Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bruce George Peter Lee

Clues, threats, blind alleys and false leads

Because of the Hastie family's deep unpopularity in the local area, there was no shortage of potential suspects for the fire attack on their home. Many of the Hasties' neighbors were no strangers to the police either, and would be unlikely to pursue the official channels if they had a problem with another family. Could one (or more) of them be capable of burning down a house where they knew children would be asleep? It was an unthinkable prospect, but one that seemed only too real given the circumstances.

Some cruel gossip-mongers even whispered that mother "Edie" Hastie herself must be responsible. Indeed, since it is common police practice to look to those nearest the victims when a crime of this kind has been committed, Sagar initially wondered if one of the absent Hastie girls set the fire after a family argument. But this possibility was dismissed almost as soon as it crossed his mind.

There were other possible leads that quickly led nowhere. A few days after the fire, a story appeared in the Hull Daily Mail which told of a man who had been seen shortly after the first of the Hastie boys was pronounced dead in hospital, standing on a flyover overlooking the street muttering, "One down, four to go," to himself.

A boy on a racing bicycle had also been spotted watching the fire from the flyover. However, both potential suspects were quickly eliminated from the inquiry.

The most promising early line of inquiry surrounded a note which Edith Hastie had recalled being put through their letter box some months earlier. She assumed it would have been burnt to a crisp in the fire, but miraculously, it was recovered intact from a part of the house that had escaped the worst of the blaze.