The Ultimate “How To” Writing Book by Christopher Fielden.
Amazon: 5 starts.
Order a FREE taster PDF
BUY the Book

Follow me on Twitter.
Find me on Facebook.
My Facebook Business Page.
Connect with me on LinkedIn.
Circle me on Google.
Subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Subscribe to my mailing list

* indicates required

R v Sieger - additional documents disclosed by the Crown Prosecution Service by James Woolf

Featuring the accompanying post:

How I Wrote & Published A Short Story

Quick links on this page:

Introduction, by Chris Fielden

'R v Sieger - additional documents disclosed by the Crown Prosecution Service' is a short story written by James Woolf. The story was highly commended in the 2015 London Short Story Prize, run by Spread the Word as part of the London Short Story Festival.

London Short Story Festival

James's story is being published in an anthology by Spread The Word in spring 2016. As they have first publication rights, the full story won't be available to read on my site until autumn 2016. In the meantime, Spread the Word have very kindly given permission for me to publish an extract from the story which you can read below.

UPDATE: as of October 2016, the full story is available to read below.

You can buy Spread the Word's London Short Story Prize 2015 anthology 'Upshots' here.

Spread the Word

James has also written about how he wrote the story and went about getting it published. You can read about his experiences after the story.

If you have been published through a short story competition or magazine and would like to write about your experiences for my website , please visit my submission guidelines page.

back to top

R v Sieger - additional documents disclosed by the Crown Prosecution Service

by James Woolf

R v Sieger short story image 1

Dear Helen,

As you know, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has to release all documents and other material it intends to use for a trial in advance. This is the latest batch that we have received. Very happy as ever to to discuss or answer any questions.

R v Sieger short story image 2

Freya McCarthy-Jones

Partner

1

_______________

 

R. v. Sieger – additional docs disclosed by CPS for trial bundle.

Index

Date

Page

1.

Letter from Beasley Preparatory School to Ms H Sieger.

13.12.13

3

2.

Email from Ms H Sieger to Mrs F Crossley.

19.01.14

4

3.

Blog posting by Jonty Seger.

28.01.14

5

4.

Extract from school report.

03.04.14

6

5.

Email from Archbishop Alderwood’s School to all parents.

03.04.14

7

6.

Extract of conversation transcript: Ms H Sieger and Mrs S Hines.

07.04.14

8

7.

Article from High Barnet Advertiser.

30.04.14

10

8.

Extract of handwritten document by Ms H Sieger.

Undated

11

9.

Emails sent and received by Ms H Sieger.

06.05.14 - 09.05.14

12

10.

Internet receipt for purchases from Garden Tamers Inc.

08.05.14

16

11.

Transcript of voicemail left by Mr R Lyons on Ms H Sieger’s mobile messaging system.

10.05.14

17

12.

Clinical notes by Mr J Bartholomew.

12.05.14 & 19.05.14

18

13.

Email from Archbishop Alderwood’s School to Ms H Seiger.

13.05.14

19

14.

Extract from logbook of PC G Smith, Metropolitan Police Service.

19.05.14

19

15.

Letter from Dr. R Hussein to Archbishop Alderwood’s School.

04.10.14

21

16.

Summary of findings from Psychiatric Assessment by Dr. Dimitrios J Wolfson.

11.10.14

22

2

_______________

 

R v Sieger short story image 3

Beasley Preparatory School, 11 Somerset Road, New Barnet, EN5 1GP

Ms Helen Sieger
Derry Towers
Monken Hadley
Barnet
Hertfordshire

13.12.2013

Dear Helen

Further to our meeting earlier today, we write to confirm our joint decision that you will be withdrawing Jonty from Beasley Catholic High School with immediate effect. As a gesture of good will, we will refund your fees to the value of the final three weeks of the Autumn term. I believe that we are in agreement that the local media need not become involved in this matter. You may expect to receive a cheque from our Bursar in the next few days.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish Jonty all the very best for his musical endeavours and future education.

Yours sincerely

R v Sieger short story image 4

Mrs Heather Spencer
Head Teacher

3

_______________

 

from: Helen Sieger <Helen.Sieger99@gmail.com>
to: Fiona Crossley <FRCrossokay@Yahoo.co.uk>
date: 19 January 2014 14:29
subject: The saga comes to an end

Hi Fiona

Finally, finally –there’s light at the end of the tunnel. After the fiasco of Beastly High (about which you could go on Mastermind!) we had a meeting at Archbishop Alderwood’s. Poor old Jonty a little nervous – I told him, “What happened was NOT your fault. There can only be so many bullies and unreasonable people in the world. (We just happen to be meeting most of them!).”

They were actually INCREDIBLY accommodating. Jonts preparing to start next week! They totally got the music thing –how couldn’t they after hearing him sing 3 arias in the staff room (which has a C Bechstein piano by the way! - the music teacher promised to have it tuned soon). Just had lovely letter from the head, I quote: “We are so looking forward to Jonty joining us and taking full advantage of his considerable musical talents!” Was SO tempted to send copy to Heather Spencer!

btw, have you heard anything from my darling ex-husband? Not that I care if I never see him again, but difficult for Jonty.

Listen babes, catch up soon? I’ll line up a child minder and we’ll paint Barnet red!

Bestest

Helenxxx

4

_______________

 

Blog posting by Jonty Seger: 28.1.14

R v Sieger short story image 5

NEW YEAR NEW START

Apologies for lack of recent postings.  So much going on!

The big news is that I’ve quit National Youth Choirs of GB! We won’t say too much, let’s settle for “artistic differences”. You’d have thought that they would welcome the odd suggestion for the summer programme (DUH! - it’s called enthusiasm!)

I’d only been singing with them half of my life by the way.

I’m now very much on the prowl for other opportunities. Anyone need a talented eleven year old SOPRANO?

On a similar NOTE, have just started at Archbishop Alderwood’s School. My mum specially wanted me to say a big thankyou to Head Teacher, Mr Lyons, who’s been incredibly supportive – even dropping into lessons to check I’m settling in. Sweet! He’s also the first Head I’ve met to appreciate why I simply CANNOT play contact/team sports. (Advice from our insurers btw - they involve shouting so present big pinkie risk to my VOCAL CORDS!).

And finally, please stop by my website to catch up on my latest recordings. I am sure you’ll love listening to Bach’s Jauchzet Gott in allen landen.

Also, Dad – if you’re reading this, have you got a new number? I’d love to hear from you (you old toe-rag).

R v Sieger short story image 6

5

_______________

 

EXTRACT FROM SCHOOL REPORT: 03.04.14


SCHOOL REPORT CARD

Student: Jonty Sieger

Year 7

Music

Teacher: Iain Anderson

Jonty possesses the voice of an angel and has superb understanding of music theory. Considering his gifts, he is extremely modest and an absolute pleasure to have around.

Although he’s been with us only a few weeks, I can safely say it’s a privilege to teach Jonty. I am sure that many musical opportunities will present themselves for Jonty at Archbishop Alderwood’s, not least next term.

6

_______________

 

from: Archbishop Alderwood’s School
to: ALL PARENTS
date: 3 April 2014 11:12
subject: IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM MR LYONS

Replies to this email are not monitored

Dear Parents,

I am delighted to announce that following the intensive building programme on the western perimeter of the school, the Duchess of Cambridge will be visiting Archbishop Alderwood’s to open our brand new gymnasium next term. Further details about this highly prestigious event, including how pupils will become involved, will follow shortly.

Please find attached:

  • Newsletter - please note the dates on page 3 for the forthcoming term.
  • Sports Day 2014 - from our PE department: response from Parents required.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all an enjoyable Easter. We return on Tuesday 22nd April.

Kind regards,

Robert Lyons

Head Teacher

7

_______________

 

EXTRACT FROM TELEPHONE TRANSCRIPT: MS H SIEGER AND MRS H HINES: 07.04.14

  1. won’t ever be going there again, bloody imbeciles! How these people ever expect to run a
  2. successful restaurant is beyond me!
  3. HELEN SIEGER: Are you recording this?
  4. SALLY HINES: Of course.
  5. HELEN SIEGER: Why?
  6. SALLY HINES: You know why --
  7. HELEN SIEGER: It’s not [inaudible] --
  8. SALLY HINES: We’ve been through this a million times --
  9. HELEN SIEGER: Not respectful to me, mum --
  10. SALLY HINES: I’m not [inaudible] right now. What were you phoning about?
  11. HELEN SIEGER: Kate Middleton is visiting the school. Opening a gym or something --
  12. SALLY HINES: Kate who?
  13. HELEN SIEGER: The Duchess of Cambridge.
  14. SALLY HINES: Lovely.
  15. HELEN SIEGER: I’m going to get Jonty to sing for her.
  16. SALLY HINES: Make sure I get a decent seat this time.
  17. HELEN SIEGER: We’re [inaudible] in any case. D’you think it’s the right thing to do?
  18. SALLY HINES: What?
  19. HELEN SIEGER: Arrange it with the school?
  20. SALLY HINES: Of course, why not?
  21. HELEN SIEGER: The Beasley woman said I was too demanding. I do wonder sometimes.
  22. SALLY HINES: Oh not that idiot! Aled Jones did a private recital for Princess Diana, didn’t he?
  23. HELEN SIEGER: Probably.
  24. SALLY HINES: And Pope Paul. And the Queen I think.
  25. HELEN SIEGER: Really?
  26. SALLY HINES: So it’s not exactly “demanding” to request an audience with the Duchess of

8

_______________

 

  1. Kent--
  2. HELEN SIEGER: Cambridge --
  3. SALLY HINES: Whatever.
  4. HELEN SIEGER: The school’s said the pupils will be doing something special. And the music
  5. teacher dropped a whopping hint about next term. I’m half expecting the Head to call me.
  6. SALLY HINES: And he sang at Bob Geldoff’s wedding. The year you nearly --
  7. HELEN SIEGER: We’ve moved on from Aled Jones, mum. I’m trying to talk about Jonty.
  8. SALLY HINES: I expect he’s rehearsing before school --
  9. HELEN SIEGER: He does three hours every evening.
  10. SALLY HINES: Not enough. That was your downfall --
  11. HELEN SIEGER: I have to accompany [inaudible]gets tired at school --
  12. SALLY HINES: If you’d practised like --
  13. HELEN SIEGER: Not Young Musician of the Year! --
  14. SALLY HINES: Yes! You’d have --
  15. HELEN SIEGER: Can we talk about Jonty? --
  16. SALLY HINES: I can’t believe Brind won it.
  17. HELEN SIEGER: Still going on about 1986!
  18. SALLY HINES: You were so much more talented.
  19. HELEN SIEGER: And you said that to his mother. Look, I’ve got to be --
  20. SALLY HINES: Always rushing off –
  21. HELEN SIEGER: I have to collect him –
  22. SALLY HINES: Leaving me to pick up the pieces.
  23. HELEN SIEGER: What pieces?
  24. SALLY HINES: It doesn’t matter – really it doesn’t.
  25. HELEN SIEGER: We’ll speak soon.
  26. SALLY HINES: Whatever, Helen – [inaudible].
  27. THE TELEPHONE CALL FINISHES.

9

_______________

 

www.highbarnetadvertiser.com

30.04.14

News

Local boy to sing for Duchess

By Matt Dobson

A BARNET boy aged 10 is to give a personal singing recital for the Duchess of Cambridge when she visits his school next month. Jonty Sieger will perform a selection of his favourite arias, many of which can be purchased through his own website.

Jonty's mother, Helen Sieger, is a concert pianist and professional keyboard and singing tutor. She began voice coaching with Jonty when he was just 2 years old. By the age of 7 he'd already passed all 8 grades of his singing exams, most of these with distinction.

Jonty told us that for the last fortnight, he has been up at 5.30am every morning practising, in readiness for the royal visit to Alderwood's School.

"I just can't wait to perform for Kate as she is someone I've always admired," said Jonty. "My dream is to become a virtuoso when I’m older." With performances like this under his belt, he already seems well on his way to making that dream become a reality!

10

_______________

 

EXTRACT FROM UNDATED HANDWRITTEN DOCUMENT BY MS H SIEGER (TYPED FOR EASE OF READING)

It is four fourteen in the morning and my head is spinning, have tried meditation and mindfulness (my mind is too full for mindfulness). Just need to get it out of my head and onto paper – Fiona says she does this when she gets stressed. It's starting to unravel and I'm beginning to think this school is the same as all the others. I thought it was a formality. I didn't bother troubling Mr Lyons directly, why does he need to be involved with the minor details I thought. So I telephoned Beverly his secretary and mentioned that we'd need the Bechstein moved to the gym (for the big event). So after I'd spelt Bechstein and explained that it's actually the piano in the staffroom she said could you remind me which event you're talking about (bit of an airhead!). Jonty singing for the Duches of Cambridge, we'll need a piano, he couldn't do this a capella, I replied, not unreasonably, before telling her it's two words and spelt a capella. The secretary said it sounded "super" and that she'd come back to me but was "sure it wouldn't be a problem". She did come back to me (the same day to be fair) and said actually it was "a bit of a problem", the Bechstein being rather heavy and not possible to move to the new gym (apparently at opposite ends of the school). "Not a problem at all," I said – please tell Mr Lyons I'm on good terms with a company that will deliver a 1936 Steinway model O to the gym and collect it the very same evening. She sounded a bit surprised by this and asked whether that was a model O as in the letter O and then said she would speak to Mr Lyons tomorrow. I suggested she might want a word with him now as this was somewhat important but she explained she had childcare responsibilities. Next morning she called to say Mr Lyons wanted to thank me for thinking of the school but didn’t consider it necessary for me to go to the trouble and expense of hiring a Steinway piano. It's really no trouble I said, and as to the expense he needn't worry as my ex-husband was in banking and Fiona Shackleton earned every penny of her fee when it came to the divorce settlement. The secretary said she'd rather got the impression that Mr Lyons hadn't known anything about Jonty singing for the Duchess of Cambridge. He'd said something about this being a short visit with no opportunities for passing entertainment. I explained as patiently as I could that she'd be more than happy to hear anyone of the calibre of Jonty singing, and that a story in the local press had already led to interest from the BBC in an item for the Breakfast Show (which would be fabulous publicity for the school). Beverly's shorthand was clearly failing her at this point as she asked me to confirm the spelling of Shackleton so I suggested that Mr Lyons might want to cut out the middleman and call me on my mobile. That was 37 hours ago and I still haven't heard from him.

11

_______________

 

Emails sent and received by Ms H Sieger: 06.05.14 – 09.05.14

from: Helen Sieger <Helen.Sieger99@gmail.com>
to: Robert Lyons <rlyons@ArchbishopAlderwood.barnet.sch.uk>
date: 6 May 2014 08:02
subject: Performance at Bishop Alderwood’s

Dear Robert

I do hope you had a restful bank holiday. I thought it might be useful for me to send a brief email explaining my thinking about Jonty singing at Bishop Alderwood’s on 19th May. I fear that there may have been some crossed wires last week as everything was going through your secretary (who was, I have to say, most helpful and polite). I got the impression from Beverly that you might have preferred a fuller dialogue about these plans at an earlier stage and if that’s the case I must apologise. My intention in phoning the school was to consult over the arrangements rather than to present you with any kind of fait accompli.

Perhaps it would help if I explained the sort of programme I had in mind. I was thinking that even though we are talking about the Duchess of Cambridge, the tone should be uplifting rather than overly formal, so I would suggest the following arias:

  • Ave Maria – Charles Gounod
  • Because – Guy d'Hardelot
  • O Promise Me – Reginald De Koven
  • The Lord's Prayer – Melotte
  • L'Amero Saro Costante – Mozart

The Mozart works best with a string quartet – but I wouldn’t wish to complicate things at this stage.

As I think I said to your secretary, I can provide the piano and do all the accompaniment myself, so you’d just need to arrange a seat for Kate. Or a throne perhaps!

Best regards

Helen

12

_______________

 

from: Helen Sieger <Helen.Sieger99@gmail.com>
to: Robert Lyons <rlyons@ArchbishopAlderwood.barnet.sch.uk>
date: 7 May 2014 11:13
subject: Performance at Bishop Alderwood’s

Dear Robert

You haven’t let me know what you think about the proposed programme.

Helen

from: Robert Lyons  <rlyons@ArchbishopAlderwood.barnet.sch.uk>
to: Helen Sieger<Helen.Sieger99@gmail.com>
date: 7 May 2014 18:56
subject: Performance at Bishop Alderwood’s

Dear Helen

Thank you so much for your helpful email. I’ll call you on your mobile but please bear with me as I’m rather snowed under.

Regards

Robert

from: Helen Sieger <Helen.Sieger99@gmail.com>
to: Robert Lyons <rlyons@ArchbishopAlderwood.barnet.sch.uk>
date: 7 May 2014 18:58
subject: Performance at Bishop Alderwood’s

Dear Robert

That would be terrific. Do visit Jonty’s website in the meantime: www.jontysieger.com

Helen

13

_______________

 

from: Helen Sieger <Helen.Sieger99@gmail.com>
to: Fiona Crossley <FRCrossokay@Yahoo.co.uk>
date: 8 May 2014 16:35
subject: FW: The saga comes to an end

Dear Fiona

Am emailing from the wilderness formerly known as our back garden. Had a bit of a contretemps with Boris the gardener and he’s refusing to turn up. I can’t be bothered pandering to these childish people, so am resigned to doing the weeding myself. (Only one problem - Gerard took all our gardening equipment with him!)

Actually, gardening might help with the stress I’ve been under. You’ll recall my emailing about the problems with Jonty’s schools (I didn’t hear back btw so am sending again in case you missed it?), well things have taken a definite shift southwards. Mr Lyons has done a complete U-turn vis-à-vis providing opportunities for Jonty. The perfect situation arose with a royal visit to Alderwood’s, so I was my usual pro-active self in moving things forward.

It all came to a head today (literally, with the Head phoning me). He said rather tetchily that I might have consulted on these arrangements. I said this was exactly why I’d called his secretary. He asked why opera arias would be appropriate at the opening of a new sporting facility? I tried to ignore his cheap sarcasm and in my most bright and breezy voice suggested that we might all benefit from taking a day to reflect on the matter. I said I’d stop by after school to discuss things further.

He then dropped a bit of a bombshell. He said he didn’t need more time as he’d already discussed the matter at length with his deputy head and two senior teachers. Not sure quite where this leaves the arrangement, so think I’ll pop in to clarify very soon.

I would really value a girl’s night out – we haven’t done that in ages! My mother is quite bonkers as you know (now taping every conversation we have in case I claim to have said anything I didn’t.) Oh and Gerard seems to be living in the South of France with a new family. He says it’s all “somewhat awkward” and would prefer no contact with Jonty for the time being. Charming!

Bestest

Helen

14

_______________

 

from: Helen Sieger <Helen.Sieger99@gmail.com>
to: Robert Lyons  <rlyons@ArchbishopAlderwood.barnet.sch.uk>
date: 9 May 2014 06:16
subject: Performance at Bishop Alderwood’s

Dear Robert

Further to our recent conversation which was most helpful in enabling me to understand your position, I would very much appreciate the opportunity to come in for a meeting. I always feel that a face to face chat is so much more helpful than navigating the perils of email and telephone.

Best regards

Helen

from: Helen Sieger <Helen.Sieger99@gmail.com>
to: Robert Lyons  <rlyons@ArchbishopAlderwood.barnet.sch.uk>
date: 9 May 2014 07:02
subject: Performance at Bishop Alderwood’s

I should perhaps add that I could rearrange things and attend a meeting at any time today.

Best regards

Helen

from: Helen Sieger <Helen.Sieger99@gmail.com>
to: Robert Lyons  <rlyons@ArchbishopAlderwood.barnet.sch.uk>
date: 9 May 2014 17:16
subject: Performance at Bishop Alderwood’s

Dear Robert

It has clearly been difficult for you to find time to meet with me today. I was very much hoping to resolve this matter more than a week ahead of the royal visit, but I do have some availability next week. Would it be easier for you to call me on my mobile to arrange?

Helen

15

_______________

 

Internet receipt for purchases from Garden Tamers Inc made by Ms H Sieger: 08.05.14

Delivery purchases                                                              8 May 2014

Delivery address –confirmed
Helen Sieger
Derry Towers,
Monken Hadley,
Barnet,
Hertfordshire
United Kingdom

Purchase:Transaction ID: 8N6985257X4563828

Seller
Garden Tamers Inc.

Note to seller
You haven't included a note.

Dispatch details
The seller hasn’t provided any dispatch details yet.

Description

Unit price

Qty

Amount

EasyLifting truck - 6 Cubic Ft FF

SharpSaw Pruning Saw - 13 in

Rugged-land Rake - 36 in

Garden Power-Mower

$298.00 USD

$64.60 USD

$75.00 USD

$601.80 USD

1

1

1

1

$298.00 USD

$64.60 USD

$75.00 USD

$601.80 USD

Postage and packaging

$0.00 USD

Insurance - not offered

----

Total

$1039.40 USD

Payment

$1039.40 USD

This charge will appear on your credit card statement as "PAYPAL *GARDEN TAMERS"
Payment sent to sales@gardentamers.com

From amount

£636.50 GBP

To amount

$1039.40 USD

Exchange rate: 1 British Pound = 1.63303 US Dollars

16

_______________

 

Transcript of voicemail left by Mr R Lyons on Ms H Sieger’s mobile messaging system: 10.05.14

  1. ROBERT LYONS: Helen, it’s Robert from Archbishop Alderwood’s. Just clearing my
  2. desk on a Saturday so thought I’d give you a ring, err, Helen. Though not sure we have
  3. too much to discuss at this point. I believe we’ve mentioned that the Duchess’s visit will
  4. be very brief – Kensington Palace is allowing just 15 to 20 minutes. So you’ll appreciate
  5. there really won’t be time for Jonty to provide musical entertainment – though lovely,
  6. I’m sure, that would have been from the programme you suggested. What might be
  7. useful is for my secretary to contact you to arrange a meeting with Mr Anderson to
  8. discuss Jonty’s input into the summer concert – this year the 19th June, I think. A lot of
  9. the Arias you mentioned would work very well on that occasion, and we could certainly
  10. arrange for Jonty to have more time than is usually allotted to soloists. Anyway, Beverly
  11. will be in touch. I hope you’re having a good weekend and enjoying the sunshine. Many
  12. thanks.

17

_______________

 

Clinical notes

Mr J Bartholomew

Mrs Helen Sieger D.O.B. 15.08.74

Address: Derry Towers, Monken Hadley, Barnet, Hertfordshire

Referral date: 10.05.14  Session date: 12.05.14  Session time: 08.40–09.30

Mrs Sieger had telephoned the office to book an appointment at short notice, as “an urgent self referral”. Mrs Sieger was offered a recently freed time slot which she gratefully accepted.

Mrs Sieger was an attractive 39 year old Caucasian of medium height, slim build, with wavy brown hair and sallow complexion. She was divorced and had one son, Jonty, aged ten. She was extremely well dressed, presenting as an articulate and well-educated character of a nervous and volatile disposition. The psychotherapeutic encounter was punctuated with her frequent sighs. Mrs Sieger spoke mostly in a measured manner, but on occasion her voice became constricted by anger.

Mrs Sieger complained that in recent weeks her sleep patterns had been hugely variable: some nights she did not sleep at all. She was preoccupied by two separate strands within her current narrative. The first was the refusal of her son’s school to permit him to perform a sequence of arias before the Duchess of Cambridge the following week. This refusal had taken Mrs Sieger by surprise and she spoke about “contacting a barrister” to explore “the human rights angles”. Mrs Sieger seemed incapable of accepting the school’s final adjudication on this matter remaining convinced that her reaction was both proportionate and rational. Having said this, Mrs Sieger did venture that following “Mr Lyons’ attempts to shovel me across to another teacher”, her rage might boil over causing “loss of control”. She declined to speculate as to how this might manifest itself.

The other matter troubling Mrs Sieger was the rapid growth of the grass and hedgerows at her home in Monken Hadley. She talked of a “veritable wilderness” since the departure of her most recent gardener. They had had an ill tempered dispute over his use of certain pesticides which Mrs Sieger believed harmful to her son’s singing voice. When offered the intervention that the untamed growth of her garden might, for her, be symbolic of a perceived lack of control over her own life, Mrs Sieger smiled broadly and nodded several times.

Mrs Sieger said she found the session helpful and made a further appointment.

Mrs Helen Sieger D.O.B. 15.08.74

Address: Derry Towers, Monken Hadley, Barnet, Hertfordshire

Referral date: 10.05.14 Session date: 19.05.14 Session time: 08.40–09.30

Mrs Sieger did not attend the session, cancel in advance, or explain her absence afterwards. An invoice was duly dispatched to her home address.

18

_______________

 

from: Beverly Baxter <bbaxter@ArchbishopAlderwood.barnet.sch.uk>
to: Helen Sieger<Helen.Sieger99@gmail.com>
date: 13 May 2014 11.08
subject: Meeting

Dear Ms Sieger,

Mr Lyons has asked me to arrange a meeting with Mr Anderson to discuss Jonty’s part in the summer concert. Would you be able to attend at 5 pm this Monday 19th May?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Beverly Baxter

Secretary

19

_______________

 

Extract from logbook of PC G Smith, Metropolitan Police: 19.05.14

  1. Whilst on duty with PC Abraham (Mon 19th May) on a 1000-1800 hrs we received a call to attend Bishop Alderwood’s school at 1714 in the aftermath of an incident. We understood that one or more persons had been forcibly injured. We were aware of a visit to the school that day of the Duchess of Cambridge. However, this visit had been earlier and was we understood unrelated.
  2. PC Abraham and myself were the first officers to arrive at the school, although within a few minutes we had been joined by another ten or twelve officers.
  3. We initially attended the school staffroom where a small number of teachers were gathered in a state of some confusion. One teacher took us to a room within the same block where she said a teacher had been meeting a parent. The room was empty but there were distressed shouts from further down the corridor.
  4. We arrived at the Head Teacher’s office where a MR ANDERSON was attempting to stem the flow of blood from a serious wound in the arm of an injured man in a semi-recumbent position on a soft chair. The injured man appeared to be in danger of passing out. PC Abraham said, “That man needs an ambulance” and we were assured that one had been called and was en-route. We were told that the injured person was the Head Teacher Mr ROBERT LYONS. MR ANDERSON was shouting that HELEN SIEGER had run off. We were informed that HELEN SIEGER, a parent, had come in for a meeting and without provocation had attacked the HEAD TEACHER with a sharp weapon. I requested further background information.
  5. MR ANDERSON strongly suggested that we needed to find MS SIEGER before she attacked somebody else. At this point another individual shouted that MS SIEGER had been seen entering the new gymnasium. I was informed that all children had gone home over half an hour before.
  6. We made our way to the gymnasium on the far side of the site. We were joined by a number of other officers who had just arrived. When we entered the gymnasium 3-4 minutes later, two police officers were restraining a lady who was apparently in a state of some distress. I noticed an implement on the floor of the gymnasium near to the lady. Upon further examination, this was identified as a garden pruning saw.
  7. The lady, MS HELEN SIEGER, was shouting unrelated things, most of which I do not now recall. I believe that she said that she “only picked the stuff up from the post office on my way”. She also said that “twenty minutes was plenty of time for a few arrears”. By now MS SIEGER was wearing handcuffs and, no longer struggling, was led away to a police van.
  8. Having ascertained that there were no other injured parties and that the situation was now under control and being handled by others, I returned to the station where I recorded this log and completed my shift.

20

_______________

 

Tonybridge Medical Practice, Tonybridge Way, Barnet EN5 15RD

The Governors
Archbishop Alderwoods School
Eshelby Road
Barnet EN5 14DE

4th October 2014

Dear Sirs,

I write to inform you at the behest of Mr Robert Lyons. As you know, Mr Lyons suffers from Type 2 Diabetes. Following the incident at his school in May, this contributed to the need for an amputation to be performed on the lower part of his left arm. Although Mr Lyons has made an excellent physical recovery from this operation, he continues to suffer from nightmares and is being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder through CBT.

It is my professional opinion that Mr Lyons will not be fit to return to his demanding role as Head Teacher until at least the new year. However, I am continuing to monitor the situation closely.

In my view, a successful prosecution of his attacker may assist his reparative process. I understand that the trial is likely to commence later this year.

Yours sincerely,

R v Sieger short story image 7

Dr R. Hussein

21

_______________

 

Ms Helen Sieger
Psychiatric Assessment by Dr.
Dimitrios J Wolfson.
11 October 2014

Summary of conclusions:

  1. This report was commissioned to provide an opinion as to whether Ms Sieger has Capacity to plead and take part in her forthcoming criminal trial.
  2. It has taken into account Ms Sieger’s conduct since she was granted bail on 26.05.14. Ms Sieger has cooperated with medical practitioners and has been taking anti-depressants (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)). She has continued to care for her son Jonty, including overseeing his transfer to a comprehensive school in June.
  3. As part of the assessment, Ms Sieger consented to a thorough physical examination being conducted.
  4. Ms Sieger is in robust physical health and has no physical disorder which would have any bearing on her ability to plead or understand her trial.
  5. Ms Sieger suffers from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder which contributes to her over-developed sense of entitlement and her expectation of receiving special treatment.
  6. Ms Sieger was tested under the Beck Depression Inventory and her BDI score indicated a moderate depression.
  7. Ms Sieger displayed a full understanding of the charges which she faces. She has taken part in two conferences with her legal team. She understands the adversarial nature of criminal trials.
  8. Separately, Mrs Sieger is the subject of a non-molestation order prohibiting further contact with her ex-husband.
  9. Ms Sieger has shown interest in the recovery and well being of Mr Robert Lyons and expresses an interest in writing to him. Her legal team is advising on this.
  10. Ms Sieger has shown empathy for her son Jonty, who has been deeply affected by the events of this year. She understands his view that music has been the cause of the problems experienced by his family and former school. She regrets his decision to give up singing.
  11. In my opinion, Ms Sieger has mental capacity to plead and take part in her criminal trial. The full Psychiatric Report will follow.

22

_______________

 

THE END

back to top

James Woolf 's Biography

James Woolf

Photo by Ruby Woolf

James has been writing short stories for around three years. 'Mr and Mrs Clark and Blanche' will be published by Ambit magazine in January 2017. 'The Wondwossi Hotel Bar' was awarded second prize in the Greenacre Writers/Finchley Literary Festival short story competition 2016 and is available here. 'R V Sieger – additional documents disclosed by the Crown Prosecution Service' was highly commended in the London Short Story Prize and published by Spread the Word/Kingston University press in 2016.

Prior to this, James's plays have been produced in various off-West End venues including The King's Head Theatre, the Arcola and the Theatre Royal Margate. In addition, two of his radio plays have been broadcast on Radio 4 and LBC, including 'Kerton’s Story' with Bill Nighy, Lesley Sharp and Stephen Moore. He also writes adverts and has worked as a writer in residence in a prison.

James lives in London with his partner and two daughters.

Below are links to James's website and social media accounts:

back to top

 

How I Wrote & Published a Short Story

A Bulky File Filled With Documents

The genesis for this story, I recently realised, goes back a few years to when I was working for the Bar Council dealing with complaints against barristers. I picked up a bulky file running to several hundred pages, filled with letters, court documents, skeleton arguments, transcripts and handwritten notes. It concerned a man who, as it transpired, had been wrongly convicted of a very unpleasant sexual crime. He’d served a couple of terrifying years in prison before his conviction was overturned and he was partially laying the blame for the miscarriage of justice at the door of the QC who represented him at the original hearing. The file read like an incredible novel with heart rending twists. And yet, unlike a novel, the story was not told. Rather it emerged, or had to be pieced together, from those original documents.

The Longest Most Forgettable Title

When I wrote 'R v Sieger', I wasn’t thinking in any way about this file. But somehow, unconsciously, my intentions were connected to the experience I’d had when reading it. I wanted the reader to discover a story in what looks like an uninteresting bundle of court documents. I even gave my story the longest, most forgettable and un-story like title I could think of: 'R v Sieger – additional documents disclosed by the Crown Prosecution Service'. Yet the title is also probably the right one, as it is how the bundle would be referred to in a legal setting.

Beneath the Skin of People Who Mystify Me

I wrote the story over five days at the beginning of June 2014 when I was gifted with a concentrated period to do some writing. I like to try and get beneath the skin of people who at first mystify me and was taken with the idea of depicting a parent who is driven, if not obsessed, by their child achieving success and fame. We are often presented with 'child prodigies' within the media, but to me the story of the parents makes for the more compelling material. I’d been thinking about the best way of telling such a story when I hit upon doing it as a bundle of court documents. As the story is very much about the disintegration of its protagonist, for it to be formed of fragments that must be pieced together felt altogether appropriate. Our legal system requires the prosecuting body to show all the documents which it intends to use as evidence to the defence team in advance of the trial. So the framing device for my story is a realistic one. This is the sort of document that criminal lawyers pick up every day of the week.

The Look and Taste of Authenticity

It was as important to me for every document in the bundle to look and taste authentic as it was to write a gripping narrative with fully realised three dimensional characters. For example, there is an internet invoice for gardening equipment purchased from a company in the USA. I made sure that I was using the correct dollar to sterling conversion rate for the invoice date – made easier as I was writing the story only a month after my character had made her purchase. For the psychiatric report, my wife, who is a therapist, was able to tell me about the Beck Depression Inventory. I also spent hours viewing the online archive comprised over 25,000 documents relating to the Hillsborough tragedy, which is of course currently the subject of further court proceedings. The story I was telling bore no similarities to the tragic events of 1989; I was simply researching the layout of various documents I planned to include, although it’s hard not to get emotionally caught up in the Hillsborough narrative.

Professional Input

As I was writing the story, I had in mind the Kingston International competition which was to be judged by Hilary Mantel, the deadline of which was fast approaching. Having finished my draft, I started looking for a professional reader specialising in fiction and was recommended the services of another Hilary, Hilary Johnson, who has her own authors’ advisory service. I sent her the story on 9 June, explaining that there was some urgency and received a report back on 13 June. I thought that my story was a bit unusual but was nervous as to how a professional reader would respond. The first two sentences of Hilary’s email quickly put my mind at rest.

“Dear James, here is the report on your story. I hope you think the exercise has been worthwhile, because to me this looks like a total paean of praise.”

The report begins as follows.

“This is a first-class piece of writing which works in every aspect. The characterisation is excellent throughout, the language and register being spot-on for each individual voice. Structurally, the story is excellent too. You present us with an opening which is so realistic that we cannot believe the subsequent papers are not the real thing. Your attention to detail in this respect is superb. The index whets our appetite. We really want to know the reason for the trial. By making the central protagonist/antagonist, Helen, articulate, witty and ostensibly reasonable, you keep us doubting our suspicions about her until well into the plot. Those of us who are parents will probably recognise, albeit in grossly exaggerated form, our own striving for our children’s every opportunity to shine. Thus, we can evince a shred of sympathy for Helen which makes her a three-dimensional character.”

My elation at reading this was fairly short lived as the Kingston International competition evidently didn’t rate it so highly! 'R v Sieger' didn’t make the long list, which I think contained 25 stories.

Do it like Emily Bronte

After sending the story to Hilary Johnson, I had barely changed a word of the draft and still haven’t over a year later. It’s one of a handful of stories that I feel that I’ve pretty much got right at the first attempt. I still have the notes for the story made when I was writing it. They include two chronological structures of events. It felt vital that the story existed within its own realistic time frame, with bank holidays and school vacations all impacting on the main character’s state of mind. Email timings are also important, with some written only minutes apart. I remembered how Emily Bronte had meticulously planned Wuthering Heights, to the extent that any event can be placed to within a few days, even though the novel spans decades and contains few dates. I was inspired by her approach and my careful planning gave my story a solid foundation.

A Very English Story

I heard about Spread the Word’s London Short Story Prize, through a Tweet, a few days before its deadline of 1 September 2015. I was starting to notice that my story fared better with UK judges. It had been long listed twice from five competition entries in the UK. Overseas, it had achieved nothing in four outings. Perhaps 'R v Sieger' is in some ways a very English story, or at least its reference to the CPS as well as other terminology peculiar to our legal system (such as mental capacity) could present a barrier to overseas readers. With the above in mind, and imagining that it might work to its advantage that it takes place within the borough of Barnet, I entered 'R v Sieger'.

Only First Prize Will Do

On the 24 September I got a phone call from Spread the Word to say that my story was on a long list of 12. I told myself that only an outright win would be of any use, particularly as there was only prize money for the winner. I now realise how wrong I was in this assessment.

A couple of weeks later I learned that I was one of two highly commended writers behind the outright winner. Already there are good things happening. Spread the Word are hugely active on social media and are going to publish my story in a volume in the spring of 2016. The story was discussed for a few minutes by judges John McGregor and Kevin Barry in a special event after the awards ceremony on 4 November. The day after that I received my written feedback from the three judges (the third was literary agent Elise Dilsworth). The comments of all three are hugely gratifying and could be of value to me on a website or when making submissions to agents or publishers.

Kevin Barry’s comments are quoted below.

“At first glance, this is a story that suggests tricksiness, with its scattershot collection of documents, reports, lists, texts, mails. But very quickly we become aware that we’re in the hands of a real storyteller, and the narrative is expertly shaded in and teased through. I thought this story was genuinely funny – in a way that induced large stomach heaving honks of laughter – but beneath the humour there was a freight of real sadness, or even darkness, and it was this that elevated the work above its own constraints. I thought the timing, especially, was fabulous.”

Lessons Learned

So what have I learned from the process of writing this story and submitting it to competitions? If I could distil just four lessons they would be as follows:

  • Be true to your idea even if it feels strange or different at the time you’re writing it
  • Have faith in what you’ve written, particularly if you have the endorsement of an experienced professional. Keep submitting the story – and don’t change it unless you really believe you should
  • Think carefully about where to submit your stories. A very English story might not cut the mustard in an overseas competition
  • Winning isn’t everything – there are plenty of benefits to being highly commended or short listed

James Woolf , December 2015

back to top

Big Thanks To James

I'd like to offer my thanks to James for writing such a useful and informative post.

If you have similar experiences and would like to write a post for my blog, please read my submission guidelines.

How to Write a Short Story book ad

back to top

Leave your comments

Please use the form below to leave your comments. All comments will be reviewed so won't appear on the page instantly. I will not share your details with anyone else. Most recent comments appear at the bottom of the page, oldest at the top.

Your Details:

Please prove you're a human by entering the security code in the box below: 4840

Comments:

Your comments:

Kerry B
Nice work, Chris!

I met James at this event and have read his full story. Fully deserves to get this recognition.

Hope you’re well!

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Kerry :-)

Cosima A
Dear Chris, thank you for your interesting message about James Woolf's achievement with his intricate and unusual story. I have read the excerpts which you have published on your site and at first glance the story does not seem very appetising, but when read again it falls into place. Yes, as a mother of a very talented child, (all grown up now, of course) I recognised the problem.

I love receiving your messages. It makes me feel part of a writing circle, your circle, as I have nothing like that behind me. In fact, those close to me (apart from my son who lives in New York) are scornful of my attempts, so now I do not say anything about it, and write virtually in secret. But it does mean that I do not have much time to do so, as everything else takes precedence. I have not written one word so far for your competition but I shall certainly enter again. Thank you again for giving my story the status of Special Mention in last year's competition. That was a thrill.

I wish you a very Happy Christmas and a much deserved successful New Year ahead of you.

Chris Fielden
Hi Cosima, I’m glad you enjoy the emails. I’m hoping to do them more frequently next year, time allowing.

Sorry to hear people close to you are scornful of your writing – that’s not very supportive. I hope it doesn’t put you off.

I’ll look forward to reading your next story :-)

I hope you have a lovely Christmas and New Year.

Sheila C
James's story was hilarious. In fact I don't know how reading more of it would have made it any more enjoyable. That mother is spot on!

James W
Hi Sheila. Thanks so much for your comments. It's always great when somebody finds something you have written funny! In fact, the whole story is now on the website, so you have read it all. Best wishes, James