Players, Sir! I look on them as no better than creatures set upon tables and joint stools to make faces and produce laughter, like dancing dogs
(Samuel Johnson, The Life of Samuel Johnson)
for several persons either closely or loosely connected with the case being reported in these pages, the evening of Thursday, 30 July, was of considerable importance, although few of the persons involved were aware at the time that the tide of events was now approaching its flood.
One of the three little maids peered out from one side of the tatty, ill-running stage-curtain and saw that the hall was already packed, 112 of them, the maximum number stipulated by the fire regulations; saw her husband David – bless him! – there on the back row. He had insisted on buying himself a ticket for each of the three performances, and that had made her very happy. Did he look just a little forlorn though, contributing nothing to the animated hum of conversation all around? He'd be fine though; and she – she felt shining and excited, as she stepped back from the curtain and rejoined her fellow performers. All right, there were only a few square yards 'backstage'; such a little stage too; such an inadequate, amateurish orchestra; such a pathetic apology for lighting and effects. And yet… and yet the magic was all around, somehow: some competent singers; excellent make-up, especially for the ladies; lovely costumes; super support from the village and the neighbourhood; and a brilliant young pianist, an undergraduate from Keble, who wore a large earring, who could sing the counter-tenor parts from the Handel operas like an angel, and who spent most of his free time on lonely nocturnal vigils
watching badgers in the nearby woods.
Yes, for Cathy Michaels the adrenaline was flowing freely, and any worries her husband might be harbouring for her – or she for him\ – were wholly forgotten as with a few sharp taps of the conductor's baton there fell a hush upon the hall; and with the first few bars of the overture, The Mikado had begun. Quickly she looked again in one of the mirrors there at the white-faced, black-haired, pillar-box-red-lipped Japanese lady who was herself; and knew why David found her so attractive. David… a good deal older than she was, of course, and with a past of which she knew so very little. But she loved him, and would do anything for him.
The four youths, aged twelve, fourteen, seventeen, and seventeen, were still being held in police custody, in St Aldate's. Whereas collectively on the East Oxford estates they had, by all accounts, appeared a most intimidating bunch, individually they now looked unremarkable. Quite quickly after their arrest had the bravado of this particular quartet disintegrated, and as Sergeant Joseph Rawlinson now looked again at one of the seventeen-year-olds, he saw only a nervous, surly, not particularly articulate lad. Gone was the bluster and aggression displayed in the back of the police car when they had picked him up from home – and now they were taking him back.
'These things all you had on you, son?'
'S'pose so, yeah.'
Rawlinson picked them up carefully, one by one, and handed them across. 'Fiver, lb1, lb1, 50p, 10p, 5p, 5p, 5p, 2p, 2p, 1p OK? Comb; Marlboro cigarettes; disposable lighter; packet of condoms, Featherlite – only one left; half a packet of Polos; two bus tickets-one blue Biro. OK?'
The youth stared sullenly, but said nothing.
'And this!' Rawlinson picked up a red-covered diary and flicked quickly through the narrow-ruled pages before putting it in his own jacket pocket. 'We're going to keep this, son. Now I want you to sign there.' He handed over a typed sheet and pointed to the bottom of it.
Ten minutes later Philip Daley was once more in the back of a police car, this time heading out to his home in Begbroke, Oxon.