A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer

Danny Cartwright's trials

Danny Cartwright is accused of murdering Bernard Wilson. Danny makes a counter claim that Spencer Craig, a criminal lawyer, committed the murder. On the evidence, there is no case against Craig. Cartwright, whose fingerprints are on the murder weapon, a knife, and who is the only one with blood on his clothing, is found guilty. He gets 22 years in prison.

Toby Mortimer, a friend of Craig, ends up in the same prison. One of Danny's two cell-mates, Big Al McCrann, persuades Mortimer to make a tape in which he accuses Craig of the murder. Psychopathic murderer, Kevin Leach tells his lawyer, Craig, that he has heard of the Mortimer tape. Craig pays a bent prison-warder, Hagen, to search Danny's cell to remove the Mortimer tape. This has been anticipated and a false tape is planted. Hagen removes this tape and sends it to Craig. The tape reveals Danny telling Craig that he will get him for the murder.

Danny appeals, the Mortimer tape being proof of his innocence. The tape is inadmissible because Mortimer was a criminal in the same prison as Danny and may have been forced to accuse Craig. Danny's lawyer was pretty dumb not to realise this point. Mortimer cannot be called to the court because he has suicided. Danny loses his appeal.

Danny is befriended by his other cell-mate, Nick Moncrieff. Nick educates Danny who is quick to learn and copies Nick's every action and habit. They are so alike that they look like identical twins.

When Nick is eight weeks from release his father dies. Nick, escorted by two police officers, goes to the funeral, and later to his solicitor, Fraser Munro. Nick has a new will drawn up with Danny named as sole beneficiary.

Spencer Craig knows Danny will persist in trying to prove him the murderer and so he pays Leach to murder him. Leach mistakes Nick for Danny and murders Nick in the shower. The prison authorities think it is Danny and that he has suicided. Danny quickly impersonates Nick and also learns to write like Nick, including his signature. He is released six weeks later.

Danny's first task on release is to establish his (i.e. Nick's) right to the $50 million estate of his father. The estate was being claimed by his uncle, Hugo, who has a will naming him as beneficiary. Danny succeeds when Nick's father's signature is discovered to be a forgery for it is signed over a date-stamp subsequent to his death.

With that out of the way, Danny, continues posing openly as Nick Moncrieff. Despite his name, family wealth and his newsworthy trial four years earlier it surprisingly escapes the notice of the criminal lawyer, Craig, or his friends. Also, any of a whole prison-full of criminals during Nick's four-year stretch might pass on to Craig at anytime that Danny and Nick Moncrieff were cell-mates and identical.

Despite the risk of such exposure, and employing his other cell-mate, Big Al, as his chauffeur, Danny makes contact with Craig (a future QC), and his two close friends and witnesses of the murder, Payne, and Davenport (a TV matinee idol experiencing ups and downs of popularity). Danny talks them into buying into a financial deal and then causes it to fail so as to send them broke. It partially succeeds but makes Craig suspicious that Nick is actually Danny. Craig knows that Danny has a scar above his knee and so he has him photographed and discovers his suspicions are true. He shows Detective Sergeant Fuller the photographs. Fuller captures Danny and returns him to prison.

Several people think Danny is innocent and his case comes before the court once again. In this reappraisal, Craig QC is called to give evidence and when confronted with a photograph of the scar, it is claimed that this scar was inflicted by him on Danny, only moments before he murdered Bernard. He gives no satisfactory answer.

On that apparently unanswerable accusation, Craig is brought to trial for murder, along with Payne and Davenport on lesser charges. Davenport surprises everyone by pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice. The story ends. Danny's conviction is likely to be quashed and a pardon granted.

Here endeth "A Prisoner of Birth!" If the book had continued, Spencer Craig's trial would have run on to his likely conviction for the murder of Bernard Wilson. Despite the story ending, the substance of Craig's trial and the evidence, for and against, can be considered to attain a verdict. But an accused is entitled to be defended, and that is where I step in!

Spencer Craig's defence

Spencer Craig, despite being a QC, remembered the wise remark "Anyone who defends himself has a fool for a client!" and employed me as his advocate. The following salient points were cover­ed by me in his defence:

Mr Craig is a criminal lawyer and therefore has a vast knowledge of what criminals do. Assume he was Bernard Wilson's killer. Does anyone seriously believe Craig would leave the knife stuck in the victim's body with his fingerprints upon it to identify him?

When Danny accused Craig of the murder he never said that Craig had stabbed him in the leg but only that he had stabbed Bernard. Why didn't Danny say that he had been stabbed by Craig? It's obvious. He never had a stab wound, a suitable one, that is, to show the police. At Danny's second appeal, his counsel said there was no mention in the five-inch thick transcript of the murder case of a wound to Danny Cartwright's left leg. Danny's stab scar was either an old scar, as Craig had suggested, or had been thought up by Danny and perpetrated on himself at a later date simply to make believe it had been done by Craig.

Assume that Craig had stabbed Danny prior to killing Bernard. The only conceivable thing that could link Craig to the murder would be Danny's scar. Would Craig deliberately draw attention to the scar on Danny's leg and, in effect, confess to the murder? Craig is not a fool. He deals with criminals and would instantly trap any of them if they made such an obvious, crass blunder.

When Craig had pictures taken of the scar and showed them to Fuller it was claimed that he was the only one who knew Danny had a scar and so the accusation was made that he must have caused the scar and hence the murder. That is ridiculous. Craig did not have to mention the photo­graphs of the scar to anyone. He had merely to contact the police to say that Nick Moncrieff was actually Danny Cartwright for Danny to be arrested. Showing photographs of the scar is what an innocent person would do. The obvious thing for Craig to do was suggest to Fuller that he examine Danny's fingerprints.

How did Craig know Danny had a scar on his leg? He knew that Danny was trying to manufacture false evidence against him, so he made enquiries about Danny. Danny and Nick were so alike that they were virtually identical twins. But they were not identical, for Danny had a scar on his left leg, and Nick didn't, and that was the only way other prison inmates could tell them apart. Criminals whom Craig had defended and who had spent time in Belmarsh prison gave him information about Danny and he heard of the scar from that source.

Was it really Nick who went to his father's funeral? For all we know it was Danny who went, with Nick's agreement, simply to test his similar appearance before relatives and acquaintances. What if Danny believed that Nick's latest will named his Uncle Hugo as beneficiary? While Danny was in Scotland, he, whilst posing as Nick, visited Nick's solicitor, Munro, and drew up a new will, with himself as the sole beneficiary, and forged Nick's signature to it.

Danny knew that the only way he could get out of prison was to pass himself off as Nick. That required Nick to be got out of the way. When psychopathic killer Kevin Leach went to the prison library, Danny paid him a large amount of money (the solicitor Munro had given him) to murder Nick but make it look as though Danny had committed suicide. Danny fooled everyone that he was Nick and so he got out of prison six weeks later.

Nick Moncrieff kept a diary, but after he was dead that diary fell into Danny's hands. Danny, as we have learnt, looked like Nick, copied Nick's handwriting and forged Nick's signature. Is any of the diary really in Nick Moncrieff's words or has it been rewritten by Danny? The diary covers four years, but Danny could have rewritten the lot in a day or two. It has been brought into court as evidence but just like the tape produced by Danny when he appealed his case, it ought to be inadmissible.

And what of Mr Davenport's "Guilty" plea? He is one of TV's greatest actors. He was lying when Danny was convicted but is now telling the truth. Or is it the other way around? Who can tell with such a star who has been through so many highs and lows in recent times? This might well be his greatest award performance! I now turn to the dialogue between Sir Matthew and Mr Craig:

That interchange is why Mr Craig is in court facing a charge of murder. Sir Matthew told how he used the transcript of Danny's trial as bedtime reading for six months, and it worked well! It sent him to sleep causing him to miss important points. In fact, the transcript of the trial does, indeed, say that Danny had a wound:

Danny's counsel never accused Mr Craig of inflicting the wound Beth mentioned. Obviously, the wound was recent but irrelevant to the case otherwise Alex Redmayne would have accused Craig.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, in my defence of Mr Craig, I intend referring to this very same passage of the murder trial transcript in my cross‑examination of Beth Wilson. Call Beth Wilson!

There is no case against Spencer Craig. He is innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. Danny Cartwright will be returned to prison to complete his present sentence for the murder of Bernard Wilson. Shortly, he will be brought into court to stand trial for the murder of Nicholas Moncrieff.

Thoughts about the Nick Moncrieff murder.

He came to a halt outside the shower room, and peered inside to discover it was steamed up; all part of his plan. He stepped inside, relieved to find that only one person was taking a shower .... a single towel lay neatly folded in the corner. He picked it up and carefully twisted it into a noose. The prisoner standing under the shower rubbed some shampoo into his hair.
      The man in the shower room took a few paces forward .... The prisoner who was rinsing his hair under the shower opened his eyes, and immediately had to place a hand across his forehead to stop more lather running into his eyes. He was just about to step out of the shower and grab his towel from the bench when a knee landed in his groin, followed by a clenched fist in the middle of his ribs which propelled him against the tiled wall .... a forearm was rammed into his throat, and another hand grabbed his hair and jerked his head back. One swift movement, and although no one heard the bone snap, when he was released his body sank to the ground like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
      His attacker bent down and carefully placed the noose round his neck, then with all the strength he possessed lifted the dead man up and held him against the wall while he tied the other end of the towel to the shower rail. He slowly lowered the body into place....

A murder made to look like a suicide.

The murderer found the shower steamed up, which was within his plan. However, he made no other preparation, such as taking a rope or cord with which the "suicide" could hang himself. The murderer relied entirely on finding something in the shower room with which to make the murder look like suicide. The only thing he found to use was a towel.

It is virtually impossible to tie a noose in a towel - it is far too thick and much too short. After the murder, the murderer put the noose around the victim's neck. He then held the body against the wall and took the free end of the towel and reached across, about a metre, to the shower-rail, looped the towel over the rail and tied a knot to secure it

Of course, the murderer had to realise that these knots had to look as though the suicide made them i.e. made in the reverse order, first tying the towel to the shower-rail and then tying the noose for putting his head into it.

It is impossible to do these things with a towel. Such a towel would need to be very much longer than any towel the prisoner would have.

For the neck-bone to be broken in a suicide by hanging is exceedingly rare. If an apparent suicide was discovered to have a broken neck-bone, suicide would instantly be dismissed and murder assumed.

Even without the broken neck-bone, the discovery of bruises to the corpse's groin, ribs and throat that seem unconnected with the hanging would arouse the suspicions of the investigating officers and pathologist.

Almost 100% of suicide deaths by hanging are caused by strangulation, either of the wind-pipe or constriction of the carotid artery.

Assume a person tried to suicide with a towel as described. The large thick roll of the noose could hardly cause any constriction and strangulation could not occur.

In the present case, there are other considerations against suicide:

A case of mistaken identity.

All of the prisoners and prison warders knew that the cellmates Nick Moncrieff and Danny Cartwright were as facially indis­tin­guish­able as identical twins. When Kevin Leach murdered Nick Moncrieff he thought it was Danny Cartwright. When the prison warders discovered the body a few minutes later they also assumed it was Danny. When Danny joined the other prisoners at meal times, they all apparently thought he was Nick. Surely someone would have caught Danny out, particularly those who wanted to continue talking about topics they had been discussing with Nick of which, rather obviously, Danny was unaware.

When the body was examined it was also assumed to be Danny, even though one would think the police would check the victim's fingerprints to confirm his identity. Also, their records showed that Danny had a scar on his leg, yet the victim had none.

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