Life on Mars

Imagine. It is evening on Wednesday 29th October 1975. Bradford city centre is geared up for the night. The shops are closed and the pubs are doing a steady trade. In the Manningham area the working girls cluster at the street corners. This is the grubby side to the 1970s. The flip to Starsky & Hutch and The Bay City Rollers. This is the seventies that it’s easy to forget was ever there and to gloss over in preference for remembering Space Hoppers and playing Pong.


All day along Lamb Lane, the Vauxhall Vivas and the Chevettes, the Ford Escorts and the Morris Marinas pull up, there’s a brief negotiation and the girl climbs in the car. But it’s dangerous work.


Long distance lorry driver, Peter Sutcliffe has been enjoying his day off. He’s tinkered with his car and painted some skirting boards inside his in-laws house at Tanton Crescent, Clayton that he shares with his wife of just over twelve months. But all work and no play makes Peter a dull boy. And Peter has plans for the night.


It’s now one AM into Thursday 30th October. Pete has stopped at a couple of Bradford pubs and has a few pints under his belt, considering his options. Peter drives along Legrams Lane and heads out towards Manningham. As he drives down Ingleby Road the Automatic Number Plate Recognition camera logs his movement. This is the thirty-sixth time Sutcliffe’s Ford Capri GT has been flagged up heading into the Lamb Lane area of Bradford by the ANPR system. Cruising through Manningham he passes a couple of the girls but can’t seem to see one on her own. Peter’s a bit shy. He doesn’t want to be seen. He’s not adverse to using prossies but it’s not something he’s proud of. But every now and then needs must. You empty out into one, who were you hurting?


Peter leaves Bradford behind and heads over to Leeds. The Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras noting his progress. He gets to the Seacroft roundabout and turns onto the Wetherby Road. As he does he sees a woman with dyed blonde hair thumbing a lift. She’s wearing white trousers and a short dark jacket. He can tell by her movements that she’s had a drink.


Peter pulls over. Without waiting to be asked the woman opens the passenger door and wobbles into the car. She thanks him for stopping.


Pete puts the car into first and lets out the clutch. He drives forwards.


The woman with the blonde hair and white trousers admires Pete’s car. She turns to him, a calculating look in her eye. She says: ‘Do you want some business?’


Pete half turns to her as he drives and frowns. ‘Eh?’


The woman’s attitude suddenly turns nasty. She spits: ‘Bloody hell, do I have to spell it out?’


Pete calms the woman down by admitting that he’s up for some business. He drives on for a couple of minutes before he pulls the Capri over and they park up in the dark near the Prince Phillip Playing Fields.


The blonde woman says: ‘Well, what are we waiting for! Let’s get on with it. It’ll cost you a fiver.’


No foreplay then. No build up. Pete stutters and says he can’t do it in the car.


The blonde swears. She says she’s had enough of pissing about and is slinging her hook.


Pete takes hold of her arm. He says to give him a little time. They get out of the car and step towards the park. Pete suggests they do the business on the grass.


He takes off his coat and lays it on the ground. She unfastens her white trousers and sits on the coat. She looks up at Pete. She says: ‘Come on, get it over with.’


Sutcliffe smiles grimly. ‘Don’t worry, I will,’ he promises.


At just after 7:30AM on the miserable morning of Thursday 30th October, the mutilated body of twenty-eight year old Wilma McCann is found by milkman Alan Routledge and his ten-year-old younger brother.


The police machine moves into action. West Yorkshire Police implement a Home Office Large Major Enquiry System. HOLMES will ensure that all information gathered by the investigation will be brought back to a single point of contact, indexed and fed into a computer. Cross-referencing will highlight any nominals, vehicles or descriptives that occur and coincide.


The crime scene is cordoned off. This is the Golden Hour. The SIO attends the crime scene and directs the SOCOs to take video and photographs of the scene. Exhibits are recovered.

The body is eventually removed and post-mortem carried out. Samples from the body and those collected at the scene are rushed through to the forensic lab at Wetherby.


ANPR checks are cross-referenced with cars frequenting the red light district. A couple of cars stand out as having been in both places. In particular a lime green Ford Capri GT that later passes through the ANPR cameras on Wetherby Road. A back track on the system shows the car to be a regular in the Red Light. A PNC check shows the car registered to Peter Sutcliffe of Tanton Crescent, Clayton, Bradford.


A CCTV trawl is initiated. This will bring in footage from the police cameras, the council’s traffic control cameras and CCTV cameras on private houses. Later, the CCTV gathered by the police has been put together in an edited sequence. The footage varies in quality and some of the cameras are facing the wrong way. But the film assists. The footage shows Sutcliffe’s car making its journey from Bradford and through Leeds. The images are enhanced and a series of still images created which clearly show a bearded man with fuzzy hair and prominent teeth driving the car. An image from a camera on the Wetherby Road shows the front seat passenger to be a blonde haired woman.


Mid-morning on Friday 31st October 1975 a DNA profile is created from semen found on McCann’s clothing. This is run through the national database of all suspects arrested for an indictable offence. A match is found with Peter Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe was arrested for going equipped for theft in 1969 and his DNA taken as part of the custody process.


The HOLMES computer generates an action. Arrest Peter Sutcliffe.


Two men dressed in brown suits, one with a cyan shirt and a fat blue tie, the other with a fuchsia pink shirt and a fat green tie, walk up the drive at Tanton Crescent. They are preceded by a uniform constable in a tunic and blue shirt who walks down the side of the house and goes to the back. Another uniformed officer stands behind the men in brown suits as they knock at the door.


Peter opens the front door.


‘Peter Sutcliffe?’ the man in the cyan shirt enquires.


Peter answers an affirmative and asks what they want. Is it the tax on his car? It must be that.


The man in the brown suit and cyan shirt introduces himself and the man in the fuchsia shirt as detectives working at the Rothwell Police Station in Leeds.


The man in the cyan shirt says: ‘Peter, I’m arresting you on suspicion of murder.’


Sutcliffe giggles. He stifles the laugh and asks if he can get his coat. They’ve got nothing. ‘Stupid bastards,’ he thinks.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Attempting a certain Italiano panache in your pronunciation, repeat after me…‘Vorrei un gelato, por favore…’ Got it? ‘Vorrei un gelato, por favore…’  Not bad. Maybe coming out a little more Frank Skinner than Frank Sinatra, but a decent first stab. Keep giving it a go. ‘Vorrei un gelato, por favore…’ It has to be said, I am a man with a sweet tooth and a love of foreign travel and I learned that useful little sentence while taking a leak at the Frankie & Benny’s in Manchester yesterday on the way home from the airport. For those uninitiated in the Italian lingo, that’s how you’d ask for an ice cream. Try it one more time… with gusto… ‘Vorrei un gelato, por favore…’ Got it? Excellente. Ben fatto. Bravo! Return to the booth, swig down some more coke and we can go back for another wazz in a while and get the phrase for booking a hotel room under our belts. Because F & B’s play Italian language lessons in their toilets. What a cracking service. Don’t you think that it’s great to combine learning a new language with bladder and bowel motions? Should you need a shit and we’ll be flying along. And if my IBS continues I’m confident I’ll have a basic grasp of business level Italian within six months. I think it’s a great idea, combining, as it does, my love of F & B’s Black Pepper Mayo Burger with education. I’ve been going regularly recently and my Italian is coming along in leaps and bounds. These days I get a whiff of lemon sanitary cube and suddenly by the power of association I could be on the banks of Lake Como or touring the Amalfi Coast.


According to the spiel on the menu Frankie & Benny’s menu, ‘rumour has it that Frankie Giuliani was 10 years old when, with his Mamma and Poppa, he left Sicily and landed at Ellis Island, New York in 1924. They moved in with relatives in ‘Little Italy’, a predominantly Italian neighbourhood. Poppa soon found work, but from the home country he’d brought a little money and a lot of ambition. It was no surprise then, when the family opened a restaurant… Each of them had a favourite dish to contribute, but it was Mamma’s home-style cooking that was the base from which the business prospered. Frankie went to the nearby High School and became lifetime friends with Benny, already a third generation American…’ The rest, as they say, is history. Bloody hell, that’s a story of the American Dream, innit? Myself and the Mrs, together with Mr and Mrs Flamingcross felt like we were sat in the actual booth occupied by Lugs Lucchetti and Gay Sammy Scuderia when they were killed in a hail of Tommy Gun fire by Johnny Three Fingers Scaglietti in a fight over the salami concession. Lugs was having some Tiramisu and Gay Sammy was just finishing off a ten inch Californian. Because this place is the real deal. Frankie Giuliani’s dream come true and delivering Italian-American nosh to the world.


Except it’s all bollocks. The whole Frankie and Benny story is a complete fabrication; that entire back-story is a work of cynical marketing fiction. Frankie and Benny never existed. They never baked a pizza for Dean Martin or had to arrange a back street abortion for Frank Sinatra with Momma helping out with the aftercare. They never hosted a party for Rocky Marciano during which pissed up on Nastro Azzurro he punched Mario Lanza’s lights out. They were never here at all. I know, I bet you’re as disillusioned as I was. It’s all, as F & B might say in their marketing shtick, baloney. I know this because I checked Wikipedia – the font of all wisdom – and because last week I ate in the F & B’s next door to Cineworld in Wakefield. It was identical to the one in Manchester. There were the same photographs on the walls, showing, amongst others, Frank Martino and the simply massive Primo Carnera. There were the same menu cards for a little ristorante in Portafino. The same fake busts of the fake Frankie and his fake best pal Benny. Because in a world that is becoming depressingly homogenous reality has become a marketing ploy.


But should we be surprised these days? It happens time and time again. The Marston’s owned/run Swan & Cygnet at Calder Island, Wakefield is an exact, brick for brick, beam for beam, replica of the Bluebell Inn at Manvers in Rotherham, and these are identikits of other spurious coaching houses the company will have knocked up on dual carriageways and roundabouts all over the land; after a few pints of Pedigree best bitter and stuffed on the Dick Turpin meal deal it can be a little bit disorientating. It’s like all the Irish bars the world over; that little family run pub from Ballygally where there’s always a friendly welcome and some good craic, handmade on an industrial estate in Sheffield and shipped to all four corners of the globe. At least Colonel Sanders with his special blend of herbs and spices actually existed. I think. Maybe. They reckon. Possibly.


Frankie and Benny’s typifies a kind of sameness that is being forced on us by a capitalist cartel of multi-nationals in some kind of Bilderberg Group-esque led conspiracy. Individuality is being killed off and our reality re-packaged and re-sold to us. The Matrix has become a business plan, the idea to create a simulated reality where everything is shiny and desirable and exactly fucking alike. Frankie and Benny are part of this tailored, profitable fantasy. The 10% off the easy over all day breakfast and the three courses for a tenner offered by F & B is beguiling us into accepting the cod version of an Italian-American diner as being somehow genuine; this is West World with burgers and deep crust. Learning Italian in the bog is tricking us into thinking that F & B is somehow quirky and unique. Beware. Our reality is slowly being taken away from us. Frankie and Benny are part of a scheme that is out to steal your soul. Though, I have to say, the Black Pepper Mayo burger is a tasty burger.