Saturday April 26th – 11.42pm
Detective Inspector James Slim received a call to attend a ‘domestic disturbance’ in the town of Bridge of Allan, just outside Stirling. Slim did not usually attend such incidents; however, his attendance had been requested by his superior. Detective Sergeant Paul Wilson sat in the driver’s seat, remaining mainly quiet for the duration of the journey.
Slim pointed at the property and Wilson pulled the car over. He considered that the imposing detached house must demand a near seven figure valuation. Slim was now starting to work out the real reason for his attendance. The great and the good of this part of the country would demand that the matter be dealt with quickly and sensitively. Slim was never one of the most politically correct officers when it came to such situations, however, he knew when to keep his mouth shut and follow orders.
A plain clothed officer stood outside the front door and demanded sight of the officer’s ID before pointing them in the direction of the Drawing Room. Slim had noted the lack of visible police presence, no uniforms or marked police cars in sight. All was as he expected until a woman came out of the Drawing Room, Chief Inspector Eva McDermott, Slim’s boss.
‘Ma’am.’ Slim stated, almost questioned, as McDermott placed her hand on his chest to halt his progress.
‘A word.’ She stated, guiding them into a TV room back down the hallway. Her face indicated that this was a time to listen and not question. The room contained a large sofa, some easy chairs and a well stocked bookcase. The main wall was decorated with the largest flat screen television Slim had ever set eyes on. His admiration of such luxury was soon interrupted by McDermott.
‘Here’s the story, Slim. This family move in important circles around here. There’s a history of noise and a few complaints have been made by the neighbours, but this is the first time he’s been violent. She’s pretty shaken up and refusing medical attention but I’ve called the family doctor. The husband’s not answering his mobile and she doesn’t know where he’s gone.’
‘What about kids?’ enquired Slim.
‘They’ve two children, one of each, both of whom are in their early teens. They both attend boarding school and, as luck or fate has it, they’re currently on a school trip and not due back until the end of next week.’
‘I wonder if his timing’s intentional.’ Slim said to himself. McDermott, if she heard him, chose to ignore the statement.
‘I’ve met the family before Slim. They know the Chief Constable socially and we were introduced at a function. I’d never have expected something like this, but as we know is this job, you rarely do. Anyway, she doesn’t want to press charges and she doesn’t want the matter taken any further.’
‘So, why am I here Ma’am?’
‘Because Slim, I want you to find him and I want you to make your presence known to him. I want him to know that we have witnessed what he has done and that we are watching him. Above all, I want to make sure that this never happens again. Wilson, can you wait in the car? I do not want to upset her any further. Slim, you have two minutes to speak to her, and then we leave. As far as she’s concerned, that will be the end of the matter.’
‘Official?’ Slim enquired.
McDermottignored the question and headed towards the drawing room. The room was larger than Slim’s flat and stylishly decorated. He wondered how much they had paid the interior designer. The room was a mixture of classic period furniture and modern contemporary accessories. The lady of the house sat in a large sofa, leaning forward clutching a handkerchief so that Slim could only see the top of her head.
Slim had noted a family portrait when he had walked through the hallway. It showed the family in happier times, taken recently based on the size of the children. It was not lost on him that Mrs Fergusson-Smyth was an exceptionally attractive lady. At that point, she slowly raised her head.
Slim saw first hand the reason why Wilson was banished to the car. All his years of service as a police officer were required to prevent a reaction to the sight in front of him. Her left eye was badly swollen and beginning to close. Her nose was blooded, however, did not appear to be broken. Her bottom lip was also swollen and split. All those years of service did not help the sickness Slim felt any time he was confronted with a victim of such violence.
‘Mrs Fergusson-Smyth, I know that this must be a very difficult time. If I may, I would like to ask just a few questions?’ Slim spoke gently and Mrs Fergusson-Smyth slowly nodded maintaining eye contact with her damp handkerchief.
‘Thanks. Do you have any idea where Mr Fergusson-Smyth may have gone if he wanted to get away from it all?’
Mrs Fergusson-Smyth sniffed and dabbed her eyes once more. She spoke softly but with obvious difficulty.
‘He has an office in Glasgow that he rents out when he needs to do work without disturbance. It is somewhere in the Merchant City, however, I’ve never been there.’
‘What is it that your husband does for a living? Slim asked.
‘He runs a property company. The company made him a millionaire, but the recession hit him hard. He suffers from terrible stress. He loves me I know he does; he doesn’t mean to do what he does. I just sometimes do or say the wrong thing. I know that we’ll get through this. Please, I beg you, just leave it at that.’
She looked up at Slim for some reassurance and he nodded in reply.
‘Just one final question, how long’s this been going on?’
‘Not long, just a couple of years and it has only happened a few times. He told me his business is in trouble, but he was fixing it. He said that he has a deal that he is working on that will sort everything. Mr Slim, we’ve been married for 21 years and I know the man he is. This is just a phase, a difficult period he’s going through. I promise you, everything’s going to be fine. I appreciate you coming out here and being sensitive, but as I said to Eva, that’s the end of the matter’.
Slim nodded again and thanked her for her time before retreating back to the TV room. McDermott nodded an acknowledgement and confirmed she would speak to him back at the station. Slim exited the house and headed over to the car where Wilson sat patiently. Slim slid into the passenger seat as Wilson started the engine.
‘What on earth would make someone as intelligent as that not want to take the matter further? Surely she must have somewhere to go to escape him.’ Slim shouted, more to himself than to Wilson.
‘A strange kind of love?’ Wilson replied partly in jest.
Slim looked out the window for a final glance at the house thinking that Wilson may actually be right.
Monday April 28th – 10.07am
Slim and Wilson were wandering through the Merchant City looking for the elusive offices of FS Properties Consultation Limited. Both were given Sunday off, however, Wilson had decided to do a little unpaid overtime. Slim had filled him in on his interview with Mrs Fergusson-Smyth and Wilson had been disgusted. In all, he had spent thirteen hours of his day off sorting out the complexities of the corporate structure of Mr Fergusson-Smyth’s business interests. He had various property development and property investment companies; however, it was through a sister Consultation Company that he had found the Merchant City address that they were now approaching.
Slim and Wilson eventually found the office block they were looking for. The office appeared to be a little run down, despite the recent investment in the local area. There was no signage on the door to indicate the business that chose to operate from such. Wilson stepped forward and pushed the button marked 3/1. He waited before giving the button a second press. A few seconds later Slim stepped past him and pushed all of the buttons, one after the other. A male with a rough local accent answered with what appeared to be a growl. Slim informed him who was calling and demanded the door be opened. Another growl followed before the door was pushed open.
The ‘doorman’ explained that all the offices were empty and he had not seen MrFergusson-Smyth for weeks. He did, however, notice a package was left for him on Friday which must have been collected over the weekend.
Monday April 28th – 16.57pm
Slim sat back on his chair considering his next move. He and Wilson had spent the day calling around the offices of the many companies belonging to Mr Fergusson-Smyth. So far they had little success, the calls that were answered confirmed that Mr Fergusson-Smyth had not been seen today and they were not expecting him in the office that week. In all, he must own or be involved in over 20 property companies. It appeared the trail had gone cold; however, the expression on Wilson’s face told him differently.
Wilson jumped from his chair and referred to his watch.
‘Sir, I’ve found him. We need to get to Glasgow airport within an hour.’
Slim grabbed his coat and followed Wilson to the car. Wilson had driven out of Stirling and was heading for the motorway before Slim had fastened his seat belt. Wilson drove with purpose as he filled Slim in on the details.
Of the many sister companies connected to the larger ones that Mr Fergusson-Smyth was involved in, Wilson had found one with an office in the outskirts of Paris. This was the only company with a base out with the U.K. He had found the details of office and had charmed the secretary with his French and she confirmed that Mr Fergusson-Smyth had been in France that morning, however, was currently flying back to Glasgow. She had not booked the flight; however, he told her that he was expected back in Glasgow before six o’clock local time.
Slim gazed over at the speedometer and let out a sarcastic tut, but Wilson was not taking the bait. They were speeding past the cut off for the Braehead Shopping Centre and the Friday evening queues were starting to form. Wilson banged his hand on the steering wheel before pulling the car onto the hard shoulder. Slim checked his watch, 17:39; they were making good progress and should be able to get him off the plane.
Wilson pulled the car to an abrupt halt as close to the terminal building as he could. The recent terrorist attack had meant a change to the parking arrangements; however, Wilson knew what he was doing. The two officers ran towards International Arrivals.
Wilson scanned the information board. ‘I can’t see anything from Paris due’.
‘Slow down, Romeo’, Slim started sarcastically. ‘Did the nice French Lady say who he was flying with?’
‘No but she said he usually booked the budget airlines unless he was meeting a client, which today he was not’.
Slim called back to the station and found a Detective Constable still at her desk. He asked her to check flights into Glasgow from Paris. Slim found a seat and awaited her reply as Wilson paced up and down the arrivals lounge. She came back with the confirmation. The flight from Paris had arrived, on time, at Glasgow Prestwick airport, some 30 miles away from their current location.
Tuesday April 29th – 10.23am
Mr Fergusson-Smyth had not arrived back at the matrimonial home the evening before and Slim expected he had booked into a hotel. He considered calling round the various hotels, however, he decided to send Wilson home to rest with his long hours starting to take their toll. Slim had told him to come in for lunch time and retired for an early night himself.
Slim had considered a late start, having also worked ridiculous hours over the last few months. When he awoke at six o’clock that morning, he knew that his chances of further sleep were non-existent so headed into the station early. Slim opened the file that Wilson had put together on the businesses of Mr Fergusson-Smyth. Wilson had done sterling work and his file was presented immaculately.
Slim picked up the phone and dialled the first office. The phone rang out and Slim gave up after a few minutes. He tried a few others and got the same result. He decided he was not getting anywhere fast, so headed out for a decent cup of coffee. When he returned he heard the familiar voice of McDermott calling him into her office. Reluctantly, Slim took a final sip from his coffee and left it on his desk to get cold as he provided McDermott with an update.
McDermott was clearly disappointed in the lack of progress and the lack of contact. Slim considered arguing, telling her that this was not a proper case, that he was only bursting a gut because the victim was known to her. He decided not to, though, out of respect of his superior officer and he knew to choose his battles wisely. Slim left McDermott’s office twenty minutes later in the full knowledge that she was expecting progress and quickly.
Tuesday April 29th – 12.19pm
Slim filled Wilson in on his lack of progress that morning and his ‘heart to heart’ chat with McDermott. Wilson picked up the file, which remained on Slim’s desk, and flicked through the pages. They were at a loss; however, Wilson spotted something of interest. He pulled out a copy of Mr Fergusson-Smyth’s C.V.
‘Oh, I do not believe I missed this.’
Slim gave him a puzzled look.
‘His degree’, Wilson began. ‘He’s a qualified accountant’.
Slim waiting patiently for the punch line as Wilson tossed various sheets of papers around the file.
‘Here it is. Yes, all the companies use the same accountancy firm, GFS Accountancy Consultants Ltd.’
Wilson rushed to his desk and typed frantically on his keyboard. He looked up with a smile.
‘I missed it previously as he is not a director of the company, but he is the sole shareholder through other companies that he owns. Anyway, the firm have an office on Melville Terrace.
Tuesday April 29th – 18.39pm
Wilson grabbed his jacket and waited for Slim. It was ‘Pub O’clock’ and the two officers needed a drink.
Their trip to the offices of GFS Accountancy Consultants Ltd had been unsuccessful, with the staff claiming not to have heard from their boss since the week before. More concerning was the lack of anyone enquiring if he was in any sort of trouble.
Slim slipped on his overcoat as his mobile rang. He fished around the various pockets in his jacket until he found the source of the ringing. His face told Wilson it was not good news.
‘Drinks will have to wait, Wilson. We have a murder in Bridge of Allan to attend to’.
Tuesday April 29th – 18.59pm
The information was brief; a murder had been reported at a residential house in Bridge of Allan. Wilson drove at speed as Slim stared blankly at the passing houses, gently banging his fist against the window. It did not take them long to arrive at their destination.
Slim and Wilson changed into their forensic suits and showed their warrant cards as they ducked under the crime scene tape. McDermott was waiting for them, maintaining her normal professional manner; however, Slim could see was affected by what she would have witnessed.
‘Where is she?’ Slim asked her, but before she could answer he was in the same drawing room he had been in a few days before. The Forensic Photographer was busy taking shots of the victim and when his flash lit up he could see the body clearly.
Mr Fergusson-Smyth had been stabbed multiple times, his lifeless eyes wide open staring at the ceiling. Slim could not help the slight sense of relief that he felt, however, he knew that he would have to deal with the aftermath of what had just happened. He moved passed Wilson back to where his superior officer stood.
‘Ma’am?’ he asked
She nodded her head and Slim headed into the TV room. Mrs Fergusson-Smyth sat on the sofa sobbing uncontrollably. She was covered in her husband’s blood and Slim knew what he had to do next.
He arrested her for the murder of her husband.
Mrs Fergusson-Smyth was charged and tried for the murder of her husband. She refused to answer any questions and her solicitor highlighted at trial the physical and mental abuse bestowed upon her. A plea of self-defence was submitted.
The forensic evidence suggested that Mrs Fergusson-Smyth had caused the death of her husband; however, some of the procedures had been questioned.
In particular, the murder weapon was never found.
After three days of deliberation, the jury returned a not-proven verdict.
Mrs Fergusson-Smyth was released from custody immediately after the verdict.
She has since sold her dwelling property and she and her family are believed to be living somewhere in the South of France.
C.I. McDermott took a short holiday to the Isle of Arran shortly after the case.
Slim believes the murder weapon may be somewhere at the bottom of the Firth of Clyde.