The Case of the Missing Wife
Submitted by: Eddie Wren. August 12, 2003.
Copyright © 2003; all rights reserved.
For most of my police service I was on the Traffic Department of the Cumbria Constabulary and much of my time was spent on Triumph, Norton and BMW “main road patrol” motorcycles. The county of Cumbria is about 70 miles north-to-south and 50 miles east-to-west, and it encompasses the English Lake District National Park — a beautiful region of 860 square miles that, amongst many other things, inspired the poetry of William Wordsworth. The prettiness of the area attracts around 13 million visitors each year — mostly by car — so the mountain passes and twisting lakeside roads get very congested and create a challenge in traffic management for the police. If there is an accident or the road is blocked by long lines of tourist traffic, access for patrol cars is severely compromised, and so the powerful, patrol motorcycles come into their own.
The main road from Penrith along the west side of Ullswater to the top of Kirkstone Pass was one of my regular “beats” and one day, around 1980, I was riding south from the direction of the lake towards the snaking, mountain pass.
The photograph to the right is the view looking south, up Kirkstone Pass (the lowest point on the skyline). The road may be clearly seen coming down the pass then going to the left of Brotherswater, then to the right and around the base of the wooded hill before leaving the bottom right-hand corner of the picture, towards Ullswater. Copyright photo by kind permission of John Sandell (photo library).
Beside the Brotherswater Inn, at the foot of the hill, was a young man on a big Honda motorbike, and as he saw my police bike approaching he frantically waved for me to stop.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Can you ride up to the top of the pass with me please, officer?”
“Why? What’s happened?”
“Well when I set off from there to ride down here, I had my wife on the back and I don’t know where I’ve lost her.”
After suppressing the urge to fall off my bike, laughing, I told him: “Okay, but here’s the deal. If you gave your bike a big handful of throttle, when you set off, and you just dumped her on her backside at the top of the pass, then as long as she’s not hurt I’m not stopping when we find her, okay? World War Three will be all yours.”
Glumly, he agreed to my terms.
Sure enough, we got all the way to the top of Kirkstone before we found his fire-breathing, smoke-venting wife… complete with her very sore but otherwise undamaged backside. The crash helmet in her hand slammed into the one that was still on her husband’s head at about a thousand miles an hour and her indelicate words weren’t fit for publication!
So did I stop to sort out the ‘domestic dispute’?
Do you think I’m crazy? As soon as I was sure that she was not badly hurt, I kept my promise and left ‘Mr. Knievel’ to patch up his own damaged helmet and eardrums… to say nothing of his marriage!