The Case of the Missing Wife

Joe Lanzon

George Hurley and his petite blonde wife Rebecca never saw eye to eye. They had been married for ten years but their union was always turbulent. They quarreled practically every day and neighbours heard their shouts and accusations even during the night. George and Rebecca Hurley’s marriage was definitely not a happy affair.

They had two children; a boy and girl, now five and six respectively. Neighbours wondered how they found time to make love. “Probably”, some said ironically, “they must have been drunk at the time!” Others said that maybe both children were the result of Rebecca’s many extra-marital affairs.

It was undeniably true that while George was at work, Rebecca was entertaining other men. This was no secret as practically everybody in town knew of her exploits. As also did her husband, of course. She did not hide what she was doing and did not care a penny who knew of her love affairs.

One day Rebecca was reported missing. She was not seen for a whole week while her husband continued as if nothing had happened. She was reported missing not by her husband but by the neighbours. When questioned by the Police, George told them that it was not the first time that she walked out of the house and returned some days later. He also told them that he was glad to have got rid of her. But the Police were not convinced. They continued with their investigations to see what had happened to Rebecca Hurley. They discovered that George had told his children, when they had asked him about their mummy, that she has gone away and maybe would not return back.

Neighbours reported to the Police that George had made a large bonfire in his back-garden where they saw him burn Rebecca’s clothes. Furthermore, the Police also learned that someone with a detailed knowledge of the missing woman’s bank accounts had forged her signature and took everything out of her savings accounts. The Police found that George had tapped the telephone at home to record conversations between Rebecca and her lovers. The Police inspector questioned him thoroughly. They told him that they knew that his wife had a string of lovers and was a bad wife. “We can understand that sometimes pressure like that can drive a man to murder,” he told George. But he denied murder or that he knew what happened to his wife.

George Hurley, who had a history of poor health and heart ailments, never faltered once during the long sessions of interrogations. Although they pressed him, the Police did not want to use excessive pressure because of his health condition. The Police dug out his garden and searched his bungalow and surroundings in an attempt to find the body but they did not find any clues whatsoever. They knew that circumstantial evidence pointed directly at him – the frequent quarrels; the fact that he did not report her missing; that he told his children that their mother would not return; that he burned her clothes in the garden; that his wife’s bank accounts were withdrawn by an unknown person with intimate knowledge of her particulars.

But where was the body? Unless the Police found the body and examined it for clues like fingerprints, they would have difficulty in putting up a case of murder against him. But they did not lose heart. They went to the bungalow again. They ripped the floorboard, probed the brickwork for hidden cavities, scanned the gardens around the house using tracker dogs and plugged lakes, streams and ponds in the vicinity. They interrogated him repeatedly hoping that he would finally break down and admit to the murder. But they did not find anything and he did not admit. George had told the Police that she had walked out of the house and he did not know where she was. In the circumstances, the Police through newspapers, television and radio, issued calls for her or for people who might have seen her, to contact them immediately. But they failed to produce any response either from the missing woman or from people who might have seen her. The Police were therefore convinced that she was murdered and her body was hidden somewhere. 

After three months, George Hurley could not stand it any longer. He was under continuous pressure from the Police and shunned by his neighbours. Everybody was convinced that he had murdered Rebecca. No, he did not admit to the murder but he died of a heart attack. The murder inquiry on Rebecca Hurley was closed, the Police case file was marked ‘suspect deceased’.

George Burley’s funeral after the ceremony was carried out in a quiet chapel outside the town. The police saw no useful purpose to attend. They never saw the wreath besides his coffin with the strange message – “Have a nice flight to Paradise George – R.”
When the funeral service was over, the last prayers said, the earth sprinkled on top of the coffin, the stone slabs laid down and the grave closed and sealed, none of the few people present noticed the petite blonde woman across the road who, with a broad smile on her face, turned and went away.