Investigating Crimes, Then And Now

leith hall 026If you live anywhere near Aberdeen, you have a chance this weekend (19-20 October) to visit the scene of a crime committed 168 years ago. Well, not really. It’s a crime I invented as part of Unsolved – Aberdeenshire’s Crime and Mystery Festival. I explained the background to it in an earlier blog. At that time I was thinking of going back hundreds of years but various clues and aspects of the location (Leith Hall) made me bring it all a wee bit closer.

In case you haven’t read the link, the idea is to create a murder scene in a property belonging to the National Trust for Scotland. Visitors are given the basics of the crime, invited to question suspects and, after due deliberation, come up with a culprit using only the evidence and techniques available at the time. They then get access to today’s techniques (fingerprinting, DNA, fibre analysis, ballistics) and see whether they reach the same conclusion.

When visitors arrive, they’ll be given this:

It’s 1845. Lord & Lady Fairfax are part of a shooting party visiting Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire. Lord Leith is in the grounds with the rest of the party reconnoitring for the following day’s shoot.  They’re also shooting now and again. Leith’s daughter, Arabella, is playing the piano in the music room, his wife, Lady Leith, is resting in the Leith bedroom. In the dining room, Ferguson, the butler, is preparing for the evening meal. He’s being helped by Angus, a footman, and a housemaid, Molly, who is also Angus’s girl-friend.

The highly unpopular and unpleasant Lord Fairfax has been left behind by the others. He’s wearing his military uniform and is in the drawing room with Lady McMarne, another female guest. He’s been drinking a lot. His wife has gone for a stroll around the lake. He makes advances to Lady McMarne which she resists. His idea of being playful is to load his new pistol (of which he’s very proud) and pretend to threaten her with it. He quickly tires of her and, when she excuses herself to go to the bathroom, the sound of the piano in the music room makes him decide to try his luck with Arabella. He mutters something about hearing someone in the library and leaves.

Some 5 minutes later, a shot is heard and he’s found lying dead in the library, with a gunshot wound in his upper chest.

Your first task is to investigate the death by questioning the witnesses and using only the techniques available at the time of the event (1845) to pick up clues, motives and proofs.

Once you’ve done that and decided the culprit, you’ll be given access to more modern investigative techniques to see whether you reach the same conclusion.

Another of the weekend’s activities is for schoolchildren in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. I’ve written a 500 word opening to another story set in Leith Hall and they have to complete the story, which must be up to 2000 words long in total. There are great prizes for the winners. I’ll probably blog about the results when the competition’s over and maybe include the opening to see whether any of you want to try it – just for fun.

So, if you’re in the vicinity, Leith Hall’s a great place to visit, and there’s a murder to solve as well.

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