Murder, the deliberate taking of another human life, is quite possibly the most heinous of crimes a human being can commit. There can never be a real justification for it, can there? But are there cases where it might be understood, identified, and even sympathized with? You decide…
How quickly life can change. Peter Miller had a beautiful wife and two adorable kids. What he didn’t have was a job, money to pay the bills, and hope for the future. Like everyone else on the run-down estate where they lived, he dreamed of how things might be: fancy holidays, a new car, and a better life for his family. All that stood in his way were six little numbers, the right numbers on the right ticket. It was the same dream fifteen million other lottery ticket buyers had. Dreams just didn’t come true for families like the Millers…
“For god’s sake Pete,” screamed Jill, his wife,”there’s barely enough electric left on the meter to get us through the week, we’re out of milk, behind with the rent, and you’re still wasting money on bloody lottery tickets!”
Peter turned away, knowing she was right, too ashamed to meet her angry tear-filled eyes. Neither of them had the energy to pursue the arguement further.
Peter Miller continued to dream. He needed his dreams to cope with going through the motions of applying for jobs he wouldn’t get. Each new morning brought the usual letters of rejection from those who had bothered to reply. The bin was full of such letters. The bills and final demands couldn’t be disposed of so easily; they were put in a draw.
Saturday night came round. Peter Miller would have liked to drop the kids off at their gran’s and take his wife out for a night out. But where to? With no money, no car, not even bus fare? Another night in front of the TV then. Peter Miller slumped into an armchair, mentally preparing himself for the inevitable disappointment of the lottery results. Jill no longer had enough fight in her to be remotely interested; the cost of their lottery ticket would have bought them two pints of milk.
Peter switched TV channels to hear the results. They never saw the other channel appear. Without warning, the the TV and the lights went dark and quiet.
“Well, that’s just soddin’ great!” Jill said.”
“I’ll go and operate the emergency supply,” he replied, lifting himself up. Like most of the other residents on the estate, their electric supply was a ‘pay as you go’ meter. You paid in advance for the electric you used. And when it was used up, the lights went out. The only safeguard was the emergency supply button; five pounds of emergency credit to allow the customer to restore their electric supply until the customer could get to a local shop to buy more credit for the key that updated the meter balance. Two minutes later the lights came back on, and the TV sprang back to life. They had missed the lottery results. It seemed unimportant. What was important was that it was another week away before they got the next unemployment cheque – the measly five pounds emergency credit wouldn’t stretch another week…
The days passed. Life continued for the Millers. With a little economy they might just make the electric last til the end of the week; more blankets instead of central heating, strict rationing of the house lights, and the kids would have to forego using their X boxes for the rest of the week – they would cope, somehow. The Millers were used to coping, to making do..
The Wednesday edition of the Hackney Gazette dropped through the letterbox, the local freebie paper. It made a change from the bills and job rejection letter. It was filled with local news and an ever decreasing number of job adverts. The news was mostly bad, and the jobs beyond his qualifications and skills. It did feature the lottery results as well though…
“This can’t be fucking right? – Jill!” It was Peter’s turn to scream her name. Jill assumed it was another bill, and continued her washing up.
“Jill! He screamed again, “Jill, for fucks sake, leave that and get in here will you.” This time she took notice. It wasn’t like him to swear like that, not at her.
“What is it, what’s wrong?” there was worry and concern in here voice.
“Wrong? Nothing, at least I don’t think so – here, take a look…” He replied, thrusting the local paper into her hands, “look at the numbers, they’re our numbers, the ones we do every week.. We’ve fucking won!!!” She took the paper., not really taking in what he was saying. The winning lottery numbers certainly looked familiar, but it had been so long since she had been the one to buy the tickets that she couldn’t be sure, still not believing it…
“I’m telling you Jill, those are our numbers!” He didn’t bother to wait for her reaction before racing upstairs to retrieve the lottery ticket. Jill raced after him, paper still in hand. They stared at the numbers screaming out at them from the now crumpled page of the Gazette and compared them to those on the ticket. They were the same! They turned to look at one another, their eyes met. This time the tears were joyful. No words needed saying at that moment – the empty fridge, the electric running out, their damp cold flat – none of it mattered now, they were going to be rich…
The morning’s weather was as cold and wet as it could be, but for the Millers it was the brightest they’d ever known. They’d been too excited the previous night to actually ring the lottery company to claim their winnings. With shaking hands Peter Miller dialed the contact number to verify their ticket.
“Hello, is that the claims line?” He asked, his voice shaking in sync with his hands.
“Yes, this is the Camelot claims line, can I help you?”
“Yes, I think we may have won this week’s jackpot, we’ve checked the numbers and everything.”
“That’s good. If you could just read the numbers on the ticket for me then please?”
“Sure: seven, eleven, twenty four, thirty two, thirty nine, sixteen, and bonus ball is eight”
“Yes, those are the correct numbers. Now, could you just read the ticket verification code in the bottom left-hand corner.”
“Two, one, four, nine, six.”
“Thank you, if you could just hold on a moment please… Just having a bit of trouble getting the verification, nothing to worry about, the system’s a bit slow at the moment.”
“That’s okay, I can hold…”
“Errm, can I take your details please? The system’s down at the moment so we’ll need to get back to you later today, or if that’s not possible could I you call back later?”
Peter Miller gave the claims assistant his name and number and agreed that they would speak again later to confirm his claim just as soon as the ‘system’ was up and running again…
“They said we’ve got the correct numbers, but their verification machine is down at the moment so we need to call back later for final confirmation, or something like that. Other than that, everything’s okay.”
“Oh that’s so great, I’m so sorry for snapping at you, oh god, I’m so happy!”
“Me too, love. Now let’s start planning…”
Over the next couple of hours, the two of them made all the sorts of plans you would expect of a money-strapped young couple who had just won the lottery: what sort of house and car they would buy, where they would move to, a world cruise, who they were going to help, everything they could dream of. Life was going to be so great for them from now on.
Three hours later…
“Hello, is that Peter Miller?”
“Yes, that’s right”
“This is John Salford, from Camelot. You spoke to one of my colleagues earlier in respect of a claim. I’m afraid there’s a problem…”
“A problem? I don’t understand, I mean, the numbers are right, I’ve checked and re-checked them a dozen times..”
“Yes they are, but the ticket verification code you provided, it’s invalid. According to our records it’s registered to a ticket issuing machine that was stolen from a retail outlet three years ago… Sorry, are you still there Mr Miller?”
Peter Miller was having trouble following what was being said, he just wasn’t taking it in. He’d bought a ticket from his local newsagents, how could it not be valid? The man in the shop had even paid him for previous little wins, the odd tenner or so, it just wasn’t making sense to him…
“I’m afraid I’m going to need details of exactly when and where you bought your ticket so we can pass this matter onto the police and our fraudulent claims department Mr Miller.”
“What? You think I’m making a false claim, I bought the fucking ticket in a shop for God-sake, this is all bollox..”
“Yes, I understand. No one’s accusing you of making a false claim, but we believe a wider fraud may have been committed in which you are a victim Mr Miller.”
Arnold Simms, proprietor of the Dalston Road HappyShopper newsagents and tobacconist, was charged with multiple counts of defrauding the Camelot Lottery company. Over a three year period he had pocketed over thirty thousand pounds from the sale of invalid lottery tickets by way of a stolen lottery ticket machine. To perpetuate the fraud, he had paid out numerous small wins to maintain the illusion of selling valid tickets, working on the assumption that the odds of a customer having a really big win were too long to worry about. He intended to plead not guilty on the grounds on that he had bought the said stolen machine in good faith. Due to his previous good character he was granted bail and allowed to continue trading. He was never brought to trial…
Peter Miller was originally charged with the murder of Arnold Simms, having walked into the HappyShopper newsagents in broad daylight and shot him twice through the chest. When the police arrived, Peter Miller was sitting on the floor of the shop with the gun lying beside him, muttering and crying. At his trial the jury refused to convict him of murder, opting instead for the alternative of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He was released after serving three years of a five year sentence…
Was it murder? Should he have been released so soon? Put yourself in Peter Miller’s position. How would you have reacted to having all your hopes and dreams come true, only for them to be destroyed in a single moment? What might you have done?