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32 The evidence handlers: questions we would have liked to ask

Present for the third meeting are:

Professor Cleland, James Cowan, DS Leane, Jimmy Durham.

The speaker is not one of them.


‘Professor, if you have a minute.’

Cleland, startled, looks up from his notes, spills a couple of pages onto the floor, bends over to pick them up only to have more slide from his hands.


We wait. The professor settles himself.

‘The slip, Professor, how did you come by it?’

‘Found it in his trouser watch-pocket.’

‘Difficult to find, was it?”

‘Not at all, I’d be surprised if we all didn’t have one.’

Cleland looks at Leane, Cowan looks at Durham. No argument there.

‘But you had to look for it again, after you put it back?’



Cleland shrugs, ‘these things happen, a momentary lapse.’

‘Who gave you the trousers?’

‘DS Leane.’

‘Who handled the shoes?’

Leane coughed into his hand, ever so quietly.

‘Mr Cowan, and the slippers.’



‘At what stage did you process the suitcase and its contents for fingerprinting?’

‘Didn’t happen, never got the call.’

Leane is examining the fingernails of his left hand. Cleland is gazing mid-space. Cowan consults his watch. Sighs. Durham fidgets.


Cowan looks up at his inquisitor, confident, the glimmer of amusement in his eyes.

‘Was there any black powder on the items in the suitcase?’

‘Black powder?’

‘Yes. Do you remember seeing any evidence to suggest that the contents had been finger-printed?’




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