Italian Job 10 – Float like a Butterfly….

I knew how the Italian judges assistant felt, because I felt the same way about this job.

What had started out as a straight forward nice little earner had developed into a right old can of worms.  I have to admit to being intrigued by this latest twist in the tale, but by the same token there was also a very real danger of being fingered for the old blokes death by some slimy legal git trying to make a name for himself.

I figured it was best to come clean and tell him all I knew about the dear departed Mr Hawthorn.  The legal Italian listened in silence.

“This just makes matters worse

What I need was a plausible and practical solution to bring this rather unfortunate episode to a mutually satisfactory conclusion.  It occurred to me that f I needed such a solution then so did the judge.

As we spoke a lazy wasp or bee droned around me.  I paid it little attention until the fucker stung me.

“Oww you little bastard” I said quite loudly.

“What did you call me?” said the Italian indignantly.

“sorry, not you, I was stung by a bee or wasp”

Fortunately I apart from them hurting I have no reaction to these things, though of course thousands of people do.  In fact I had a colleague who was stung while on patrol in Northern Ireland who died of anaphylactic shock.

At that point if I was a cartoon character a a light bulb would have come on over my head.

“Yess” I exclaimed

“Are you all right signor?” asked the Italian

“A bee sting!” I said out loud half by way of explanation and half in a flash of inspiration

“Si, che cosa?” said the Italian

“I have been stung by a bee” I explained

“Yes senior you said.  That hurts and can be very dangerous” said the Italian  with what I thought was quite an amount of concern. “Bee stings can be fatal and we have some bees here in Roma with a very toxic sting”.

“Yes I know I had a colleague who died from a bee sting” I said with more enthusiasm than may have sounded decent.

“So why you say yes?” He said

“Could it be possible that this old man Mr Hawthorn was stung by a bee?” I said slowly

“No no no, de tests say poison probably German!” exclaimed the Italian

“The tests say poison but they say probably German but not definitely” I said “Look I didn’t kill Hawthorn or whoever he was and you know that.  Whether you admit this to me or not now doesn’t matter, but what it is very important because instead of dealing with a murder you are dealing with a suicide”

“I cannot a commenta on whether it is se murder or de suicide” He said all legally.

“No of course not, but you have not said you don’t believe me” I pressed “And if you were so sure you would have not let me go or leave Italy no matter how flash the lawyer”


“Look Signor, Mister Hawthorn was an old man and he was at the end of his life.  As it is we don’t really know who or what he really was.  He told me a story about being an American but that could have been a load of bollo… lies.  He could have been Italian, German, American or just plain old English Mr Hawthorn.  We just dont know and to be honest at this stage does it really matter.”

“A man is dead nonetheless” said the Italian all righteously

“Yes I accept that, and I also accept it is mysterious but it is not really suspicious is it?  Sure we  could all spend some time investigating aspects of his story and I have no doubt we could verify some of what he said, but what is it really going to achieve?  The only difference it would make is to his family. What do they know of his death?”

“We have said that he died suddenly and that we are establishing de cause of death.” He said very legally again.

“OK so there has been no talk of murder or suicide” I said seeing a light at the end of the tunnel

“No there haza not a” he said slowly

“So from what you said earlier if it was said he died more naturally…., I mean your tests are not entirely conclusive yet, so there could be an error and if an old man in a weak condition had …”

“Been stung by a bee ” Interrupted the legal beagle

“And died as a result of ..” I continued

“Ze toxic shock” He said slowly and his voice told me that he was warming to the idea

“Exactly” I concluded

Unfortunately for me he cooled to the idea as quickly as he had seemingly warmed to it “Yes I suppose we could, but oh I donta know zat I really lika dis” he said slowly and with reservation.

Despite this little set back he was taking the bait despite his reservations.

The best form of defence is attack and I felt this was the time to turn the tables on the Italian authorities.

“Look signor I am giving you a way out here”

“Yo are giving me away out, I dont a understanda” He sounded puzzled and concerned I think he almost laughed.

“Well” I continued  “You have an awkward case that could be very embarrassing for a lot of people.  Technically he died at the time of an Italian police operation so he died in police cusotdy and the Police are responsible for his death”

The lawyer interrupted me “That is ridiculous”

“Is it, if you want to know how much trouble and expense a foreigner dying because of the Police can cause, why don’t you ring the Police commissioner in London, I am sure he will be more than happy to fill you in.”

“But zat is not an issue here” He protested.

“Look at it this way.  Hawthorn was alive when I left him and I will testify to that.  Now bearing in mind the little fracas with your officers in the house I could not have been with him when he died.  However when I came back he was surrounded by police and was dead.  You now ring me and tell me he died as a result of poison.  As far as I know Mr Hawthorn had no reason to kill himself, so I think the Italian police must have poisoned him” I said with theatrical force and emphasis.

Rumpole of the Bailey eat your friggin heart out.

“That just is not a true” He exclaimed

“Isn’t it, prove it then”


“Go on” I said “Prove it is not true.  I left him alive and when I came back to him he was dead from poison and surrounded by the police.”

“Well you know I cant prove it at a de moment” He protested”And it is not appropiate for me to comment any further on this”

“What other explanation do you have for this innocent old man’s death at the time the police arrived.  How else could an apparently healthy old man with a comfortable lifestyle, loving family and distinguished life behind him die in police custody and from some kind of toxic reaction at that”

There was silence

“Well signor how do you think Mr Hawthorn died?”

“A bee sting maybe?” he suggested

2 Responses to “Italian Job 10 – Float like a Butterfly….”

  1. apricot says:

    When I read this story, it resonated with me, but I couldn’t recall why. Stumbling about on the internet, I finally found out why. If you email me I can send you an account of a man like Hawthorn, and his own journey, to the same places, written almost 8 years ago. I doubt it will be of any interest to you. But thank you Uncle Norman for helping me understand a little my own story.

  2. Uncle says:

    Apricot – Thanks for your comment. I would be very interested in the story. I am sue to go back to Monte Casino soon and intend to pay my proper respects.

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