To learn more about the Jacqui Poole vase, which I've discussed previously, I ordered a used copy of A Voice from the Grave, by Christine Holohan and Vera McHugh (2006; out of print). Holohan is the medium who features so prominently in the story.
The book didn't provide a whole lot of new information, but it did clear up a few points. For me, the most interesting section was the appendix, which includes correspondence between SPR researcher Montague Keen and the police officer, Tony Batters, who took Holohan's testimony. Incidentally, throughout the book, Tony Batters is described as a detective, but according to other sources he was a uniformed patrol cop at the time of the initial investigation. Years later, Superintendent Tony Lundy, who dismisses Holohan's contribution to the case, wrote:
Tony Batters was never a Detective. He was a beat constable and was the officer who attended the scene when the murder was discovered. Because of his local knowledge and keeness to help, I seconded him to the investigation team. He went to interview Christine Holohan with a Detective Constable and became somewhat obsessed with her views, and remains so!
Within minutes of my finding the body, I answered tel. 3 calls from:
Betty Hunt, JP's mother
Gloria Robbins, her close close friend/confidante
Sylvia Lee, wife of George Lee Senior
Nobody else rang in the entire five hours I was there ...
I thought it interesting that Christine appears to mention the three who rang me at the scene, viz. Betty, Sylvia, and 'someone who lives about a newsagents' (Gloria).
He's referring to the fact that Holohan gave five names in her testimony (not counting the murderer's nickname, "Pokie") and three of those five matched the three people who called Poole's apartment while Batters was investigating. The other two were Terry (Poole's brother) and Barbara Stone (a woman unknown to police at the time, who had been Poole's best friend until her death in a car accident about a year before Poole's murder).
Then there is this exchange, prompted by the fact that Holohan indicated that a St Christopher's medal had been stolen:
[Keen:] Is there any evidence that a St Christopher was among the stolen goods?
[Batters:] The fact was part of a sequential list compiled from info provided by friends and family after the initial list. These were documented evidence. The first list featured only items of major value, e.g. bracelets, rings, necklaces. I remember distinctly that the St Christopher (the only item with a picture thereon) was not mentioned until further inquiries were made during Week 2.
Keen asks how it is possible to know that Poole changed her clothes twice on the day of her death, something Holohan reported. Batters replies that the greengrocer for whom she worked saw her in one outfit, the father of her boyfriend saw her in a second outfit, and she was killed while wearing a third outfit - facts that came out at the trial.
Keen also wants to know why a news article described the murderer, "Pokie" Ruark, as Poole's ex-lover. Batters answers:
I have not seen the Times article, but Ruark claimed at the trial that he had been a secret lover – in an attempt to justify the presence of his DNA.
Holohan says the same thing earlier in the book: "He completely changed his story and claimed that he had been having an affair with Jacqui, which would explain any traces of his DNA found on her clothing."
The prosecution, however, was able to prove that the DNA transfer indicated a violent, not an intimate, relationship. For instance, Poole had clawed at Ruark, getting some of his skin under her fingernails.
It seems to me that the skin found under the nails would be the most crucial evidence, but Batters insists that the pullover removed from Ruark's garbage was key:
The crux was the DNA exchanges between his pullover, and hers, as developed in 1999 to 2000 by forensics officers. They gave evidence at the trial. I believe that, in the absence of Christine's timely info and fast reactions by officers, Ruark's pullover would have been lost to the bin man. Ruark's pullover was the most damning evidence.
I'm not sure why this evidence would be more damning than the evidence showing that she scratched Ruark in a violent struggle, and I am still skeptical of this point. In another response, Batters writes:
The case was re-opened in 2000, amidst hundreds of other cold cases which were aided by the development of DNA, particularly Low Copy Number technology. The findings were completely conclusive, identifying numerous exchanges of bodily fluids, skin cells and clothing fibers between the victim and her killer Pokie Ruark. Not least significant of these was his DNA under her fingernails. The chances of error were quoted to the court as less than one in one billion.
"Not least significant" strikes me as a peculiar way of putting it. It seems to me that Batters may have downplayed the fingernail evidence and exaggerated the pullover's importance in order to maximize Holohan's contribution to the case. But perhaps if I knew more details of the trial, I would see his point.
Other comments by Batters:
[Holohan] described the scene just as I had found it, including the victim's position, clothing and injuries. In a step-by-step reconstruction of the crime, she relayed a series of events which seemed to match the evidence.
For example, we initially thought the incident had taken place in the lounge, but she insisted it started in the bathroom. There was an overturned rug there, and a towel-rail that had been pulled from the wall, later confirmed to us as very recent damage …
In a series of apparent trances, Christine related information which she claimed to be receiving psychically. She described the murderer in great detail, his age and month of birth, height, skin and hair coloring, 3 tattoos, and the type of work he did. She mentioned his criminal history, and referred to a recent insurance fraud which he subsequently admitted to us. We were to look for scratches, later attributed by him to a collision with a hedge. He would have had a social connection with the victim through a friend who was in prison, and had visited the address before to perform a task. Indeed he had done – to check the fuse box which he was to switch off during the murder months afterward. She warned that some of the killer's associates would support his alibi, and that none of them would believe he was capable of violence. Each of these facts applied to the the man who has now been convicted ...
We were never to find the remotest connection between her and anyone who could have told her all that she seemed to know. In theory, and given enough time and resources, she could have collected much of her information through contact with the actual killer or someone in whom he confided, and with the victim's relatives and friends, and also with Murder Squad officers. I collated every statement and document throughout the 1983-4 investigation. However bizarre the conclusion, the only single source of all her knowledge had to be the victim …
The disclosures to Christine, if 'terrestrial', would have required rapid collusion between many people who were not friends.
The main part of the book is mostly a recapitulation of material presented in Keen and Playfair's SPR Journal article, combined with information on Holohan's childhood and her life after the Poole case. I found only a couple of points of interest.
One is that Holohan's version of the psychometry demonstration she performed for the two police officers varies from that described in the SPR report. She writes:
I told him [Smith] that he would need to get the house that he was thinking of buying rewired or he would not get the mortgage.
In the SPR report, we are told that Holohan mentioned to Smith only that he had recenttly received an important letter pertaining to electrical work. This was true, but the context - buying a house and needing to bring the wiring up to code - was reportedly not part of Holohan's statement. The difference is probably attributable to lapses in memory after 23 years.
Holohan also writes:
I went into the village on Monday morning and overheard two women talking about a young woman by the name of Jacqueline Poole, who had been murdered in the area.
This fact was mentioned in the SPR report, but is worth underlining, as it shows that Holohan made no secret of having heard local gossip about the case. Skeptics, as we have seen, will say that she developed most or all of the information she provided to the police from gossip, but the scope and specificity of what she had to say, as well as the fact that she mentioned details unknown to anyone outside of law enforcement make this explanation unsatisfactory. Moreover, gossip typically includes many untrue claims, but Holohan's testimony to the police was confirmed in 121 out of 130 specific points, with most of the remainder being impossible to prove or disprove, and only one claim, the day of the murder, being demonstrably wrong. It is doubtful that gossip and rumor would yield such a high success rate.
Holohan also conveyed various details unknown to anyone but the murderer: the fact, not known to police until later, that a St. Christopher's medal had been stolen; the fact that the attack began in the bathroom, when police believed the crime had begun in the living room; the fact that the murderer had recently committed insurance fraud; the fact that the murderer had visited Poole's address on an earlier occasion to perform a task; and the fact (presumably unknown to police at this early stage, and not verified until the trial almost twenty years later) that Poole wore three different outfits on the day of her death.