|Portrait of Anne Brontë by Charlotte Brontë c 1833. I bought this postcard from the Brontë Parsonage Museum Gift Shop, when we visited Haworth while staying at my in-laws’ in West Yorkshire. I love this portrait.|
Time for a tale.
A few Saturday nights ago we were sitting around the dining room table at my mother-in-law’s house in West Yorkshire and were just about to eat. She began to tell us a story about the case of a local man.
It was back in the late 90s. The local man, a businessman, had a small and successful restaurant empire. He was loved in the community. He was a benefactor of various things. A family man, he had six children and a wife, whom he loved and who loved him back. He had been a source of employment for many among the local immigrant population, which, in the predominantly white British village of Wyke, held him in great esteem.
One day, he had taken the uncharacteristic decision to administer his staff’s wages in the back office of one of his restaurants instead of in the privacy of his home, as had been his usual course of action. To this day no one knows the reason, if there was any in particular, for this other than it being simply an accident and a boon to misfortune.
A member of his staff, new and relatively unknown (he kept himself to himself; he had no family here), saw that his employer was counting money in the back room while he was tidying up the restaurant for the night. He saw a stack of notes so high – a hitherto unimaginable height of money. He had never seen this much before. In subsequent investigations it would turn out that this stack equated to almost £15,000.
An hour or so later, the employer had finished his task. He walked into the front of the restaurant ready to head home. The lights were lowered, the chairs stood on top of the tables under which an industrial mop sashayed back and forth, held by the new worker, who asked him for a lift home. He said he had hurt his leg somehow. It was well past midnight. The employer agreed.
Under some pretence or other – we are not sure exactly what – the worker invited the employer into his home, a first-floor bedsit on the village’s main street where within minutes of entry he shot the restaurateur in the head with a sawn-off shotgun. He then butchered the man, separating out his body parts and dispatching them across woodland over the two counties of West Yorkshire and Derbyshire. The head was decapitated and set alight to avoid identification.
My mother-in-law paused at this point and took a sip of her cooled, boiled water and said something about truth always finding a way to reveal itself. She continued:
The next morning a policewoman was walking her dog in the woods near Dewsbury when she found two human legs (sniffed out by the hound) wrapped in carrier bags in two separate places while a collection of human matter, apparently intestines, later understood to have been perforated with a knife 22 times, lay in a bag nearby. On one of the legs was a distinguishable mark; a sort of scar or mole – I can’t recall – but it was enough for the wife of the restaurateur, whose leg it was, to correctly identify it when she saw it on the local news channel that morning.
You see her husband had not come home the night before, which was unlike him for he was a family man, true to his word, punctual, loyal and here was what appeared to be his leg with its mark she’d know anywhere very much not in bed beside her or getting ready to go to work inside a trouser leg. She had been woken in the middle of the night by her baby daughter calling out for her father. He used to stop by her nursery upon arriving home at night to dispatch a kiss on her forehead and she would take it as all being well and in order and would drift back off to sleep. That night it hadn’t happened and she was inconsolable; babies are creatures of habit – broken when it breaks.
A manhunt was now underway, firstly to locate the rest of the man’s body and then to find its murderer. What the search party did not know was that the killer was in their midst, helping them, consoling them – even availing himself in whatever way possible to the grief-stricken widow and her six bereaved children while they were planning the funeral. How he wept with them all. He called the dead man his brother. He protested at the barbarism inflicted on the deceased to the extent that his children could not even see his face one final time at the funeral, such was the scale of mutilation to the corpse. No one suspected a thing.
But meanwhile, the murderer’s girlfriend, a local girl, witless and endowed with little intelligence was now in joint possession of a small fortune. She had never seen so much money, had never held so much in the palm of her hand. She was dazzled. She was overcome with a desire both to spend it all and to tell everyone how it had landed in her lap. So she told someone exactly what her boyfriend had done while admiring herself in front of the mirror one Thursday afternoon, flicking up the collar of her new leather jacket.
The police were called. The murderer got Life. My mother-in-law didn’t say what happened to the girl with the jacket.
Radix malorum est cupiditas so the Parson says.