Friday 16 March 2012


There is crime here. Only a little in our village compared to the big city of Luanda but even that metropolis compares favourably with London, Paris, New York and especially Johannesburg. The local plods spend more time eating breakfast in my place than investigating crime, not through idleness but because there is simply nothing for them to investigate. They are all tooled up to the eyeballs and, especially the ones fresh out of training, are itching to shoot someone. Instead they spoon scrambled eggs down their throats and finger their pristine Glocks. As this is a maritime zone, their responsibilities also include anti smuggling patrols (this is a perfect place to bring contraband in) so I once jokingly suggested that I could easily arrange for a boatload of laptops or fags to come up the river and instead of outrage or at least a friendly warning all I got was a ‘Could you? Could you really do that for us?’ You have to understand, these are nice guys doing a very difficult but generally boring job.

Some weeks ago my generator along with two others in the neighbourhood were nicked and that caused a ripple of gossip. We all knew it had to be an inside job and, sure enough, at his fourth attempt the guy responsible was collared and turned out to be the village crook so now we wait with eager anticipation the results of the police enquiries. Unlike UK, I suspect, the Second-in Command of the local police force came round to fill me, a victim, in on progress (this is real Community Policing) but politely declined my offer to dangle the guy’s feet over a lit barbecue and subsequently dispose of the charred remains in the river. It was not because he, as an individual, had any objection to this, it is just that Angola is trying very hard to embrace Human Rights and as an officer of the law, he was bound to uphold them. I was sympathetic to this impediment to the rapid conclusion of his investigation but since its outcome would only be an opportunity to see castrated justice served rather than the return of the generator, the relief I really craved, what’s a few more weeks or months? I have already ordered the new one anyway.

As a village shopkeeper, for that is what I am, I am possibly in the best position to pull together local rumour and gossip into a coherent version of events. And last night, murder cast its shadow over us.

I have to confess, murder is good for business. You can’t discuss murder in church so the only other places to congregate are the street, which is long and unfocussed, or my shop with its endless supplies of cold beer, fruit juice, tinned tuna and bread, enough to sate even the most voracious gossipy appetite. It also has the only working generator after nightfall.

Oh, I can joke about the fact I had a bumper night, a week’s worth of takings in just a few hours but all this was tempered with the knowledge I had just lost two clients. One dead and the other incarcerated and God only knows what will happen to the kids. As a shopkeeper, it is my job just to sell what is on my shelves or in my freezers but with every beer or packet of biscuits I sold last night, I was reminded of a very troubled and abusive man married to a very patient wife.

The police have been in, made their enquiries and drawn their conclusions from the cold, salient facts. Some of the details, the more human aspects bother me though.

I sold a man I was never too keen on half a dozen beers and then a bottle of whisky and watched him get tanked up to the eyeballs and ever increasingly belligerent. He went from affable to alternately homicidal or suicidal, switching between whiningly servile or outright aggressiveness with bewildering rapidity. I was delighted, as were my other customers, when I could finally push him out the door and set him on his path home. I don’t have to like all my customers. This one he has cash. He asks for beer, I give him beer. He asks for whisky, I give him a bottle. He pays, so why should I care? Suddenly I am social services as well as a shopkeeper? As he staggered off, I really thought he would never make it home. Now I regret that he did.

On arrival, he beat the crap out of his missus. One of the neighbours tried to intervene and was threatened. The neighbour suggested to the woman that she should take her kids and stay with him, which sent the nutter right over the edge. Clearly, the woman was too terrified of the consequences and sent the neighbour away.

According to the neighbour, the fight died down and eventually all was quiet, our lad presumably having fallen into drunken slumber.

Sometime during the night the missus went into her kitchen, hooked the best knife she could find and planted it right in the middle of his chest.

The gossip this morning was all about her courage. The guts it took to kill in cold blood, everyone was impressed. After all, she let the guy fall asleep first so technically it was not self defence. And this gave the police a problem. If only she had stabbed him while he was beating her.

‘Who says she didn’t?’ I said as I served up the scrambled eggs and bread for their breakfast.

‘She did, she’s admitted everything’

‘Admitted what?’ They like their tea sweet here so I poured half a packet of sugar into the teapot and gave it a stir.

‘That she stabbed him while he was asleep in bed’

‘No. That’s where he lay down to die after she stabbed him in the kitchen while he was beating her, the neighbour can testify to that.’ I poured the tea.

‘How do you know that?’

‘How does anybody know anything? All the court will know is what’s in your report and all you have to do is ask the neighbour the right question so you get the answer you want’

I could see they were thinking about this.

‘I would be happy to testify that I threw him out of my shop because he was drunk, violent and abusive and those who were in my shop at the time and want to continue shopping there will be my witnesses’

I may not have done his wife any favours by selling him so much booze in the first place but I would damn well perjure myself if necessary to make some sort of amends.

The guy was a thug, a waster, a very disturbed violent wife and child beater. I am sorry it had to end this way but I admire the woman’s courage. I agree with the gossipers. It takes a hell of a lot of guts to choose a knife, walk into the bedroom and take the life of the father of your children. But then I guess that whatever connections short circuited in her brain defaulted to protecting her children regardless of the consequences she may have to face.

There is a lot less paperwork required for a clear case of self defence than that required to prove pre meditated murder. I just hope the Police draw the same conclusion. If not, I’ll spit in their porridge.


  1. we never know what exactly happens behind closed doors...... violence and abuse is behind every door in every village in the world!

  2. Blimey. I hope not behind every door in every village!

    It is not yet two in the afternoon and I am more than a little squifffy. The police commander has been round and told me the woman will be out of nick tonight. Verdict, justifiable self defence. Naturally I had to crack one open and toast the common sense of his investigative team.

    It'll be hilarious when she comes into the shop next time. I'll make damn sure I get her change right...

  3. Glad of the update, Tom. I was going to squabble over your "cold blooded". I'd have thought her blood boiling after having been beaten up one time too many.

    If she had been compos mentis why shoot herself in the foot by killing the guy? Who wants to sit in prison when you have children pining for their mother?

    Full marks for how swiftly the Angolan judiciary works.


    PS Tom, I hope that, considering you find my comments "incomprehensible", I haven't tested the limits further than your considerable talents stretch. Cheers

  4. Ursula, I am keeping up with you so far.

    She waited til her husband was asleep before stabbing him so by any legal definition it was in cold blood but I agree, she must have been boiling with rage.

    It wasn't the judiciary that dealt with it, it was the police and the way they framed their report that got her off.

    She will have to appear in front of a tribunal but they will just rubber stamp the police report.

  5. I have zero tolerance for domestic violence, well i'm not a fan of any violence, really, but when i hear of an abused spouse offing the perp, i always think of it as justifiable homicide.

    As i youngster, i witnessed the aftermath of a domestic violence episode, and the victim was someone i dearly loved. I hated the perp SOB. They divorced, he left the area, and it wasn't a moment too soon. I have no doubt this set my zero tolerance metre to the extreme.

    Glad to hear your local lads in blue doing what they can to promote justice.


  6. Last month at quilt guild meeting there was a presentation about the BOSH prison quilt. (Battered offenders self-help group). The women in prison made a quilt which depicted some of the things that had happened to them, the images were graphic and horrific. It hung at the state fair, where it garnered much attention and became one of the most attended exhibitions in the hundred year history of the fair. The governor saw the quilt and as luck would have it was leaving office so didn't have to worry about public opinion. In 1995 clemency was given to ten women who had killed their significant others who had been beating (and worse) them. This was in the state of Kentucky. The law had been changed at the time but was not always followed in court. The change was in the language which was used to describe immediate danger. It is typical for women who are abused to take revenge at a delayed period. Another factor which convicted the women in Kentucky was that no one was allowed to speak ill of the dead so there was no testimony about the abusive behaviour by the men.
    Sadly once the women were released from prison they were not allowed to contact any of the other members of the support group as condition of their parole.
    It is good to hear that the woman is free.

  7. Sounds like a clear case of self defence to me Tom.

    She sounds (and obviously I don't know her) like she had suffered abuse for quite a while and was likely in no physical condition to actually stand up to the guy whilst he was concious and beating the crap out of her.

    There are cases like this springing up occasionally all over the world from time to time, and the sympathy is almost always with the abuse victim - tipped over the edge one day into doing something in self defence (albeit in a pre-emptive way).

    The collateral damage from this will probably stay with her and her kids for a very long time. Another tradgedy.

    Let's hope the law out there has some common sense.

  8. In Australia there is a form of 'justifiable assault' - I think many statutes may refer to it as "Constructive Assault" - whereby one assaults another, pre-emptively, as they are fearful for their well-being, if not their very lives. Of course, such and action must be proportionately carried out to the threat imposed or anticipated. The French used to have a similar situation under the heading of crime passionnel (or crime of passion) and was used as late as the 1950's.

    Any hoo's yourfather, it is amazing, as JohnG will verify, after we've both spent decades working in forensic psychiatry, you just never really know what goes on behind closed doors and the face on the street is only the face that they want you to see (or not - if you are the victim)!

  9. Is it in cold blood if a slave stabs a master in their sleep?

    Years of abuse take away from "cold blood". The blood boils and simmers, it never goes cold again.

    How sad.

  10. Is it in cold blood if a slave stabs a master in their sleep?

    Gross insubordination I would have said.

  11. The thing is, this girl got away with it.

    The community recognised that she did what she did and understand the reason why. We all knew he was a shit and none of us did anything. So she did it herself and we all feel guilty we didn't give the guy a good slapping ages ago. It is easy to talk tough after the event.

    She is back in the community and she'll get credit in my shop and, as a coommunity, we'll sort it out.

    I seem to recall a mother in UK with a severlely retarded daughter who felt her only way out was to toast herself and her helpless child in her car because of the abuse their community gave them.

    We are all cowards and blind as well. We need to start throwing a few more punches. It is easier to apologise for causing a thick lip than living with the tragic consequences of our apathy.

  12. Hippo you are right on, and good luck. I was up-to-date on knowing that she'd been let off; I was saying it's sad, no matter what.

  13. Tom,

    I hope his family see it that way too. All too often it can be worse as the abusers family want revenge regardless of the mitigating circumstances or his family cannot believe it was his doing.


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