I’m sitting at home working, minding my business, and the mobile rings. It’s DC Lyle from Wandsworth police station. He says that my name was given to Crimestoppers anonymously as a potential witness to the ‘Putney Pusher’ incident. Remember that nutter who barged a woman into the path of a bus on Putney Bridge while out for his morning jog? Well, six months on and they still haven’t found him — and DC Lyle wants to meet.
I say I couldn’t possibly help as I wasn’t a witness. DC Lyle says he still needs to meet. I reaffirm there really was no point, I could be of no value; I wasn’t there. DC Lyle insists, and in doing so mentions that he has my email address, and that he tried to see me at my office yesterday (I wasn’t in). What? Somebody gave the police my office address, email address and phone number. Who? Feeling invaded and indignant, I tell DC Lyle he could come at 10 a.m. the next day. I put the phone down, and only then the penny dropped. I was a suspect.
I must know. Who was the person who put my name forward? They obviously know me, but not well enough to call me first and let me know they were going to dob me in. Or perhaps they do know me well and have it in for me. That’s for another day; I have to clear my name, and reclaim ownership of my identity.
I frantically search for the video footage of the incident online. The images are grainy. Squint the eyes and even I can see some resemblance. I look at the Pusher’s jogging gear. Not premium, I might be OK. He’s got fat calves. Result. Mine are sculpted (my best feature). The Pusher’s got pronounced moobs. Oh dear. I carry some permanent holiday weight, I admit it. All it would take is a bored jury and a half-decent prosecution barrister, and none of this would be beyond reasonable doubt.
I need an alibi, so I fire up the iCal to see what my movements were on 5 May. There is nothing in the diary. This is not going well. Then I remember a friend, who on seeing news of the Putney Pusher sent me a humorous WhatsApp message. I still have the transcript:
Him: ‘I see you’ve started jogging again.’
Me: ‘Yep. Was actually on my way to the bridge to find the woman and finish the job. Don’t tell anyone though I think there’s a manhunt.’ This is not looking good.
After a fitful night I wake early. 9.45 a.m. arrives. The door buzzer goes. It’s DC Lyle and his sidekick. Of course they’re early, sneaky bastards. Look relaxed, Joel. Keep yourself together. DC Lyle and DC Sidekick show me their badges. I show them how extremely nice and friendly I am. Once installed on my sofa (I didn’t offer tea) they hit me with it — I am indeed a suspect.
‘Someone put you forward as the person that did this, and we’re here to investigate whether you did. Where were you on the morning of 5 May between the hours of 7.30 and 8 a.m.?’
I have nothing. I live alone, work from home most days, no diary events, no witnesses as to my whereabouts. Sweats. ‘Wait,’ I say. ‘Almost every morning of the working week I go to Pret A Manger to have a coffee at or about the time of incident.’ But did I that day? Even if I did, what if it was a day when they gave me a coffee ‘on the house’ as they often did, me being a regular ’n’ all. There might not be credit card records. More sweats.
I get the computer. American Express login. Search for May 2017 statements. Double click. Get in: 5 May 2017 — Pret A Manger, £1.95.
I’m in the clear. DC Lyle peers over my shoulder at the screen. He’s satisfied I’m not the Putney Pusher. The Pret evidence is helpful, but he also says I’m taller than the real Pusher. Skinnier, too. I tell him that’s because I’ve been jogging a lot recently.