A Question of Identity

Page 19

'Could be anyone. Chippies. Ps and Ds.'

'Did you get on all right with them?'

Matt Williams shrugged. 'Some.'

'But not all?'

'Same every time. I can't stand the skivers . . . sit about drinking tea and reading the racing pages half the day then have a mad rush for the last couple of hours. I can't stand the ones who want to talk all the time either. Or the ones with loud radios.'

'Seem to be a lot of people you can't stand then.'


'What about Nick Flint and Piotr Sikorski?'

'What about them?'

'You've worked with them?'


'You get on with them? Or can't you stand them?'

'They're all right.'

'But you picked a fight with Flint and you were so violent Mr Sikorski had to intervene and separate you, try and calm you down.'

'I don't pick fights.'

'So what happened?'

'Nothing much. Bit of a disagreement, that's all.'

'What was the disagreement about?'

Matt shrugged.

'Are you married?'

Matt looked up in surprise. 'I was once.'

'But not now? What happened to Mrs Williams?'

'What's that got to do with all this?'

'Answer the question.'


'Do you have a mother?'

Silence. Then, 'No.'

'Father? Uncles and aunts?'

'I've a brother in New Zealand.'

'So both parents have passed away?'

'They're dead, if that's what you mean.'

'How long ago?'

'Good few years.'

'What – five, ten?'

'Mother died when I was seven. Dad when I was twelve. If it's any business of yours.'

'It might be. So who brought you and your brother up? What's his name by the way, your brother?'

'Gran did.'

'Your brother's name?'


'And how was it? Your grandmother bringing you up?'

'How do you think?'

'I don't. I'd like you to tell me.'

'She looked after us. Fed us and clipped us round the ear and sent us to school. Did what she had to.'

'Did you love her?'

Matt shrugged.

'Did she love you?'

'She did the right thing by us.'

'So you don't bear her a grudge?'

Matt Williams looked at him. Ben Vanek could not fathom the look.

'How long have you been an electrician, Matt?'


'How long?'

'I'm a bloody good electrician.'

'Did you do an apprenticeship?'

'I'm properly trained and fully qualified.'

'For how long?'

'Long enough. Ten, twelve years. I can't remember exactly.'

'What did you do before that?'

Matt opened his mouth and shut it again.

'Something different. You're, what, forty-three . . . so you didn't start out as an electrician.'

'No. Car mechanic.'

'What made you change?'


Ben Vanek leaned across the table. 'You see, what I'm wondering is this. If you're a fully qualified electrician, been one for ten or twelve years, how come you made such a muck of the electrics at the sheltered bungalows?'

'I did no such thing.'

'So why were there power failures?'

'Nothing to do with my wiring. I traced it all back to a faulty lamp.'

'What lamp?'

'In her bungalow. Mrs Sanders, the one who got bumped off, poor old lady.'

'So is that why you went back there at eight o'clock in the evening?'

'No. I went there earlier because someone rang me about the power outage. I went round the other places that had people moved in and I couldn't find anything, then I went to hers, and it was her lamp.'

'Which lamp exactly?'

'In her sitting room. Wiring was all wrong. She switched it on and blew the whole power circuit.'

'And all the rest of the power in the other houses?'

'You've got it. Yes.'

'Seems a bit odd, that. Didn't it seem odd to you?'

'Why would it? Happens every day.'

'One small lamp of – how many watts, hundred?'


'Sixty watts can bring down the electricity in an entire row of houses?'

'It was lethal, that lamp. Time bomb. Whoever wired that up wants shooting.'

'Right. So you sorted it out all right?'

'I did. When I left it was working fine. Everywhere.'

'So why did you go back?'

Matt looked down at his hands.

'Did Mrs Sanders or someone else from the close call you back? Had something else gone wrong with the electrics?'

'I couldn't stop fretting about it. That lamp was dangerous, I told you. She could have electrocuted herself.'

'And it was all right?'

'It was fine.'

'Let me go through these visits to Mrs Sanders's bungalow. Where did you go? Hall, kitchen?'

'I went everywhere. To the fuse box first – it's in the passage, same as in all of them. But then everywhere.'

'Sitting room?'


'Mrs Sanders's bedroom?'

'Yes. I checked everything everywhere, I just said.'

'So by the time you'd been round you had a pretty good idea of the layout of Mrs Sanders's bungalow?'

'I had that anyway, didn't I? I mean, I'd worked on them and basically they're all the same.'

'So you didn't have to go back that evening to fix in your mind how to break into Mrs Sanders's bedroom?'

'Hang on – what are you talking about? I didn't break in. When I went in that evening, it was through the front door and she let me in. What are you suggesting?'

'Where do you keep your tools, Matt?'

'In the van. There's some in the shed behind the house I live in, but everyday stuff I use all the time is in the van. Why? Anyway, for the bungalows, they supplied all the stuff.'

'So you didn't use anything of your own there?'

'I did use some of my own tools. Always do. But this was a subcontract job so it was just the tools.'

'Who supplied the electrical flex?'

'They did.'

'Where is it kept?'

Matt's face went ash-pale. 'Now listen . . . listen . . .'

'I'm listening.'

'If you think . . . She was strangled with electrical flex, wasn't she? Now listen –'

'Sit down.'

Matt was standing, leaning across the table, his face scarlet with rage now, one fist up in front of Ben Vanek's face. Ben did not flinch.

'I said, sit down.'

A pause.

'You touch me, you so much as put one finger on me, and I'll have you in a cell quicker than you can say ten thousand volts. This isn't going down too well, Matt.'

The room seemed to crackle with tension . But then Matt Williams slumped in the chair, the anger and defensiveness out of him like a gas.

'I want a drink.'

Ben poured him some water, and handed the plastic cup over.

'That all you've got?'

'That's all.'

Matt glared at the cup.

'Why did you go back to Mrs Sanders's bungalow, Matt?'

'I told you.'

'You know, I'm not sure I really buy this. You tell me you're a great electrician, take a pride in your work and so forth, but not only do you race round there when someone reports a fault – fair enough, I suppose, things do happen – but when you've sorted it, you then worry enough to go all the way back to double-check that one bungalow. You said the power going out was down to a faulty lamp in Mrs Sanders's sitting room?'


'You're absolutely sure about that?'

'Yes, I bloody am, I told you – I'm a good electrician.'

'So . . . you mended it, you checked everything, no one reported any further problems. Why did you go back?'

'I didn't want them all to be without power in the night, did I? If they had, whose fault would that have been? Who'd have been off the case? There are far too many freelance sparks as it is. You're only as good as your last job.'

'So you didn't go back in order to kill Mrs Sanders? Perhaps you didn't leave her bungalow at all. Perhaps you stayed in there? Made yourself comfortable. Hid yourself even.'

'Where the f*ck would anyone hide in those rabbit hutches?'

'You tell me, Matt.'

Matt shook his head.

'Did you walk in through the door? Did you ring the bell in the middle of the night? Or did you break in through her bedroom window?'

'Fuck off. I'm not having any of this.'

'You see, the odd thing was that no one actually broke in through the front door or the kitchen door or through a window. Someone had actually left the bedroom window unlocked so it wasn't secure and the arm was loose. It only took a bit of fiddling and pushing to open – no need for any noisy glass-breaking. Mrs Sanders didn't bother to check properly. She obviously felt safe. But she wasn't safe, was she? Because you'd played about with the window and when you came back in the middle of the night, by which time she was in her bed and asleep, you –'

This time, Ben was ready for Matt Williams as he lunged, kicking over his chair. Both officers were on their feet trying to pin him face down, arms behind his back. The solicitor was standing too, but poised to run, not to pitch in and help.

'Ring the bell,' Vanek shouted. Williams was as strong as a bull.

When two uniforms burst in, it took the four of them to handcuff him.

'Matthew Williams, I am arresting you on the charge of murdering Elinor Sanders, on 28 February 2012. You do not have to say anything . . .'

Williams went on bellowing, long after he had been put into a cell.



Sam glanced up from the sheet he was cutting out of a magazine. 'MYOB.'

Hannah leaned over his shoulder. '"Damian Lewis". Who's Damian Lewis?'

'He's about the most famous actor on television right now.'

'Well, I've never heard of him.'

'Shows what you know. Ever heard of Dominic West then?'


'Benedict Cumberbatch?'

'You just made that up.'


'Who are they then?'

'I said. Famous actors.'

'They can't all be the most famous actor on television.'

'No. Duh.'

Hannah turned away.

'You're crying.'

'I am so not crying.'

Sam jumped up, grabbed her arm and spun her round to face him. 'Ha. So what's that on your face – dishwater?'

She bent her head and bit him on the hand. Sam yelped.

'You little weasel.'

'Shut up, shut up . . .'

'Look, you made tooth marks.'

'Teeth marks. Yes and I'm glad and I hope it bleeds and you get HIV.'

Sam snorted.

'Or tetanus.'

'Well it would be something pretty evil if I caught it from you.'

Hannah grabbed the magazine on the table and ran out of the room with Sam after her. In the hall, both of them crashed into Felix who was on his way to find them. His wail of fright as he hit the ground had Cat flying out of her study. 'What in heaven's name is going on here? Sam, what were you playing at?'

She dusted Felix down and inspected the knee he was rubbing. It was turning red and had a small scratch. 'All right, I'll put some cream on that, sweetheart. Sam?'

'Look at that . . .' Sam held out his bitten hand. 'That little bitch did it. And now she's stealing my magazine.'


Hannah was already halfway up the stairs. Seconds later, her bedroom door slammed.

'Sam, come here.'

'I'm doing something.'

'I'm not interested. All right, Felix, sit still, I'm only putting a dab of cream on, you're fine.'

'And a Bob.'

'Yes and a Bob.'


'Sam, I don't know what any of this is about but it has nothing to do with Felix. How did he come to be on the floor with you two on top of him?'

'Hannah's fault.'

'I doubt that. There.'

Cat pressed a Bob the Builder plaster onto Felix's scratch and lifted him down from the worktop beside the sink. He inspected his injury closely, beamed, and wandered off to the den.

'Right, sit down, and tell me exactly what was going on and why you were speaking to Hannah in that way. I won't have it, Sam. What happened?'

'Nothing. She's only sulking.'

'No, she is disappointed and upset and are you really surprised?'

'And jealous.'

'Of course she's jealous. Think about it. She was hoping – no, she was pretty much expecting – to get a part in a film. She didn't get it, so she was gutted . . . and this is what she loves doing, what she's good at. But what's worse is you, into whose head the words film and acting had never entered, who didn't ask for any of it, just swan into a much bigger role in a much bigger film. She could even cope with that, eventually, but not if you gloat and lord it over her. Which is what you've been doing for over a week, and you should be ashamed of yourself. You aren't four, Sam, but you're behaving like a spoilt brat.'

'She's the spoilt brat, if you ask me.'

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