David Aaronovitch: Vote now – are the Hamiltons guilty?

'There is absolutely no need for this case to come to trial; some phone polling should do the trick, and save us the expense'

Share
One image will stay with me this summer.

One image will stay with me this summer. It is the photograph, published last Sunday, of the anonymous Miss A who – she has claimed – was assaulted one night last spring in an Ilford flat by three people, two of whom were the Hamiltons.

"But how," you rightly object, "can she be anonymous (as a rape complainant should be), if someone has printed two million copies of her photograph?" Well, you see, they did and they didn't. The snap was pixillated. Through the distortion you could make out that Miss A was between 10 and 90, built neither like Hattie Jacques nor Kate Moss, and blonde-haired. Showing something, promising more, it was better than nothing.

By now the only people who don't know about the Hamiltons are the two Japanese soldiers still holding out against the Allies in a remote corner of eastern Borneo. And if they know what civilisation has in store for them, they'll stay put. Otherwise they may be required, upon being bathed and given new clothes, to venture an opinion on who they think is lying – Neil and Christine or Miss A – just like the rest of us.

The Hamilton affair is unusual, even for this country. What generally happens in cases of alleged rape is that the "victim" makes a complaint to the police. They then investigate things to try and ascertain the truth of the allegations, including speaking to the alleged perpetrator. If they think they've got a strong enough case, said malefactors are arrested, brought before a jury, and then the evidence is carefully weighed and judgment delivered. During this time the public are generally aware only that a crime may have been committed, the names of the accused (should there be charges), and the reports of the trial itself.

Not this time. Courtesy of the press we know the exact nature of Miss A's complaint. Having met a man called Philip through the internet, the "mother of two" (a lecturer at a local college), found herself,on 5 May last year, at 55 Avenue Court, Ilford, expecting to meet him again. In fact she was alone with a 60-year-old man who spiked her drinks and then let the Hamiltons through the front door. Miss A said she recognised them from newspapers and TV, as well she might (as Edgar Lustgarten would have said).

The next part of her story is a mixture of the Evremonde outrage from A Tale of Two Cities (you know, where the aristos violate the peasant girl), the Starr report on the Lewinsky affair and one of those accounts of alien abduction. I am going to spare you some of the more disgusting details, in case you share your newspaper with your impressionable parents. But the tone can be judged from her claim that the woman alleged to be Christine Hamilton, had looked her up and down (as she was lying on the living room floor) and asked, "Have you ever had sex with another woman before?" Then, "she hitched her dress up. She didn't have any underwear on. Then she sat on her face".

If you're confused about who, by this time, was sitting on whose face I should add that Miss A's accounts have all been relayed to the media "through her mother". She tells her mum, mum presumably writes it down, and then tells journalists. A bit like a medium. Meanwhile the accused have rebutted the allegations directly. The flat owner has said he has never met the Hamiltons in his life and has added, "I am supposed to have got down on my knees to have sex with her despite the fact I can't because I suffer from dreadful arthritis."

The Hamiltons have alibis galore, which have been given almost simultaneously to the police and to the press. Said their lawyer: "We are also coming up with details of the use of their credit cards on that Saturday – respectively in Waitrose and Marks & Spencer and Snappy Snaps...

"So unless they were helicoptered out it seems impossible for them to have actually taken part in this incident." Actually a helicopter is by far the least far-fetched part of this story. Because we also have verbatim testimony provided by the Hamiltons to the police, and then – unbelievably – by the Hamiltons to the media. This included the exchange in which Neil's brief asks police, "has she said whether Mr Hamilton was circumcised or not?" (What is it they do at Snappy Snaps?) And Christine tells the plod (as she calls them) that she has made only one visit to Ilford – to address a charity lunch of the League of Jewish Women. And this was held in a local synagogue apparently, and not in the living room of a nude, arthritic 60-year-old.

A newspaper tracked down Miss A's former husband (Mr ex-A?) who told them that she was a fantasist. So that was a strike against her. And, in one of the great tautologies of our time, the same source also told readers how police had gone to interview Miss A again after having subjected her belongings to "DNA tests on male sperm". Well, that's the sperm to test, if you ask me.

But why do I come into it? Why do we need to know all this? Because we are deciding the case, that's why. The evidence is being presented by newspapers, via the Hamiltons and Miss A's relatives, and we are making up our own minds who is guilty and who isn't. There is absolutely no need for this to come to trial; some phone polling should do the trick.

After this we should perhaps thank the Saudi authorities for making unnecessary a trial of the three Britons accused of recent non-fatal bombings. The televised confessions of Les Walker, Jamie Patrick Leigh and James Cottle saves a great deal of mucking about. As the Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said just before the men publicly admitted their guilt: '"It gives me pleasure to announce that the investigators have identified those who committed the bombings in the city of al-Khobar and at the Euromarche and in front of the Jareer bookshop in Riyadh. They were all British citizens.''

Case closed. The prince and his police forces have done the work, decided who was guilty, now the culprits have admitted it in front of everyone, all we need is a sentence. In a more progressive country the appropriate punishment could also be decided by a telephone poll of TV viewers.

They could be given three options: imprisonment, mutilation or death, say. Since sentences in Saudi Arabia are carried out in public and often televised, the vote would have the unique property of deciding both the men's fate and the evening's programming schedule. Fancy a beheading? Or more in the mood for a lashing followed by a sit-com? But they are such stick-in-the-muds down in Riyadh. Now, given the week's evidence, I know how I would vote in both cases. I have decided, after weighing up the evidence, that the Hamiltons are not guilty. Their accuser is clearly a loony, and that's that. I have also decided, on balance, that the Saudi three probably are guilty, for no better reason than I cannot imagine a friendly, civilised state terrorising three respectable British nationals into making entirely false confessions. What kind of people would do that? It's too far-fetched.

But my vote is pixillated. You can't quite make it out – it counts but it doesn't. When the makers of Big Brother finally inveigle two or more of their charges to eat of the apple of sin in their prefabricated Eden, you will see everything clearly except the genitals. Those too will be pixillated. It's how unworthy desire copes with shame.

David.Aaronovitch@btinternet.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
William Hague, addresses delegates at the Conservative party conference for the last time in his political career in Birmingham  

It’s only natural for politicians like William Hague to end up as journalists

Simon Kelner
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference