At the very end of North Drive, Great Yarmouth, opposite the entrance to the Haven Holiday Camp, is the North Denes Coastal Watch lookout hut. Painted orange and white, it hangs onto the edge of the pavement, before a stretch of dunes, a strip of beach and the North Sea. A mile out to sea are 30 giant turbines, making up the Scroby Sands Offshore Wind Farm. But these are not visible today. The area is cloaked in fog.
When the fog clears, when the stark beauty of the North Denes Special Protection Area is slowly revealed, nothing will be the same again for Yarmouth’s tight-knit Lativian community, or for Detective Inspector Barry Hayes. Lying by a clump of marram, only 50 yards from the lookout, is the body of a naked woman. An autopsy reveals that she was strangled, having suffered a gross sexual assault.
By the time DI Hayes has identified the killer, the Dutch captain of a gas supply ship, two more young, Eastern European sex workers have lost their lives. Spring has come, though few tourists, that trade having dried up years ago.
With a population of just over 90,000, Great Yarmouth is Norfolk’s second largest conurbation after Norwich, sitting on a spit of land sandwiched between the River Yare and the sea, and cut off from the rest of Norfolk by the Halvergate marshes.
Unemployment is four times the national average, crime twice. Yet amid the deprivation there is history, and passion, a fragile nature and a brand new harbour. And there is Barry. Barry is the protagonist. He represents everything that is good and bad about the place. Hidden in this picture, on this freezing january day, is Barry’s first Great Yarmouth crime scene.
This is where fact becomes fiction. In future he will uncover worse crimes, but he will also find calm and truth.
Originally in The Independent Magazine as part of a feature entitled, Inspiring Places