Christopher Cooper, professional loser, drawer of the short straw, the
black marble; that would be an appropriate epitaph for me. It had been
an inopportune thirty five years. I had not even had the fortune to win
a prize in a raffle. Now here I was, judged insane; too insane to stand
trial. My crime, murder. The murder of innocent children and a sad old
man. I was dispatched to my cell with the judge's harsh recommendation
that I should never be released fresh in my memory.. How I regretted
ever meeting Harry Barlow, the cause of my misfortune.
It all started on a blazing hot summer's morning. I was lazing in my
back garden, still moping over my recent divorce. Jenny had abandoned
all hope of me making it as a writer and my moods worsened as refusal
after refusal fell onto my doormat. The publishing world was so cruel.
I was convinced that I had written a bestseller. What did the
publishers know? She was invisible to me, was her comment. “You're
obsessed with your writing.” Perhaps she was right. I was not a very
nice person to live with as I aspired to reach my ultimate goal.
The chimes of the ice cream van roused me. Harry Barlow, God bless him;
the Samaritan of Duke Street, hastily made his way to the van, the
children following like the rats after the pied piper. Barlow was sixty
years of age, a widower. He would do anything for anybody would old
Barlow, a pillar of the community. I was not so sure. Granted we are on
speaking terms, but there was something about old Barlow, the way he
leered at children, the way he touched them. Maybe I was imaging
things. I was too engrossed in my novel to keep in touch with society.
Today I had made the decision to switch off my PC and take in the sun. I
sipped my ice-cold beer and turned over onto my stomach. Barlow
returned from the ice cream van, several children in tow. He had
erected swings and a slide in his garden for the children to play,
their parents happy in the knowledge of where their offspring were.
Barlow stooped over to lick the ice cream cone of a young boy. I could
see through the rickety fence the content children, screaming with
glee, but what caught my eye was the hand of Barlow. It was caressing
the bottom of the small boy.
I rose from my lounger and leaned over the fence. Barlow's liver spotted
hand was swiftly withdrawn as he witnessed my presence.
“Ah Mr Cooper, isn't it a wonderful day?”
“Is it Mr Barlow.? What were you doing just now?”
“What ever do you mean?”
“Young Peter Wilcox over there, you were touching his bottom.”
The bald headed old man laughed, more of a cackle really, “You must have
had too much sun Mr Cooper. You should be careful what you're
“I know what I saw Barlow. I've had my suspicions for a long time and
now they have been substantiated.”
I crossed over the road towards a group of women who were drinking wine
in the garden, giggling and chatting about the latest chat show. “Mrs
Wilcox, could I have a word with you please?”
“Sure, what is it?”
“Somewhere more private would be more appropriate Mrs Wilcox.”
“Whoa!” sneered one of the women. Others wolf-whistled. “You're alright
there Pat. Your old man won't be back until nine.”
“Pat Wilcox, a busty not unattractive lady led me indoors. I tried to
deviate my eyes from her ample cleavage.
“Well, what is it?”
“It's your son Peter. I saw Barlow with his hand on his bottom earlier.”
“Piss off, old Harry? You must be mistaken.”
“I know what I saw Mrs Wilcox, it wasn't an accidental touch.”
“I'm sure you're mistaken. Harry loves the kids, he even takes them to
Whitby on the weekends.”
“I can only relate to you what I saw Mrs Wilcox. My advice to you would
be to keep your eye on him.”
“Cheeky bastard. Are you trying to say that I neglect my kids?”
“I'm saying nothing of the sort Mrs Wilcox.”
This was getting out of hand. She was in the mood for a fight and I
decided to make good my retreat. I left the house to a torrent of
abuse. I knew when I wasn't wanted.
Mrs Wilcox addressed the group of women. “Do you know what the cheeky
sod said? He said that I can't keep an eye on my kids. He tried to say
old Harry was interfering with our Peter.”
“No,” said one of the women, puffing on a cigarette, “Harry Barlow is
the friendliest man on earth, Coopers jealous, that's all it is,
because he fires blanks. That's why she left him you know? They
couldn't have children.”
I heard the snide remarks as I arrived at my sanctuary. It was only
half-true. It was Jenny who couldn't have a baby, but who knows? Maybe
a baby would have cemented our relationship.
I toyed with the idea of going to the police, but what's the point? I
would only have to go through the inquisition again. I sneered at
Barlow as I withdrew to the safe haven of my worktop.
The volume on my television was turned up in order to drown out the
screams of the children playing next door. The newscaster reported
another child had gone missing. That was the third in as many months.
The scene was of police and helpers searching a farmer's field. Three
children from the same estate, that was too much of a coincidence. My
thoughts turned to Barlow. Perhaps I was mistaken. Maybe it was just an
innocent pat on the bottom from a senile old man.
That evening I was roused from my nap by a pounding on my door. As I
opened it I was flung backwards and a fist powerfully connected with my
nose, splaying blood all around. Colin Wilcox stood over me.
“Don't you ever accuse my wife of neglecting the kids again you
arsehole. Stay away from her, do you hear?”
I nodded my head. My inclination was not to upset this giant of a man.
He departed as swiftly as he had come, leaving me to ease the swelling
of my bloody nose with an ice pack. I think that is the time when I had
decided enough was enough. This house held bad memories for me. I would
sell it and split the proceeds with Jenny. It was time to leave
I had decided to inform Jenny of my decision to sell the house and set
off to drive to her flat. I pulled up at the traffic lights and looked
across at the puke green Volkswagen. Only one person could own such a
car, Barlow. I peered into the dull interior of his motor and saw a
young boy sitting beside him. I pondered. Who was this boy?
I was startled by the honks of the motorists, and as I continued on my
way Barlow turned towards the Cleveland Hills. Being both curious and
concerned I did a U-turn, to the dismay of the following motorists. I
had no difficulty catching Barlow up as he crawled up the steep
He turned down a path and I followed, being careful to keep a
respectable distance behind. The path was desolate and the wheels of
Barlow's car threw up clouds of dust as he progressed further towards
the beauty spot.
He stopped and I violently veered to the right, concealing my car behind
a hawthorn bush. I waited until I heard the car doors slamming before
exiting my battered Ford Escort. I progressed quietly towards his
vehicle, crouching down to prevent detection. There was no sign of
Barlow when I reached his car. I stopped and listened. I decided to
enter the wild undergrowth and forced my way through, receiving painful
scratches to my arms and face for my efforts.
Again I listened. I could hear the birds singing, but there was
something else. It sounded like a scuffle, but where was it coming
from? I pushed on further towards the source of the noise.
The undergrowth was like a maze as I progressed slowly. I fell over
something underfoot and embarrassingly discovered that it was a couple
of teenagers fumbling around.
“Hey you pervert, what are you playing at?”
“I'm sorry, I'm looking for somebody.”
“Pull the other one pervy,” said the spotty lad, giving me the one
I withdrew rapidly back to the path to find that Barlow's car had gone.
I ran for towards my vehicle as the teenagers emerged from the
undergrowth, arranging their dishevelled clothes. I decided to continue
on my way to Jenny's. I could phone the police from there and tell them
of Barlow's unscrupulous behaviour.
I thought I had entered the wrong flat when Jenny let me in as it was
newly decorated. Entering the lounge I met the decorator, dressed in a
vest and jeans and lolled on Jenny's sofa, drinking her beer.
“Well, you know it had to happen Chris, life goes on.” she smiled.
“Doesn't it? Well I hope you two are happy together,” I lied.
The boyfriend sneered at me. I left it at that. I suppose I could have
hoped that he would restraighten my nose, but I didn't fancy the pain.
“What brings you here Chris?”
“I'm going to sell the house Jenny, I've had enough.”
“Sell it, but where will you go?”
“I don't know. Somewhere who appreciates my talents.”
Jenny was dressed in a tight tee-shirt and cut off jeans. She was
obviously wearing no bra, and then I begun to appreciate what I once
“By the way Jenny, can I use your telephone?”
She pointed towards it and I dialled Middlesbrough police station. The
desk Sergeant took down my details and promised to get back to me. I
returned home and that is when the nightmare began.
I answered the door to two detectives, one being a female. It was the
woman who spoke first.
“I'm DCS Scott and this is DC Proudlock. Do you mind if we come in?” “No
not at all.”
The lady detective's eyes scanned my room. I suppose it was a force of
“Can you tell me where you were between four and five 'o'clock this
“I went to my ex wives flat.”
“And anywhere else?” added DC Proudlock.
“Yes, I was in the Cleveland Hills for a short time. I've already
“You have?” asked DCS Scott, her prying eyes now examining my duty free
whiskey in the drinks cabinet.
“Yes, when I arrived at my wife's flat. I immediately reported the
“What incident is this?”
“Excuse me, isn't that why you're here?”
“We're here because a eight year old boy was found murdered this
afternoon in the
Cleveland Hills, and your car was in the area at the time.”
“Yes, I was following Barlow. As I've said, I've already reported this.”
“Yes, he's my next door neighbour. I've been keeping my eye on him. I
caught him groping a young boy just this morning.”
“We'll check your story out Mr Cooper.” DCS Scott stroked her chin, I
could feel her eyes burning through me. She was studying me.
DC Proudlock broke in, “Mr Cooper, two teenagers reported that a man
answering your description was spying on them. They said that he looked
a little shocked when they saw him.”
“Of course I wasn't spying on them. Wouldn't you be bloody shocked if
you fell over them?”
“Can you tell me where you got those scratches from?” asked DCS Scott.
“In the undergrowth. I followed Barlow and the boy into there.”
“And did you find them?”
“Obviously not, but I heard noises, as though there was a scuffle.”
“The teenagers said there was only one car on that path and that it was
yours. You see, they had the sense to take your registration number.”
“Hold on a bloody minute, you don't think I killed the boy do you?”
“We'll check your report Mr Cooper. Don't leave the country, we'll be in
My head was in a muddle and my mind worked overtime as I tried to
comprehend what difficulties I was in. Two witnesses had placed me at
the murder location. I had some serious thinking to do.
Early the next morning the detectives called at my house; this time they
brought a uniformed officer with them.
“Mr Cooper, we would like you to accompany us down to the station. I'm
afraid your story doesn't hold up,” stated DCS Scott.
“Doesn't hold up?”
“You see Mr Cooper; Harry Barlow whom you say you followed never left
the street yesterday.”
“That's impossible. Someone is lying.”
“But that's just it Cooper, half of the street gave him an alibi. He was
hosting a garden party for their children. Why would they give him an
alibi? A mass conspiracy against you perhaps?” she smirked.
“I want to see a solicitor, this is an outrage.” My mind was racing.
Barlow was definitely the driver of the car. What was going on? Why
would they give him an alibi?
At the police station I was grilled and grilled again in the presence of
my solicitor. I was to be released, only because no DNA samples or
other evidence was found at the crime scene. The victim was eight year
old Tommy Dawes who lived just off the estate. He had been sexually
assaulted before he was strangled.
Word had soon spread about me being in custody. I decided to vacate my
house when a brick was thrown, smashing my front window pane and
narrowly missing me. I made up my mind to pay Harry Barlow a visit,
even though the police had forbidden any contact between us.
I waited for nightfall and prepared for my foray. I wore gloves as a
precaution. I could always deny entering Barlow's house and I didn't
want to leave any incriminating evidence. Besides, I thought it was
highly unlikely that he would go to the police as he would not want to
attract attention to himself.
I climbed over the rickety, back fence and tried his door. It was
surprisingly open. I entered his kitchen and saw him eating beans from
a tin. He was startled when I confronted him. “What is the meaning of
this? Get out of my house this minute or I'll call the police.”
“How'd you do it Barlow? How'd you get all of those neighbours to give
“You're sick Cooper; you should be locked up.”
I grabbed him by the lapels. My inclination was to give the old man a
beating, but I kept my dignity.
“Piss off Barlow! You killed those children, it was you all along, admit
“Get out of my house!”
“Where have you buried the other children Barlow, you sick bastard?”
“Right, I'm phoning the police.”
“Don't bother, I'm going, but I promise you that I won't rest until
you're locked away.”
I moved away from the ill-fated estate. No matter, I was still targeted
by the hate mob. The house I was allotted by the local council was
covered in graffiti. Child killer and other obscenities covered the
walls. Eventually the police moved me on again for my own safety.
I was now a nervous wreck, looking over my shoulder on every street
corner. I was still the prime suspect in the police's eyes. That I had
put my house up for sale didn't exactly aid my pleas of innocence.
It was while in custody, being questioned yet again by the relentless
DCS Scott that I had my first stroke of luck in years. Another body had
been found and it was still fresh. The young boy had been found lying
in a stream, strangled, just as the others had been strangled. He had
been murdered while I was in custody and I was promptly dismissed with
not even an apology.
News of my innocence quickly spread and I decided to return to my old
house until I could sell it. Peoples attitudes had changed towards me.
I had now more friends than ever. When I arrived home my house had been
redecorated and the house refurnished by the neighbours. They had even
landscaped my garden for me. Those hypocrites; did they really think
that they could buy my friendship? My intention was still to leave the
area; to disassociate myself from the charlatans.
I was now living like a recluse and my computer lay idle. I could not
find the inspiration to write. I was becoming obsessed with Barlow. I
would spy on him at every opportunity, even resorting to taking
photographs of him playing with the children. That as I later found out
was a big mistake.
One afternoon when I eventually did venture outdoors was the turning
point in my miserable life. The rain came down with such force, the
black clouds overhanging my garden like a sea of ink. What compelled me
to go outdoors I do not know. My recently landscaped garden, courtesy
of the neighbours was a sea of mud, the brown silt washing away over
the lush green lawn. My eyes settled on something protruding from the
ground and I made my way to the object. I froze rigid as I neared the
vegetable plot. Sticking up out of the ground was an arm, a child's
The rain blended in with my tears as the corpse revealed itself little
by little. The downpour revealed the grisly find. My heart felt as if
it would explode and I threw up onto the lawn. Other bodies were now
visible, three, four, my God. I was overcome with grief, such grief and
hatred. Hatred for the monster who dwelled next door. Hatred for the
system that had condemned me and then spit me out as if I was phlegm
waiting to be discarded.
I felt my eyes bulging in their sockets. The saliva dripped from my
mouth as I bent over and embraced one of the bodies, no more now than a
rotten carcase. The pouring rain-washed the earth from the dead boy's
face, or what was left of it. A worm reared its ugly form from the boys
mouth and I can remember screaming, a silent scream as if in a
nightmare, because believe me, this was a nightmare. I was filled with
such anger and torment that nothing else entered my head apart from
I stepped over Barlow's fence and kicked in the door. The sight that
befell the old man must have been fearsome. I could still smell the
odour off that little boy's body as I approached the terrified Barlow.
He backed off, putting up his hands to protect himself.
“No! You have it all wrong.”
“The garden, look in my fucking garden.”
“What are you talking about?”
I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and marched him outside. I
tossed him like the garbage he is onto the makeshift grave, his face
inches away from one of his victims.
“Take a look Barlow, take a fucking look. So young; how could anyone
kill someone so young and innocent?”
“You're insane. You killed these children. Don't put this bloodbath on
others, you killed these children.”
That was the moment when I think I flipped. I hit the old man flush in
the face with a powerful punch and he spit out his false teeth,
mingling with the deathly soil. He was now trembling with fear, the
blood dripping from his wrinkled mouth. He tried to speak, but I hit
him again, and again, and kept hitting him until he was still. I
grabbed the back of his head by what hair he had remaining and pushed
his face down into the sodden soil. I held his head down with all of my
might for what must have been minutes.
When one of the neighbours found me the next day, I was sat naked in my
armchair, embracing one of the dead children; the mud still caked on my
body. Another four children were unearthed from the garden of evil.
So here I am, three years on, sitting in my padded cell and wearing my
strait-jacket, pondering over my sanity. Yes, I committed a murder; the
murder of a child killer; I was doing the world a service ridding it of
such vermin. The murders of course stopped and I have gone down in the
annuls of history as a horrific child killer.
The photographs condemned me. The police believed that I was taking
snaps of the children for my perverse pleasure. What about the child
that was murdered whilst I was in custody you may ask? I was accused of
killing him and the pathologist on the case got a severe reprimand for
mistaking the time of his death.
But my story does not finish there, no. I had a visit, a rare visit.
Usually only Jenny came to visit me. She said she believed in my
innocence, but she believed that as much as she wanted to believe that
I was sane. No, I had been abandoned in this hellish place; a sane man
in an asylum, not a nice mixture. As I was saying, I had a visit. He
wouldn't leave his name. My strait-jacket was removed and I was shown
to the visiting room, an isolated room.
The man behind the screen facing me had on a monk's cowl. “Hello
I could smell his rancid breathe as he spoke. Where had I heard that
“Don't you know who I am Christopher?”
I could feel my bowels moving as I realised where I knew the voice from,
but it couldn't possibly be. The monk pulled down his cowl and I was
staring into the face of Harry Barlow. I now began to have doubts over
my sanity. How could this be? I killed him with my own hands.
“Barlow! But you're...”
“Dead, is that the word you are looking for Christopher?”
“You're a ghost?”
“Nothing so theatrical I'm afraid. Harry was my twin brother. You see,
when we were children I was such a wild child. Our father died when we
were six years old, leaving our sick mother to look after us. As I've
told you, I wasn't an angelic child, not like Harry, I was sent off to
remand school and when I was released as a teenager my mother didn't
want me back. Harry was the apple of her eye and I was evil as far as
she was concerned. She was correct you see. I killed a young child when
I was a teenager, and as the police were closing in on me I decided the
best hiding place would be a convent or a priory. That is where I lost
my identity. Ronald Barlow no longer existed. I was free to carry on my
infatuation with the children, and believe me; I enjoyed every minute
“So it was you who I saw that day on the Cleveland Hills?”
“Of course, you see I used to visit my brother often. It was a secret of
course. We could not be seen together. I told him if he didn't
cooperate with me I'd start to kill some of his treasured children that
he worshipped. I came and went mostly at night, but the odd time like
when I wanted to borrow his car I would appear in the daytime. Of
course we're identical so there was no chance of anyone suspecting
anything, unless of course we were seen together.”
“So Harry knew about you killing the children?”
“No, he knew that I was capable, that's why I was able to carry out my
threat to him. He believed you were the killer. He even told the
children to stay away from you.”
“But that morning, I saw him groping young Peter Wilcox?”
“Did you?” He smiled, revealing his yellow teeth. “That was me. Harry
was answering the call of nature at the time. I couldn't resist the
opportunity whenever I was given the chance.”
“So what's to stop me telling the story to the police?”
“Because Christopher, you're insane and I don't exist. I have
extinguished everything that could ever reveal my being. I even gave a
false name at the convent, you see, I've covered my tracks well... No
Christopher, I'm afraid you're here for life. I'll say a prayer for
you... Oh by the way, I think it's safe to resume my hobby now don't
you? Three years is a long time. You should actually feel better being
in here now that I've revealed that you killed an innocent man. Repent
your sins friend and I will see you in hell.” He pulled up his cowl and
There you have it. As I write these memoirs, I'm contemplating
committing suicide. Telling the police will be pointless and besides,
I'm too weary with all of these sedatives they feed me. I'm too
exhausted to consider my freedom. I write these memoirs in the hope
that one day my name will be cleared and that this monster will be
apprehended before he begins another massacre of the children. Who
knows? Maybe I will make the bestseller list after all?” End