The young man arrived in Australia as an assisted migrant. He worked extremely hard and after three years a bride was sent out from home. Things didn’t work out well and at a critical moment he overreacted and was charged with attempting to murder his fiancée. My job as a young law clerk was to sit with him and try and find out as much as I could about his life and what actually led up to the day in question.
That, folks, is a very brief synopsis of my next story. I have finished my first novel and it is maturing in an oak cask. But I don’t want to write another complete novel – actually I do want to but I don’t want to sit and go on and on.
Therefore I have decided I will serialise it. I will publish the story on my blog in short ≅800 word instalments probably every second day. After five or six episodes I will amalgamate them into one document and store it as a page – if I can remember how to do it I will reference that on my side bar.
PS. This is a true story. I might just add a couple of bits of colour now and then. Feel free to ask any questions.
The Butter Knife
“Would the Defendant rise?”
“Members of the Jury, in the case of the Crown v Nikos Nikolaidis on the charge of Attempted Murder, do you find the defendant Guilty or Not Guilty?”
I am not Nikos. However over the course of time I did become his friend and I want to tell you his story and I’ll tell you how the jury found.
This was the first ever trial I have sat through. The facts were pretty clear and I had come to my own conclusion. I didn’t like it. I think I was as interested in the verdict as Nikos was. Although that is a stupid thing to say. Let’s just say I was very interested. Let’s also say that Nikos is not his real name. I know he wouldn’t mind me using his real name, but I think it would be advisable if I changed the names of all the players.
Now when I say I sat through the trial, that is not all there is to the story. Nikos did not trust the lawyers who were on his side. He certainly didn’t trust the prosecutor’s team. They were the enemy. Where Nikos had come from in Greece he was well accustomed to not trusting the authorities. Not only that, but the circumstances that led up to the attempted murder also gave him little reason to trust anybody at all.
I was a lot closer in age to Nikos than any of the lawyers who had anything to do with the case. So I was given the task of earning his trust. So for the next couple of weeks I spent as much time in gaol as Nikos did. Except I could knock on the cell door and go outside for a walk and I could go home at night. I didn’t have a notebook. I didn’t have a pen or a pencil and I certainly had no recording device.
My instructions were clear; “Just go in there and talk to the poor bugger. Just ask him about his mum and dad back in the old country. Has he got brothers and sisters? All these wog families have lots of kids so there’s sure to be brothers and sisters.”
With today’s more understanding attitude to migrants I can’t imagine any lawyers are still using that sort of language, but if I cleaned it up it wouldn’t give you the real sense of the time.
“Oh, and we don’t want you in until about ten thirty every day, so you go and sit in a Greek café in Lonsdale Street for an hour and a half every morning and learn a bit of Greek. It’ll help you to relate. And I’ll tell you which café to go to,” said the defence lawyer in charge of the case.
1962 was the year. As I write this it is fifty-six years ago. I haven’t been inside any courtroom again in all those past fifty-six years. How old was I then? Twenty. Nikos was twenty-four. Let me tell you a bit about myself. I was a student articled to a firm of Melbourne solicitors. It was an interesting setup. For those of you who have a passing knowledge of higher education you will possibly not believe that I could have signed my Articles at the age of nineteen. Because I need to rely upon your faith in me to tell this story with truthfulness I feel it is necessary to explain a few things.
In the early sixties Melbourne was growing rapidly along with the rest of Australia. The urgent need to develop Australia after the Second World War meant that migrants, mainly from Europe, came to work on huge programs such as the Snowy Mountain hydro-electricity and irrigation Scheme. This scheme included sixteen massive dams and seven power stations and hundreds of miles of irrigation channels. In the twenty years after the war two million people arrived from Europe.
In Melbourne, market gardeners sold their land to real estate developers and these gardens now make up most of the south-eastern suburbs. The market gardens have moved away and houses and schools and shopping malls have taken their place. This development meant that there was a great demand for lawyers and accountants, surveyors, financiers and engineers. Melbourne University could not produce enough lawyers quickly enough to meet the demand.
All of the above explains, in part, the factors that brought the world of Nikos Nikolidis into collision with mine. From the moment Nikos was charged with attempting to murder his fiancée his world and mine were as one. But I keep getting side tracked; I was going to tell you how I was articled at such an age and I should get back to that. I will leave Nikos to languish, weeping, in a remand cell in Her Majesty’s Prison Pentridge in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg. And he did weep for he was a gentle and emotional person.
…………to be continued.