The seymour tapes, p.3
The Seymour Tapes, p.3Tim Lott
You think he stole because he wanted to be caught?
I don’t know. Possibly.
You said in one newspaper interview that you thought your husband became ‘addicted’ to surveillance. How soon did that happen?
Almost immediately. He was a compulsive man. He got into deep grooves, found it hard to climb out. Giving up smoking, for instance, was hell for him. We’d both given up at the beginning of that year, as a New Years’ resolution because we didn’t want to smoke around the baby. He was suffering terribly. And in the house everything had to be just so. He always said I was a slob. I suppose he was right. With him everything had to be tidy and clean and in its right place. He couldn’t bear dirt and mess. And families are messy. Perhaps he wasn’t constitutionally inclined towards family life. Sometimes he almost admitted as much. Too chaotic. Nothing was ever tidy enough, nothing was ever organized enough. He saw himself as the single coagulating force that kept the family together. Without him, he reckoned, everything would fall apart. Perhaps that came out of a feeling of being unloved. I don’t know. Perhaps it accounted for his final addiction – to virtue, to seeing himself as good.
Unloved by whom? By you?
By all of us. Certainly we took him for granted. And I suppose we ended up conspiring to cast him in the role of house prefect. We laughed at him behind his back. Not in a nasty way – but it might have looked nasty… viewed as he viewed it. Through the cold eye of a camera lens. Whatever. Although we loved him, we saw him as a bit of a busted flush, a bit Lear-like. The irony was that while his compulsive streak arose out of his insecurity it fostered it too.
Because it’s hard to be close to someone who’s telling you off all the time. Particularly someone who is finally ineffectual. And because it’s hard to love someone who’s better than you.
Please forgive me for this question but… did you?
Did I what?
Did you love him?
How can you ask me that?
All right. Let me put this to you instead. Did you think he was better than you?
Shame on you. Haven’t you got something to say to me?
I apologize for asking if you loved him. It was tasteless.
All right, then… Did he think he was better than us? He certainly had high standards, which made us all feel guilty most of the time.
Those standards didn’t stay that high, did they?
I know. But I don’t think his was an affair in the normal sense. I believe him when he said he and the Thomas woman hardly even touched each other. Even so, I also know that he must have suffered the most terrible guilt over it. That was why I can’t hold it against him. Alex was always so hard on himself. He must have suffered so much. But even when he was betraying me –
If you think that no sex took place, was it really a betrayal?
In a way it was worse than sex because, in a sense, he allowed Sherry Thomas to… rape all of us.
That’s an emotive word.
But don’t you think it’s the correct one, in the circumstances? Whatever it was, the odd thing is that I can find it in myself to forgive him for allowing her into our lives to do her raping. Because I suspect he did it from complex motives. And, of course, he thought I was betraying him.
Can you set the record straight here? There has been a good deal of speculation in the tabloid newspapers and others. Might you have ‘driven’ him to it?
I respect what you’re trying to do, but I don’t feel comfortable discussing this.
It’s going to be hard not to confront it sooner or later.
I’ll say this much. And I don’t want to have to repeat it. I wasn’t having an affair. My lawyers are in touch with the newspapers that made those allegations.
Is that it? Is that all you have to say?
Isn’t it enough?
It may be. But it’s not only me you have to satisfy. The public are –
The public are insatiable. Whatever you tell them, they want more. Until they’ve destroyed you.
They get bored when they think there’s nothing else to know. Then they’ll leave you alone.
[Sighs.] As for what anyone else thinks, I don’t give a damn. But as for him believing in the possibility of my infidelity – well, as much as anything else, that’s what put him in the power of that woman.
So this… what? Limits Alex’s culpability?
All I’m saying is, it’s difficult to judge people’s behaviour without knowing their motives. And I believe, even now, that Alex’s motives were – at least, in his own mind – good ones.
For allowing this woman to ‘rape’ you all?
I think he was just lonely. Don’t you?
It doesn’t matter what I think.
The Ali Tape, Saturday, 28 April, Time Code 10.03
In the course of my research, I discovered some hitherto unreported audio-visual material. This came to light as a result of my interview with Mr Hamid Ali, who runs a small supermarket at the end of Dr Seymour’s street. As is now a matter of record, it was Mr Ali who originally put Dr Seymour in touch with Sherry Thomas. However, the police and, indeed, Mr Ali were unaware that he was in possession of a tape of that crucial encounter, recorded on the shop’s security system. After I requested that he make an extensive check of his security tapes, he came up with this one, from the morning of the same day that Dr Seymour first met Ms Thomas. It survived unwiped because shortly after the visit the CCTV broke down and has never been repaired. The equipment and the tapes had been languishing in a small storeroom at the back of the shop.
In keeping with Samantha Seymour’s wishes, this tape, like the remainder, will not be released to the broadcast media, but I have permission, as with the others, to describe its contents. On the day in question there were two cameras in operation – one trained on the checkout and one on the aisles. I have combined the contents of both tapes to make it appear as a single narrative.
The poor-quality black-and-white tape begins with Dr Seymour entering the shop. It was his habit to buy a selection of newspapers on Saturday morning. He picks up a copy of the Guardian, The Times and some chewing-gum, then pays for them at the checkout.
Mr Ali is a middle-aged man, thin, tall and completely bald. On this occasion, Dr Seymour is looking tired but otherwise normal. He is wearing a pair of clean denim jeans and a plain, well-pressed white T-shirt. The dialogue from the tapes is clear, and is reproduced below, along with my attempt to describe the action.
– You look like shit, Doc.
– Thanks, Hamid.
– How’s the little one?
– You know how it is.
– There it is. I don’t know. I am a single man, Doc. Footloose and fancy-free. I can’t be doing with all this family hoo-ha. Too much vexation.
– There are compensations. But today I can see your point.
– Under the cosh, Doc?
– Something like that.
– That’s two pounds eighty. Anything else? Packet of fags?
– I’m still on the wagon.
– How’s that going?
– It’s hell.
– You want to try some of that nicotine gun. My cousin was a smoker for twenty-five years. Now, he thought he’d never – HOY!
At this point, Mr Ali drops the newspapers he is holding to scan the barcodes and runs out from behind the counter. We see him seize a young white boy, about twelve years old and wearing a Puffa jacket, by the collar.
Boy: Fuck off, you Paki [inaudible]. Get your hands off me. I’ll call the police.
– I’ll call the bloody police, you little [inaudible]. I’ll get you locked up. Take it out your jacket. Drop it.
– There ain’t nothing in there. Fuck off, Gandhi.
– Don’t you bloody well Gandhi me, fucker. Gandhi was a man of peace. I’m no fucking Gandhi. I’ll break your fucking face if you shit me. Drop it.
Mr Ali thrusts into the Puffa jacket, with the hand that isn’t latched on to the boy’s
– What you going to say now, fucker? Still want me to call the police?
– I was going to pay for it.
– Show me the money, fucker.
Mr Ali starts shaking the boy by the scruff of the neck.
– You got no money, fucker. This shop is for people who got money. Now, get your shitty arse out that door and don’t come back.
Mr Ali lets go of the boy, who straightens up, smooths down his jacket and walks nonchalantly towards the door. He spits on the floor.
– No good calling the police anyway. I ain’t old enough to get arrested.
– I won’t call the police, fucker. I’ll take you out the back room. We got things for kids in there, things that make kids not want to come here no more. Understand, fucker?
The boy gives one last defiant preen, sticks his finger in the air and swaggers out of the door. Mr Ali, who appears to be breathing heavily, makes his way back to the side of the counter facing Dr Seymour.
– You’ve got sharp eyes, Hamid.
– Yeah. I got second sight. Seventh son of seventh son.
Mr Ali points to somewhere below the level of the counter.
– Cuts my shoplifting bill by eighty per cent.
Dr Seymour walks to the other side of the counter. We cannot see what he is looking at, but Mr Ali has confirmed to me that it is a monitor, which receives images from the two CCTV cameras in the shop. The contemporaneous tape from camera two shows another shoplifting attempt at this exact moment, this time an old woman dropping a can of something into a wicker shopping trolley. Immediately Mr Ali rushes out from behind the counter again.
Shortly after this, Dr Seymour leaves the shop. The moment when Mr Ali hands him the business card for Sherry Thomas and Cyclops Surveillance Systems is not captured by the camera. However, Mr Ali has confirmed that he provided Dr Seymour with the business card that morning. On the afternoon of the same day, Dr Seymour paid his first visit to Ms Thomas.
Interview with Samantha Seymour
Could you put in context Alex’s visit to Mr Ali?
He went to get the papers.
But why was he interested in spy cameras?
That was down to me, I suppose, although I didn’t say anything about nanny-cams.
It was all about Miranda, the nanny. Miranda Kelly. I thought Alex had a thing about her. She was very attractive. I was probably being unfair – it came out of my own insecurity. Despite what I said about trusting Alex, you can become irrational when you’ve just had a baby. I was a little jealous.
I thought you said you wanted to be with your baby after she was born. Why did you have a nanny?
I discovered quite quickly that there was a limit to my maternal instinct. That, in fact, my decision not to spend their early years with Victoria and Guy was not quite as self-sacrificing as I had previously imagined. The first year with a baby is very demanding–I’d forgotten how demanding. I decided I wanted a part-time nanny.
What did you do with your spare time?
Oh, this and that. I think I was just trying to re-evaluate things. I definitely felt this time that I did n’t want to go back to work. I needed to get some perspective – I needed a bit of breathing space. I still spent three days a week with Polly and on the other two I kept house, did a bit of cooking, reading, shopping. The time passed easily enough.
Did Alex resent you having time to yourself while you were hard pushed financially?
Funnily enough, no. I think it gave him an extra opportunity to be in the right. Working all hours, nailing himself to a cross.
You wanted to get rid of the nanny because you thought Alex had designs on her?
Not simply that. I got rid of the two we had before her as well. They were never good enough – not for me. It frustrated Alex. He felt all the changes were damaging Polly. Three nannies in as many months. I’m not what you would call a perfectionist – that was what used to drive Alex up the wall about me – but when it comes to looking after a baby, there’s nothing more important so I’m very critical.
How were you critical on this occasion?
There were little things. I’d come home and find Polly in a nappy that clearly hadn’t been changed since the morning. Or she would just be propped in front of the telly. Alex thought Miranda was the best we’d had so far and, I suppose, looking back, he was right. She was always on time, friendly and polite. And Polly seemed happy with her – in fact, everyone liked her. Guy thought she was the bee’s knees.
So why did you want to sack her? Because you thought Alex had a crush on her?
Perhaps subconsciously. But that wasn’t the reason I gave Alex. I told him that stuff kept disappearing.
Small amounts of money, mainly. A pound here, a pound there. Nothing significant.
Did Alex suspect Guy?
I wouldn’t believe him when he said it, so I convinced myself that if it was anyone it was Miranda.
And you decided to sack her?
That was the ostensible reason. Looking back on it now, I can see that, along with the jealousy, it was probably my guilt at not being able, or wanting, to cope with my baby. I couldn’t bear that some… stranger could do it relatively easily. And Miranda had a way with Polly. She found it all simple. Never came close to losing her temper, whereas I get stressed very quickly. At work, I’m the picture of patience and fortitude, but at home… Anyway, I insisted, the night before Alex went to Ali’s, that she had to go. Alex became visibly angry, which was unusual for him. He normally kept it tightly reined in. It was another symptom of the changes that had been taking place in him. He really put his foot down. As a rule, he let me have my way in the end. That was another thing about Alex. I think he feared that he was being weak because he always tried to do the right thing, to be the diplomat.
Was he weak?
Probably. We all took advantage of him, to some extent. Perhaps it got on top of him, when you add it on to everything else. But I don’t think he thought initially that going to Cyclops Surveillance was a solution to anything other than the problem of Miranda. It was Sherry Thomas who pushed him over the edge. In trying to make himself strong, he just found another facet of his weakness.
Is that what it was about? Him trying to be strong?
To take some power back, I suppose, in a household and a life where he felt he had lost it.
We’ll talk about that a bit more in a moment. You wanted to sack Miranda Kelly. What did Alex say?
He said it was stupid and unnecessary. He said he’d come up with a different solution.
Do you think he had any ideas about surveillance at that time?
Not as far as the household went. It might or might not have crossed his mind as regards the surgery. There had been this woman who had come to see him – there had been a big mix-up. He became worried about how he might appear.
And, of course, later he did install cameras at the surgery, without the knowledge of his brother.
By then, I think, he was losing control.
At the point when he thought he was taking it back. The dilemma of every addict, I suppose.
Ironic, isn’t it?
So, let me get this straight. He had some worries about a situation that had been developing at the surgery but, as far as you know, he had no thoughts of employing electronic surveillance in any context until that morning at Ali’s shop?
That would be my reading of it. Obviously, as it turned out, I was not always party to his innermost thoughts.
What was the atmosphere like when he left the house that morning after the row?
Tense. He was angry. I was angry. But, then, anger was becoming normal in the household.
Everything was a negotiation. Everything was always unclear. That upset Alex, with his precise mind.
What do you mean, ‘Everything was always unclear’?
Just normal family life. In the few days before he visited Mr Ali and CSS, for instance.
Cyclops Surveillance Systems.
Sherry Thomas’s shop. Yes. There was a fight over something – it was really stupid. A PlayStation. Someone had been using it on the television in our bedroom – we didn’t allow the children to have one in their own room.
They shared a room? Weren’t they a little old for that?
They were. It was very inconvenient – even inappropriate. But we needed a separate room to put Polly in. Alex wouldn’t give up his loft study, because he needed to work there on a daily basis. If she was crying in our room all the time, neither of us could get any sleep, and Alex needed every bit of shuteye he could get. Guy’s was small anyway, and next to our bedroom. Understandably he didn’t want to share with baby, so he had to go in with Vicky, at least for a short while until we sorted something out. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Vicky’s room is a good size and we put some screens up for privacy. But it was another factor that contributed to the tension in the house, I suppose.
What happened with the PlayStation?
Alex tripped over it and banged his head on the edge of the wardrobe. Given that he hated untidiness – on a purely symbolic level – to suffer an injury as a result of someone else’s mess hit one of his most sensitive nerves. He was livid. He controlled it, of course. But I could see how angry he was.
Who had left it there?
That was the point. At breakfast that morning, before school, Alex confronted Guy about it. He denied it. He said that Victoria had set it up, not him. Victoria said that although she had been playing on it, Guy had used it last so it was his responsibility. That kind of thing really got to Alex. It was important to him to be fair. So when he could find no way of being so, he got very vexed.
What did he do?
At first he threatened them both with docking their pocket money if someone didn’t own up. Guy went bananas – screaming, shouting, the lot. Victoria, of course, just looked as if she was about to blub, gazing up at Alex with those big spaniel eyes of hers. Worked every time. I knew exactly what she was doing, but Alex didn’t see it.
The Seymour Tapes by Tim Lott / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes