Кара Хантер: No Way Out

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Кара Хантер No Way Out
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    No Way Out
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It's one of the most disturbing cases DI Fawley has ever worked. The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life. Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone? Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley's worst nightmare comes true. Because this fire wasn't an accident. It was murder.

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For Sarah

Because everyone needs a wonderwall

04/01/2018 00.55 a.m.

Helmet camera footage, Firefighter Fletcher, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service

Incident at Felix House, 23 Southey Road, Oxford Footage starts as two fire engines pull up in suburban street. The houses are large. It's dark. Sirens, flashing lights.


This incident is persons reported. 999 call said four people potentially in the dwelling. Two adults, two children.


All received. Now in attendance. Ground floor well alight.

Camera swings right towards a house with black smoke billowing out of right-hand upper windows and fire visible on floors below. Half a dozen passers-by and neighbours in the street. Sound of shouting voices, more sirens. Police car draws up. Firefighters are pulling down ladders, pulling off the hose reel, strapping on breathing apparatus.


None of the neighbours have seen the family so I need two BA to go up and search the first floor.


All received. Alpha Team 1 are just getting ready to enter.

Flames now clearly visible through glass-panelled front door. Breathing Apparatus Alpha Team 1 led by Firefighter Fletcher proceed up the drive to the house. A ladder goes up on left-hand side. Fletcher ascends with a hose reel. Sounds of muffled voices and radio interference. Heavy breathing in the BA mask. Camera tracks over the windowsill into the room. Thick smoke. Helmet torch beam swinging left to right, picking out shelving, a chest of drawers, a chair. No visible flames but carpet is smouldering. Camera swings back round towards window, shot of Firefighter Evans ascending ladder.


Alpha Team 1, any sign of casualties?

FLETCHER [breathing heavily]:


Fletcher moves towards door and exits on to landing. Camera jerks from side to side, light beam picks up three further doors and stairs leading to an upper storey. Lower stairwell shows flickering light from flames on the ground floor, sparks in the air, smoke funnelling up the stairs and along the ceiling. More crackling on the comms system, sound of water from hoses as firefighters outside attempt to extinguish the fire. Fletcher moves to adjacent door, partially open. Football posters and single bed just visible through the smoke. Covers thrown back but no occupant. He searches the room and checks under the bed.


Alpha Team 1, for information, neighbours say there's a boy, ten or eleven, and a toddler.

Fletcher moves back out to landing and along to next door. It's open. Smoke is much thicker here. Fire is well established `“ rug, curtains and cot bedding all alight. Fletcher rushes to the bed. There's a child, not moving. He returns quickly to first room and hands over child to Firefighter Evans on ladder at window. Gust of air into the room. Areas of carpet catch light.


Alpha Team 1 to BAECO. One casualty found and being brought out via ladder. Child. Unresponsive.


All received, Alpha 1. Paramedics on scene.

Fletcher returns to landing followed by Firefighter Waites. Moves to top of staircase. Firefighters Evans and Jones have also entered the building to search for casualties, and approach from other side.


You found anyone?

Evans gestures negative. Jones has hand-held Thermal Imaging Camera. Tracks around and starts gesturing urgently down the stairs.


There's someone down there `“ near the bottom.


Alpha 1 to BAECO. Casualty identified at base of stairs. Could be the other kid. Going down.

Alpha Team 1 descend. Hall flooring is on fire and blaze is far advanced in all directions. They lift the casualty and retrace their steps up to the first floor where they pass him to Alpha Team 2, who carry him to the ladder. Sudden sounds of explosion and structural collapse as fire breaks through to upper storey. Shouts and alarm on radio. Flames now visible at bedroom door.


Shit `“ backdraught `“ backdraught!


Evacuate, repeat, evacuate.

FLETCHER [gasping]:

There must be other people in here `“ I'm going back in.


Negative, I repeat, negative. Severe risk to life. Get the hell out of there. I repeat: Get the hell out of there. Team Alpha 1 acknowledge `“

Sounds of further explosion. Radio goes dead.

I bloody hate Christmas. I suppose I must have liked it once, when I was a kid, but I don't remember. As soon as I was old enough I'd walk `“ anything to get out of the house. I never had anywhere to go, but even walking the streets in circles was better than sitting around the living room staring at each other, or the exquisite torture of yet another Only Fools and Horses Christmas Special. And the older I've got the more I loathe this time of year. Cheery festive tat from the end of October to long after New Year. You'll change your mind, people said, when you have kids; you'll see `“ Christmas with a child of your own is a magical time. And it was. When we had Jake, it was. I remember him making the most amazing paper decorations, all on his own `“ reindeer and snowmen and polar bears in cut-outs and careful, intricate silhouettes. And we had holly, and oranges in the toes of knitted stockings, and little white lights strung across the garden. I remember it actually snowed one year, and he sat there, at his bedroom window, completely entranced as huge flakes swirled softly down, barely heavy enough to fall. So yes, it was magical. But what happens when you've lost the child who made it so `“ what then? People never talk to you about that. They don't tell you how to cope with the Christmas that comes After. Or the next, or the one after that.

There's work, of course. At least, there is for me. Though Christmas is a crap time to be a police officer. Just about every crime you can think of goes up. Theft, domestic violence, public disorder. Mostly low-level stuff, but the amount of bloody admin it creates is still the same. People have too much to drink, too much time on their hands, and so much twenty-four-hour proximity to people they're supposed to love they find out that, actually, they don't. And what with that and everyone wanting to take leave, we're always short-staffed. Which is a very long way of explaining why I'm standing in a freezing cold kitchen at 5.35 a.m. in the dead zone at the fag-end of the holidays, staring out at the dark, listening to the Radio 4 news while I wait for the kettle to boil. There are dirty plates in the sink because I can't be bothered to empty the dishwasher, the bins are overflowing because I missed the change to the collection day and the food caddy has been upended all over the side path, possibly by next-door's cat, but more likely by the fox I've spotted in the garden once or twice lately, in the early hours. And if you're wondering what I've been doing up at such a godforsaken time, well, you won't have to wonder very long.

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