Sisters 40

CHAPTER 40
Sarah had mentioned the others like her that she had come across, and I had been doing my own digging for any info, good or bad, on one of them. She was from somewhere over our neck of the woods, which meant there was a risk of ‘history’ with some of the other wedding guests, and I rather preferred relaxing outside a few beers rather than dealing with their effects on idiots.

I ran what I had unearthed past Sarah, and we agreed to follow our own routes via our own men, or our cousin Hywel in my case. He was so much his father’s son they gave me double vision at times, and while neither was in any way stupid they had always been quick to raise a fist when they thought it right or necessary. Arwel’s threat to that idiot in the pub hadn’t been empty.

Sister and nephew were off again far too early for Mam’s liking, and I made sure I kept the phone lines warm for her as Spring came and Vicky expanded. That brought a real disappointment, for it turned out that she was a little more advanced than anyone had realised, the due date falling very near to Sar and Tony’s own special day. Nothing was ever going to be simple, it seemed. And there was a trial, of course, to attend.

One trial, one only. Evans and Pritchard had folded in the end, encouraged by the rapid evaporation of their defence team and the realisation that the particularly shitty time an ex-copper would expect in prison would be that much longer following a verdict rather than a plea. I hate court, especially Crown, for the witness box is a frightening and lonely place, but on this occasion I had been looking forward to it. I mean, what bloody defence could any of the bastards have reasonably offered? I felt for Chris, I really did, and would not have wished cross-examination on him, but his part in things and the circumstances of the arrest left very little room for escape. They duly came in, pleaded, got remanded in custody for reports, and all except Joe Evans got ten years. Bish, bosh, and a team do in Cardiff’s pink pubs that somehow left a lot of gaps in my memory.

No, this was another trial, and while HMRC and the fraud squad were taking their time and exercising due diligence with regard to Ashley Evans’ financial affairs, Bevan was moving the other matter along nicely. I sat in Cardiff Crown Court one blustery March day, in civvies in the public gallery, a plump Victoria on one side and my wife on the other, as Ashley Evans stood in the dock to face a charge of rape.

“Ashley Aaron Evans, you are charged…”

“How do you plead?

He stood straighter at that, but his eyes roamed the public gallery till he saw me, and his jaw set.

“Not guilty, obviously”

His Honour Justice Meredith looked over his glasses at him. “We shall let the members of the jury decide how obvious your guilt or innocence may be, as that is their place. My place will be to provide guidance as necessary. We shall move to the opening addresses, if you please”

So it went. Diane was first in the box, and I sent her some strength with a smile and a sharp nod. Oath taken, circumstances related, and I realised how little she had actually told me about that night.

“Why did you get in the car, Ms Owens?”

“When he stopped I thought he was asking for directions, but he grabbed my hair when I went over, made me open the door. Said he had a knife”

“Did he?”

“I didn’t see one”

And so on. “Ms Owens, please understand why I am asking this next question. Were you a virgin at the time?”

Defence was on his feet, but our man was still speaking. “Your Honour, it has been alleged in the past that rape victims have undergone no less than a second violation when they are cross-examined in Court, as witnesses. There is a pronounced and, indeed, justified opinion that they are considered less of a victim if they are seen to be of somewhat laxer morals than some may consider to be consistent with good character. That question is intended to intercept and neutralise such a risk before it may cause undue harm to someone who is no more than an innocent victim of crime”

Meredith nodded. “Proceed”

Diane was looking down as she gave her answer. “Yes, I was a virgin before that day”

On with the tale, the drive out to the old Dunraven place, the slaps and threats, the smell of him and the pain, the piss warm on her back when he had finished.

“He said he always liked to piss the last bits of spoodge out, stop it staining his clothes. That was his word: spoodge”

“What did you take that to mean, Ms Owens?”

“Semen”

“What did you then do?”

“There’s the car park there. Someone pulled in, a couple, they’d come for a bit of, you know, and they got me to hospital. Nurse called the police, and she did things with a swab and a camera”

“Did the police attend?”

“Yes. Two policemen”

“What did they do?”

She looked down at her hands again, which were on the edges of the lectern, knuckles white.

“They told me to shut up and piss off home if I knew what was good for me”

“The policemen said that?”

“Yes, in those words”

“Do you recall their identities?”

Her head came up at that, and I got a brief glance my way, and the Diane I knew was there, the one who had laid into the boys when they talked about homos, the girl who really, truly knew what rape was.

“Yes. I had to work with them later, but I don’t think they remembered me”

Oh shit. Surely not? Our man asked for their names once more, and yes it was, Evans and Pritchard, and I could just see a little case of perverting the course of justice rising up through the filth of the trial. Our man looked up at Meredith again, and I could feel the effort to keep the gloating from his voice.

“If it pleases the court, the two men are at present serving ten years for other rapes and assaults”

Diane spelled out the family links, and after a reasonably restrained cross-examination she was stood down. Next up was the nurse.

“Janice Evelyn Jeffries, Hyfrydle, Whitcliffe Drive, Penarth”

“What is the nature of your employment?”

“Retired now, housewife, innit? I was a nurse in Casualty back then”

“By that, I understand you are speaking of the events of the fourteenth of April nineteen ninety two?

“Aye. Yes”

“What was the nature of your duties that evening?”

“I was triage nurse in Casualty. What they now call A and E, aye? Anybody comes in gets assessed, treated according to urgency”

“Thank you for the explanation. So you would have seen everyone brought in to the unit?”

“Cept when it got busy, and there’s three of us on, and my break of course, but aye”

“Do you recall dealing with a teenaged girl called Diane Owens?”

“Yes. The one who’d been raped by Ashley Evans”

“OBJECTION! It is not for the witness to make such assertions”

Meredith turned to Mrs Jeffries. “I understand how you must feel about such matters, Mrs Jeffries, but I must indeed ask you to leave the verdict to the jury. Pray continue”

A rustle of papers and a cough. “You do remember Diane Owens?”

“Yes, very well. She was in a real state, some hair torn out, bruising to her arms, and, well… she’d a lot of damage to her privates. I got a rape kit out, took some pictures”

“Are these the photographs you took?”

“Yes. That’s them”

“If the court will accept…thank you. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, they are in Bundle A. Mrs Jeffries—“

“Janice, please”

“Janice. What happened to the rape kit?”

“I kept it at home in my freezer”

“Why? Why not deliver such evidence directly to the police who were in attendance?”

“What? After what they said to that poor girl? Watch it disappear so they could pretend it never existed? Do I look stupid?”

“What have you subsequently done with it?”

“Had some real coppers came round, like that cold case thing on the telly, proper policemen, innit, not like those arseholes. Sorry, Your Honour. They got me to sign a statement that I’d given it to them, nice young men. Blake and Alun, they were, don’t recall their surnames”

Good boys.

“No further questions for this witness at the present, Your Honour”

“Can I say something else? Please?”

Meredith frowned. “Something relevant, and perhaps free of profanity?”

“OBJECTION! Witness has not been asked a question”

Frost was palpable in the stare from the Bench. “That was a question from me. Proceed, Janice”

“Thank you, Your Worship. Honour. Just, I’m retired, innit, but I still keep up with my old colleagues, and there was another incident with those two ar—coppers. Was a young girl, not a real girl, though, got a kicking when the bloke she was with found out, he was an Evans as well, and Carol Vaughan, she was there, and it was the same thing, fuck off home, sorry, it’s what they said, fuck off home and keep your mouth shut. Whole family, all the same”

Meredith kept his voice level and low. “These would be the same two policemen who attended Ms Owens?”

“Yes”

“Thank you, Janice. Is Counsel now finished?”

“Yes, Your Honour”

A nod to the Defence.

“Janice—“

“Mrs Jeffries”

The tiniest of smiles from the Bench. “Mrs Jeffries, what is the nature of your husband’s profession?”

“He’s a builder. What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Indulge me. Would he perhaps have been in competition with other local firms for contracts?”

“Of course”

“Such as the business owned by the Defendant Ashley Aaron Evans?”

That was the tactic, then. Leave Diane relatively unscathed to avoid losing jury sympathy and mudsling at the main witness. Janice fought back, though, and left the Box with honours just about even. Blake and Alun were next, and then a young man from the forensics lab, who said two things.

There was DNA recoverable from the sample, from two individuals. One was Diane. The other was in the Dock. The Defence argued at length about chain of evidence, commercial jealousy and old grudges, but I was seeing the jury’s eyes tighten with each attempt. They retired, and we went for a meal in the cafeteria and then a pint.

There’s a device used in a lot of films where people join a group one by one as it passes along the street, and that was us. Blake linked arms with Diane, Alun with me, and we were steered directly into the nearest pub, where Chris was waiting along with five other victims of the Evans family, Fahmi, Debbie, Bevan, Wyn…

Diane looked proudly around the lounge. “See this, Lainey? These are survivors, these boys. How could I not do the same? Soon as the jury retired we put the call out, people awaiting the word, innit? This is all your doing, all of this. Even if the bastard walks—“

“He won’t”

“Thanks, Blake. I don’t think so either. His counsel wasn’t exactly walking on water, was he? Funny, that, with all the money he—er---no longer has access to. Anyway, Inspector Powell, we’ve said it before, but there are movers and shakers, and you have moved and shook. Elaine Powell!”

They drank the toast. The jury went to their hotel without a verdict.



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