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Wednesday, 17 February 2010

"She was dead when I got there!"

"Dead when I got there" - this great phrase was coined by the Romsey boys during a McDonald's therapy visit in 2008. It was inspired by the shocking murder of model Sally Anne Bowman in 2005, in which she was stabbed 7 times as she was raped. So far, so not good. But hilarity ensues when we come to Mark Dixie's defence: Dixie, who was eventually convicted of her murder (with a minimum term of 34 years, among the longest ever imposed upon a single murderer), sought to rely on the previously unknown (and unnamed) “dead when I got there!” defence.

Picture the scene: you have been called as solicitor for the defence.  It's the early hours of the morning, and you've just arrived at the police station to attempt to piece a defence together for this man.  You talk to him, seeking something to work with, an alibi, anything.  It emerges his defence is basically “I came across her dead body and, yeah, I raped her, I'm not ashamed to admit it. But she was dead when I got there, honest!  Not that I killed her.”  You put your head in your hands and weep.

To quote a report of the trial, “[Dixie] admits that he had sex with her corpse but denies killing her. Mark Dixie says he was high and drunk when he found Sally Anne Bowman’s body and took 'advantage of the situation', the prosecutor said today at the Old Bailey, adding, 'That, astonishingly, is his defence.'”  Even the CPS think this defence is fucking hilarious!  I don't know if I'm just hopelessly na├»ve, but taking advantage of a situation is helping yourself to a mate's drink while he's nipped to the loo, or eating too much at a free buffet.   Raping a dead body, and then giving that as your defence to a murder charge, is so far past the line of “taking advantage of the situation”.

Nevertheless, this brutal crime has given rise to a brilliantly useful phrase.  If your situation is so bad that “I raped her dead body” is the best defence you can possibly come up with, you might as well just throw your hands in the air and say "dead when I got there!". It sums it up perfectly.

For example, Uncle Desh applied the phrase to the Jill Dando case, saying "anyone seen Barry George's story? He claims he couldn't have killed Jill Dando because he was stalking another women at the time. His excuse is up there with 'dead when i got there!'" The phrase also emerged on Robinson College Law Revision Week during a "upa-da-poopa" drinking game, rather bizarrely, where it was used for the 'skip two people' rule (see the video at 2:45).

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