By Brian Robinson.
In the early hours of a winter’s morning, a most horrendous crash is heard. Two people sit bolt upright in bed.
“Oh my God! What on earth was that?”
“It sounds like a car crashing into our house. But it came from the back so it can’t be. You wait here. I’ll take a look.”
“I’m coming with you.”
I was expecting the lower part of our house to be a scene of utter devastation but it wasn’t. Everything was exactly as it should be. “Something must have landed outside,” my wife suggested. I switched on the outside light and opened the blinds to the patio doors.
Our patio set had been annihilated; several patio slabs were busted and sticking up; and part of a dwarf wall had been demolished. “What the f…?”
“I don’t know. A meteorite? A thunderbolt? You tell me. Wait here.”
I began to report back through the now cautiously open patio doors, “It’s an object of some sort. It’s frozen. Christ it’s a man! oh my God! Quick, phone the police.”
We were both in shock. Doreen was terribly upset. “He must have fallen from a plane. We’re right underneath the flight path. That’s the only explanation I can think of.”
“Well, he didn’t just open a door and jump out. He’s frozen. he must have been hiding in the undercarriage where the landing gear is stowed. If it’s any consolation, he must have been dead long before he fell.”
“A stowaway? What drives people to do that. He must have been desperate. I’m going to have another look. Whatever you do, don’t come out.
There’s something hanging round his neck? An identity badge. It’s turned inward, stuck to his chest. I can’t read it. Get me a knife so I can prise it away.”
“Should we be doing this?”
“Just get the knife. We’ll worry about that afterwards.
Just a minute, I need to scratch off the frost. His name is Jeff Miller. He works for American airline. He’s an engineer.”
“Not a stowaway then?”
It didn’t take long for the police to establish which flight Mr Miller had been on. But as we suspected, he wasn’t on the passenger list. The big question was: why? Why did he end up on that flight? We both felt we had to know. Not so much out of curiosity, but because this now felt personal.
We contacted American airline and made ourselves known to them. We didn’t ask for the contact details of the next of kin. That would have been a step too far. But they did agree to pass on our contact details to the Miller family. The ball was in their court. And we felt that was about all we could do.
Six months later we received a call. “Hi, my name is Sarah Miller. You don’t know me…”
“You’re…Jeff Miller’s wife…daughter?”
“Yes, I’m his wife. We now know the full story of what happened to Jeff, and how he ended up in your back garden. To be fair to you, we thought you had a right to know.”
“We have been wondering, not only about Jeff, but about you, his family. How do you cope with a tragedy like that?”
“Well, finding the truth about what happened was an important part of our coping. That was a big help.
To understand things fully, we have to go back to my university days. I was dating another wannabe engineer, Ralph Anderson. I was attracted to him because of his good looks but for some reason I never really took to him.
He didn’t take the break-up well, and when I started dating Jeff, he became even more resentful. We were all at the same university you see so we saw each other virtually every day. That didn’t help matters as far as Ralph was concerned.
Twenty years later, Ralph joined American airline where Jeff had been working for some time. We’re not sure if that was intentional or a coincidence. Anyway, Jeff was Ralph’s senior engineer so things got pretty tense between them. The resentment was obviously still there.
We now know that Ralph killed Jeff, and we know it was a planned murder. He poisoned him with cyanide, and then hid his body in the compartment where the landing gear is stowed. Cyanide is perfect for murder because it doesn’t stay in the body for long.
Ralph believed that Jeff’s death would either be seen as accidental or a bizarre form of suicide. Nothing would ever come back to him.
However, the British medical team saved the day. They kept Jeff’s body frozen and took many samples while in the frozen state. Traces of cyanide were found and so murder was suspected. That’s when Ralph became our prime suspect.
Our police then had ‘probable cause’ and were able to investigate Ralph further and search his house. They found evidence that he had purchased cyanide and had researched the effects of cyanide poisoning. His DNA was also found on Jeff’s body.”
“Did they get a confession from him?”
“Yes, the weight of evidence against him was too great.”
“Okay, so has he stood trial yet.”
“No, that’s the irony. Ralph killed himself. He booked a flight on a light aircraft and then jumped out. The pilot couldn’t do a thing to stop him.”