The Witness

Lord I swear I ain’t never seen nothing like I saw this afternoon. I’ve lived in this neighbourhood for thirty years and nothing like it has ever happened before. I am now a prime witness in a child abuse scandal that quite frankly has taken me by surprise, which is surprising in itself considering the depravity and deceit that is endemic within the area in which I live.

It happened when I was in the back garden, standing on the edge of my pond and feeding the fish. I had my eye on a frog that was swimming amongst the weeds when I heard the sound of children crying. It wasn’t normal crying neither. You know it in your heart when a child is distressed. The cries I heard sent a chill through my bones. These kids weren’t just distressed they were terrified. I could also hear a male voice shouting. He sounded foreign.

Whatever was going on was taking place in one of the houses opposite. There’s a large fence at the bottom of my garden. Hawthorn bushes had grown into leafy trees, which were towering up behind the fence and making it impossible to see beyond. I strained my ears. Sounded like the cries were coming from the garden opposite and to the left. I decided to go back indoors and look out of an upstairs bedroom window.

I live on a working class council estate. A survey conducted around fifteen years ago rated the neighbourhood as underachieving, underprivileged and with health standards below the national average. Nothing much had changed, except many houses had been bought and were now let to migrants from Eastern Europe. That worried me because of the cultural differences that exists across a wide range of countries. What is considered unthinkable in one country might be perfectly acceptable in another. If something offensive was happening, and I tackled it head-on, would I then be targeted by migrants, many of whom have friends and family living in the community and would gather together in the face of opposition? One hears so many things about Europeans and violent gangs — I mean REALLY violent.

With this in mind I cautiously peered out of my upstairs window and down onto the gardens opposite. What I saw filled me with horror and disgust. There, in one of the gardens, were two children holding a huge log above their heads, their father — a beefy man with tattooed arms and a bald head — screaming abuse and slapping them if they failed to keep the log up.

There was no way I was going to tackle this myself, so I immediately dialled 999 and asked for the police. “He’s still doing it now,” I said to the operator. A few minutes later I heard the doorbell ring. I came away from the window and rushed downstairs.

Two detectives stood at the door. They introduce themselves as DCI Banks and DC Williams. “Mr Jenkins? We’re following up your report …”

“Please come upstairs,” I said and led them to the bedroom. We all peered out the window. The kids were still there, their legs and arms buckling under the weight of the log and the father walking up and down like a drill sergeant. The detectives were shocked. “Bloody hell … those poor kids,” DCI Banks said. He flipped out his mobile phone, telephoned headquarters and told them what was going on.

“May we speak to you later?” DC Williams asked, pocketing his phone. “We’d like you to make a statement.”

“Will I have to do attend court as a witness?” I asked.

“It’s just a formality. We are going to make an arrest. We will endeavour to keep you out of this.”

Still peering out of the window, I watched in awe and fascination as the detectives appeared in the garden opposite. Showing the father their I.D., they beckoned to him to stand back. He looked shaken. The detectives then helped lift the log from the sobbing children.

Soon a police car pulled up. Out jumped a female and male officer. The father was briefly interviewed, then handcuffed and led away. As the detectives guided him into the back seat of the car, the policewoman took the children inside the house. The other officer stood outside by the front gate.

Coming away from the window, I felt a sense of exhilaration. Should I be ashamed that such an horrific deed had filled me with excitement? It’s not often you witness an act of barbarity on your doorstep. It’s not often you exercise your judgement for the common good. It’s not often that you can be instrumental in bringing an end to human suffering. Yes, I am right to be exhilarated. I will stand as a witness if necessary. No child should suffer as these children did. I ain’t going to let this scumbag of a father get away with it and that’s the truth.