Saturday, 1 January 2011

Report to the New Mayor

Letter from Inspector Morrison to Mrs Lucia Pillson, Mayor of Tilling and Chief Magistrate

The following letter was found in a padlocked black japanned box bearing the mayoral crest of Tilling and labelled "Highly Confidential ~ for the eyes of the Mayor only". It was secreted at the back of a large bookshelf in the garden room at Mallards House in Tilling.

The few other contents of the box included:
·        an ornate broach apparently containing a lock of human hair,
·         a sheet of paper containing a recipe headed "Lobster a la Riseholme",
·        a letter from an hotel in Folkstone signed "Georgie" enclosing a draft of a letter in Italian,
·        some fragments of a glass bottle with lettering apparently spelling "Appolinaris" and
·         a toupet of a striking auburn colour.

Tilling Constabulary
The Police Station

Your Worship,

Re: Tilling Constabulary File upon Mrs Elizabeth Mapp-Flint (nee Mapp)

First, as senior officer of the Tilling Constabulary, it behoves me to congratulate you upon your appointment as Mayor of Tilling and its Chief Magistrate in addition to Chairmanship of our Watch Committee. Please be assured of the loyal and resolute support of the entire force as you shoulder the weighty burdens each office entails.

Secondly, when we met recently you issued an instruction, founded upon the wish to carry out your duties more efficiently and entirely without personal motive, regarding the very first initiative which you wished to take in office. In this context, you wished to take the earliest opportunity to review with me the surprisingly bulky file maintained in my office upon the activities in recent years of prominent local resident, Mrs Elizabeth Mapp-Flint (nee Mapp) of Grebe, near Tilling and formerly of Mallards in Tilling.

I list below several incidents drawn to my attention by a variety of anonymous local sources under the heading of the relevant potential criminal charge with my italicised conclusions on the merits of each potential case:

  • Breaking and Entering: it was reported that without invitation Miss Mapp (as was) broke into Mallards by exerting considerable force with her shoulder on the front door. Although the freehold property then belonged to Miss Mapp, it was at the time leased to Your Worship who was in exclusive occupation and had not authorised admission. Although Miss Mapp claimed the chain must have been rusty and given way under normal pressure, inspection revealed that no rust was present. The "actus reus" or facts of the offence are provable, but it would be difficult to demonstrate that the intruder actually knew she was intruding. Since Miss Mapp appeared to lack the requisite intent or "mens rea", prosecution was considered inadvisable.
  • Criminal Damage: on her unauthorised entry into Mallards on the above occasion, Miss Mapp broke the hasp and chain which required replacement and re-installation. Again, the facts are provable, but not Miss Mapp’s intent; a civil claim would of course be available in respect of the entire cost of the damage suffered.
  • Trespass: it is understood that Miss Mapp’s entry on the above-mentioned occasion was unauthorised and therefore amounted to trespass. The intruder clearly trespassed, but does not appear to be guilty of any crime as such. A civil claim undoubtedly lies in tort for any loss occasioned by her trespass.
  • Burglary: similarly, in was reported that on Boxing Day 1930 Miss Mapp entered the garden and kitchen of Grebe near Tilling without permission. On this occasion forced entry was not required since the door was unlocked. Miss Mapp clearly entered uninvited as a trespasser and appropriated a recipe - by copying it. It appears Miss Mapp might have been guilty of burglary if it could be proven that unauthorised copying amounted to a crime.
  • Theft: on the occasion of the above trespass at Grebe it is understood that Miss Mapp referred to the cook’s recipe book in the kitchen and covertly noted down a recipe within, namely Lobster a la Riseholme. Theft requires dishonesty and an intention to deprive the owner of a possession permanently. It seems this test was not completely satisfied. In any event, Miss Mapp claimed to have entered Grebe to thank the owner for a Christmas gift and to ask to join a class of callisthenics. Against this must be balanced the fact that Miss Mapp’s luncheon menu clearly admitted unauthorised possession by specifically listing this very dish. Taken together, the prospects of success were insufficiently certain to merit the risk of a high-profile prosecution.
  • Affray: reports were received in my office of an unfortunate incident late one dark and foggy winter’s evening outside the cottage of Captain Puffin in Tilling. It appears Captain Puffin and Major Flint were under the influence of drink and engaged in a loud and irate altercation with Miss Mapp close to the pillar box. Although the shockingly disputatious behaviour manifestly took place in public, no witness was willing to give evidence and the altercation was not viewed by any of my constables; accordingly the case was dropped for lack of evidence.
  • Public drunkenness: during the above-mentioned affray, it is also understood that accusations of drunkenness were made by Miss Mapp against Captain Puffin and Major Flint and shockingly by Captain Puffin against Miss Mapp. Again, none of the accusations was supported by independent or police evidence and accordingly it was not deemed appropriate to take the matter further.
  • Obtaining Pecuniary Advantage by Deception: several complaints were made to my office over the years regarding the practice of Miss Mapp of agreeing terms for a lease during summer high season of smaller property on the express understanding that particular terms had been agreed for the letting of her own house. It then emerged that much more favourable terms including higher rents and rights of garden produce had in fact been obtained to the disadvantage of her tenant and her own temporary landlord. Whilst the practice was sharp and might raise moral issues and possibly a claim in contract or equity, it did not appear to constitute a criminal offence
  • Uttering a forged document: it became widely known that Miss Mapp unilaterally rejected paintings submitted to the Tilling Art Club Summer Exhibition by Your Worship and Mr George Pillson of Tilling without due authority of the Hanging Committee and fabricated evidence of rejection by issuing typewritten rejection slips in the name of the Committee, but without its knowledge or consent. Here it was apt to remember that although the law is necessarily involved with just desserts, it does not concern itself with mere trifles. Miss Mapp acted improperly and ultra vires and was subject to such penalty as was within the rules of the Art Club: this was a matter for the Hanging Committee, but not a hanging offence.
  • Murder: intelligence was received by Tilling Constabulary that on the very day of the sad death of Captain Richard Puffin, Miss Mapp had dissuaded his old friend Major Benjamin Flint from spending the evening with him to lift his spirits. Furthermore, Miss Mapp had also strongly advocated instead that Captain Puffin enjoy a solitary supper of soup. Major Flint complied with Miss Mapp’s wishes and tragically, when alone, Captain Puffin suffered a stroke and fell forward into his bowl of oxtail soup and drowned. It could be argued that Miss Mapp had sufficient motive for murder, given her antipathy to Captain Puffin following the public altercation mentioned above and the simple truth that the demise of Captain Puffin enabled her to progress her relationship with Major Flint, culminating in their marriage. To date, however, the causal link between Miss Mapp’s  prohibition of the Major keeping the deceased company, her advocacy of solitary consumption of oxtail soup and Captain Puffin's subsequent demise by drowning in the said soup, was not sufficiently close to merit prosecution. The prospects of success were as small as might have been contemplated had we charged Captain Puffin's cook Mrs Gashly with "assault with a deadly potage".  Accordingly both suspects remained uncharged.

Your Worship, the potential cases outlined above constitute the major issues of which my force has become aware in recent times. I confess that it is surprisingly long and colourful for a quiet and respectable town such as Tilling and for such a prominent and genteel bastion of its society. The range of criminal offences listed seems more appropriate to the outlaws in the Wild West than a respected gentlewoman by the English seaside.

Please rest assured that given your particular interest in this suspect, her future activities will be kept under continuous review. Unless I can be of further assistance to you Your Worship, I remain your humble and obedient servant

Yours sincerely,

Herbert Morrison

Inspector Morrison
Tilling Constabulary

Copyright 2011 Deryck Solomon. All rights reserved in appropriate territories

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