The older of the white dogs didn’t belong to the Invisible Man or to Shorty; it belonged to a man named Georgie. Georgie came from Aberdeen but didn’t seem to have a surname. Georgie’s dog had been cooped up in a kennel for months since Georgie, according to Shorty’s evidence, was ‘crippled with knackered legs.’ Feeling sorry for the dog, Georgie was going to sell it, and arranged to be picked up by the Invisible Man to take it to a potential buyer. The Invisible Man thought the buyer might also buy his dog, a brown lurcher, so he took it along as well. He had asked Shorty if he wanted to come for the run, and Shorty agreed. He took his dog as well in case it ‘tore up the house’ while left alone. So that was how there came to be three men and three dogs in the car.
Half way to the address (a caravan, probably not there now – or even then) of the mystery buyer of cast-off canines, the men stopped at a roadside café for a coffee. They were there an hour before they set off again. They hadn’t gone too far when the older white dog appeared to need the toilet and allegedly began to dribble in the back of the car. The men stopped and Shorty got out to take the dog for a pee. As he opened the tailgate of the hatchback the dog shot past him, ran along the road and disappeared through the hedge into a field. When Shorty looked into the field the dog was ‘miles away down the field, running about as if it was mad’. Shorty and the Invisible Man thought the best way to get the dog back was to take the other two dogs in to the field. The runaway might be attracted by them and return. That was how two men with three lurchers came to be in the field. They were in the process of trying to coax the runaway back – not hare coursing – when the police came along.
Shorty said that his dog was off the lead, but it was well-behaved and never left his side. The Invisible Man said that his dog was never off the lead, which was contrary to what the police and one of the witnesses from the farm said in court. When asked why he had tried to hide in the ditch, the Invisible Man said that he had been released from prison on a tag, worn round his ankle, and just panicked when he saw the police. By the state he was in – by his own admission covered in mud from head to toe and face bleeding from bramble scratches – it must have been some panic! There was one highlight as he was giving evidence, the ‘quote of the day’ as I called it. The farmer and I had given evidence that the field the men and dogs were in was huge, over 100 acres. At one point the Invisible Man was asked where he was in the field when he first saw the police. His answer? “Well, Mr Stewart said the field was over 100 acres, so I would be about 60 acres from the top”.
‘Georgie’ must have panicked as well, and took off in the Invisible Man’s car. He, along with the transport for all three, apparently skedaddled back to Aberdeen. It can only be assumed that dog sales for the rest of the day were suspended. Neither did Georgie appear in court as a witness to help the Invisible Man and his short sidekick out of their pickle. Had he done so the fiscal would have been entitled in advance of the trial to have the police note a statement from him. The ‘reason’ for the two men and three dogs being in the field would have been known in advance. Not a good defence tactic.
The fiscal finished the Crown case by asking the Invisible Man if he had ever been involved in coursing. ‘No,’ he answered stone faced. I only wished I had been looking at him straight on. The fiscal then asked if he has seen coursing taking place. ‘Only on a DVD,’ he responded. Any previous convictions a person has can only be revealed to the sheriff after a person is found guilty.
The defence expert was the same gamekeeper that was called in the earlier case against Porthos (an earlier case related in another chapter). He had to leave the court while I gave evidence and I had to leave while he was in the witness box. I therefore don’t know the full extent of his evidence, though I rather suspect that part of his evidence would be to back up the claim that the younger white lurcher was too young to course hares, and that a good idea to recover a runaway dog is to take other dogs into its view.
In the summing up, the defence solicitors made two valid points. They were first of all very critical that the police never interviewed their clients about why they were there (which I also found extremely disappointing). This, one solicitor said, could have given them the chance to learn about Georgie and the ‘real’ reason the men were in the field. The defence also adversely commented on the evidence that the farmer gave; that it was much more extensive and detailed than that given in his statement. I didn’t disbelieve the farmer, but I can’t understand why these extra (and important) details were not noted when he was interviewed. This and the lack of interview of the suspects were the two main flaws in the case, and the sheriff returned a verdict of not guilty, telling the Invisible Man and pal they were free to leave the dock. As they did so each reached over and shook the hand of the gamekeeper……