charged with four counts of murder. For he had been found at the scene covered in the victim’s blood, holding the murder weapon; his father’s double-barrelled shotgun.
The press put no doubt into people’s minds, that Daniel was indeed the murderer as the police believe, not an innocent victim supported by his defence. Only one person knew the answer to that; the true murderer.
The prosecution focused on four major points:
- Daniel covered in his victim’s blood.
- Daniel found holding the murder weapon, covered in his prints.
- No sign of an intruder.
- Daniel’s refusal to speak; proving his guilt.
From the outset the defence was convinced that Daniel was incapable of committing such a murder. For one to fire and re-load a double barrelled shotgun, in quick succession, takes one with much experience, not a young boy, such as their client. The evidence being put forward against him; was solid.
Daniel had the face of an angel, but without proof…nothing could save him. So it was up to his defence counsel, to put a question of doubt in the court’s mind.
Prosecution witnesses hammered forth their evidence removing any possible doubt as to Daniel’s innocence.
According to the prosecution witness; PC Roberts and Bracks the churchwarden, who were first on the scene! They found the house in a state of chaos, papers and books had been flung about. Daniel, the surviving family member was discovered covered in blood, holding what was proved later to be the murder weapon.
Doctor Sheila McCormack, Pathologist, stated under oath, Peter James, had been found in the study, with one shot to the chest, and another having sliced through his spinal cord.
Samantha James, also found in the study, had part of her face blown away by the first shot. A second shot to her heart had thrust her clear across the room; crashing into the wall by sheer force … blood was congealing from her fatal chest wound. Her heart would have stopped almost immediately, resulting in limited blood splatter.
Christina James, found in her bedroom; drenched in her own blood, from two chest wounds.
Michael James had been shot in the back, and one to the leg, which caused an arterial bleed.
Police evidence, stated that the house was searched from top to bottom for signs of an intruder – none was found. However, this could not be conclusively ruled out, as the front door had been found un-locked, and the house had a cellar accessible from the rear of the property, into the study.
Scratch marks on the upper hallway, and wood splinters under the nails of Michael James, indicated he tried to drag himself into the main part of the house. Having failed in his quest, wrote the letter ‘D’ in his own blood on the floor…making the accused Daniel James the prime suspect.
For the whole of the proceeding’s, Daniel sat in his chair and said nothing; just the occasional nod in acknowledgement of his name, and the odd smile. Day by day, police and medical experts, and those who knew him were brought before the court, and questioned by the prosecution and defence counsels.
“Before sentence is passed, do you have anything to say?” asked the bench of Daniel James the accused.
“How can one expect me to reply to events that have taken place, when I have no memory of that day? I remember things before and after that day…Daniel responded in justification of the acts that had taken place.
“We the court can only go by the evidence placed before us, our hands are tied in terms of sentencing, when one has been found guilty based on the evidence. Silence reigned around the court for a few moments, letting the words sink into Daniel.
“Daniel James, you are hereby sentenced to a term of twenty-five years. You will be sent to a secure young offenders unit, until you are eighteen. The remainder of your sentence will be served at the Frankland Category ‘A’ Prison in County Durham.” Reporters scurried to the door; to ring in the verdict to their papers.
Daniel could not believe the words that came forth. “I am not guilty. I am not guilty,” he proclaimed in a loud voice, which echoed around the court.
As my sentence neared its end, the nightmares got worse: I saw myself standing or floating in this house. I was a young boy of fourteen in this dream, if that what it was, and this person did not see me. He was much older, and his face was familiar, but I just couldn’t put a name to him; the face of a cold-blooded murderer. He was going from room to room killing each member of my family. I could still hear the echo of the gun shots pounding in my head, as sweat poured off my body.
Casting back the bed covers, Daniel padded across his cell to the wash-basin in the corner, splashing water over his face, then raised his head gazing into the mirror. The face looking at him was haggard and drawn, with dark rings around his eyes. He had aged many years; was it this place or the dreams? Leaving him battle scarred for life.
But it was not until Daniel received a note from another inmate, tucked inside the spine of a book, which had been left in his cell. This note was to release him from his incessant nightmare.
You have spent many years in jail for a crime you did not commit. If you want the guilty party…you should seek out Donald James, who killed for the love of a good woman, and money.
How do I know, you ask? I helped dispose of the bloodied clothes.
“I knew it! I knew it!” Daniel whispered under his breath to himself. “He stitched me up good and proper. Framing me for murder, which I did not commit, then disappeared free as a bird, into a new life. While I rotted in jail, believing I must have been guilty. That is why he was not in court, claiming he could not bear to be in the same room. More likely worried he could put doubt in the court’s mind, if he was called to the witness stand.”
Now I lay on my bed looking up at the dingy ceiling, as thoughts rushed through me: “Almost twenty-five years behind bars, as my life has been sucked away by each passing day. “I will have my revenge on you…Donald James.”
Having spent twenty-five years, living in an artificial environment, I often wondered what the world would be like on the outside, and whether I would like it, Daniel thought to himself.
At that moment, a prison officer entered my cell, bringing my senses back to this time. “Come on, have you forgotten what day this is?”
I quickly scurried around, shoving twenty-five years of treasured possessions into one plastic bag. Then sat back on my bed drinking my final cup of tea, as the minutes dragged endlessly by, waiting to be escorted off the wing for the last time.
Later, dressed in non-prison clothes, as supplied by a local charity, was taken before the Prison Governor. He gave me the accustomed pep talk, for those leaving the prison, and reminded me I was being released under licence. He gave me a map to the railway station, along with a train pass to Durham, the address of the halfway house, and payment for work in the maintenance department. Finally he wished me well for the future, and hoped he would not see me in here again.
The sound of the gates shutting behind me, as I passed through the foreboding gates of the prison, with a loud clanging noise, told me I was free at last.
“Free at last, I am free,” shouted Daniel, breathing the fresh air. He trudged the two miles to the railway station, boarded the train, and watched intently as it headed towards Durham…and his temporary home, the halfway house.
Three months passed by, before Daniel found the whereabouts of Donald James; living on the south-coast, a few miles inland from Rottingdean. He had changed his name to Purdy, the same as his true love from Stowmarket: Louise Purdy. He was so predictable.
The look of surprise on his face, what a picture, when this old gentleman opened the door to me; was genuine. Twenty-five years had passed by, and he knew instantly who I was.
“Daniel, is that you?” asked Donald.
“You killed my family, framed me for murder…you took my life away,” stated Daniel with sheer hatred in his eyes. “I served twenty-five years for the murder’s I did not commit; now I am here to collect.”
“I can explain; I was in debt, I was in love and your father my brother would not help me,” Donald Tried to reason, with an angry Daniel, who had twenty-five years of his life stolen from him. “Louise left me years ago, took nearly every penny I had, just left me this old run-down cottage.”
“Do not bother, trying to explain…I don’t want to hear your excuses for taking away my life, and killing my parents, brother and sister,” responded Daniel, pulling out a sawn-off double-barrelled shotgun, from under his long coat.
“Daniel, Daniel, there’s no need for that,” looking down the barrel. “I will confess all to the police,” replied a scared Donald, begging for his life.
I knew deep down, he would never have confessed to the police, and I would have ended back in prison.
“Please! Please! We are family,” pleaded Donald.
“It is too late for that; twenty-five years too late…I want justice for me and my family.” Daniel closed both eyes, and fired off both barrels from less than five feet away. Donald was thrust against the wall by the sheer force, and fell across the door step, blood seeping from the chest wounds. “That’s what I call justice!” with a smile of satisfaction.
Sitting against the wall, Daniel gazed at his handy work; Donald’s body, as he waited for the police to arrive. With nowhere to run, prison was the only home he knew.
At my police interview, I gave my name and told my story of how Donald James now Donald Purdy had framed me for multiple murders in 1991 which I did not commit, and spent twenty-five years behind bars. I don’t think they believed in my innocence. I could see it in their eyes, for I had killed the only person who knew the real truth.
When I was brought to trial, pleaded guilty…for I was now prepared to serve my time, and die of old age in prison…satisfied that I had handed out justice.
Now I had come home, to the only home I knew. I had spent most of my life in prison, for a crime I had not committed…now I would spend the rest of my life behind bars, for the crime of revenge…the one I committed.