Cover image for What the corpse revealed : murder and the science of forensic detection
Title:
What the corpse revealed : murder and the science of forensic detection
Author:
Miller, Hugh, 1937-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.

©1998
Physical Description:
xii, 242 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.

Great Britain ed. published under title: Forensic fingerprints.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780312205461
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Call Number
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Central Library HV8073 .M555 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Hamburg Library HV8073 .M555 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Lancaster Library HV8073 .M555 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

In vivid detail, What the Corpse Revealed examines the techniques used to solve 16 cases drawn from the files of international forensic scientists.
-- An American business tycoon and his wife were found shot dead at their home, in a room with no windows, which was locked from the inside. No trace of the bullets could be found. The murderer was playing games with the police, but could a smart young forensic scientist outwit the killer?
-- A little boy disappeared from a play area while his father read a newspaper nearby. Police were baffled by the disappearance, until the forensic team swept the boy's home and found evidence that uncovered a hideous and almost unbelievable crime.
-- A reclusive retired TV star received a series of poison pen letters in his luxury Bel Air mansion. Mysterious attempts on his life followed. Forensic scientists matched the fingerprints on the letters to those of his brother, yet the brother had died in a house fire more than a decade ago.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Miller, a British writer on forensic science, has put together a highly informative collection of true-life criminal cases solved chiefly through the efforts of forensic experts. There is not a dull case among the 16, and some of them, with their airtight alibis, red herrings and maddening paradoxes, are pure Agatha Christie. An American engineer in Buenos Aires, who conceals his secret life as an obsessive gambler and philanderer, dies in his home of carbon monoxide poisoning, though no CO-producing source is evident. A house maid in the Hamptons rubs out her employersÄa millionaire barbecue manufacturer and his wifeÄin revenge for her brother's accidental death, using bullets made of pork that fragment and dissolve into her victims' bodies. Miller, a British master of the forensic procedural, deftly interweaves just enough detail on DNA analysis, chemistry, ballistics and other tricks of the trade for readers to come away with a keen appreciation of the uncanny, scientifically grounded sleuthing of forensic investigators who prove that where there's a crime, there's a clue. International in scope, this highly entertaining compendium hops from the murder of a Yorkshire constable's unfaithful wife to the arson of an L.A. retirement home for silent-film performers to cases from Spain, Italy and Hungary. Miller is a wry observer of the vagaries of justice and family psychodynamics, the thirst for redress and even vengeance. Photos. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Every crime has a story. Finding the story is done with the help of forensic science. Miller, an expert on forensic medicine and the author of forensic mystery novels such as Skin Deep (St. Martins, 1992), provides the reader with 15 cases in which forensic medicine helped solve the crime. These true cases are from Europe and the United States. With the exception of one, they each tell a fascinating but sad story of how the victim died and how the killer was caught. The lone exception is a foiled attempt on the life of a famous actor, a case that was solved before the perpetrator succeeded. This well-written book holds the readers attention through all the background and methods of forensic detection. The reader will be amazed how far forensic science has come in helping to finish the story. Highly recommended for all crime collections.Michael Sawyer, Northwestern Regional Lib., Elkin, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One Gambler * * * On the morning of Monday 10 March, 1986, the body of Harry Brownlow was taken to the general hospital at Buenos Aires from his home at Quilmes, 15 kilometres south of the city. Harry was declared dead on arrival and the body was transferred to the mortuary in the hospital basement. Shortly after noon a pathologist, Dr Andreas Peruna, examined the corpse and decided an autopsy would be in order.     `It had been four years since the conflict in the Falklands,' said Peruna, `but there was still lingering ill-feeling in Argentina. In Buenos Aires anti-British slogans were still being chalked up on walls in the city centre. The unexplained death of an Englishman, right in our midst, could be a political hot potato. It was decided therefore that in determining a cause of death, we should go through all the proper procedures, with full publicity.'     Harry Brownlow was born in London but was in fact an American citizen, having taken US nationality in 1976. For two years until his death at the age of 42, he worked as a senior electrical maintenance engineer for the American co-owners of a meat, fish and grain processing business occupying a sprawling factory complex along the estuary on the eastern side of Buenos Aires.     By all accounts, Harry and his wife Beatrice had enjoyed living in Argentina. The house provided for them at Quilmes had every up-to-date convenience and all the latest gadgets; according to Beatrice it was a virtual replica of the home they had left behind in California.     `The company thought a lot of Harry,' Beatrice said, `and they showed it every way they could. He was a valued asset and a very popular member of the technical support team. When he died his colleagues were devastated.'     Beatrice had found Harry in his den at 8.30am that Monday morning, after believing he had left early for the plant without waking her. He was seated at his desk, his head resting on his arms. `He looked very peaceful and at first I thought he was asleep.'     Part of the illusion of natural sleep was created by the appearance of Harry's skin: it was a healthy shade of pink, with deeper pink patches at the cheekbones.     `He looked as if he had just taken a good brisk walk,' Beatrice said. `But when I touched his hand it was stone cold. The doctors told me later that by the time I found him, he had been dead several hours.'     Dr Peruna was sure of the cause of death even before he applied for permission to perform an autopsy: `The pink colour of the face and similar patchy coloration on other parts of the body told me the man had died of carbon monoxide poisoning.'     Carbon monoxide is responsible for one of the commonest forms of lethal accidental poisoning in the developed world. The colourless, odourless gas causes death in two ways. First, because it has a 300-times greater ability than oxygen to mix with the haemoglobin in red blood cells, it can easily starve the body's tissues of oxygen by invading the space in the red cells normally occupied by oxygen. Second, carbon monoxide can dissolve in plasma, which is the liquid component of the blood, and so it can have a directly poisonous effect on the body cells supplied by the blood.     `The autopsy clinched it,' said Dr Peruna. `The blood was a bright red, the lungs were congested and puffy, with pinkish frothy fluid in the upper air passages. There were tiny haemorrhages on the surface of the brain -- all of those and several other signs were entirely consistent with carbon monoxide poisoning. A blood sample analysis showed a 52 per cent saturation of carbon monoxide in the haemoglobin.'     So, there was no doubt what had killed Harry Brownlow, but his death was nevertheless an intriguing mystery. Carbon monoxide is produced in several ways: by coal-gas, which is hardly ever encountered nowadays; by motorvehicle exhaust fumes; by coke ovens, blast furnaces and other industrial installations; by faulty domestic gas appliances. Harry had died at home, in his own den, where there were no devices or installations capable of producing carbon monoxide.     `It wasn't a case of the body having been moved after death, either,` said Inspector Juan Galdós, a senior investigating officer. `Dr Peruna made a careful check of the hypostasis on the body. It was practically the first thing he did.'     When death occurs the blood circulation stops at once. The veins and arteries relax and let the blood flow downwards by gravity, where it settles in the vessels of the lower parts of the body. This is referred to as hypostasis. Blood cannot flow into areas where the body is in contact with hard surfaces, such as chairs or floorboards; these areas are flattened and appear lighter in colour than the areas where blood has settled. If a body is moved after death its position is almost inevitably changed and a second set of visible margins is formed. The first set, however, does not disappear, so it is obvious even to a moderately trained observer that the body has been moved.     `Brownlow's body had not been moved,' said Inspector Galdós. `He died where he was found.'     It was impossible for the police to overlook the likelihood that Harry Brownlow had been murdered. `Suicide was a possibility too, of course,' said Dr Peruna, `but no one would have bet on that one.'     To forestall a flurry of press speculation, the Argentinian authorities invited an American team to take charge of the investigation. Two NYPD Forensic Officers, Barry Clemens and Jack Dexter, accompanied detectives Howard Timms and Luke Harris to Buenos Aires. They were backed by a trio of policemen -- officers Jay Bruce, Arthur Conroy and Pete Lewis -- with specialised training and wide experience in crime-scene management and the collection of forensic specimens.     `We were given every co-operation,' Clemens said. `Our HQ consisted of two very comfortable suites in a top-class hotel near the Congreso Nacional . We were also provided with office and laboratory facilities. I could tell the Argentinians were worried that one of their own had killed Harry Brownlow, but they were ready to face the consequences of that. There was no suggestion at any time that there would be a cover-up, whatever the outcome.'     While the detectives began mapping the history of Harry Brownlow's professional and social life in Buenos Aires, Barry Clemens and Jack Dexter made a thorough forensic sweep of the room where Brownlow had died.     `It was a frustratingly negative exercise,' Dexter said. `The room was a typical middle-class American male's den of the mid-80s, with all the toys and faintly macho trappings you would expect -- early sports trophies, a more recent golf tournament cup, class photos, pictures taken on fishing and hunting trips, guns and knives mounted on display plaques, that kind of stuff. There was a lot of it, and to do the sweep justice we had to examine everything and do as much detailed sampling as the layout called for.'     Officers Bruce, Conroy and Lewis helped with the examination of the den, and Barry Clemens made a comprehensive photographic record. `If we were going to go back to the States with zilch in the way of a solution to the mystery,' he said, `I was determined our failure would be one of the best-dressed and most heavily documented of its kind.'     They found nothing of any apparent significance. No enigmas turned up. The case was as plain as it was mysterious: Harry Brownlow had died in his chair behind his desk in his den; there had been no struggle, no disturbance, and the den contained no means of producing the carbon monoxide which had killed him.     `We went back and had a look at the body,' Dexter said. `All it did was confirm the picture. The man had died in a sitting position. There were no marks of violence on his body and the hypostasis clearly indicated that after he died, he hadn't been moved until shortly after his wife found him.'     Meanwhile, detectives Timms and Harris were assembling a comprehensive history of the final two years in Harry Brownlow's life. He and his wife had been socially active but the circle of their acquaintances was small, due to the difficulty of mingling freely with the Argentinians.     `The company had a policy on that,' Timms said, `and Brownlow stuck by it. It was called Cautious Integration. The Brownlows would always accept first-time invitations, and if one of those happened to be to the home of an Argentinian, well fine. However, if there was any show of opposition or resentment during the visit, the Brownlows would stay polite, but they would never visit with those people or their friends again.'     `What it boiled down to,' Harris said, `was that after the first eight or nine months in Buenos Aires, they mostly mixed with other Americans. There was a house-party circuit, a kind of rotation, and they fell into that and stayed there. It seemed to work out fine. There were enough different people in the circuit to keep the social scene interesting and stimulating, and Harry enjoyed himself. Beatrice said she didn't enjoy it quite so much as he did, because most of the women were younger than she was, and she missed having conversations with women her own age, and with similar interests.'     The fact that Beatrice was ten years older than Harry was not lost on the detectives, and they took the usual cynical investigative line of trying to find out if there were any other women in Harry's life.     `As far as we could discover at that point,' Timms said, `he had been clean as a whistle. His American pals in Buenos Aires all told the same story, with only minor variations. Harry was a guy who liked his work, he enjoyed an after-hours beer and a few bourbons on weekends. He joked a lot and although he appeared as mentally promiscuous as the next man, he seemed to be devoted to his wife and never indicated that he'd cheated on her.'     Clemens and Timms, frustrated by the absence of clues in their forensic search, had meanwhile decided to go back to the Brownlow house and carry out detailed sweeps of the living room, kitchen and bedrooms. Although these areas had already been examined, they had received much less serious attention than the den.     `This time,' Clemens said, `we were determined that the intensive technique would take in the whole house. It wasn't the most sophisticated approach to take, since usually a forensic team will use some savvy to work out where they can most effectively concentrate their efforts, but here we had nothing, no line to follow and no clues to grab at. All we could do was eliminate and eliminate and hope that at the end of it all, something significant would be left poking up.'     The second sweep, which in the end took in the living room, kitchen, bedrooms, basement, attic, garage and garden shed, proved every bit as negative as the search of the den.     Said Clemens, `We didn't even find an old oil heater, or anything else that could have remotely been the source of a lethal quantity of carbon monoxide. Before the search was over, I was already drafting my report in my head. It was rich with descriptive detail, sketches and tables, all of it adding up to the fact that we hadn't the first idea how Harry Brownlow had died the way he did.'     At the end of the first week of the investigation, Jack Dexter went back to the den in the Brownlow house and tried, in his own words, `to psych myself into feeling the room the way Harry had'. He needed to understand the room better, he believed, before he could say with certainty that it held no useful evidence.     `I sat down at the desk, I clasped my hands on the ornamental leather blotter cover, and I let myself be as receptive as I possibly could. I believe I stayed that way for several minutes. I'd like to say that it worked, that gradually I saw the room through new eyes, and was aware of significant shifts and changes in the way it was now. But that didn't happen.'     What did happen was that Dexter found himself staring at a box of playing cards on the desk. It had already been examined, along with everything else on the desktop, but Dexter opened it and began shuffling one of the two packs inside.     `All I was doing, I suppose, was trying to relax myself a little more, feeling the cards flowing through my hands, enjoying the tactile business of riffling, cutting and shuffling.'     Then he noticed something unusual. As he riffled one end of the deck of cards, the back design appeared to have independent movement. At the left side of the upper narrow edge, white flecks seemed to move across the pattern as he riffled.     `A bell rang,' Dexter said. `This was familiar. I hadn't seen it before but I had been told about it, by an old guy who once worked on the bunko squad just after the Second World War. I turned the pack round and riffled the other end. The same thing happened; little dots of white seemed to jiggle back and forward on the printed design on the back of the cards.'     The cards were marked. Each one had been treated with a sharp-pointed instrument to remove two tiny parts of the design. The result was that two small areas of white appeared on each card (see illustration in plate section): one mark indicated the card's suit, the other denoted its value. Because the marks appeared in different places on every card, the white marks seemed to move about when the cards were riffled.     `I looked at the other pack. They were marked, too. Every one had been carefully treated to be readable from its back. This wasn't exactly a breakthrough in the case, but it was something unexpected, and that got me all enthusiastic.'     Dexter recalled seeing three or four packs of cards in a drawer in the living room when the large-scale search was being conducted. He got them now and examined them. Sure enough, they were marked.     `Every deck of cards in the house was crooked. That really was unusual. I didn't know what it meant, but I decided I should find out.'     Dexter alerted the detectives, Timms and Harris. Timms said they would check out the possibility of a gambling angle. Up to the time Dexter called, the detectives believed they knew everything there was to know about Harry Brownlow. Being experienced detectives with no illusions about themselves, they did not hesitate to accept that they could be wrong.     `And boy, were we wrong,' said Luke Harris. `As soon as we began asking Brownlow's friends about a history of gambling, they went cagey on us. At first it was a lot of "Well, I'm not sure about that," or "I can't say I recall any gambling," and so forth, not very convincing and definitely vague. Then one of his buddies, another engineer at the meat plant, blew the whistle. He told us he had never gambled himself, he was a Christian and it was against his principles, but he had heard about regular card games over at Harry's place. It was always kind of hush-hush, he said, because there was serious money involved, and the company didn't approve of its employees getting involved in anything of that kind, especially not on a big scale.'     The investigative team were on to something. They had no idea what it was -- but it was something to follow and that made a change. Detective Timms carried out a background check on Brownlow, covering the five-year period before he had gone to work in Argentina. Detective Harris started questioning the friends and acquaintances again, this time leaning on them harder, insisting they tell him all they knew about the gambling.     The background checks threw up a picture of a different Harry Brownlow from the one they had already researched.     `He was a fully-trained engineer, time-served with all the correct certificates,' said Timms, `but he also had a record of compulsive gambling from the age of 14. It wasn't the usual kind of compulsion -- you know, betting on the nags, getting into dangerous poker games and losing more than he won, always short of cash because the habit was expensive, just like every addiction.     `This was very different. Brownlow's compulsion was to beat everybody else. He got an inordinate kick from making people lose to him at cards.'     Standing-order mandates at Brownlow's home-base bank in California showed that he made regular annual membership payments to IBM -- which turned out to be the International Brotherhood of Magicians, of which he had been a member since he was 16.     `I spoke on the telephone to several people in his local ring of the Brotherhood,' said Harris, `and they each told me what a whiz Harry Brownlow had been with the pasteboards. He could second-deal, bottom-deal, palm and side-steal as easy as most people handle a knife and fork. He had even devised a method of removing cards from the pack, undetected, that he had published in one of the card experts' magazines.'     While several people attested to Harry Brownlow's skill with cards, no one was able to say that he had ever been interested in card magic, or in conjuring of any kind.     `Technique had been his enthusiasm, exclusively,' Harris said. `He only mixed with magicians to get to know their methods, so he could adapt them to his own purpose, which was to skin the hide off any sucker dumb enough to play cards with him.'     Timms finally questioned Beatrice Brownlow about the card games at their house in Buenos Aires. He had held off from interviewing her until he had a good idea of the true scale and frequency of the games. At first, Beatrice denied there had ever been gambling at their house, or anywhere else they went. The packs of playing cards, she said, were there because both she and her husband had occasionally enjoyed playing solitaire.     `I told her I had learned that there were often games at her house, games where people sometimes lost substantial sums of money. I also pointed out that all the decks of cards at her house were marked. She sat staring at her hands for a while, then she said OK, it was true, Harry did have a thing about card games, and he did usually win.'     Beatrice said that although she had seen her husband working on playing cards with a knife, she had not known the cards were marked -- she had simply not made the connection. Timms was inclined to believe her. On the whole, she gave the impression that her husband's need to beat people had completely bewildered her. At ordinary times, she said, Harry was as evenly balanced as any man could be. When he gambled, though, he was ferocious. He took obvious glee in winning, and he won so often that inevitably there were those who believed he had to be cheating. Some people fell out with Harry because of the card games, but he would always take the trouble to woo them round again, apologising for the rabid nature of his enthusiasm and promising that in future he would try to curb his zeal.     `By now, the detectives had a theory going,' Barry Clemens said. `It wasn't one they could believe in wholeheartedly, but like the discovery of the marked cards, it was something to follow.'     The tentative assumption was that somebody had become so angry about losing money to the gloating Harry Brownlow that they had decided to wipe the glee off his face for good. This theory automatically placed most of Harry's friends and acquaintances in the category of suspects. The three police officers drafted in to help the forensic investigators were now re-assigned to the detectives to help question suspects.     `My colleague Jack Dexter had really started something with his discovery of the marked cards,' said Barry Clemens. `We decided now, between us, that while the detectives were off following their vengeance theory, we would concentrate on the fine details of what little we had discovered so far. It's the experience of most seasoned workers in the field of scientific crime detection that the real answers are to be found in the details. Apart from that, we couldn't really think of what else we could do at that point.'     Barry Clemens approached Beatrice Brownlow and asked her what kind of instrument her husband had used to work on the playing cards. She said it was something like a scalpel, a silver-coloured, shiny knife with a narrow pointed blade. Clemens asked her where Harry kept the scalpel, and she said probably in his safe.     `Safe?' Clemens said. `What safe?'     Beatrice shrugged. She didn't know where the safe was, but she knew there was one. It was the same place he kept his winnings from the gambling. There had been a key, she said, but she didn't know where Harry kept it--although she believed it might be under the rectangle of Persian carpet on which his desk stood. `I saw him on his hands and knees at the corner of the desk one night,' she said, `and he had the key in his hand.'     The rug had already been checked during the exhaustive sweep of the den; nothing had been found under it. However, something had clicked in Clemens's memory. The image of Harry Brownlow on his hands and knees at the corner of the desk made Clemens think of a security ploy he had seen at a house in New York. It was a hollowed out foot on a heavy desk, with a plug in the open end. The cavity of the wooden foot served as a perfect safe for storing small valuables.     Clemens went to the den again and got on his hands and knees by the desk at the place Beatrice had described seeing her husband. He lifted the front left corner of the desk and slipped his fingers under the short metal leg. Light pressure on the footplate made it slide aside. A key dropped into Clemens's hand.     `It was a well-cut steel key, obviously designed to open a serious lock. The trouble was, of course, that in all our exhaustive searching of the Brownlow home, we hadn't found anything remotely resembling a safe.'     Clemens told Dexter about the key, and Dexter immediately suggested they have another look at Brownlow's office at the plant. The office had already been searched routinely and nothing of importance had been found.     `It was one of those offices without a trace of coloration from the occupant,' Clemens said. `The first time it was searched, we didn't find any personal items at all, apart from a picture of Beatrice Brownlow in a frame on the desk.'     `We searched the office again,' Dexter said, `and again we found nothing. But this time, because we knew what we wanted to find, maybe we had stronger motivation. Anyway, we made a third sweep of the office, and this time we found the safe. It was built into the margin of the floor between the inner office and the computer room.     'The front of the safe was a strip of metal three inches wide, and the steel body of the safe was fitted into the floor like a drawer, two feet by two feet. The keyhole was under a flush flap of metal, and the whole thing lay under the point where the carpet of Brownlow's office butted against the carpet in the computer room. When the door separating the rooms was closed, the safe was inaccessible.'     Inside the safe Clemens and Dexter found $24,000 in rubber-banded bundles. They also found the scalpel used for marking the cards, a high-quality German magnifying glass, six fresh packs of playing cards already marked, and an envelope containing three pictures of a young blonde woman in the nude.     `The money was no surprise,' said Clemens, `and neither were the cards or the scalpel. The pictures were something of a bombshell, however -- especially since, on close examination, we were able to establish the extent of Brownlow's involvement with the girl. All three shots were probably taken at the same time, in a bedroom somewhere, and in one of them, there was an open wardrobe door with a mirror inside. Using the magnifier from the safe to examine the image we could clearly see the reflection of Harry Brownlow, as naked as the girl, pointing a camera at her. The camera was a Bronica with a waist-level finder, so there was nothing obscuring the photographer's face. The man was Brownlow all right.'     But who was the woman? Clemens used a computer and a scanner to make a modified replica of one of the pictures, showing only the woman's head and shoulders. Several copies were produced and officers Bruce, Conroy and Lewis began discreet enquiries. Detectives Timms and Harris, having acknowledged that Clemens and Dexter had made the case their own, now took a voluntary background role and made themselves available to carry out any interrogation work that might, in time, become necessary.     `Officer Jay Bruce had the woman identified within an hour,' Clemens said. `She was an American, Andrea Kelly, employed by the same company as Brownlow. She was part of a research team working on the development of new kinds of airtight packaging.'     Dexter smiled when he recalled his immediate reaction to the news that Andrea Kelly worked on airtight packaging. `I got this image, straight away, of Harry Brownlow being passed through a vacuum chamber, having all his air sucked out. I'd been speculating, of course, that the mystery woman would probably have some connection with Harry's death, so I guess the image I got was inevitable.'     Detectives Timms and Harris were brought up to date on the situation, but Clemens asked them to hold off from questioning Andrea Kelly until he and Dexter had examined her working environment. They obtained permission to visit the research facility during the night, when only security teams were on duty.     `Suddenly the case was beginning to look routine,' Clemens said. `From being a complete mystery it had now turned -- well, almost transparent. In Andrea Kelly's workbay we found cylinders of carbon monoxide, and beside them specialised equipment for filling smaller, pocket-sized cylinders from the larger ones. The gas was used in combination with a flash-freezing process to render meat sterile before packaging. I went to the detectives with what we had and left the rest to them.'     Andrea Kelly was taken in for questioning early the next morning. She resisted all suggestions that she had known Brownlow in anything but a professional capacity, and the detectives let her go on resisting, squandering her defensive energy until she was exhausted from countering the innuendoes.     `And then we hit her with the photographs,' Timms said. `She buckled. It wasn't as if she didn't know they existed, it was just that she imagined we didn't know anything about them, because all we did for a couple of hours was behave like we were acting on vague rumours.'     `One look at the shots and she went to pieces,' Detective Harris said. `For a while she was all babble. She said he had promised her this and that, like he would divorce his wife and they would get married, and she'd always been there for him, ready to slip off to a motel, or let him come out to her place, and then, bolt from the blue, he tells her it's over.'     The reason for the split, Andrea told the detectives, was tied into Brownlow's obsession with winning. There had been a steep decline in his talent as a gambler -- or, more accurately, as a successful card cheat. It was something, he said, that he couldn't overlook. Try as he might, he just couldn't get back the dominant form he had enjoyed before.     `The fact was,' Timms said, `Brownlow was a lousy card player, and lately he had been trying his scam on people with the ability to win in spite of card-marking and second-dealing and all the other palaver.'     Brownlow believed the start of his declining ability was at approximately the time he had promised Andrea he would divorce his wife. `He was superstitious,' Andrea told the detectives. `He truly believed he had jinxed himself by promising to leave the woman who had been with him since he started out fleecing his guests at cards. And it was all-important to him; he just couldn't let himself lose the regular kicks he got, cheating people out of their money, even though he didn't need it.'     Confessing his trickery to Andrea had been another mistake, in Brownlow's own estimation. He couldn't help bragging, he told her, because as the years had passed he had wanted to tell someone, but it had somehow never seemed right that he should let Beatrice in on his secret.     `So all his troubles were down to me,' Andrea told the detectives. `The cure, as he saw it, was to ditch me.'     `And he couldn't have chosen a worse woman to try it on,' Timms said. `Andrea had a history of personality disturbance, and it was a lot worse than her doctors had ever figured. She told us that she knew the amazingly potent properties of carbon monoxide because she had used it on mice, rats and even a couple of domestic cats. This was one disturbed lady although, like a lot of them, she was very good at hiding it.'     `When Brownlow dropped the bombshell on her,' Harris said, `she went batshit. When the pain of it subsided, all she could think about was getting back at him.'     `I gave it a lot of thought,' she told the detectives. `In the end I decided he deserved to die. I didn't want to get caught, though, so I decided the best way to do it was in his own house, where no outside people could come under suspicion.'     Andrea knew that Beatrice used sleeping pills and that she slept very soundly -- she had even slept through a car bomb explosion at the end of the street during their first month in Buenos Aires. Andrea also knew that it was Harry Brownlow's practice, late on a Sunday evening, to sit in his den and review his work schedule for the coming week.     `So I called on Harry that Sunday evening. I decided that if my ringing the bell disturbed his wife, then I would tell her everything and leave it at that -- she would have given him a very hard time, I'm sure -- but mostly, I wanted to get into the house without disturbing Beatrice and then kill that bastard.'     In her purse that night Andrea carried a miniature cylinder filled with pressurised carbon monoxide. She walked through the back streets to the Brownlow house, rang the bell, and waited.     `Harry opened the door. He was shocked to see me there. I asked if I could come in. I kept it quiet, civilised, I didn't want him to think I was out to make trouble. He invited me in and we went to the den. He sat down at the desk and I stood opposite. He told me to sit down. I didn't. Instead, I opened my purse, fumbled around for a second, then I brought out the cylinder of gas. I held it out in front of him and squirted it in his face. He inhaled a couple of times as he jerked back, and that was that. He went out. His eyes rolled back and I could see he was dead. I eased his arms on to the desk, laid his head down on the folded arms, and then I left the house.'     Andrea had worn gloves, and her rubber-soled shoes were of a kind more likely to lift debris than deposit any. She left no significant trace of herself that night, and in the ordinary run of events, Detective Timms believed, she would never have been caught.     `She was sentenced to life for premeditated murder,' he said. `After sentencing, the judge made a point of commending the forensic team for what he called "uncommon assiduity" in cracking the casa.'     `It all hinged on Jack Dexter picking up that deck of cards,' said Detective Harris. `If he hadn't got an attack of restless fingers, the case would have got buried and Andrea would still be a free woman, at liberty to gas any guy that crossed her.'

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