Daniel Guy shot his wife Mary three times with a revolver but failed to kill her. He is still in Swansea but no one knows where. Inspector Bucke and his constables have to find him…
The search for Daniel Guy continued throughout the Easter weekend but with no success. A man arrested for throwing stones at his mother-in-law’s house on Aberdyberthi Street in Hafod on Saturday night, said he was sure he saw Guy dodging into a dark alley that ran through the middle of a terrace of houses. But he had been drunk and Bucke was impressed that, even in the condition in which he found himself that evening, he could still remember where his mother-in-law lived. The constables searched the area dutifully but could find no evidence of Guy anywhere. They questioned men at the copper works as they finished their shifts but most of them just shrugged, eager to get home. Neither shopkeepers nor landlords had seen him. It was obvious to Bucke that someone was sheltering him somewhere and keeping him out of sight.
The increased police presence in Hafod had an unfortunate consequence, because on Monday morning Edward Coleman, a painter who lived in Mysydd Terrace, was found sitting in the outside toilet with his throat slashed.
Bucke arrived at the house at 7.30 am to find Constable Sprague sitting in the small kitchen with his head in his hands. He glanced up. His face was completely drained of colour. ‘Sorry, Inspector, but I was sickened at the sight of that. There is blood everywhere.’
Bucke went outside, where PC Lewis was standing by the door to the closet. ‘Morning, Inspector. Be careful you don’t get your uniform dirty.’ Lewis was nothing if not fastidious.
‘What do we know?’ Bucke asked.
‘The name is Coleman, Edward Coleman. He and his wife have been renting rooms in the house for about a year. No children. He is unemployed. A painter, they say. She takes in washing. They found him in here about an hour ago. A neighbour Mrs Jones comes to use the closet. Opens the door, doesn’t much like what she sees and so runs for his wife. She comes down. Takes a razor from his hand. She has identified the body. It is her husband and he is dead, Inspector. They calls for a policeman. They gets Constable Sprague. He throws up and so they send for me. This is what I finds. Good start to the week all round. And it stinks in there as well.’
He opened the door for Bucke to see. The man was sitting on the seat with his head thrown back against the wall. His mouth was wide open and Bucke could not help noticing that his few remaining teeth were brown and scattered haphazardly across his gums. He would have to stop looking at people’s teeth, he decided, but, in such circumstances as this, it was easier to focus on a detail like that. There was a terrible wound across his throat, stretching virtually from ear to ear, exposing the trachea. His clothes were drenched with blood. Someone was going to have to clean out the closet and he hoped that one of the neighbours would do it, rather than his wife. It would be an awful job. Would she ever be able to use that closet again, he wondered?
He turned away. ‘And his wife has taken the razor?’
‘Yes, inspector. Identified it as belonging to her husband. Did it to himself, I reckon. Not done a bad job of it either. Can’t have been easy. To be honest, I can’t see this is anything to do with our man Guy, sir. Hardly enough room in there for one person, let alone him and a murderer.’
‘I am sure you are right, Constable. Wait here until we get the body moved for the inquest.’
Constable Lewis grimaced and for the briefest of moments Bucke had some sympathy for him. Lewis would have to help to man-handle the body into a cart, when by rights it should have been a job for Sprague.
Inside some of the colour had returned to Constable Sprague’s face. He was drinking tea whilst Ena Coleman stood with her arms folded, looking out through the greasy window down towards the closet. She was clearly in shock and Bucke wondered how much of the detail of her husband’s death she had registered. More than the poor woman could remember at the moment, he thought. He knew it would all come back to her over the next few days as she tried to come to terms with the suddenness with which her whole life had changed.
He sent Sprague home and told him to return to the station to do the night shift instead and sat down with her, released for a moment from his own unhappiness by the despair that had taken root in this mean little house. There could only be one question, the one which he knew Ena Coleman had already asked herself – why had her husband chosen this moment to kill himself? Bucke listened in sympathy and knew very quickly that the Inquest could only ever find one verdict, that of ‘Temporary Insanity.’ Overwhelmed, and filled with self-loathing, Coleman had decided that death was preferable to life.
Eva’s story had a grim familiarity, one that Bucke saw almost every day. Edward’s problem had been drink. He had lost his job and had been forever travelling around the area looking for a new one. Yesterday, after he had returned home from yet an unsuccessful visit, this time to Llanelly, he had taken what little money the couple had down to The Hafod Inn. When he had come home later that night, Edward told Eva that he had seen the police in the streets and that he knew they were intent on arresting him for negligence and vagrancy, a delusion Bucke ascribed to a sense of hopelessness and alcohol. Then, early in the morning after a restless night, he had gone to the shared closet in the yard with his razor.
As he walked back to the police station, Bucke looked at the long rows of houses stretching down to the copper works and the dirty river. Did he really want to know what these houses contained? The secrets they held – the misery, the guilt, the grinding unhappiness? The air was heavy with soot and sulphurous smoke. Beyond the pall which sat permanently above the east side of Swansea, he was sure that it was a pleasant morning, suggesting the imminent arrival of spring. But here at this moment he had slipped suddenly into hell, where the sun never shone and distress and anguish would last for eternity.
Of course, the whole area was suddenly in a state of terror and excitement. In the Vernon Arms it was soon obvious that Edward Coleman had been killed by Daniel Guy who was on the loose, ready to strike again, a madman seeking out those in their most private moments so that he could slice open their throats. They wanted bobbies on the street and in their privies. Why couldn’t they catch him? Even though an accurate summary of the death of Edward Coleman would eventually appear in The Cambrian newspaper, there was little Bucke could do to calm anxieties fanned by rumour. He arranged for Constable Ball to be sent as an additional officer to the Hafod, his calming and avuncular presence might help. Bucke hoped that added watchfulness in the area might flush Guy out, if indeed that was where he was.
The area not unexpectedly managed to pass a peaceful night, although those with access to a chamber pot felt considerably safer than those without. Inevitably perhaps, the increased police presence failed to uncover the whereabouts of fugitives of any kind…
An Extract from Chapter 4 of In Knives We Trust