We shall probably never know whether Ray Gosling was an inspired stage name, or the portentous real name for a lad who, after a TV life rich in sauce and stuffing, would spend much of his later life stuffed and trussed, before – in a final defiant gesture – spatchcocking himself on camera in a lonely graveyard.
Last Monday, early evening BBC viewers in the East Midlands region were greeted by Gosling, decked out in a fetching overcoat, ambling through the tombstones. Speaking in his best bus driver documentary voice, he mused: ‘Maybe this is the time to share a secret that I’ve kept for quite a long time’. Viewers expecting a homely confession that he rigged a past documentary were in for a shock.
‘I killed someone once,’ he intoned, still in best bus driver documentary voice. Another time, another place, and a young chap, his lover, who had AIDS and was in terrible pain. Only this time it wasn’t the goose that was going to get stuffed, it was the lover. Permanently stuffed. With ‘the pillah’.
Having ensured privacy, Gosling told us, and now alone with his lover, he then ‘picked up the pillah, and smothered him until he was dead’. Ever the professional, he provided helpful visuals, by way of a firm pressing down movement with his hands, for viewers otherwise too stunned by what they had just heard to grasp its grisly significance.
After a few more lugubrious details, the veteran performer looked the camera in the eye and said: ‘Nothing more was ever said’, somewhat missing the point that rather a lot had at that very moment been said – and said to a large TV audience. He held the half baleful, half defiant stare for a moment, before hanging his head, and ambling off screen, looking to all the world as if he was just another old man remembering the good times on the buses, rather than remembering an altogether younger man having a rather bad time on the trolleys.
The following morning, Gosling turned up on Radio 4’s Today programme, and aired his odious account of killing his ‘bit on the side’, this time to the nation. Sarah Montague landed the task of grilling the old goose. Unfortunately, Monty was to prove no match for the self-declared villain. Right from the start, it was clear who was in charge.
Gosling’s account had changed in significant detail. Instead of Gosling asking for privacy, it was now the doctor who offered it. ‘I’ll pop out and have a fag or go to the canteen or I’ll go round another ward. Will you still be here in half an hour, Ray?’ said the obliging doctor. ‘Aye’ replied Ray ominously. ‘I will be back’ said the doctor, even more ominously: and, in so doing, instantly turned – for Dr No at least – Gosling’s mawkish pillow-talk into a Terminator spoof.
Monty nonetheless in best BBC tradition stuck to her script with a grim determination. What, she wanted to know, had given the goose the right to stuff his lover, to decide when he should be cooked? The wily old goose ran rings round poor Monty, at one point even offering her a decent morphine fuelled exit: “…extra morphine…just in case you need it, Sarah…I’ve left some more in the drawer…” By now, Monty probably needed all the morphine she could get, but she declined to do the decent thing. The goose fired his final salvo: “sometimes you have to do brave things and you have to say – to use Nottingham language – bugger the law.” Monty had no answer to that, and decided it was time to exit while she still could. “Ray Gosling, thank you very much,” she said, in her best Chelsea Flower Show voice.
Whoever wrote Gosling’s script has an imagination the size of Saturn. The plot had more holes in it than Father McKenzie’s socks. Even in the eighties, doctors didn’t ‘pop out and have a fag’ while loved ones dispatched their, err, loved ones. They didn’t leave extra morphine in the drawer, just in case it was needed. They didn’t – as Gosling suggested – invite friends and relatives to euthanase their loved ones. Yet, Gosling said everyone was at it – well, sorry, Ray, no they were not.
Nonetheless: ‘I killed someone’ – even when said on camera, amongst the tombstones, is about as clear a confession as you could expect. The fact the killing was intentional makes it murder. But Gosling – or, more likely the morphine-crazed pillow-headed clown that wrote this ludicrous pro-death propaganda script – has nonetheless been somewhat clever.
The murder is tempered with mercy, with that old wheeze ‘I did it with love in my heart’ and, for many, that tempering softens the crime to the extent that it is no longer murder – there are many who even talk the twaddle of assisted suicide – despite the fact that, at law, it is undeniably murder. Just as with the real stories of Wooltorton, Inglis and Gilderdale, Gosling’s fairy tale is a tale that tempts us to blur the boundaries between natural death and intentional killing – a cause, as we have seen over recent weeks, that is close to Auntie’s heart.
The other notable plot device at work is Gosling’s ‘another time, another place’ refrain – which has about it more than a whiff of ‘Once upon a time’ – and, more significantly, his steadfast refusal to name the victim – even if ‘tortured’. A murder prosecution without a stiff is missing one of its aces, and at serious risk of foundering. Could it be, Dr No wonders, that this gap is Gosling’s get out of jail card? And the whole enterprise a cynical stunt by the death brigade?
Likely as that may be, the police must charge, and the CPS must not shirk its duty. It must spit this tiresome goose, and roast it in front of a jury. The trial, of course, will be as much a trial of Gosling’s story as of his guilt. If they acquit – as they are likely to do in the absence of a stiff, then they will – to all intents and purposes – have thrown Gosling’s fancy-full story out, as stuff and nonsense: the cheap and failed script of a misguided death lobbyist.