‘How are you, Diane?’ asked the policewoman sitting opposite me behind a utilitarian desk in a stark room.
I nod, smile. Tears well up in my eyes but I fight them back. I must be strong.
‘I’m Kelly, you saw me when you first came here.’
I nod, I remembered her. Young, but wasn’t everyone these days, a kindly manner and an empathic smile. She was patient and had encouraged me when I had entered the police station for the first time just over a week ago.
Another police officer entered the room and placed plastic cups of coffee before us. Kelly waited until the officer left.
‘Now, Diane. We’re just going to go over your original statement. Confirm that it’s correct. Doing this might just jog any other details you may have previously forgotten that would be useful to us.’
‘Have you found him?’ I ask through big gulps of air.
‘No. Not yet. Investigations are still under way. We’ve got a couple of lines of enquiry open and hopefully you can help us get to the bottom of it.’ Kelly paused took a sip of coffee and shuffled her papers until they were in some sort of order that she preferred.
‘This is going to be recorded,’ she said nodding at the tape recorder that she had already set in motion, ‘to ensure we get the full details. Is that okay?’ I nod. ‘In your own words tell me again what happened on Friday the 13th July.’
‘I got home from work,’ I started, ‘and called out to Derek as I entered the hallway, as I normally do…’
‘And what time was this?’ Kelly interrupted.
‘At six o’clock.’
‘How can you be sure that’s the exact time you walked in?’ asked Kelly.
‘We have a grandfather clock in the hallway, it was chiming as I came through the front door.’
‘Then what happened...’ Kelly prompted.
‘I called out to Derek, there was no reply. I thought it was a bit odd as he’s usually in the kitchen finishing off cooking dinner. I couldn’t smell any food either. I thought he may be in the shed in the garden, tinkering around with bits and pieces he buys to “do up”. Junk really but it kept him out of trouble.’
‘Did you check the shed?’
‘Not immediately, no. I thought he’d be in soon.’
‘And you didn’t think that he might have gone out.’
‘Not at the time, no. Although if there’s a car-boot or auction sale or something on like that he goes, but it’s rarely at that time of day. It’s out of character for Derek not to be at home when I come in from work.’
‘Where does Derek work, Diane?’ Kelly said reading the notes before her.
‘He doesn’t, not since his accident. Got laid off after a machine accident in the car factory. The company paid out since they were held negligent in a couple of health and safety issues regarding the machinery. Doesn’t make up for his injuries though. He’s a bit slow getting around and things take quite a while for him to accomplish, even little things like dinner that’s why he would have started cooking early to have it ready for when I came in. We’re quite routine driven. It’s easier for us both that way.’
Kelly passed me some paper and a photo, ‘Now, for the tape, I’m showing Diane a written physical description of Derek Atkinson and a photograph of him that Diane had previously supplied us with. Can you just confirm that both are correct, Diane, and there’s nothing you would like to add or change?’
I tried in vain to stop the tears trickling down the side of my mouth, I ferreted a tissue out from my cardigan sleeve.
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘How do you travel to and from work, Diane?’ Kelly asked.
‘I drive. I take the car.’
‘Did Derek ever take the car?’
‘Not often, driving was very tiring for him, if we had an automatic maybe it’d be easier for Derek and he could go out more often.’
‘And you arrived at work at what time?’
‘I start at nine, but I usually arrive at quarter to, just to avoid the rush hour traffic.’
‘Do you normally contact Derek throughout the day when you’re not together?’
‘No. I’m kept busy during the day. Sometimes he texts or calls to remind me to pick up something from the shops but, overall, no, we’re not in contact during the day.’
‘Derek has been missing for nine days now, Diane. Have you spoken to everyone you can think of that might know where he could have gone?’
I nod, my head down.
‘Did he take anything from the house? Clothes? Valuables?’
I shook my head.
‘Did you return back home during Friday the 13th of July at all, for any reason.’
I shook my head again, ‘I was at work all day.’
‘Are you sure? One of your colleagues said you had left work at lunchtime.’
‘Oh, yes, I got lunch but not for any other reason.’
Kelly shuffled her papers back into their original order. I took a deep shuddery breath; this ordeal surely was nearly over. I gingerly dabbed at my eyes again.
‘Diane,’ Kelly said leaning backwards into the plastic chair. ‘What if I told you, we have APNR results of your car going along the Staines Road at precisely twelve-fifteen pm? The car was travelling in the direction of your home. What if I told you we have CCTV footage of your car being parked outside the conservation woodland area only ten minutes later? What if I told you from that same CCTV footage, we could see clearly that the man you were pushing in the wheel-chair was Derek your husband and when you returned forty minutes later you were alone minus your husband and you were carrying the folded-up wheelchair?’