The story began for me on Thursday, 28th August 2003. Having been on holiday since Friday the 15th, I returned to work thirteen days later to find the inevitable stack of mail waiting for me. Working my way through it, I came across an unremarkable looking envelope, typed, and addressed to me personally. It was postmarked Ipswich, 18th August, and had been sent first class, making it reasonable to assume it had arrived the following day, and had sat unopened in my office for nine days. I have been unable to confirm this with the mailroom staff at my organisation, since they have no reason to remember this letter above any other, but ultimately the precise date of arrival is not, I think, of huge importance.
The envelope contained a letter (Note One). The letter had been handwritten, then photocopied, in an effort, one can only assume, to avoid identification through fingerprints or DNA evidence. It read:
"[My own name],
MY NAME SHALL BE CALLED PETER MARLIN. I HAVE KILLED FORTEEN PEOPLE IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM. I WILL KILL SEVEN MORE. I HAVE PROOF OF THESE CLAIMS BOTH PAST AND FUTURE. IN TIME THE WORLD WILL KNOW. THE PLAN WILL BE CARIED OUT. MY STORY WILL BE TOLD. KNOWLEDGE IS THE PRISE. YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN MY FREND.
The letter itself was not dated, and was signed simply "PM", next to which had been drawn the symbol of a fish (I discuss the possible implications of this here). Curiously, the note featured a narrow band of black along the bottom edge, presumably a by-product of the photocopying process, suggesting that the paper used for the original note had been of a marginally different size to that on which the copy had been printed. This would prove to be a common feature of Marlin's future correspondence, though its relevance is still to be fully established. In contrast, the minor spelling errors contained in the note would go on to assume a role of far greater significance in the events which were to follow.
It is a sad and frustrating fact, however, that the arrival of letters such as this remains a depressingly periodic phenomenon in my line of work. Any news organisation with a reasonable profile can expect to attract occasional communications from individuals claiming responsibility for all manner of crimes, both real and imagined, from the trivial to the impossibly grave. I have never personally known one which subsequently proved to be genuine, and as a result one quickly learns to ignore such letters.
This instance was certainly no exception. I paid the note little more than cursory attention, dismissing its claims both instantly and completely; indeed the letter succeeded in avoiding the wastepaper basket only as a result of post-holiday chaos, which resulted in its abandonment amongst a pile of opened mail on my desk, rather than being immediately discarded.
I wasn't to sit up and take notice until the following Tuesday.
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