At 11:22 p.m. on January 7, 1999, Ms. Jane Webb called the Toronto police to report a suicide. At 11:34 a police car pulled up in front of her house, a small bungalow on a very quiet street, and two policemen got out of the car. Ms. Webb was waiting for them at the door, dressed in a warm coat to protect herself against the cold. She pointed to the house next door, on her right, and accompanied the policemen to the front door of this house.
To the policemen's surprise, the door was partly open. They entered the house and Ms. Webb directed the policemen to the study, which was down the corridor, on the right. The door of the study was also open, and they could see a man's body on the floor near the desk. They realized immediately that he was dead. There was a small round hole in his forehead, just above his right eye, and a gun lay on the floor next to his right hand.
The policemen looked around but did not touch anything. They then left the room and told Ms. Webb to follow them outside. One of the policemen told her that she was a very important witness and asked her to stay in the house until someone came to interview her. He then called the homicide division and gave them the address.
Inspector Coderre and a team of experts arrived fifteen minutes later. The investigation began at once and Inspector Coderre checked every room in the house before he was satisfied.
It was almost 2 a.m. when he finally rang the doorbell at Ms. Webb's home and asked to speak to her. She offered him a cup of coffee which he gratefully accepted. He sat down at the kitchen table and while the coffee was brewing, she told him what had happened.
"I was sitting in this very room, drinking a cup of cocoa like I do every night before I go to bed. Suddenly, the light came on in Mr. James's study and through the window I saw him enter the room and walk over to his desk. Look! You can see the study from here and you can see everything that is happening inside." Inspector Coderre stared out of the kitchen window and realized that she was absolutely right. The study was well lit and he could see his colleagues move around inside as they continued their investigation.
Ms. Webb continued with her story. "I saw Mr. James open a drawer of the desk and take out a gun. I was so shocked I didn't react at first. As I looked, I saw him point the gun at his head and pull the trigger."
She was obviously upset but she continued her account of the terrible event. "As you can imagine, I was in shock, but I realized that I had to do something, although I knew deep down that it was too late." "So what did you do?" asked the inspector. "I ran over to his house and I checked the front door. It was locked. I tried the back door. It too was locked. I went around the house and checked all the windows. They were all locked. So I took a stone and broke a basement window and climbed in. It was stupid under the circumstances, but I didn't want to break any of the big windows."
The inspector was very sympathetic and told her that it was very natural to not want to damage somebody's property. "We noticed the broken window. It was very small. You're lucky you didn't cut yourself as you climbed through it." Ms. Webb nodded in agreement and continued her story. "I was in this very dark basement, but since our houses are very similar I quickly found the light switch. Then I went up the stairs to the main floor. I rushed immediately to the study and I didn't hesitate. I opened the door, switched on the light and ran to the body to see if I could do anything for Mr. James. Of course, as you saw, there was nothing I could do for him. Then I left the house by the front door and came over here to call the police. I left the front door partly open so they could just walk in and see what had happened."
Now that she had finished her story, she began to tremble. "I'm sorry," she explained, "You see, he was more than a good neighbor to me. He was also my boss. I work at his company as his accountant, and I know there was a reason for his despair. The company was going bankrupt, and I feel responsible for his suicide because I was the one who gave him the bad news, just this morning, in fact."
The inspector looked at her but there was little sympathy in his eyes. He got up from his chair and headed towards the front door. As he was picking up his overcoat, he turned to her and said, in a very cold voice, "I think you will have to come down to police headquarters with me. There are a few small details that don't seem to make sense."
Why isn't Inspector Coderre satisfied with Ms. Webb's version of the event?