Sunday, 23 November 2014
A Love That Could Hurt No One (Last Part)
A small and curious crowd of Ossett locals collected around the ambulance, as Michael Taylor was taken away, still screaming. It didn’t take long for PC Walker to find out his address. Under the circumstances, he thought it would be best to visit the Taylors’ home right away. He jumped back into his car and followed the directions. On an impulse he put on his siren, though strictly speaking it wasn’t an emergency. It seemed like a lot of time had passed since the telephone call at his desk, but Walker was surprised to see that it was still barely 45 minutes later when he pulled up outside the Taylors’ home. So far as he knew, he had been the first person to find Michael. He was therefore stunned to find the local Police Sergeant standing outside the house. Walker knew the Ossett boys slightly. The Sergeant looked pale.
“Sarge. What’s going on? What are you doing here?”
“I might ask you the same, Walker.”
“Well, I was on a call. I found a Mr. Michael Taylor up by The Cock. Local lad said he lives here. We found him naked, covered in blood. And screaming about the Devil and stuff. So I thought…”
To Walker’s growing astonishment, a Detective Inspector emerged from the house.
“Oh God.” The Inspector said. He bent over; put his hands on his knees, then dry heaved and spat on the pavement. “Oh Jesus.”
“What’s up Sarge? Do I go in? What’s happened?”
“Who’s this?” The Inspector asked the Sergeant.
“PC Walker sir. Says they’ve found Michael Taylor. Covered in blood.”
Walker gazed at the Inspector, who was unable to speak again, wiping his mouth with a handkerchief in one hand holding the other palm facing, in a “stop” gesture.
“You married, Walker?” The Inspector asked him, grimly.
“Uh… yes. Sir.”
“Then you’re not coming in. You don’t want to see this one son. I’ve seen nothing like it before and I’ve seen a few.“
Walker’s apprehension grew, but so was his sense of professional pride insulted. He was a grown man; kids or not, he could stomach anything the inspector had seen. Anyway… The look in Michael Taylor’s eyes came back to him, the sound of his scream. He could hear himself shouting, “Whose blood is this?”
As if he had spoken the thought aloud, the Inspector answered him. “It’s the wife. She’s got no…” He checked himself. “He’s ripped at her son. It’s a right mess in there. There’s not much of her left. You don’t want to see it, eh?”
But Walker needed to look. (“IT IS THE BLOOD OF SATAN. IT IS THE BLOOD OF SATAN. IT IS THE BLOOD OF SATAN.”) Determined, he walked past the other policemen, who shrugged slightly to each other as he pushed open the door.
Later in life, he wished he had taken the inspector’s advice. He had seen violence before, and blood, and death. But this was beyond comprehension.
When he found his breath, he asked the Inspector, “How did he do it sir?”
“I don’t know son. I don’t know. Did you find a weapon on Taylor?”
“Then help me look. And get a comms centre set up.”
Another squad car arrived as the three of them searched the small garden. But the policemen never found a murder weapon, for there was none.
The blood that had covered Michael Taylor was Christine’s. Some time before 10:00am that morning, in an extraordinary act of violence, “mild mannered” Michael had killed the woman that that he loved in their family home, the home where they had laughed, made love, fretted over bills and bought up the children. He had literally torn off her face, gouging out her eyes and ripping out her tongue with his bare hands. The Inspector wouldn’t let family man PC Walker in at first because of the horror inside the house. The interior was destroyed, with strips of flesh and pulp and matter seeming covering every inch of the once happy home. Christine had died of asphyxiation on her own blood. Beside her faceless, savagely mutilated body lay her dog, which Michael had strangled and torn apart, ripping legs from their sockets, hair and teeth and eyes from the skull.
In custody later that day, Michael told DI Brian Smith about the exorcism.
“It was a long night. They danced around me and burned my cross because that was tainted with the evil. They had me in the church all night. Look at my hands. I was banging on the floor. The power was in me. I couldn't get rid of it and neither could they. They were too late. I was compelled by a force within me to destroy everything living within the house”.
DI Smith asked how he felt. Michael said, “Released. I am released. It is done. The evil in her has been destroyed.”
Then Michael slept for a very long time, never wanting to wake, to be sane, to face the truth of his actions.
In 1975 Michael Taylor was tried for the murder of Christine Taylor. He claimed that after the exorcism he had come to believe that Christine was also possessed by demons. He was found not guilty of the crime of murder by reason of insanity and sent to Broadmoor mental hospital. During the trial, the details of his relationship with Marie, and the events of the exorcism were exposed. A further inquest was ordered into what had happened in St Thomas's on the night of 5th October 1974.
Extract from the inquest:
Mr. Ognall QC: To what extent, if at all, do you say that what was practiced upon (Michael Taylor) that night induced his trance state the following morning?
Dr. Milne (Consultant Psychiatrist): It was entirely related to his trance state and his eventual killing of his wife.
Mr. Ognall: In other words it caused it. It caused it.
Judge Mr. Justice Caulfield: This is terribly serious.
Dr. Milne: It is.
Mr. Justice Caulfield: I am not here to interfere with religion. This case is bound to achieve some notoriety, but those who care for us and govern us may well be concerned. And if they are concerned, they know far better than I what should be done.
But “those who care and govern” did very little. No other party was found culpable for Christine’s murder.
The Anglican hierarchy was appalled. The church attempted to place restrictions on the future use of exorcism. Even this was denounced by many liberal clergy, who felt it stupid to grant any degree of recognition to the phenomenon of “possession”. But the liberals were skewered. If they came right out and said that belief in the Devil was nonsense, and dangerous nonsense, then where did that leave God, and the rest of the Bible?
On the other hand the Evangelical movement was unchastened. Indeed, there was a sense that Christine's murder had proved them right. The lessons they drew from the Ossett event was not that exorcism was dangerous, but that you should never leave a job unfinished. The Reverend Vincent’s error was not deluded sadism, but carelessness. In a classically English failing, the vicar had stopped for a tea break, leaving powerful demons still at large.
Michael Taylor spent two years in Broadmoor, followed by a further two-year stint at a secure ward at Bradford Royal Infirmary before being released. In 2005 he was found guilty of indecently touching a teenage girl. It was reported that a week into his prison sentence for that crime, Taylor – who in the years since Christine’s death had attempted suicide on four separate occasions – began exhibiting the sort of strange behaviour that had preceded her murder in 1974. When brought back before the court, they once again ordered him into psychiatric treatment.
As it happened, the Walkers got their wish – they had a lovely baby girl. But Ian Walker never did forget that scream. Years later, after his retirement from the force, he spoke about that day, the 6th October 1974. He said, “Of all the incidents in which I was involved in 30 years of Police work nothing affected me like this one. The stupidity and futility of it all, the complete and utter waste of life, destruction of a family not to mention the death, and other traumas are far beyond anything else I have ever come across. Obviously my wife asked questions but there are some things that you do not take home, and this was one of them. However, within the next 24-48 hours the news hit the national newspapers and the TV news bulletins. You just bury it and get on with your life as best you can.”
PC Walker added, “Before this event I was agnostic… and now I was an atheist.”
The Reverend Raymond Smith, Peter Vincent’s partner in exorcism, and the one man who raised the remotest doubt that to perform an exorcism was folly, showed at least some grudging sense that he might not have handled the situation well. “If people come to me in trouble of any kind, I will try to help”, he protested. “I would give such comfort as I could, but I am only an ordinary human being, with human failings”. Certainly there must have been parishioners with troubles of their own who were glad that they never asked Reverend Smith for his particular brand of spiritual comfort.
For his part, Peter Vincent expressed no remorse for performing the exorcism, insisting that Taylor had truly been possessed by demons. Despite the inquiry, and national condemnation, his career in the church remained unaffected. Why, the next year he was promoted from priest-in-charge to vicar, a post which gave him security of tenure at Gawber.
When asked about what happened on the night of the 5th October 1974, the obliteration of lives and the children that would grow up fatherless, the Reverend Vincent remained cheery and undaunted.
“God will bring good out of this in His own way”, said that kindly man of religion.