Country: Keep it in the family
In the countryside, a policeman's job is often much easier. By Harry Pearson
Saturday 22 May 1999
Seconds after I arrived on the scene, my neighbour Ossie hove into view. Ossie is a big man and though what must once have been an impressive barrel chest has now relocated southwards, he is still a fearsome sight in a singlet.
As he strode towards them, a spotty lad, sporting a vivid necklace of lovebites, attempted diplomacy: "I suppose the main thing," he said nervously, eyeing the veins which were by this point bulging like strands of blue spaghetti amidst the rich passata of my neighbour's face, "is that nobody was hurt."
Ossie is a retired police sergeant. Twenty-five years patrolling rough pit villages in the foothills of the north Pennines have left him with a firm belief in the educative properties of pain.
"I dunno," he snarled at the lad, "if you'd have broke your bloody legs it might've taught you something."
The next day, out walking the dog, I met an old woman from the village. "Someone's been doing some landscaping on Ossie's garden, I see," she said. "Driver about 18, black hair, walks like he's got a coconut under each arm?" I said that would be about right. "We reckoned it would be that Dawson lad."
This was not exactly Miss Marple-style deduction. In every village there is always one criminal family. And everyone, including the coppers, knows who they are. It should be pointed out that these people are not exactly the Krays. Their activities have no patina of spurious glamour. They do not sport sharp designer suits. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The criminal family in the village where I grew up were the Robsons. The eldest son, Carl, was in my class. He was a bumbling lad with a face like an old and badly used turnip. One Sunday night, when he was 16, Carl committed an act that exemplifies rural crime in all its desperate dumbness. He broke into the village barber's shop.
The barber was an old-fashioned sort with a belief in the beauty of the unadorned masculine skull. In keeping with his ascetic approach, there was nothing on his premises but ample quantities of those twin mainstays of the traditional male grooming salon; tubs of white grease and prophylactics.
Naturally enough Carl was swiftly apprehended, the police having adopted the simple expedient of calling at the Robsons' house the minute they heard a burglary had occurred.
Years later, the break-in came up in conversation in the local pub. "Never understood why he did it," someone said. "There was nowt in there but Brylcreem and Durex."
"Aye," came the reply. "But who knows, mebbe Carl was planning on setting himself up as a gigolo."
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'we're starting to see his demise'
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
V&A removes depiction of Prophet Mohamed from website amid 'severe security alert'
Game of Thrones season 5: IMAX releases new trailer with first look footage of Tyrion Lannister
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks