Issue # 145 – Dab hand at murder

Dab hand at murder

By Stan Solomons

Detectives probing the brutal killing of a kind old lady who ran a tiny corner shop thought it was only a matter of time before they tracked down the killer.

They had found a vital clue at the murder scene – a set of fingerprints on a mantelpiece in the back room behind the shop in Halifax, just a few feet from where 84-year-old Emily Pye had been found battered to death.

It was the 1950s and the Halifax borough police force had called in Scotland Yard as was the custom with murder cases in those days. The Yard sent Chief Superintendent Hannam, one of its top detectives, who could hardly believe his luck.

Could the killer have been so stupid as to leave his fingerprints? Hopefully, they would soon find the answer. First, they established they did not belong to the dead woman. Then one by one they eliminated close friends and relatives who visited Emily.

The next stage was to fingerprint scores of people who lived in the area and were customers of the old lady to see if their prints matched those at the murder scene. But before that plan was put into operation, the man who left his dabs behind came forward and confessed.

It was, believe it or not, the Chief Constable of Halifax, Mr. Gerald Goodman. Apparently, sometime after the murder he had walked into the room and put his hand on the mantelpiece. Just to make sure that they were his dabs he had to have his fingerprints taken and it was then found they were a perfect match.

Hannam, known to his intimates as The Count because he was well-spoken, wore smart clothes, and had an impressive manner, revealed the Chief Constable’s gaffe at one of his daily press conferences. The story was, of course, off the record and never appeared in print – until now. I can still picture Mr. Hannam chuckling as he told us the story.

‘We knew the Chief Constable couldn’t have committed the murder because he had a cast-iron alibi’ he joked.

As it happened Hannam never solved the murder. He had a pretty good idea who had committed it but could never prove it.

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