Friday 7 January 2011

When crime comes to town

About the same time as we were fighting snow flurries to fly out of London, a 25-year-old landscape architect from the same suburb I currently call home was fighting an attacker who strangled her and dumped her body where it was found by a couple walking their dog on Xmas Day.

Joanna Yeates was, by all accounts, a jolly nice person. Three weeks after her untimely and horrific death, Police are still no closer to finding her killer, despite combing almost every inch of Clifton (today they were doing whatever it is desperate coppers do when trawling through drains looking for ANY clue at all).

Possibly most worrying is the shock waves Jo's death has caused in the quiet, pretty, I'm-so-affluent-I-can-be-as-snooty-as-I-damn-well-please settlement of Clifton. Police and media outlets are repeatedly warning women NOT to walk the streets alone in the dark or answer a knock at the door. Today one online news organisation was, rather unhelpfully, pontificating on the safety of one's journey from car to front door. Understandably, those of us in possession of ovaries are starting to FREAK OUT. Mainly because its nigh impossible not to spend time alone in the dark here (when I walk to work at 7.45am it's still dark and ditto after 5.00pm when I make the up-hill trek home). So short of boarding up the windows and relinquishing any semblance of modern life, I am forced to rub shoulders with whoever committed this heinous crime.

Which leads us to the nettlesome issue of changing one's life because of some random nutter, of letting that person win by allowing them to dictate one's behaviour. Shouldn't happen, except of course it does. Today I walked home with a couple of colleagues who live near me; one of the women admitted she now hates to be out on her own and will gladly add 10 minutes to her daily commute by taking the well-lit, heavily peopled route home.

What also irritates me is the tendency to stare at every stray, slightly odd bloke who crosses my path and wonder if he's the murderer. Tonight as I rounded the corner to my street, an older chap with a crazed shock of white hair was bent over his bike, blocking my path and causing me to detour onto the road. I am ashamed to admit that I stared a little longer than was necessary to ensure he wasn't going to follow me. It's not the first time this week I've eyeballed some innocent bloke, wondering if it was him.

Okay, so I live in a major Western nation, where criminal activity hogs the headlines more often than media whore Lady Gaga. But what has everyone rattled is the fact that the crime took place in the toney suburb of Clifton. Never let it ever be said I don't do my research but Clifton is one of the oldest settlements of Bristol (Wikipedia says it was recorded in the Domesday Book as Clistone, the name of the village denoting a 'hillside settlement' and referring to its position on a steep hill). It's also one of the city's most affluent suburbs, much of it having been built with profits from tobacco and the slave trade. Which is probably why the place is littered with elegant Georgian mansions (that have since been butchered into zillions of flats).

Rightly or wrongly, you don't expect a murder to happen in such a suburb. It's not overstating the fact to say that the whole bluddy place is in a bit of a flap. Yesterday I passed several shops still displaying posters in their windows appealing for help in finding Ms Yeates, which they were asked to put up when she was first reported missing. "It didn't seem right to take it down," one shop-owner said.

I'm crossing everything on my person that this gets sorted soon...

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