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Authors: Bernard Knight

Grounds for Appeal

BOOK: Grounds for Appeal
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A Selection of Titles by Bernard Knight

The Crowner John Series

THE SANCTUARY SEEKER

THE POISONED CHALICE

CROWNER'S QUEST

THE AWFUL SECRET

THE TINNER'S CORPSE

THE GRIM REAPER

FEAR IN THE FOREST

THE WITCH HUNTER

FIGURE OF HATE

THE ELIXIR OF DEATH

THE NOBLE OUTLAW

THE MANOR OF DEATH

CROWNER ROYAL

A PLAGUE OF HERETICS

The Richard Pryor Forensic Mysteries

WHERE DEATH DELIGHTS

ACCORDING TO THE EVIDENCE

GROUNDS FOR APPEAL

GROUNDS FOR APPEAL

Bernard Knight

This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
 

First world edition published 2011

in Great Britain and in the USA by

SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of

9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.

Copyright © 2011 by Bernard Knight.

All rights reserved.

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Knight, Bernard.

Grounds for appeal.

1. Pryor, Richard (Fictitious character)–Fiction.

2. Forensic pathologists–Fiction. 3. Wye, River, Valley

(Wales and England)–Social conditions–20th century–

Fiction. 4. Murder–Investigation–Wales–Borth–

Fiction. 5. Detective and mystery stories.

I. Title

823.9´14-dc22

ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-172 9 (ePub)

ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8107-6 (cased)

ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-400-4 (trade paper)

Except where actual historical events and characters are being

described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this

publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons

is purely coincidental.

This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The author would like to thank Yvonne Davies for valuable details of Borth in the 1950s and also Helen Palmer of Ceredigion CBC and Sian Collins of Dyfed-Powys Police for delving into their records of more than half a century ago.

ONE

November 1955

T
he bog was in its autumn colours, with reds, browns and yellows stretching across the billiard-table flatness that lay between the sea and the line of hills that bordered the mountainous heart of Wales. Today, the weather was being kind to the two figures squelching across the eastern fringe of the largest raised bogland in Britain. A Mecca for wetland naturalists, Borth Bog attracted a steady stream of biologists, many from the university in Aberystwyth, a few miles to the south. A pair of these had been working their way across the marsh for the past few days, following a line drawn on their large-scale map, lugging their equipment between points separated by hundred-yard intervals.

‘Come on, Geraint, give those binoculars a rest and help me with the kit!'

Louise Palmer was a rather bossy young woman, concerned only with getting more data for her doctoral thesis. Her assistant, a first-year student, seemed more interested in watching the profuse bird-life around them. Sheepishly, Geraint Williams dragged his attention back to their work and unstrapped a bundle of tubes and various bits of metal and wood, while Louise once again groped amongst the contents of a large haversack. A roll of tinfoil, a spatula, glass jars, two notebooks, a bundle of labels and some indelible pencils were her passport to eventual academic promotion.

She was a clever, single-minded woman of twenty-four, rather plain with wiry brown hair and a figure that was ideal for tramping around swamps and mountains, though perhaps not for ballet dancing – especially in the heavy walking boots she wore over thick woollen socks. Dressed for business in a thick brown jumper and denim trousers, she looked very much the no-nonsense academic.

As they went through their much-practised routine at every hundred-yard site, Geraint looked at the area ahead that they had not yet covered.

‘Another three cores and we'll be almost at the edge of the bog,' he observed, as he screwed together two sections of metal tube about the thickness of a walking stick.

Louise looked up and nodded. ‘We'll pack it in then and after we've checked the results from this lot, see if the professor thinks that would be enough.'

They were engaged on a study designed to see how the bog's vegetation had changed over past centuries and relate this to its topography and the climatic variation. Taking samples of the underlying peat from different depths, an analysis of pollen grains and plant remnants should reveal the sequential history of Cors Fachno, the true Welsh name for Borth Bog. The samples were retrieved with the simple coring apparatus that they were now assembling.

‘I'll soon be doing this in my sleep,' grumbled Geraint, a thin, tousle-headed youth, dressed in a tweed sports jacket with frayed cuffs, over a purple pullover and corduroy trousers.

He jammed the sharp bottom end of the long tube into the ground and pushed it down hard so that it stuck in securely without support. Reaching up, he screwed the central socket of a wooden cross-arm on to the top of the tube. As he pulled down again on this, his wellington boots sank a couple of inches into the waterlogged heather and spongy moss. The three-foot wooden bar, now making a spindly T-shape with the tube, came just within reach of Louise's hands and she reached up to grab one side, with Geraint on the other.

‘Right, let's pull!' she commanded and they both added their weight to the contraption to drive it deep into the soft marsh. The object was to force a narrow cylinder of soil up the inside of the tube and, normally, they could get down to the full length of six feet with steady pressure. However, this time the tube went down as far as the joint at the three-foot level and stopped abruptly.

Louise muttered an unladylike curse. ‘Bugger it! Another stone, I expect.'

Geraint gave a couple of futile wiggles to the upper part of the tube, but further pressure made no impression on the penetration.

‘It's no good, we'll have to haul it out and try again a couple of feet away,' ordered his senior companion. The crossbar was now at waist height and the student hauled it upwards, then grasped the tube and pulled the rest of it out of the soggy ground.

‘D'you want to keep the core that's in it?' he asked and got a scathing look in response.

‘No, of course not! Every sample has to be from the same depth range. Push the damned thing out!'

With hands on hips, she watched as her slave laid the tube on the ground and, with a narrower tube with a blanked-off end, forced out a cylinder of black peat, which had the consistency of a Christmas pudding. Except that, unexpectedly, the bottom two inches of the core was almost white, instead of black.

‘What the devil's that?' he asked, crouching down for a closer look.

Louise did the same, then reached to her side to take a small metal spatula from the haversack. Prodding the core with it, she separated the white material from the peat and rolled it on to the back of a notebook.

‘This looks like some sort of animal material, not vegetation,' she announced.

‘Maybe we've speared a dead sheep,' volunteered the student. ‘There are plenty of those about here and some must die and end up in the bog.'

Louise peered more closely at the greyish-white cylinder, half the length of her little finger and about the same thickness. ‘It seems to be some sort of fatty wax,' she declared.

Geraint shrugged and began to get to his feet.

‘Some sort of long-dead animal,' he said dismissively. ‘We'd better get on and finish these holes. I could do with my lunch.'

The woman ignored him and continued to prod at the lump of material. ‘There seems to be a tough dark layer on top, almost like a skin.'

‘Well, sheep have skin, don't they?'

Instead of answering, Louise took a pair of tweezers from her bag and picked something from the bottom end of the peat core, from where she had taken the white substance. She held it up towards her reluctant assistant.

‘But sheep don't have bits of twine on them, do they!'

Geraint looked at her blankly. ‘What are you trying to say?'

Louise took one of her small bottles from the haversack and carefully slid the white material inside, together with an inch of what appeared to be frayed cord.

‘I think there may be a human body under there!'

The young man looked at her as if she had suddenly gone off her head. ‘Why on earth d'you say that? Far more likely to be a sheep – if in fact it is animal tissue and not some fungus or something.'

‘Nonsense! I've been reading about these bog bodies they've been finding in Denmark recently. This could be one of those.'

Geraint Williams showed that he was not so ignorant as he appeared.

‘You mean like that Tollund Man they found a few years ago. But they were prehistoric, surely?'

‘Well, Iron Age anyway,' she replied, excitement breaking through her usual cool nature. ‘It would be great if this was another one! I'd get my doctorate just for being famous!'

‘Much more likely to be a sheep,' muttered her student. ‘Why should it be an ancient corpse?'

Louise held up her jar for a closer look. ‘That skin has gone dark, just like the Danish people described. It's due to staining from the tannins in the peat.'

‘And what about that bit of cord? What's that got to do with it?' persisted Geraint, a Jonah determined to bring her down to earth.

‘That's what made me think of it,' she snapped. ‘Some of these bog bodies were found with cords around their necks, probably ritual strangulation.'

Geraint's eyebrows rose at this. ‘Strangulation! You're reading a hell of a lot into finding a bit of something half the size of a cocktail sausage!'

Louise rose to her feet and started to repack her haversack.

‘Whatever it is, we'll have to tell someone about it straight away,' she said with typical decisiveness. ‘I suppose it had better be the local police, not that they'll be all that interested in a two-thousand-year-old murder!'

The bog was bounded on the seaward side by the dead-straight railway and road that ran a stone's throw from the two miles of beach. At the southern end was the small town of Borth, a popular holiday resort. A one-street ribbon settlement, it suddenly rose at the end of the beach on to the hill of Upper Borth, from where the road carried on southwards to Aberystwyth. The two researchers had trudged across the marshland to reach the road and now walked downwards to the line of shops and boarding houses.

‘I wonder where the police station is?' said Louise. ‘I presume they've got coppers in a place like this.'

Geraint stopped a man coming towards them to ask directions, but he was obviously a late holidaymaker, as he replied in a strong Cockney accent that he hadn't the faintest idea.

‘Better luck next time,' waspishly muttered Louise.

A little further on, they saw a young woman brushing the path in front of a three-storied house. A very pretty brunette, Letitia Matthews was a nurse, home on leave from her training in Cardiff. Trusting that she was a native and not another Londoner, Geraint spoke to her in Welsh and received a brilliant smile and exact directions in the same language. Smitten, as he often was by attractive girls, he would have lingered, but Louise prodded him in the back and, reluctantly, he began lugging his bundle of pipes further into the town.

BOOK: Grounds for Appeal
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