The seymour tapes, p.7
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       The Seymour Tapes, p.7

           Tim Lott
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  We’ve both seen the tape. But I want to know what you think was relevant.

  He saw Victoria with Macy. And he saw me with Mark Pengelly.

  And he interpreted both in the worst possible light.

  He made sense of them in accordance with the information he had at the time. In Victoria’s case he was probably right. She’s very precocious. In my case he was wrong. There has never been anything sexual between me and Mark Pengelly. He’s a single parent with a young baby, a neigh-bour and a friend. Nothing more.

  Do you think he was attracted to you?

  Mark pretends he’s attracted to all women. He’s a compulsive flirt. It doesn’t mean much. I can see how Alex got the wrong idea – especially with him being in a paranoid state of mind after the business at the surgery. I had often told him I felt that Mark was flirting with me, and he hadn’t made any fuss about it. Maybe seeing it on camera gave the whole thing a new perspective. Direct evidence can be more misleading than hearsay. It’s a precept of the public-relations industry, after all – that there’s no absolute standpoint.

  That’s a nice distinction. A useful one, in your industry,

  What are you saying?

  I’m not saying anything. Did you flirt back?


  Not even unconsciously?

  If it was unconscious, I wouldn’t know about it. But again, once you’ve finished watching the tapes, you’ll have a clear answer.

  You seem uncomfortable talking about this.

  You’d be uncomfortable if you’d read what I’ve had to read in the papers about Mark and me.

  Do you think that some people might think it odd that both Pamela Geale and Mark Pengelly should go to the papers with bogus stories?

  Not with the amount of money they were being offered. And Mark’s story wasn’t bogus in the way that Pamela’s was. They simply twisted it out of all recognition. I think he was just trying to be honest – clearly he had some feelings for me. But he never alleged an affair – they just hyped it up, made it look that way. I understand how it works. I’ve been in the media for twenty years.

  So you’re still on good terms with Mr Pengelly?

  Not particularly. I don’t bear him any ill will, but too much damage has been done. Our friendship was just another casualty of all this… information pouring out of everywhere, like sewage.

  Do you want to talk about the first tape that Alex made at your house?

  There’s no point, is there? You might as well let the tape speak for itself.

  Everything needs to be put in context.

  I don’t care. I know what the truth is. The purpose of this book is to lay out the facts. No one will ever agree on the conclusions. But that’s the best we can do. So just describe the tape. I have no further comment to make about it, other than that I believed Alex – and still believe Alex – on two important counts. First, I believe he meant to tell me about the camera until he caught Victoria and Macy and Mark and me on it. Second, I believe he only kept it secret out of the best intentions – to see if Victoria was getting out of her depth, and if I was betraying him. I’d have done the same.

  You’re being very generous to your husband. He deceived you all. He watched you secretly.

  Not because he wished us any harm. And after he’d started, he couldn’t stop. Like I say, he had an addictive personality. And that woman poisoned his mind.

  Are you not angry with him at all?

  Of course I am. I’m angry that he left us. I’m angry that he got himself killed. But I understand everything he did. I love him, for God’s sake. Loved him. We all did.

  Seymour Surveillance Tape, Week One

  Author’s Note: This is the first tape that Alex Seymour made in his home on the day after he visited Sherry Thomas’s shop. According to his wife, the remainder of the family was out in the early afternoon – Victoria and Guy visiting friends, and Samantha Seymour and Polly at the local park with Mark Pengelly and his seven-month-old boy, Theo. This gave Dr Seymour more than enough time to set up a transmitting camera in the front room, disguised as a ceiling smoke alarm, which was so similar to the original already in place that no one in the family noticed or commented on it.

  Dr Seymour had a loft-room den, which was kept for his use and from which the children were ‘banned’: he kept in it a lot of important confidential and technical papers that he did not want interfered with, and worked on his articles for several magazines and medical journals. Even Samantha avoided it, mainly because it gave him a space of his own that he could keep tidy and in order, and she, with her more casual, forgetful nature, was liable to disturb it. The loft room, then, was more or less the private domain of Dr Seymour, and it was here that he set up the receiver, linked to a TV and a VCR.

  The material that survives of this first week is of relatively short duration, occupying no more than about twenty minutes. We do not know how much videotape Dr Seymour began with before he edited it down to this core of material. As he later confessed to Sherry Thomas, and as any documentary-maker knows, a great deal of early raw material – the ‘rushes’ – is dull and unusable. It is not extant and was doubtless overtaped.

  Sequence One: Sunday, 29 April, Time Code 15.03

  The camera is activated after Victoria Seymour enters the house with Macy Calder and makes her way into the front room where the transmitter is located. The room is decorated in a fairly ordinary London middle-class style. There is a modern, IKEA three-piece suite, somewhat the worse for wear having been ravaged by the cats, and the red-patterned Moroccan rug is frayed and balding in several places. The floorboards are stripped and varnished, the walls are off white, and wooden venetian blinds hang over the Edwardian sash windows. An original tiled fireplace dominates the room. There are modern abstract prints on the wall, and a large antique mirror. As Samantha Seymour has indicated, the room is somewhat shabby, and seems to be well overdue for renovation. There is a large crack in one corner; one of the less pressing difficulties facing Dr Seymour was that the house is in the early stages of subsidence.

  Victoria is wearing a pair of white jeans and a T-shirt with a FCUK logo on it.

  – Anyone home?

  There is no answer to her call, although we can assume that Dr Seymour is watching her and Macy from his eyrie in the loft room. Victoria sits down on the sofa. She is ordinary-looking, not unattractive, a little on the heavy side. She has a tattoo of a phoenix on the upper part of her right arm – illicitly procured after a protracted bout with alcopops, according to her mother. Despite the demure face she displays to her father in later scenes, she is – and her mother confirms this – rebellious. She has a certain animation and life about her that marks her out from her more sullen, disaffected brother. She appears to be wearing mascara and lipstick, somewhat amateurishly applied after the style of her mother. Macy, a tall, dark, thin boy with curly brown hair, is dressed in black trousers and a plain red sweatshirt. He goes to sit on the armchair that is positioned perpendicular to the sofa.

  Victoria: Why don’t you come over here?

  Macy: Are you sure there’s no one in?

  – The front door was double-locked so there can’t be.

  – Will your dad mind me being here?

  – Why should he?

  – He seemed annoyed the other night.

  – He thought we were up to no good.

  – We were up to no good.

  At this point, Victoria reaches up to Macy and pulls him down on to the sofa beside her. He seems nervous, but complies. They sit next to each other, touching but not moving, for several seconds. Both are clearly unsure of themselves. However, Victoria leans over and attempts a clumsy kiss. Macy responds. They embrace, and kiss for several minutes. Although it is clearly a ‘French’ kiss, it does not appear overly passionate. On several occasions Macy, who has a cold, withdraws to catch his breath. They make relatively limited contact with the rest of their bodies, but at one point Macy strokes Victoria’s leg. Then he pulls away.
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  – We’d better cut it out, Vicky. Your parents will be home in a minute.

  At this point, Victoria pulls Macy back on to the sofa and kisses him again. Her hand moves gingerly up his thigh, towards his groin. Again, Macy pulls away.

  – Your dad would kill me if he caught us.

  – My dad’s a pussycat. [Laughs.] He’ll do anything for a smile and a hug. He’s so desperate for approval, the poor sod.

  – [Nervously] He looks quite strong.

  – My dad isn’t strong. He’s weak.

  Macy smiles, and they begin to embrace again. This time, Victoria has her hand on Macy’s zip. Almost immediately we hear the front door opening, and they pull apart. Seconds later, Samantha Seymour appears in the doorway, holding Polly in her arms.

  Samantha: Hello, you two. Up to no good?

  Victoria: Yeah, we were going at it like rabbits.

  Macy: Hello, Mrs Seymour.

  Samantha: Hello, Macy. Is your dad home, Vick?

  At this point, Mark Pengelly appears in the doorway. In his mid-twenties, he is handsome in a bland fashion. He has carefully messy mid-length black hair and is clean-shaven. His skin is olive, he has a bold, almost Roman nose, and full, Cupid’s-bow lips. No one could be amazed to be told that he is, and remains, an unemployed actor. He is dressed in tan chinos and a short-sleeved blue shirt. He is holding his baby, Theo, in his arms.

  Victoria: Nah. All right, Mark? Aah, look at Theo. Isn’t he cute?

  Mark: He reeks.

  Victoria: Can I change his nappy?

  Mark: I really wouldn’t go there, Vick. You have no idea of the potential ugliness. I’ve been putting it off. And I intend to continue putting it off.

  Victoria: Poor little tinker.

  Victoria gets up and begins making a fuss over both babies. She takes Polly from her mother, and sits with her on the floor. Macy shifts uncomfortably on the sofa. There is small-talk for a few minutes, then Victoria and Macy announce that they are going up to Victoria’s room. Victoria hands back the baby.

  Samantha: Don’t let your dad catch you.

  Victoria: I can deal with Dad.

  Samantha: I know you can. You make it sound like a special achievement.

  Everyone in the room, including Mark Pengelly, laughs. Then Victoria and Macy leave. Mark Pengelly and Samantha are alone with the babies. There is more small-talk – about nappies, the dog mess in the local park, the weather. Then Guy appears at the door. He is a tall, lanky boy, with floppy brown hair similar to his father’s. He displays an almost perpetual expression of surliness and disappointment. He is wearing baggy jeans and an outsize T-shirt with the words ‘White Stripes’ (a pop group) on the front.

  – Can I borrow your mobile, Mum?

  – Hello to you too, Guy. And this is our neighbour, Mark. I believe you’ve met before.

  – All right, Mark? Listen, I just want to text someone.

  – God, what is it with you kids and this texting business? It’s boring. You’re as bad as Victoria.

  – Can I, though?

  – There wouldn’t be much point in us confiscating your phone if I let you use mine.

  – Just one text, Mum. It’s important.

  – I’m afraid not. It’ll have to wait until you get your own phone back. It’s only another fortnight.

  – Mum, please. It’s really urgent. It’s this competition, see… everyone’s entering it.

  – You should have thought about that before you ran up the bill without asking us. The answer is no.

  – Fine. [Then, under his breath, but audible] Bitch.

  – Guy!

  Guy leaves the room, slamming the door behind him. Mark Pengelly and Samantha shake their heads at each other.

  – What am I going to do with that kid?

  – Why did you take his phone away?

  – He was ringing premium lines – sex chat, I suspect – yakking all hours and running up huge bills when he should have been asleep. It had to stop. We’ve confiscated it for a month. He hates it. But with Victoria having lost hers as well, it certainly reduces the background noise in the house.

  – Are you going to let him get away with calling you a bitch?

  – God, Mark, sometimes I just can’t be bothered. Anyway, I am a bitch.

  – What do you mean by that?

  – You know what I mean.

  – Yes, I suppose so.

  There is a long period of silence. Finally Samantha breaks it.

  – Something on your mind, Mark?

  – The usual thing.

  At this point, Samantha puts her hand on Mark Pengelly’s shoulder. It is a tender gesture, not obviously sexual.

  – She’ll come back.

  Author’s Note: According to Samantha, Mark Pengelly’s wife, Catrina, left the family home shortly after the birth of their son. She left a note saying that she had made a mistake, and that she was sorry. Since then, Mark Pengelly has not heard from her.

  – [Laughs.] I don’t want her to come back.

  – But surely – for Theo’s sake, if nothing else.

  – It’s not in anybody’s interest to be in a family that isn’t working.

  – Everybody’s family goes wrong sometimes. Even this one.

  – Come on, Samantha. You seem to have it pretty much made.

  – You’d be surprised.

  – What does that mean?

  – Nothing, really. You know what it’s like with a new baby.

  – Yes. But you’ve got lots of support, haven’t you?

  – That’s one word for it. Is that what you feel you need?

  – Yes. It is.

  – Any love interest on the horizon?

  – Sure. I’m a real hot catch. Single parent, unemployed, with a seven-month-old baby. They’re flocking to me.

  – Mark, I’m sure you get loads of women after you. Anyway, I’ve heard a baby is a real magnet for them.

  – I haven’t noticed. Anyway, I’m not that interested at the moment.

  – Still not over Catrina?

  – I haven’t forgiven her, if that’s what you mean.

  – I mean, do you still love her?

  – No. I hope I never see her again.

  – That’s harsh, Mark.

  – I mean it! How can I have been so stupid as to get mixed up with her?

  – We all make mistakes.

  – You haven’t.

  – Haven’t I?

  – Have you?

  There is a silence for several seconds, then one of the babies starts to scream, and Samantha takes her hand off Mark Pengelly’s shoulder and picks up Polly.

  – Do you fancy a cup of tea?

  – Sure, why not?

  – MACY! VICTORIA! Want some tea and biscuits?

  The response is inaudible, but Samantha replies.

  – OK. Ready in five minutes.

  Then she and Mark Pengelly leave the room, and the camera cuts out.

  Sequence Two: Monday, 30 April, Time Code 08.45

  We know that this takes place only a few minutes after Dr Seymour has left with the children for school and work. The tape shows Samantha Seymour searching around the front room, apparently having lost something. After several minutes she reaches up behind a row of books on a high shelf and comes up with a packet of Silk Cut Ultra. She takes one out, lights it, and smokes it down to the filter. Then she opens all the windows and puts the cigarettes back behind the books. She leaves the room, taking the ashtray with her.

  Sequence Three: Tuesday, 1 May, Time Code 16.16

  Victoria bursts into the front room, clearly distressed. The audio picks up Guy’s voice through the door, but the words are not clear. However, the tone is angry – apparently the siblings have had an argument.

  There is a stuffed animal on the floor, a pink gorilla, one of Polly’s toys. Clearly infuriated, Victoria kicks it across the room. She looks adult for her age, even in school uniform. Her face is hard and set in a scowl. So it is a surpris
e when, glancing at the door as if terrified of being caught, she picks up the gorilla, hugs it to her shoulder and weeps, silently but violently. It is as if the developing skin of adulthood has fallen away to reveal a vulnerable, frightened child. This continues for several minutes, until Victoria hears footsteps approaching the door. She drops the toy, wipes her face on her sleeve, and composes her face into blankness. Her mother enters the room with Polly.

  – Are you all right, Victoria?

  – I’m fine.

  – Have you been crying?

  – Don’t be ridiculous. When are you going to realize that I’m not your little girl any more?

  – Never, I expect. Can I get you anything?

  – No.

  – Well, OK. Look, I have to give Polly her dinner.

  – Oh, Polly. It’s always Polly.

  – No, it’s not always Polly.

  – She’s all you care about now.

  – That’s not true, Victoria.

  Now, once again, the mask slips, and Victoria begins to cry bitterly. Samantha takes a step towards her, but she shrinks away.

  – I want my dad.

  – You know that he’s working. You know how hard he works.

  – Fine.

  – Victoria…

  – Just go and feed Polly, why don’t you?

  – All right. All right.

  Now Samantha, apparently reluctantly, leaves with Polly. Victoria waits a minute or so, fighting back the tears. Then she reaches for the phone and dials.

  – Hello? Is Dr Seymour there?… I see… No, no message… Yes, I’m fine… OK, thank you.

  She hangs up. Guy walks into the room.

  – Has Diddums being crying?

  She looks imploringly at him.

  – Just leave me alone, will you?

  – Just because Macy’s dumped you, don’t take it out on me.

  – I haven’t been dumped.

  – Then why are you crying?

  – I’m not crying.

  – Then why did you ring Dad?

  – I didn’t ring Dad… Oh, God, I can’t stand this any more.

  Victoria leaves the room. Almost immediately the phone rings, and Guy picks it up.

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