“CCTV?” he fired at Detective Constable Imogen Goode.
“Yes, sir, but there’s not a lot to see. The camera’s positioned above the till facing the café, but it only captures a small area. It’s specifically for checking on till security, nothing else.”
“Details were taken by the manageress, a Mrs Sandra Dobson.
She’s good; she took the names and addresses of everyone in the place before she’d let them go. I’ll get on to it, but it’ll take some time.”
“We could do with more bodies to help. Perhaps Long’s team can do some of the legwork.”
“I’m looking into the Rigbys’ background,” Ruth said. “And like I thought, there’s definitely something odd about that pair …”
She didn’t have time to explain more, because Joyce called out to him. “Doctor Hoyle, sir.” She held out the phone.
“Doc! To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“I could do with seeing you, Tom, and pretty quick.”
“I think there might be, yes. I’ve been presented with a bit of a puzzle from the pile-up this morning.”
“There were fatalities, then? I didn’t realise it’d been that bad.
How many are we talking about?”
“There were two fatalities, Tom. There was one at the scene, and one later at the hospital. And there is also my little conundrum.”
“Want to expand on that, Doc?”
“No. I think it’s better if I show you.”
Doctor Sebastian Hoyle, senior pathologist at Leesdon General, was being cryptic again. But if he wanted to see him, then it had to be something important.
“See you soon, then.”
“Ruth! Fancy a trip to the morgue?”
“The details of the missing girl have gone out, sir,” she told him, picking up a pile of paperwork from her desk. “You’ve still got Anna Bajek waiting to be interviewed, remember?”
He’d forgotten. “Look—can you talk to her while I go see what the doc wants?”
“She most certainly didn’t die in the pile-up, Tom. You only have to look at her to see that. In fact, she’s been dead in excess of forty eight hours,” Hoyle said.
“How did she die, then?” Calladine replied.
“Well, not from natural causes, that’s for sure.”
Calladine followed the pathologist into his post-mortem room.
The body of a young woman, covered in a white sheet from the chest down, was laid out on the table. Apart from the burnt flesh, it was obvious that she’d died from a catastrophic wound to the neck.
But what immediately struck Calladine was her mouth. Her lips had been crudely sewn together with string.
“No more than twenty-one, five foot three and very thin. I’ve still to do the PM and I will check for signs of bulimia. If that’s the cause, then it should show up, but it could be she’s simply been starved.”
Calladine stared at the young woman in silence. The wounds around each of the puncture marks, made by what must have been a pretty hefty needle, had swollen hideously. Not done post-mortem then. Who could do such a thing? Who would choose to inflict such pain?
“Did she have any identification?”
“Not really. Nothing with a name and address on it anyway. She was exactly as you see her, stark naked and no jewellery. I’ve cut away one of the stitches and most of her front teeth have been broken or removed too.” He inhaled sharply. “Unless we get something from DNA or fingerprints, then we’ve nowhere to go, I’m afraid.”
“In that case we’re looking at murder. What caused the wicked looking neck injury?”
“It looks highly likely that she was garrotted, Tom. Whoever did this exerted so much force, with whatever was used, that it cut right through her trachea. I’ll look at the wound closely during the PM, but I’d say wire was the culprit.”
Poor girl. She was so young, so fragile-looking—just a few years younger than Zoe in fact. And like Zoe, she’d had all her life in front of her. What sort of maniac does this—destroys youth and innocence with such lack of feeling? Calladine shuddered. This bastard needed catching before he got a taste for it.
“Look at this.” Hoyle lifted one of her hands. “She’s been bound, or even chained. The brown marks around her wrist look like rust to me, but I’ll get Julian to check.” He was talking about Julian Batho, the lead forensic scientist. “The same marks are around her ankles.”
He inhaled deeply again and pursed his lips. “I shouldn’t speculate, Tom, but it has all the hallmarks of torture, even at this early stage.
Taking a guess, I’d say she’d been kept chained up, tortured over time, and then killed. Plus there’s this.” Hoyle removed the sheet to expose her abdomen Her lower belly was badly bruised, and there was dried blood on the inside of her inner thighs.
“Her pelvis is broken in several places. You see the marks?
Several heavy blows with a blunt instrument I’d say.”
Calladine flinched. This was the stuff of nightmares.
“It looks that way, but again, the PM will tell me more. But she certainly had intercourse shortly before death, because there is semen present. I’d say the experience wasn’t pleasant. From the bruises I’d say she’s been raped repeatedly.”
This wasn’t a crime carried out in the heat of an argument. This had taken time. Her death had been dragged out, made as painful as possible. And whoever had done this to the poor girl could well be planning to do it again.
The doctor moved her long fair hair to one side to show the inspector what looked like some sort of livestock tag hanging from her earlobe.
“Although it’s much thicker, it’s been fitted rather like a pierced earring, and there is even a number on it: the number five. On the reverse is a word, but I can’t quite make it out, or understand what it means.”
Calladine hoped that ‘five’ wasn’t an indication of her place in some nutter’s hit list.
“Well, I’ll clean the thing up and get the microscope on it, but for now it looks like Vida.”
Calladine shook his head. The word meant nothing to him either.
“I’ll let you have the results pretty fast, later today, except for the DNA. I’ll do DNA testing on the girl and the semen and I’ll get it rushed through.”
Just what he needed—a missing child, and now this. “Do we know which car she was in?”
“She was lying across the rear seat of a car which had one of the badly injured in it. A man—got all his details. His legs were injured in the smash, and then the car caught fire. He was unconscious when they got to him—smoke inhalation. The fire crew got there in time to put the fire out, so he was damned lucky if you ask me.”
“I’ll need his details.”
Hoyle handed him an interim report. “There was a briefcase, and I’ve handed that over to Julian’s people.”
“Thanks, Doc. I’ll speak to him before I leave. See what he remembers.”
* * *
As he left the mortuary, Calladine took his mobile from his coat pocket.
“Ruth, how did you get on with the childminder?”
“She’s pretty cut up about what happened, sir. I took her statement and then got her a lift home. She checks out. The recommendation for the job with the Rigbys was from a local GP. I rang him and he spoke very highly of her. She blames herself. From what she told me, the child was gone in an instant.”
“There’s been another incident, so get Imogen to look at what you’ve got on the Rigbys. Then come to the hospital, and I’ll fill you in on what we’ve got here—something rather nasty, I’m afraid.”
“To do with Cassie Rigby?”
“No—to do with the body found in the pile-up this morning.”
Ruth had no idea what he was talking about, but she recognised the tone. Whatever had taken him away in such a rush was obviously big.