At 11:22 PM on Friday evening, PC Beresford and PC Dalton arrived at 18 Rose Hill Gardens to investigate reports of a disturbance. Neighbours had heard a commotion and the sound of a woman screaming. The house appeared quiet on approach, with a single light on in the first floor window. After ringing the doorbell several times, the door was finally answered by Shirley Cobham, a petite woman in her early 50s. She was wearing a silk kimono and appeared indifferent to the arrival of the police.
“Are you alright madam?” PC Beresford asked.
“You’d better come in,” she said.
Mrs Cobham led the officers upstairs to the bedroom, where they found Jeremy Cobham lying face up on the bed with a sabatier carving knife sticking out of his chest. PC Beresford checked for signs of life while Dalton called an ambulance and reported it to the station. When it became clear that Mr Cobham was dead and there was no chance of resuscitation, Beresford – the older of the two officers – turned to Mrs Cobham.
“Did you do that?” he asked.
She nodded. Beresford placed her under arrest. While he explained her rights to her, Shirley nodded attentively and repeatedly murmured “whatever you say”. As she this was happening, Pc Beresford noticed a large purple bruise on Mrs Cobham’s neck.
“Did he do that do you?” PC Beresford asked, pointing at the injury.
“Did that sort of thing happen a lot?”
“Is that why you did what you did?”
Shirley opened her mouth, but no words came out. Instinctively, her eyes went to her husband for instruction.
“It’s alright,” Beresford said. “He can’t hurt you anymore.”
The woman burst into tears, burying her head in her hands and sobbing violently. Beresford attempted to comfort her, but she refused all attempts at solace.
PC Dalton was standing by the dressing table and motioned for his colleague to come and have a look at what he had found.
Laid out on the dressing table were a ball gag, a riding crop, a leather executioner’s hood, sixteen crocodile clips, two pairs of handcuffs, a length of rope, assorted phallic objects and an ominous looking rubber thing with spikes on it.
The younger PC grinned salaciously, but Beresford sighed with mild disappointment.
“We had one rule,” Shirley said, wiping away her tears and refocusing the officers’ attention. “If either of us weren’t comfortable we just had to say ‘apple’ and we would stop. That was it, ever since the beginning. Tonight’s our anniversary, you know. Twenty years today. He said he had something special planned, but all-” she said, indicating the items on the dressing table “-isn’t anything out of the ordinary for us. It’s meat and potatoes. I was sort of disappointed when he brought it out, but we got into it and he starts hurting me and it was good for a while, but then it got more than I could bear, so I had to say ‘apple’, but he didn’t stop, just kept going and going and I kept saying it and saying it, but…
“Afterwards, he said he couldn’t help himself. Said that he was sorry and that he didn’t mean it. I knew that was a lie, so I went to the kitchen and I got the knife and I stuck it in him.”
She clucked her tongue against the roof of her mouth and turned to look at the body on the bed.
“Before he could say ‘apple’.”
Shirley looked at the policemen and asked: “Am I going to prison?”
Beresford said that he didn’t know. Probably.
“I hope so,” she said, before turning back to her dead husband and smiling. “I think I’d be good at it.”