Time of Death: When a corpse gets caught up in fishing nets off the coast of southeast England, the only clue to the victim’s identity is the Rolex watch he’s wearing. Who is he and how did he die?
Desperate Housewives of Silicon Prairie: Bored housewife Candace though that her affair with her best friend’s husband was just harmless fun. She didn’t expect to end up on trial for her life.
East Side Story: Two of Manhattan’s brightest young things hook up in Central Park for a late night tryst. One of them ends up dead. An infamous case from New York City.
Murder at the Nunnery: When an elderly nun is raped and murdered in her bed, all clues point to an addle-brained teenager. But was Johnny Garrett put to death for a crime he didn’t commit?
Who Speaks for the Dead?: A fascinating glimpse into the world of forensic entomology, as science steps in to resolve an “uncrackable” double murder.
Keeping Up with the Joneses: When a divorce turns nasty, the Jones clan comes up with a novel way of resolving the custody issue. He can’t see his daughter if he’s dead!
War Machine: Everyone knew that Officer Woo was a fuse ready to blow. Few could have predicted the extent of the carnage he would cause.
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie: It was the perfect murder, cleverly conceived and expertly executed. But then the killer got greedy and decided to file a lawsuit against his victim’s estate.
Click the "Read More" link below to read the first chapter of
Murder Most Vile Volume 19
Time of Death
On July 28, 1996, a fishing trawler working the waters off the coast of Devon, southwest England, pulled in its nets for what would be the last catch of the day. The net felt unusually heavy and the fishermen fully expected a bumper haul. As the net emerged from the water, however, one of then noticed what he thought to be a snagged dolphin. Closer inspection revealed that it was, in fact, the body of a man.
The boat returned to its home base in the fishing village of Brixham, carrying the man’s body on board. The crew had already radioed ahead and so when they arrived, a police officer was waiting on the dock to meet them. As an officer working a coastal beat, Detective Constable Ian Clenahan had dealt with his fair share of drownings and boating accidents. This appeared to be one or the other, and so Clenahan authorized the body to be released for autopsy. That examination would suggest that the notion of accidental drowning was correct. The man’s lungs were filled with seawater, which meant that he had been alive when he hit the water. There was some bruising to the body, and there was also evidence that the man had suffered a blow to the back of the head. Such injuries, however, are not unusual in a drowning. He might have struck his head as he fell overboard or he might have been hit by a boat while he was in the water. The main priority now was to establish his identity.
That, however, was going to prove difficult. Although fully clothed, the man carried nothing in his pockets. The only identifying mark was a small maple leaf tattoo on his hand. The police could not even find a match on file to his dental records. There was, however, one item on his person that might provide a clue. The man wore an expensive watch on his wrist – a Rolex. Each of these timepieces carries a unique serial number. It was all the police had to go on.
An examination of the watch offered up at least one interesting observation to investigators. It was a waterproof, Oyster model and it had stopped at 11:35 on July 22. This particular timepiece was motion activated which means that it stops working when the wearer has been inactive for 48 hours. That allowed the police to fix date of death at July 20. A detective then contacted Rolex SA with the serial number and was told that the owner of the watch was a man named Ronald Joseph Platt.
Looking into the records, the police established that Platt’s last known address was a rented apartment in Chelmsford, Essex, some 250 miles northeast of where the body had been found. They then contacted the estate agents who had let the apartment to Platt and found that he’d given them a written reference from a man named David Davis. Included in that reference was Davis’s cell phone number. DC Clenahan called it and was connected to a man who spoke with an American or Canadian accent. He confirmed that he was David Davis and said when asked that he was a close friend of Ronald Platt. Clenahan then broke the news that a body had been pulled from the sea which might be that of his friend. Davis seemed genuinely distraught at the news. He said that he had last seen Platt six weeks earlier and that Platt had spoken about going to France to set up a business.
The police, of course, still had to make an official identification of the body. But with a probable name of the victim, that was easy. Tracking down Platt’s dental records, they made a comparison and got a match. The dead man was indeed Ronald Joseph Platt, and it was likely that he was the victim of an accidental drowning. How had he ended up in the water? It appeared likely that he’d fallen overboard from a ferry while making a cross-channel journey to France. A tragic accident but still one that had to be officially declared as such by the coroner. All the police needed was a written statement from David Davis confirming that his friend had spoken about making the trip to Europe. Davis seemed more than happy to provide it.
So it was that DC Clenahan contacted a colleague in the Essex Police and asked him to visit Davis at his Chelmsford address to obtain the statement. It was all pretty routine stuff and should have put the matter to bed right there. Except that the officer knocked on the wrong door and learned some startling information.
The elderly man who answered the Essex police sergeant’s knock seemed confused when the officer asked to speak to Mr. David Davis. “There’s no one here by that name,” he said. The officer then realized his mistake and apologized saying that it was actually the next house that he wanted. But as he turned to go, the old man stopped him. “But there’s no one named Davis living there either,” he said. “Only Mr. and Mrs. Platt and their two young daughters.” Now the officer was confused. Wasn’t Platt the name of the dead man, the drowning victim? He asked the elderly gentleman to describe his neighbor. “He’s an American,” he said. “Nice chap. Well-off, involved in finance or something. He even has a yacht moored down in Devon. His wife, Noel, is much younger, but they seem happy. Keep themselves pretty much to themselves.” Asked how long the Platts had been living next door, the neighbor said that it was at least three years.
Perhaps it was the mention of the yacht in Devon, perhaps he was simply uncertain what to do next. Either way, the Essex police officer decided that he would not be obtaining his deposition that day. Instead, he went back to the station and phoned Detective Clenahan.
To Clenahan, this new piece of information was a bombshell. Having spoken to Davis, he knew that the description given by the neighbor was a match. But what possible reason could Davis have for living under the name of his deceased friend? There was one way to find out. The police began to take a closer look into the background of David Davis. What they found was startling.
Over the previous three years, David Davis had been living exclusively under the name of Ronald Platt, while his young wife, Noel, also occasionally used an alias. Hers was Elaine Boyce, a name that the police had heard before. Elaine Boyce was the former girlfriend of the real Ronald Platt. The police then tracked Elaine down and this already convoluted case took another bizarre twist.
Boyce was well acquainted with David Davis. She said that she’d met him in 1991 while working for an auction house. Davis had struck up a friendship with her and had also befriended her then partner, Ronald Platt. In short order, Davis made Boyce and Platt directors of his company and had Elaine flying all over Europe for him on business which mainly involved making deposits to various bank accounts. Then, after learning that Platt had grown up in Canada and that he was eager to return and settle there, Davis started pressing him and Boyce to emigrate. He even paid their airfares and relocation costs. Boyce and Platt left for Canada in February 1993. Immediately thereafter, David Davis assumed Ronald Platt’s identity.
Any possibility that Ronald Platt’s death had been accidental had by now been consigned to the scrapheap. Questioning Elaine Boyce further, the police learned that she had been unable to settle in Canada and had returned to the UK within six months. Platt had stayed for two years before he too had returned. That was in May 1995. Just over a year later, he would be pulled from the bottom of the English Channel.
The police had by now come to suspect that Davis had murdered Platt in order to continue using his identity. He had a lot of money invested in that name, including a finance company that he’d started up, business contacts and, of course, his yacht. Was it that much of a stretch to believe that he would commit murder in order to protect his assets? The police didn’t think so. But they still had to prove it. Without alerting Davis to the fact that he was a suspect, they began to look into Davis’s movements in the weeks leading up to the murder.
Thanks to Ronald Platt’s stopped Rolex watch, investigators knew that Platt had died on July 20. Working back from that date, they began checking Davis’s phone and financial records. They soon learned that Davis and Platt had stayed at the Seven Stars Hotel in Totnes, South Devon just days before Platt died. Davis, of course, had a yacht moored in Devon, but that was surely circumstantial. It would never be enough to make a conviction stick. Still, the police were afraid that Davis might flee the country and so, on October 31, 1996, they raided his home in Chelmsford and arrested him on suspicion of murder.
But now, the pressure was on. After taking their case to the Crown Prosecution Service, the Devon Police were given just a week to present corroborating evidence. Failure to do so would result in the charges against Davis being dropped. Faced with that tight deadline, it was decided to go back to the beginning, which meant re-interviewing the captain of the fishing trawler. During that interview, the man revealed a stunning piece of information. On the day that his crew had pulled Platt from the north Atlantic, he said, there’d been another object caught up in the net – a 10lb plow anchor. He hadn’t mentioned it before, he said, because the officer hadn’t asked him!
The police firmly believed that this object had been used to weight down Ronald Platt’s body and had become detached as he was pulled aboard the trawler. That meant, of course, that it hadn’t been tied to him in any way. In fact, the police believed that it had been pushed down the back of Platt’s shirt and held in place by his belt. Forensic analysis of the belt proved that this was the case. The belt bore traces of zinc and other metals that were consistent with the anchor.
But did this necessarily prove murder? Wasn’t it possible that Platt had put the anchor there himself and then jumped overboard? Any defense attorney worth his salt would surely offer that explanation at trial. Even Platt’s former lover, Elaine Boyce, had suggested that he might have been suicidal. What the police had to prove was that Platt had been assaulted before entering the water. In order to do that, they impounded David Davis’s yacht, the Lady Jane.
The search wasn’t easy. The Lady Jane had been cleaned since, and she’d stood exposed to the elements for over three months. But exhaustive forensic work eventually paid off when the police found three hairs, each with minute traces of cellular material attached. According to the pathologist, that material could only have been removed in one way--if the victim had been subjected to blunt force trauma. And the hairs were undoubtedly from Ronald Platt. DNA analysis proved it.
Proving that Davis had bought the plow anchor was even easier. He’d been foolish enough to use a credit card when he’d made the purchase on July 8, twelve days before the murder. He’d also bought several other items at the time, all of which were found on board. The only thing missing was the anchor.
David Davis would ultimately be convicted of the murder of Ronald Platt and sentenced to life in prison. Before that happened however, there would be several more shocking twists. First, a Swiss bank that had been conducting its own investigation into Davis's business affairs, learned that he was not David Davis at all. He was Albert Johnson Walker, an international fraudster who currently occupied slot number four on Interpol’s most wanted list.
Walker had fled his native Canada in 1990, just ahead of charges relating to a multi-million dollar investment scam. He had abandoned his estranged wife and three of his four children. The fourth child, 15-year-old Sheena, had gone on the run with him. It was she who had been posing as his wife. And it appeared that the pretense had not been only for appearances. The two children Sheena had borne in the UK had apparently been sired by her father.
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