Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Inspector Read investigates

It was another nondescript, run of the mill, ordinary kind of morning – filling in the register, collecting homework (and excuses), filing notes about PE kit, handing out spellings, putting cough sweets in my drawer and trying to get the class reading quietly, shhhhhhhhhhh…

Glancing up from the register I noticed that Peter (he’s a sensitive lad lives with his Nan) was looking upset and tearful. I called him over and he told me the yellow football he’d got for Christmas was missing from class. True this was only minor league, not on a par with the kidnapping of the plastic baby Jesus from the nativity scene or the case of the missing Maltesers, but I couldn’t let this one go.

Peter told me that Eric had been seen running out of school with his ball. I called the suspect over, now in primary schools there are always tell-tales, informers and stool pigeons who are willing and able to assist with enquiries, this is in contrast with secondaries where the code of omerta reigns supreme. A sea of hands went up, “We saw him take it sir!”

At this point the suspect (Eric) vacated the classroom, at speed, proceeding in a westerly direction. I ushered the class out for assembly and called for back up. My old colleague DC Smith (famed for solving the Case of the Phantom Crisp Thief and investigating the Mystery of the Dirty Knickers Behind the Radiator) immediately arrived. Years of experience narrowed down the possible hiding places for the fugitive and he was duly apprehended hiding behind the door of the boys’ toilets.

A tearful Eric sobbed inconsolably and managed to heave out that it wasn’t him. Despite the suspect’s previous form and ignoring instinct and intuition it is always best to proceed on the basis of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. We questioned the suspect as to his whereabouts on the afternoon in question. Were there any witnesses he could call on to establish an alibi? Who did he walk out of school with? “Scott!”

I went into assembly and beckoned Scott over to me, I took him to the interview room away from the suspect and he informed me that he had gone home with his mother in the opposite direction from Eric. After confronting the suspect with this information the alibi was withdrawn, DC Smith escorted Scott back to assembly and assured him that he would be placed in the witness protection scheme during the next break.

The suspect then tried that well-known tactic “It wasn’t just me…it was someone else as well” and incriminated his friend Colin. Once again I took the witness or potential suspect out of assembly. No he hadn’t walked out of school with Eric, he’d caught up with him and yes, Eric had a yellow football with him.

Confronted with this evidence it was plain to see that the suspect’s case was as we say in the service, “falling apart at the seams”. I left Eric with DC Smith. Now long experience has taught me that you don’t need lengthy interrogations, thumbscrews or the tortures of a Torquemada you just leave them with DC Smith, head on one side, gazing into their eyes with a quizzical look.

Any old lag or Mafioso hit man would wilt and confess. In floods of tears Eric admitted, he’d taken the ball home, it was in his garden. We rang home and mum agreed to bring it in to school straight away and when she got her hands on him… So another case solved, the accused sentenced to detention, Peter delighted to get his ball back and I was spared the wrath of his Nan.

I always feel an affinity with those fictional sleuths Inspectors Rebus, Frost and Wexford they’re always battling against bureaucracy and they’ve never ascended the promotion ladder (I’ve managed to climb to the giddy heights of PE Co-ordinator) but give them a complex crime to solve and they’re in their element. For me it’s all part of the job description, teacher, social worker, nurse, counsellor, psychiatrist and…. detective.


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