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The Outcast Dead(7)

By:Elly Griffiths

I did try to talk to Nelson, she says. But he just said that he was keeping an open mind.

Since when have the police been open-minded? Cathbads anti-police feelings go back a long way, to the death of a friend in the Poll Tax riots of the 1980s. But usually he exempts Nelson from these strictures.

Nelson wouldnt arrest her without a reason, says Ruth, wondering why shes defending him.

Cathbad obviously wonders the same thing. What would Erik say if he could hear you now? Norfolk polices PR department.

Dont take it out on me, says Ruth. None of this is my fault.

Oh no, says Cathbad nastily. Its nobodys fault. He rings off.

Ruth drinks her cold cappuccino and wonders how Cathbad always manages to make her feel so guilty. Its not her fault that his friends been arrested. For all she knows, Liz Donaldson could have killed her children. It certainly seems too much of a coincidence for three babies in one family to die of unexplained causes. But havent there been cases like this before, where the mother was accused but turned out to be innocent? Ruth doesnt know and, quite honestly, she doesnt want to know. Her dreams are already full of abducted and murdered children; she doesnt want to add Liz Donaldson to her list of nightmares.

A perfunctory knock at the door and Phils beaming face appears.

Yes? says Ruth unhelpfully.

Having a coffee break, Ruth? I just came to tell you the good news.

What is it? She has a feeling that she might not share Phils definition of good news.

Sure enough.

The TV people definitely want to include us in their programme on Mother Hook. Weve got permission for a dig at the castle and a crew is going to film it all. Were going to do some of it at night. With arc lights. Phil looks as if he is about to explode with excitement.

Is this Women Who Kill? She tries to put sarcastic quote marks around the title.

Thats right. Phil misses the irony. An hour-long special. Theyre going to interview me. Phil swells still further. No wonder hes so happy. Hes always longed to be a TV expert. And theyre going to feature you digging. Theyre very keen on digging.

That suits Ruth. The longer she is hidden in a trench the better.

And theyre bringing in a well-known historian. Frank Barker. Have you heard of him?


Hes an American, says Phil, as if this is an occupation.

What does an American knows about a nineteenth-century Englishwoman?

Hes an expert on the Victorians, says Phil. Hes done a lot of television.

Christ, hes even starting to sound like a media buff. Hes done a lot of television. God help us.

Theres a meeting tomorrow, says Phil. I said youd be there.

I cant wait, says Ruth.


Tim is pleased when Nelson asks him to go with Judy to bring Liz Donaldson in. Judy and Clough usually pair up, leaving Tim with the keen but distinctly junior Tanya. This would be a chance to bond with Judy, whom he admires as an officer but finds rather enigmatic as a person. He often hears Judy laughing with Clough or Nelson but with him shes always utterly serious, polite and pleasant enough but strictly unsmiling. Well, shes not going to be smiling today. Cases with children are always tough and this one seems to have hit Judy hard, probably because shes got a young child herself. In fact, the one time Judy almost unbent with him was when he showed her pictures of his twin nieces. I dont know how people cope with twins, shed said, I find it hard enough with one. Have you got a picture of your son? he had asked. No, she said, closing down immediately, though he knew for a fact that Baby Michael was her screen-saver. Well, perhaps this job  –  harrowing though it may be  –  would give them a chance to get to know each other better.

They drive to the Donaldsons house as soon as they get the nod from Nelson. They dont speak much on the way. Tim is driving and he hasnt quite got the geography of Kings Lynn straight in his head. Judy promps him in a brisk monotone. Shes a local girl, Tim knows.

Liz Donaldson answers the door. Shes in a pink tracksuit and Tim wonders if she was on the way to the gym. Hes a gym addict himself and would understand the impulse to lose yourself in exercise. Judy, though, gives the outfit a rather surprised look.

Liz, said Judy, we have to ask you to come to the station with us. We need you to answer some questions for us.

Cant I answer them here?

We need you to come to the station?

Liz looks from one face to another. Am I under arrest?

By Tims reckoning she has asked this question far too soon but Judy replies calmly, No, but wed like to ask you some questions under caution.

In line with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, adds Tim, thinking he might as well come across as the unsympathetic cop who sticks by the rules.

Attendance is voluntary, says Judy, shooting a rather unfriendly look at Tim.

Ill come, says Liz. Can you give me a few minutes to get ready?

Tim assumes that shes going to change out of her tracksuit, but when she emerges a few minutes later shes still a vision in pink. Its only when they are half way to the station that he realises what she has done. Shes put on her make-up.

There are a still a few reporters camped at the front of the station so Judy tells Tim to drive around the back. As they hustle Liz in through the door, Tim can hear Tom Henty, the grizzled desk sergeant, bellowing at the press pack. Youll get nothing from us until such time as DCI Nelson makes a statement.

Have you got new evidence?

Has she confessed.?

Has this brought back memories of the Scarlet Henderson case?

Why  …

How  …

Vermin. Henty slams the door.

Nelson is waiting in the lobby, trying to keep out of the sight lines. Tim hears him ask the sergeant, Who asked that question about Scarlet Henderson?

Some woman reporter, I think. Young. Thats her in the green jacket.

Tim thinks for a second that Nelson looks rattled; far too rattled, surely, for some fairly innocuous questions from a fairly innocuous group of hacks? But then he turns to Tim and Judy and he is his normal self, brusque but in control.


Take Mrs Donaldson into Interview Room 2, Johnson, and then well have a quick team meeting.

Nelson begins the briefing at a gallop. We can only keep the suspect in for twenty-four hours without charge so lets get our interviewing strategy right. How did she seem?

Calm, says Judy. Self-composed.

She asked us to wait while she put her make-up on, puts in Tim.

Judy shoots him another black look. I dont see that thats relevant. Most women put make-up on before they leave the house.

Do you? mutters Clough. Judy pretends not to hear him. Tim gives Judy a sideways glance. Her face looks shiny and make-up free. She has nice freckles, he notices.

I think it could be significant, says Nelson slowly. It could mean that shes putting on a different face for us.

Tim thinks this is a rather perceptive comment. Nelson has grown-up daughters, he remembers. Judy, though, snorts contemptuously. Nelson carries on, Has she called a lawyer?

Yes, says Tim. Liz made two phone calls before they left the house. One to her ex-husband and one to her lawyer.

Whos her solicitor?

Judy answers. Nirupa Khan.

Nelson groans. Tim gathers that Ms Khan is not a personal friend. Well, wed better get going double quick. Nirupa will have her stopwatch going. Johnson.

Yes Boss. The briefing room is small but Tim notes that Judy has moved as far away from him as possible. I want you to take the lead on this. Be sympathetic. Youre a young mum, you know what its like to have a crying baby, all that kind of thing.

Im not bringing Michael into this. Judy looks mutinous.

Shall I do it? Tanya chimes in. It might be too distressing for Judy, having a young baby and everything.

Tim suppresses a smile. He has already noticed that Tanya always volunteers for everything, whether its meeting the chief constable or going on the afternoon chocolate run.

Judy shoots a distinctly unfriendly look at her colleague. Im all right, Tanya. Its my job.

Yes, I need Judys expertise here, says Nelson. Tim, you back her up.

OK, Boss.

In the meantime, Cloughie and I will talk to the husband. We should speak to the grandparents too. Anyone else?

Liz mentioned a babysitter, says Judy. Justine something.

Good. We need anyone who can help us build up a picture of Liz Donaldson as a mother. Tanya, you check her record of hospital attendance with all three children.

Weve already done that.

We may have missed something. Do it again. Then you can go out with Rocky and talk to the neighbours.

Tim notes that Tanya looks less than delighted. He has already come across PC Rocky Taylor, the slowest man in British policing. As a pairing, its not exactly Cagney and Lacey.

Tom Henty appears in the doorway. Miss Khan is here, Boss. She says she hasnt got all day.

Charming, says Nelson. OK. Lets get to work.

Tim has to admire Judys style. She starts off low key, leaning confidentially across the desk.

Are you OK, Liz? Have you got everything you need?

Im OK. Liz Donaldson is sitting patiently, hands clasped in her lap. The pink tracksuit looks almost shockingly bright in the basement interview room. The hastily applied make-up looks garish, lips too red and eyes too dark. She appears calm but Tim thinks that there is something defeated in her posture, as if she has already been convicted and is waiting for sentencing.

You kept her waiting nearly half an hour, says Nirupa Khan.

Nirupa Khan is small and neat, with black hair drawn back into a tight ponytail. Tim thinks that she is trying to appear older and tougher than she actually is. The black suit adds a few years, as does the hair style. Her manner is brusque and aggressively charmless. Tim can see why she and Nelson draw sparks from each other.