In every town there is always a black mark in its history, some are darker than most and others are barely grey while the largest black marks have the distaste to change a town forever, an effect that the town of Greyhaven’s black mark had on it. Greyhaven was a peaceful town with picturesque landscapes and a charming market street where as the early hours roused the town the hypnotizing scent of freshly baked bread and cooked meat made every waking day heavenly, by midday the streets where always packed with townsfolk who even braved it in the worst of weather to greet and nattered with each other sharing the town’s gossip which was often less controversial and more light-hearted.
On the whole the town thrived in it’s unblemished delightfulness and many people from all over the country came but not just for the landscape, markets or people but because of the Purity tree. Standing resolute at the edge of a cliff overlooking the beach below and the wide open sea stood the pure white tree with its pale leaves that flowed with the breeze. By chance it also stood behind Greyhaven church so all manor of people came far and wide to profess their love and more often that not to get married. However like most good places, a tragedy is not far behind.
On one hot summer in the year 1975 there was a sudden surge in the number of immigrants flocking to the country from certain war torn countries and before long the cities where overrun so the government decided in their wisdom to spread them into towns and villages up and down the British Isles. Most of the immigrants were poor and needed housing while a small but critical minority were escaping the long arms of the law however in those days it was extremely difficult to do background checks on every foreigner. These problems were emphasized by the towns civic leaders who owned the town’s most prosperous businesses and used some of that wealth to keep the town stable and normal as well as filling their own pockets but the more strangers showing up pleading to be sheltered the more the leaders started to feel uneasy. Private meeting were held to discuss what should be done but as much as they argued and deliberated they could not come up with a viable solution without parting ways with a significant part of their own wealth. The men of the group had always vouched for the most drastic of actions such as detaining all of the outsiders until proper checks can be made or segregating the community so that when the time came it would make it easier to ‘evict’, as they put it, the strangers. Several meeting went on like this with no practical answer in sight however everything was going to come to a head in the most gruesome and heart-wrenching way possible. It was near the end of Autumn when all the leaves of the Purity tree had fallen leaving the bare branches but oddly it still looked breath-taking to look upon the grand tree and of a morning it would always catch the sunrise between its branches so instead of seeing its usual white bark, the tree looked like it was coated in gold. It’s almost ironic how a place so adorned in beauty would be the stage for the atrocity that would unfold, and the same could be said for the town itself at that time of year with so many different people now living in the town everyone became fearful of each other and when there is fear anger soon follows. There was a rise in racially aggravated attacks, most of which was carried out by original townsfolk who before this migration were pleasant and never harmed anyone.
Other crimes were committed by the immigrants included robbery, assault and public intoxication which, though were minor crimes, still had a big impact and the more minor crimes committed the more wound up the rest of the populace got and unfortunately the worst was yet to come. An event took place on the 31st of October that year, a criminal event that acted as a catalyst for the town’s black mark. A younger teenage girl, aged 15, was walking back to her house from a Halloween part where she had been drinking, only slightly though not enough for her to become complacent of her surroundings but still she stumbled slightly as she walked her route back to her house.
The route took her through the local nature park where she frequented often but right now the place looked dark and quiet. She had no fear strolling through the par at that time of night since she had done it countless times before but tonight would be her last. Seeing her house between the branches of the trees made her feel safer as she knew she wasn’t far off now but then a surprising force knocked her off her feet to the ground where she banged her head hard making her dazed. She tilted her head back up to see the thing that knocked her over: it was a large man dressed all in black. She could see by the skin colour that he wasn’t from around here and by his sickening yellow-toothed smile he knew what he was thinking. She tried to scream out in the night to alert anyone but the man quickly dived on top of her with his hand clamped on her neck like a pincer. It was then that the disgusting man subjected her to a very hurtful and terrifying sexual assault.
When she got home she told her parents immediately who called the police. She then went through the embarrassing procedure of swabs being taken for evidence, but no matter the embarrassment or the violation the girl bravely endured, she understood that the more evidence they can gather the more likely the police were to make an arrest. The next morning the whole town was shocked and distraught by the sickening news that one of their own children had been molested but thankfully the investigation was a short one as evidence at the scene was gathered and witness statements taken the officers were sure they had the right man and as soon as they located him they took the tall man into custody. When presented with the amount of evidence against him the suspect confessed to the crime but although the department was happy with the arrest the lead detective wasn’t convinced the man knew what he was admitting to. Despite his reservations however the case went to court where, after following advice from his legal council, the suspect pleaded not guilty which enraged the town even more and distressed the poor young girl further but soon it would go from bad to worse as the defence ripped apart the prosecution’s story leading to the case becoming more disastrous than ever.
A well presented inner city solicitor represented the foreigner who cross-examined the traumatized witness and made her reveal that she had been drinking previously on the night in question added with how dark it wad made her story become weak and unreliable. Next up was the confession that the defence claimed was given under duress from the detectives and further claimed that they threatened his client. Lastly was the defendant’s alibi which was irrefutable. The prosecution put up a good fight explaining how close his alibi was to the crime scene so it was feasible that the man could have committed the crime however it was flimsy with no practical evidence backing it up. Sifting through all the evidence presented the jury could not convict the man so a verdict of not guilty was passed shocking and dismaying half the town while the other half rejoiced at justice finally prevailing. These reactions toasted tensions further and only a week later the black mark reared it’s ugly head.
Everyone woke that morning the same as every morning however as dawn broke and engulfed the Purity Tree once more a horrific sight was illuminated for all to see. Ten migrants both male and female hung by their neck on long ropes attached to the branches, each one under their own dead weight had cracked the branches slightly making the tree’s white sap drip all over the coloured faces and shoulders. The police had no question it was a racial hate crime and the worst kind they had ever seen, one of the dead men hanging near the top was none other than the defendant who was accused of and later acquitted of the r**e. To say the least the whole town was rocked to it’s core, with news of the massacre reaching to the ends of the country the town had the spotlight suddenly thrust on them and for the sake of their own future the townsfolk, foreign and native alike came together as one and made peace since not one of them wanted anymore escalation so for now an air of tranquility and compassion descended on the town. The hanging was never forgotten and thankfully never repeated but the black mark was still there and would forever be there until the case got solved but that wouldn’t happen for another 40 years.
In the year 2015 on the 40th anniversary of the murders the police were called once again to the Purity Tree by the town vicar who upon greeting the officers was visibly shaken and pale but also quite manic as he told them about the sigh that awaited his arrival that morning. The Purity Tree stood as beautiful as ever and seemed not to age despite the atrocity that befell it, however the direction of focus was pulled from its beauty and elegance to the frail, elderly man hanging from one of the lower branches. He was in a business suit with the white sap also dripping down his ghastly grotesque body. The town was once again in an uproar as news of the hanging seeped through the various gossipers but the biggest shock was yet to come as the man was soon identified as Richard Blackridge, one of the town’s wealthiest members and a veteran town leader who was guided this town through its darkest hour. He lived a life of luxury and was popular in the community for being a reliable and honorable man often investing in many businesses offering them financial support. The murder of the old man rocked Greyhaven to its very core and the pressure was on for the detectives to find their man quickly so they started by questioning a certain ethnic minority which only aggravated the situation more but despite the controversial method the community obliged and gave the detectives the information they asked for. Fortunately in the 40 years since the hanging, crime scene forensic techniques had advanced so far that as the detectives sifted through the information gathered at the scene the story of how the old man came to be hanging from the tree soon unfolded.
Initially through the coroners preliminary examination of the body they found bruising on the neck that indicated the old man had been strangled and dirt on the bottom of his trousers together with drag marks at the scene further indicated that the body had been dragged from a vehicle and strung up. The tyre tracks in the dirt were photographed and cross referenced in the police department’s vehicle database where they found a match to the new Land Rover Defender which made the suspect pool significantly smaller as there was only a few people in town who owned that vehicle. The murderer had been smart though since there was no more forensic evidence at the crime scene and no DNA on the rope but the detectives were sure they had enough to go on or at least to point them in the right direction.
After gathering enough evidence the detectives knew they needed to establish a timeline so the most effective way to proceed was to interview the family who had gathered for them at the victim’s manor house and it was there that they got their first major break in the case. At first they asked the family the usual questions such as how the family life was and if there was anyone who would want to harm or even kill Mr. Blackridge. In answer to the last question the victim’s sister spoke up and gave details of an argument that she had overheard last night between the deceased and his younger business associate, Amir Dhelali. According to the Blackridge’s sister it was a very heated argument about the liquidation of a company’s assets as Blackridge was going bankrupt. As the detectives listened things started to click into place like a jigsaw puzzle in their minds: Dhelali was as young as Blackridge’s grandson and just as athletic and strong so he could easily strangle the life out of the frail old man with minimal effort, the liquidation of Dhelali’s company would devastate him as he had sunk every penny he had into it so detectives suspected he had motive, and for a certain amount of time he was alone with the suspect on the night of the murder so there was no question of opportunity.
The detectives knew they had their man but oddly enough Blackridge’s grandson, Jeremiah, never said anything. He offered up no defense for his business partner nor was he visibly angry with him, he just looked down to the floor as if deep in thought an closed himself off. The detectives had much more work to do so they shrugged of his non reaction and put it down to shock and melancholy. They exited the manor house happy in mind that their net point of call would be to interview Amir Dhelali back at the station.
The business partner was questioned under suspicion of murder to which he vigorously denied and looked disheveled as the full force of what could happen hit him in the gut. The detectives questioned him about the argument to which he didn’t deny but did describe it as heated but not physical and furthermore he stated that before anything could escalate he stormed out the house to cool off. The detectives next question however would either confirm or deny whether they have the right suspect or not: they asked what car he drove that night and he answered with the same model of Land Rover the tyre tracks belonged to. They both sat back with smugness and elation written all over their faces but only for a few seconds as Mr. Dhelali informed them of a detail that would derail their suspicions of him. He told them that he took a taxi home since he had a few drinks during dinner at the Blackridge household. The detectives followed this alibi up hoping for a dent in his story but having called the taxi company they discovered that the man had been telling the truth as the taxi driver himself confirmed Dhelali got into his taxi and he drove him several miles away back home. Frustration dwelled within the lead detectives as they ran out of possible leads however as they made their way to the main service desk on their way out for lunch they were surprised to see Blackridge’s grandson, Jeremiah, in a shaken and ill looking state with messy hair, wide bloodshot eyes and pale skin. He hurried to the detectives and asked for a private word which the detectives happily obliged since seeing the young man in such a unkept state raised their suspicions tenfold. They led him to the same secure interview room they kept Dhelali only moments before when they begrudgingly eliminated him as a suspect. It was then that Jeremiah completely broke down and burst into tears while cupping his head in his hands. It looked to the detectives like he was going through a meltdown which was a stark contrast from the unemotional, closed off man they had seen earlier that day. One of the detectives offered him a glass of water which he snatched up and drank like he was dying of thirst, he politely thanked him and proceeded to tell the detective what had got him so worked up. Apparently Jeremiah had an established romantic involvement with Khendra Dhelali, Amir’s sister, and that night he had proposed to her which she ecstatically accepted.
They went on to enjoy the perfect night out together and decided to inform his family firstly by journeying to his grandfather’s manor where they immediately saw Amir storming out of. Jeremiah tried to calm his friend down but to no success so Khendra chose to call him a cab and stay with him so he won’t do anything brash but not without giving her fiancé a long kiss goodnight. It was then that the night started it’s sinister and fatal turn and the detectives could only sit back and take note of the grandson’s account. As he made his way into the house and into his grandfather’s study where the senior Blackridge was seen pacing and cursing erratically to himself. Jeremiah attempted to talk Richard down to a more calm and settled mood but all his effort where for naught as with each passing minute Richard become more and more maddened. Finally though having used all of his calming and distracting techniques in his arsenal, Jeremiah told him of the good news that he and Khendra are to be married. Richard’s response was not one he had anticipated as he suddenly jumped at him striking him in the jaw and knocking him down to the floor. The man was so crazed that Jeremiah could scarcely believe he was still his grandfather as he frothed at the mouth and swore with impunity at him but it was when he started to make racist remark about Khendra and her family that Jeremiah overcame his sudden fear and launched himself back to his feet all the while shouting back frenziedly at Richard. Seeing this insolence from one of the youngest of the family only enraged Richard further so much so that he finally admitted to something he had buried long ago.
According to Jeremiah’s account Richard Blackridge told he and the rest of the council should have hung every one of the immigrants up on the tree then he would have been spared this monumental pain in the a*s. Jeremiah was stunned and now the detectives looked at each other with disbelief but that still wasn’t the end of the young man’s tale. When Richard had admitted his part in the massacre Jeremiah had become enraged and rushed towards him with his hands clenched tightly into fists. He seized him by the neck and as he shouted “What did you do?!” and forced him easily to the ground as his grip tightened around evil Richard’s throat who struggled as much as he could, his frail arms flailing about desperately though hitting nothing but air as he became weaker as the seconds ticked by. His eyes bulged horrifically as the last ounce of life drained from the cruel man’s corpse.
After Richard released his grip he stood there with his mouth agape shocked to his core at what he had just done. He had prided himself of being an honorable and just man so much so that many people would have said that he would have been the least likely to commit murder but as he stood there with his grandfather’s body growing cold and the events of the previous five minutes echoed in his mind a peculiar idea began to form. If Richard had gotten away with murder for so long they maybe he can too so he set himself to work wrapping the body up and carrying to the nearest car outside, as luck would have it the chosen vehicle was Amir’s, but Jeremiah didn’t know that until the police arrested him. He hauled the body to the Purity Tree where he hung the madman for all to see. The detectives where astounded by this admission and knew he was telling the truth since the information that the victim was strangled hadn’t made it out to the public domain yet. He was arrested immediately but when asked if he hoped to get away with it then why did he hand himself in, he responded in a way that made the detective’s hearts heavy when arresting them. He told them that he had heard that Amir had been arrested for his crime and he could not sit idly by while his fiancés brother takes the fall, he wanted to be a good man and he loved Khendra dearly besides he never wanted to be like Richard.
One good thing came out of the disturbing crime though: the Purity tree case was reopened due to new evidence coming to light and through modern forensic techniques they were able identify the culprits responsible.
Two had committed suicide a long time ago and one more was arrested and later found guilty of having a hand in the hanging but to the town’s surprise they were all members of the town council at the time of the hanging. Having the massacre of the Purity tree finally solved had a resounding positive effect on Greyhaven where now people could step out from underneath the shadow of the black mark and a brave new face of the town was born. The town became popular again with many people coming to once again profess their love in front of the tree and after years of waiting Khendra stood with Jeremiah both happy and ready to start their new chapter.