It started with a slip of paper posted under my door asking me to phone the Wimbledon police in connection with an inquiry. I quickly ran through the options - a motoring offence? Someone wanting a character reference? Ah, no. A phone call soon revealed that this was big league stuff.

Major crime. I was being invited to attend Wimbledon police station, in response to a suggestion from some well-meaning (anonymous) citizen that I, Terence Edmond, might well be the keenly sought after south London rapist. Apparently I matched the photofit very well.

None of this was to be taken too seriously, I decided, and shared the joke with some friends. I was still chuckling away as I dressed myself for the nick the next morning. I started by putting on jeans and jersey, trainers and blouson. Had I perhaps dressed too 'down'? This attempt to look casual was coming over as aggressive, rough. On the second attempt I made myself look smart, civilised - and yet . . . did it not look rather too 'careful'? A man trying too hard for a mere interview?

As a professional actor, I am used to dressing appropriately for auditions but I was unable to dress right for this one. And I was getting nervous. What was the correct gear for someone who would never skulk around south London up to no good? Not flash nor drab just sober and sincere. After three attempts I settled for Marks & Spencer weekend casual.

I was confident and intrigued as I faced the detective constable across the table in the interview room. But my wry amusement began to fade as the officer seemed more and more taken by my appearance. He kept referring to the photfit on the table before him as he checked me out.

'You are 6ft 1in, aren't you?'

'Yes.'

'Slim build, blue eyes, yes?'

'Yes.'

Pause. Check the photofit then back to me.

'Piercing blue eyes?'

'No.' I heard myself saying that they weren't that piercing, actually. And, hey, I said, I'm 10 years older than the suspect. 'You look,' he told me, '10 years younger.' And for the first time in my life I argued with that. 'And I would say, Terence' - he had been intimidatingly calling me Terence from the beginning - 'that you keep yourself in good condition. Don't you?' It sounded like an accusation. Why would a man of my years keep so fit - unless he had an ulterior

motive?

By now I felt I needed some concrete evidence to uphold my assertion that I was a harmless out-of-work luvvie. 'What dates are we talking about?' I asked, producing my diary. 'When did he last attack?' We looked it up. It was a weekend that I had spent entirely on my own. I am not married and live alone - there was no one around to vouch for me. Sod's law.

I swiftly put the diary away as the patient cop reassured me that, not to worry, I was, as it happened, in the clear. Unless, of course, I had a scar on my abdomen and could speak with an Irish accent. 'I am half Irish,' I promptly volunteered, 'so I can.' He gave me a long look and my mouth went dry. He wasn't to know that I was following the actor's rule: always claim the attributes wanted for the part. Kneejerk reaction.

I didn't want the part but the habit prevailed. I bit my tongue. Moments later, in a last attempt to redeem my position, I was on my feet pulling at my shirt and easing down my slacks. I did have a scar, I said, but not down there, directing his attention to my unmarked midriff.

I was clear. Innocent, unblemished. The ordeal at last was over, no harm done. And yet . . . Had I by chance had a scar on my abdomen, things would suddenly have become very grim indeed. Then and there I would have been drawn into the system. Embroiled in sordid checks, blood tests, identity parades, surveillance (I may have already been under surveillance) and God knows what else. In no way did any of this seem amusing. The reality of the affair had sunk in at last: some unknown person had truly gone to the police and named me as a man capable of appalling vicious rapes. Who could have thought this? It felt like an assault in itself.

As I left the police station, the DC told me I would learn more of the case in Crimewatch on Thursday. They'd helped the BBC with the reconstruction. Interesting that the casting director didn't think of me.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments