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Authors: Sharon Bolton

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BOOK: Daisy in Chains
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Maggie Rose is climbing the northern cliff, heading for Rill Cavern.

Chapter 10



By Maggie Rose


At first glance, Jessica (Jessie) Tout, the second victim, could not have been more different to quiet, unassuming Zoe. Jessie was an attention seeker, a blogger and a small-time journalist, her main subject being body size. Jessie, if we are to believe what she wrote, was not ashamed of being fat.

Jessie had a day job, handling claims for an insurance company in Bristol but dreamed of making it big with her writing, of being taken on by one of the nationals. In the meantime, she wrote a column for her local newspaper, called ‘Confessions of a Fat Bird’. It was popular, by all accounts. She had over ten thousand followers on Twitter.

In her relatively small way, Jessie was becoming known. She wasn’t afraid to pitch into those she described as ‘fat-shamers’. She was controversial, combative, her blogs attracting huge, not always calm and reflective, comment streams. Her tweets were inevitably met with a torrent of abuse, hate and threats. Rarely a day went by without a spat of some sort playing out. This all happened online, of course. There is no suggestion that Jessie’s
online enemies ever brought the fight into the real world.

She had a family (parents, two siblings) and a wide circle of friends. She lived alone, in a small top-floor flat in one of the older houses on the outskirts of Clifton.

Note: some potential here? An obsessive Twitter troll taking matters too far? Discovering a taste for stalking and killing fat women?

Jessie dressed for attention. She dyed her hair jet-black, was always well made-up and wore stylish, attention-grabbing clothes. Big and beautiful seems to have been her mantra.

The stealing away of Jessie Tout

Around the middle of the morning on Saturday, 6 July 2013, Jessie texted three of her friends to say that she had a ‘big’ lunch date. Reluctant to give too much information, she did admit that this man was a stranger, that it was, in effect, a blind date. She assured them that both she, and he, were being entirely sensible. They were meeting in a city-centre park and then walking to a restaurant close by. She would be surrounded by people at all times and completely safe. This was all at his suggestion, she added and, also, that although she hadn’t met him before, they’d been in touch for several months.

As far as Jessie’s friends were aware, she’d gone to meet the man as planned, and the date had gone well. Her best friend received three further texts during Saturday afternoon.

3.15 p.m.: Just finished lunch. Amazeballs. Off to beach. Going really well.

5.47 p.m.: I think I’m in love!

7.18 p.m.: And he can cook!!!

That is the last we hear of Jessie.

Enter DC Pete Weston, stage left

Jessie wasn’t properly missed until Monday, when her mother, Linda Tout, phoned Jessie at work to learn that she hadn’t shown up. Using her own key, Linda let herself into Jessie’s flat, to find no sign of her. She and her husband both went in person to report their daughter’s disappearance. The detective who took their statement was Detective Constable Peter Weston.

Something about this new case set DC Weston’s spider-sense a-tingling. It’s unclear when he made the connection between Jessie and Zoe, but we do know that his attempts to convince his bosses of a connection between the two cases went unheard for quite some time.

There was no sign of a struggle at Jessie’s flat. In fact, no sign that anyone had been in it since she’d left it on Saturday lunchtime. Her computer was removed to the station and investigated. What detectives found on it proved crucial to the investigation. It was on Jessie’s computer that the police met Harry Wilson.

Who is Harry?

Jessie’s contact with the man called Harry began with a private message on Facebook in which he congratulated her on her latest blog. As a doctor, he wrote, he’d long felt the health risks of being a certain percentage overweight were being seriously exaggerated. If people eat a good diet,
exercise moderately and don’t take recreational drugs including alcohol, he wrote, they can be as healthy as anyone. Current preferences for ultra-slim women were no more than societal taste and an excuse for pack-mentality bullying.

Exactly what Jessie wanted to hear!

Harry seemed determined to be helpful and supportive. He attached a link to a piece of research. The tone of his message was respectful, professional and non-intrusive. The language he used, the technical terms he included, suggested that he was indeed what he claimed to be – a medical doctor. On the other hand, anyone with half a brain and the time to do a bit of research could probably have written the same thing.

Jessie replied to him. Of course she did. She was a young woman, uncomfortable in her own skin, whatever she might have claimed to the contrary, and here was an intelligent man telling her she was right, praising her point of view and her writing skills.

The conversation continued on the private message facility of Facebook. It was carried in full by one of the weekend broadsheets after Wolfe’s trial and what follows is a short extract:

Jessie: What frustrates me particularly is the idea that there must always be a reason behind weight gain. The woman must be suffering low self-esteem, is unsure of her place in the world. Eating is always seen as compensatory, a defence mechanism. Have you ever had people make assumptions about you, purely on the basis of how you look?

(She is trying to find out what he looks like. His Facebook profile picture shows only an extremely cute Husky puppy.)

Harry: I had weight issues growing up. My mum was an amazing cook and mealtimes were always a big thing in our house. At secondary school I started playing rugby and that turned most of the excess pounds to muscle. I do remember, though, how quickly the pack that is a group of teenage boys can turn on anyone who deviates from the norm. Good luck with the
Bristol Post
pitch. Let me know if you have any success.

(He’s sympathizing, but at the same time letting her know he’s a bit of a hunk. He signs off, as he always does, with an invitation for her to respond. In low-key, unthreatening ways, he keeps the conversation open.)

Unfortunately, the Facebook exchanges told the police nothing more than that Jessie was stalked. The Harry Wilson page was fake, set up using a computer with an IP address that has never been traced. The profile and cover pictures were all taken from the internet. He had a small number of ‘friends’, just twenty-four, and all of them, subsequently contacted by police, had no idea who he was. As often happens on Facebook, they’d accepted ‘friendship’ requests indiscriminately.

Harry and Jessie spoke on Facebook for several months before she suggested that they exchange email addresses. Jessie then created an email folder called, simply, Harry. In it she stored all his messages, flagged in various colours. The police were unable to work out the significance of the flags and I can only imagine they didn’t ask a needy young woman. The different flags refer to how encouraging, on a romantic level, Jessie considered the messages to be.

Still it remained professional. He helped her with her research (although one gets the impression
she was making excuses to contact him – most of what she asked she could have got herself from Google). He proofread blog pieces and articles, always getting a good balance between helpful criticism and praise. He encouraged her to submit pieces to the nationals.

Towards the end of May, her desperation to take the relationship further was becoming apparent. She initiated a conversation about the homosexual community. She was trying to find out if he was gay. He mentioned a past girlfriend.

The meeting on that last Saturday was documented on email. Red flag.

Harry: I’d love to meet you. I’d have suggested it long before now but a) I didn’t want to alarm you and b) working as a medical professional, I really do have to be careful about how I’m perceived. It sounds terribly old-fashioned to worry about ‘reputation’, I know, but in my line of business, a loss of reputation can be ruinous.

Jessie: Where shall we meet?

Harry: Don’t give me your address yet. I don’t want you to feel any level of anxiety. What about The Downs, near the children’s playground? We could walk to Al Bacio on the Queen’s Road.

Jessie: Sounds great. I can’t get away before 12.45, will that be OK?

The date

Jessie arrived on time wearing a bright apple-green dress and was noticed by several people in the park. Three of them remember her talking to a man, although the descriptions given of him are vague and contradictory. One witness claims she saw Jessie leaning on the railings, by the children’s play area, talking to a woman.

The Italian restaurant mentioned in the email conversation had no memory of Jessie and a companion dining there that lunchtime. They’d had no bookings in the name of either Harry Wilson or Jessie Tout, nor did they have any ‘no-shows’.

In court, the prosecuting barrister made much of the idea that whoever was luring these smart young women away would need to be possessed of a great deal of charm, most likely physical good looks. Few women would get into the car of a creepy-looking stranger, but if (turns dramatically to look at Hamish in the dock) confronted with a man with movie-star good looks, how much more forgiving can we be?

We associate good looks with goodness. No arguments. We just do.

The search for Jessie went on although, at this stage, no one was publicly linking her disappearance with that of Zoe. Only DC Pete Weston actively pursued this theory, spending much of his own time trying to establish links between the two women, to find someone who knew them both.

And then Jessie was found. On 22 October 2013, a caving expedition came across human remains fifty feet underground in a cave near Burrington Combe, around four miles north of Cheddar Gorge. The corpse had been the focus of much insect activity and had lain in water. Decomposition was very advanced. Jessie might have entered the cave as one of Somerset’s larger women, she didn’t leave it as such.

The body was unclothed which, whilst not conclusive evidence of a sex crime, would point towards it. There was no obvious cause of death. Some of the bones, including the skull, showed signs of trauma damage, but it proved impossible
to tell whether they’d been inflicted before death or post-mortem.

The police investigation had one bit of luck. A small piece of Sellotape, just short of an inch long, was found clinging to Jessie’s hair. Speculation is that it was lying on the floor of the killer’s home. Jessie’s hair was long and thick. The killer didn’t see it.

It held carpet fibres and two short, white hairs that were subsequently found to be canine. The fibres were identified and the police now knew they were looking for someone with a white dog and a BMW 6 series.

Chapter 11

the mouth of Rill Cavern, listening to the sound of running water and the steady drip, drip of a stalactite forming. It is cold here, at the cave entrance, because the December sun is low in the sky. Already shadows are lengthening, and the pale, weak beams can no longer reach the north cliff. It will be warmer inside.

There is plant life in this cave, strange though it may seem. Spongy clumps cling to vertical rock faces, fungus-like ferns peek out through cracks, the damper walls have the green sheen of algae. Some light squeezes in here, through cracks in the rock, through chimneys that lead right up to the world outside, allowing these alien, distorted growths to survive.

Another step and her foot slides. She pushes the switch on her torch and lets the beam move around the walls. There is something disturbingly, flesh-crawlingly organic about the limestone mass around her. A curve of rock to her left could be the haunch of an animal. To her right hang formations that have the appearance of drying skins. Directly ahead, the roof of the cave lowers and she will have to bend low if she is to reach the chamber she knows to be beyond.

Maggie steps into the narrow, low passageway, conscious of the massive press of rock above her, but turning around in this cramped space will feel worse than going straight on and so she makes herself take the final few paces.

Suddenly, the low rock ceiling is gone and in its place is a vast emptiness. Maggie shines her torch up and around, but its beam is hardly strong enough to reach the highest or furthest points. This chamber is huge, as though the entire cliff is hollow, and still the rocks around her have the appearance of living flesh. She might almost imagine herself in the belly of some giant creature, that were she to reach out and touch the walls they would be warm, would yield to her fingers, be pulsating with blood.

A fluttering sounds high above her head and instinctively she lowers her torch because disturbing the resident bats is against the law. She moves towards the river, past a raised pool on a rock shelf, with limestone fingers reaching down into its depths. The rocks below the water’s surface gleam in jewel colours and patterns.

The underground watercourse is flowing in an easterly direction, linking this chamber with others near by, creating a network of caves and passageways. Eventually, it will make its way out from the Mendip hills and flow across the Somerset levels to the Bristol Channel.

BOOK: Daisy in Chains
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