From Magpie, May 1952 & Argosy, May 1970
Two versions of the same story, published 18 years apart
The text which appears in the Magpie, May 1952 version (the Brighton mix), but is lost from the 1970 Argosy printing (the 7-inch Margate mix), is in white. The fourth (bold text) paragraph starts off the 1970 version and doesn't appear in the 1952 version. The rest of the text is identical, give or take one comma replaced by a full stop, and one line spacing fewer, in the 1970 version.
Once a year my Uncle Oliver gets bored with fishing in the upper Thames and he takes a holiday. He goes to Brighton and spends a fortnight at the end of the West Pier — fishing. If you ask him why Brighton, he says it is because Brighton has the best murders.
After thirty years with the Metropolitan Police, retiring as Inspector Alldyce, he retains a morbid professional interest in such matters.
This year I accompanied him to Brighton, and on the second afternoon Uncle recalled the man who came to Brighton on his second honeymoon in order to make room for his third.
I WAS fishing with my Uncle Oliver off Margate pier, when he recalled a case he had come across while still with the police.
"You're a bit of a know‑all, Jack," was Uncle's opening remark when his float had settled down in the right place.
I nodded, taking it for his idea of a compliment.
"Remember the death of Mrs. Lucy Cabric in 1931?"
I did not. "It's not in the murder files," I said.
"Misadventure," he said.
"But it was murder just the same."
"She was found drowned in a swimming costume not far from where we are now. Late evening, tide coming in."
"But not a swimming accident?"
"That's what it was supposed to be," he said. "But it was no accident. Husband reported her missing just after nine o'clock. I was down here on holiday and I met Cabric when Detective‑Inspector Winston questioned him. Nice little man, Cabric. Henpecked as the devil, but anxious to tell us all about his happy married life. Apparently they were down here from St. Albans on a kind of second honeymoon. He was forty‑four, his wife was forty. And fat."
"What makes you think they weren't happily married?"
Uncle looked at me. "When you know as much about human nature as I do, you'll know when a man's suffering from marriage. It's a disease that marks. And after they'd found the body he was like a boy out of school.
"Tried to make it look like distraction, but it was just plain excitement. Couple of months later when I saw a picture of the girl he married, I could understand it."
"He was carrying on at the time of his wife's death?"
"When she let him out. That was the motive, all right"
"But how did he drown his wife? Push her in?"
"No. Lucy swam like a porpoise. Looked like one, too, come to that."
"He held her under, then?"
"Hah!" Uncle laughed coarsely. "She could have put him in one hand and forgotten he was there. Besides, there was no mark of violence or force on the body at all. Not a scratch or a bruise."
"Then what made you think it was not a convenient accident?”
"Her bathing towel was floating in the sea not far from the body. That's what set me thinking. That and the fact that when Cabric asked a constable if he'd help look for his wife he described her as a big fat woman. Husbands don't usually talk like that − at least, not to strangers."
"Cabric reckoned his wife must have taken the towel down to the water's edge for her last swim. He'd gone off for some cigarettes − so he said. They were on a quiet part of the beach and they'd gone there after tea when there were even less people about than usual.
"According to Cabric it was the place they'd always sat when they were on honeymoon. He said it was a real sentimental journey and we found out afterwards just why. His wife had cottoned on to George − that was his first name − and a girl at a tobacco kiosk where he used to call every night. That was the girl he married afterwards."
"I wonder there was anything left of him to take on a sentimental journey."
Uncle Oliver smiled. "It was by way of repentance, you might say. Starting all over again − poor George. She gave him hell all right, you bet your life. That's probably when the motive and the idea came together, so to speak."
"What d'you mean?"
"When he couldn't take any more he suggested this second honeymoon lark."
"With the idea of drowning her?"
"But I still don't see how−"
They did all the old things," Uncle said. "He took her to the same hotel, bought her the same corsage — that's romantic for flowers. Lilies I shouldn't wonder."
Uncle stopped me with an expression that must have infuriated hundreds of witnesses. "When you're on honeymoon you do lots of undignified things. Skating, eating hot doughnuts on the pier, holding hands in public places and − well, take a look down there on the beach behind you . . ."
I looked. Near the water's edge a young couple were sitting on the sand at a little distance. What I could see of the girl was charming; one leg, a shoulder and the back of her golden head, her face resting sideways on a brightly‑coloured Turkish towel. The rest of her was covered in pebbles and sand and her boy friend, or whatever he was, was heaping more on. She was pretending to be asleep.
"See what I mean?" Uncle said.
"What are you telling me?" I asked. "That Cabric buried his wife in sand?"
"Yes. One of the old things. I bet she was tickled pink. Fancy George remembering that. She pretends to be asleep, just the way she used to, humouring the little man.
"The little man piles on more sand. Not many people about. Getting dusk. Tide coming in − can't you see it?"
I looked back at the young couple.
"Legs, body, neck, all nicely covered up . . . No more, George, she says. You're awake, darling, says George, slapping some wet sand on top for extra weight."
"It's ghastly," I commented.
"Not a bit," Uncle said. "Just sentimental. She tries to move her legs, but can't. She's on her face, her arms stretched down at her sides and she can't move them, either. All she can move is her head.
"But she's still enjoying it − till the first wave comes in round a shoulder of the beach."
"But she could have screamed."
"And that," Uncle said, "is when he sat on her head"
"And drowned her in the first few inches of water."
"But is it possible to hold a grown person immobile with a covering of sand?"
Uncle looked up at me. "Want to try it?"
I shook my head.
He smiled, reminiscently. "Winston thought it wasn't. I nearly drowned him in the reconstruction of the crime. But he was convinced."
"And yet Cabric got away with it?"
" Completely. Half a dozen good waves and where's your evidence? Sand gone, one floating body and a bereaved husband − misadventure."
" Almost the perfect crime," I said.
Uncle Oliver looked at his watch, then began winding in his line. "Yes," he said, "it was. But he shouldn't have left that towel." It was the connoisseur speaking. "That somehow spoilt it for me," he sighed.