Tag Archives: crime

Strangers on a Train

In which The Author overhears a conversation

On Wednesday I had to go to the university to submit a piece of work. I caught the 1351 train from Aberdare, and immediately found myself in the vicinity of two minor characters from an Irvine Welsh novel. These particular specimens of carbon-based life were sitting a couple of seats behind me – but that didn’t matter. By the time I got off the train in Treforest, I knew their names and a sizeable chunk of their back stories, and could have probably got even more information if I’d really been bothered to listen.
Let’s call them Wayne and Waynetta, for the sake of argument.
The whole carriage was privy to their expletive-laden conversation for half an hour or so, which seems to reinforce what I first hinted at in ‘Inhibitions and Exhibitions‘.
From what I was able to gather, they’d met while waiting for the train to arrive. There’s a full hour between the previous train and the one I’d caught, so they’d had plenty of time to get acquainted after Waynetta had blagged a can from Wayne on the platform.
Wayne had just come from the court in Aberdare. I don’t know what he’d been charged with, or what the circumstances leading up to his appearance had been, but the outcome was clear: he’d been tagged, and therefore had to be back in Cardiff by 6 p.m. to avoid breaking his curfew.
Waynetta had spent the night in the cells of Aberdare Police Station, and had been sent on her way in time to catch the train – whereupon she and Wayne had crossed each other’s paths. She and her boyfriend had been arrested the previous night, for an unspecified offence; he’d had been taken to Ton Pentre Police Station, in the next valley.
Wayne was phoning friends to arrange to meet him in Cardiff before his bail conditions kicked in. Waynetta had no credit on her mobile, so she borrowed Wayne’s phone. She wanted to ring Ton Pentre to make sure that her boyfriend hadn’t already been released. She was heading to Pontypridd, and from there to Penrhys to score some heroin before heading home.
From his voice alone, I guessed that Wayne was a fairly average-sized young chap – maybe mid-to-late twenties. Similarly, I pictured Waynetta as being about Carys’s size, and a similar age to him. So it came as a shock when they were showing each other photos of their children – especially her ‘oldest’, who was 22! That put in her late thirties or forties – maybe even my age.
We learned that Waynetta’s boyfriend was a hard man, who’d made a lot of enemies over the years. He’d recently acquired a gun. Wayne’s ears pricked up at this. Apparently someone had been threatening his son, and he wanted to get hold of a gun to deal with the person in question. They exchanged phone numbers and I’ve no doubt that at some time in the future, a deal will be done between these elements of low life. Wayne said he recognised her from somewhere in the Rhondda. He described himself as a very small fish in a big pond. Now he was swimming amongst the big fish, and he loved it. Waynetta told him some more about her life, and confided that she was very smart and streetwise.
‘People like us should be ruling the fucking world,’ she claimed at one point – and I winced at the very idea.
In Pontypridd, Waynetta got off the train. She was tiny, possibly in her mid-forties, and clearly bore the signs of a long drug habit. In fact, she’d seemed pretty high all the way down. When she was out of sight, Wayne breathed an audible sigh of relief. He took out his phone again and rang a mate, telling him all about the ‘smacked-up madwoman’ he’d had to endure for an hour or so. I got off at the next stop, glad to leave them to their own devices again.
The previous week we’d been talking about Evolutionary Psychology, whereby the genes which are best suited to survival in the world are the ones which propagate themselves over time. I have to ask myself this: what sort of world is it when criminals and junkies like these two churn out kids by the thousand on estates all over the country, while good, intelligent, hard-working people put off having families for the sake of their careers, or just can’t start a family at all?
It seems to me that the ratchet of Darwinian selection has slipped, if people like the offspring of Wayne and Waynetta are going to inherit the Earth …

CSI Aberdare

In which The Author gets a sneaky preview of his Criminalistics practical

Just before 9pm on Friday night, I left the Cambrian and walked into Canon Street. The bells of St Elvan’s Church were in full peal. Two fire engines were parked up outside the vodka bar (formerly the Carpenters Arms) but the traffic was moving relatively normally. A couple of elderly ladies who had just left the bingo hall were watching the fire officers coming and going. I asked them whether there’d been a fire in the vodka bar, and joked that it would be the best thing that could happen to that place.
As I walked down the street an ambulance arrived, lights flashing and sirens blaring. Outside the kebab shop I bumped into my pal Steve C. He too was trying to figure out what was going on. A group of youngsters from the youth centre up the street had gathered as well.
There’s an alleyway next to the fish shop, where an old shop has been pulled down and made into a short cut to the car park. Fire officers were going back and forth into the alleyway. The owner of the fish shop (which is closed by this time of night) was talking to a couple of them. The vodka bar was also closed, unusually for a Friday night.
As Steve and I were speculating about what was happening, a third fire engine arrived, followed in short order by a second ambulance and a paramedic in a car. In spite of all this activity the traffic was still running, albeit very slowly. Dai W. drove came along in his taxi as we were watching the proceedings. He asked us if we knew what was happening. We just shrugged and he drove on.
Steve and I crossed the road and tried to see what was happening in the alleyway. Behind the fish shop there’s a yard, fenced off from the car park. Next to that is what used to be the ‘beer garden’ of the Carpenters. A group of youngsters were standing around talking to fire officers and trying to peer over the fence. One of their colleagues was turning people back as they tried to enter the alleyway.
Steve walked a little way into the alley, and was told to turn back or be arrested. A few teenagers were also trying to join their mates in the car park, and were also told they’d be arrested if they went any further. Steve and I were wondering who would actually carry out the arrest, as even at this stage there was no sign of the police. However, a few moments later a uniformed constable emerged from the car park and started taping off the entrance to the alleyway. (Presumably the police had parked up behind the fish shop.)
We walked back into the street in time to see a fourth fire engine coming around the corner. An unmarked car pulled up outside the kebab shop, with a blue light mounted on top. Steve and I were wondering who it was – maybe a detective or a Scene of Crime Officer. A chap in plain clothes got out and took a bag from the boot of the car. He donned protective boots and a high-visibility vest with the word FIRE on the back before walking into the alleyway.
By this time, a substantial crowd had gathered. A red van containing even more fire officers had added itself to the line of flashing blue lights. I walked along the road to take a few photos of the scene.
Steve’s wife Christine came along and asked if I’d seen him. He must have wandered off as I was taking the photos, as he’d vanished from the street. I had a quick word with the guys from the shop, and they told me that a teenager had (apparently) climbed over the fence and ‘broken his neck.’ Imogen walked past and asked me if I knew what was happening. I told her what the guys from the shop had told me, and we walked as far as the bank together.
In spite of all this activity just behind the church, the bellringers had continued to practice throughout, adding a bizarre touch to the proceedings. Figuring that I wouldn’t see any more than a few flashing lights, and since it was starting to rain, I headed to the Pickled Pepper.
In the grand Aberdare tradition, the word had already got around. Not content with the story I’d had from the guys from the shop, Kelly the barbint had heard that a teenager had fallen from a roof and died.
Two years ago, Lorna Prichard would have been living a stone’s throw from the fish shop, and would have been on the scene in a matter of minutes, taking notes, interviewing witnesses, speaking to police and fire officers, and trying to establish exactly what had happened.
It’s all changed. Lorna now works for BBC Wales. The so-called Cynon Valley Leaderis a joke, with most of the content generated from a central production office in Cardiff. It just recycles press releases from Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council and New Horizons – what Nick Davies terms ‘churnalism’ – without any attempt to question the background to the story. They don’t even have an office in the catchment area any more – everything’s based in Merthyr. In the absence of a decent locally-based reporter, these Chinese Whispers in pubs or bus queues, and contradictory discussions on Aberdare Online, are the closest we get to real news these days. We might get the official version in the local paper next week, but the true sequence of events will never emerge. In this new age of instant (but biased) ‘journalism’, casual passers-by armed with a half-decent digital camera are the only people doing any meaningful news gathering.