Picture credit –  Hannah Tobin.

Part 15 – Did he die twice?

The door opened and Madame Coroner emerged. She was a formidable-looking lady. It didn’t look as if she took any prisoners and proved this when she demanded that the first witness, Dr Henry Stamshaw- who cannot be named for legal reasons –  from the pathology department, repeat his evidence so far completely rather than relying on the transcript of the previous proceedings.

He did this while referring often to his notes to ensure that he didn’t get any detail wrong. After almost half an hour he wound down, looked at the Coroner and asked if he should move on to the second part of his evidence as to the likely cause of Ben falling into the river.

The Coroner agreed that he should move on to the evidence that was the cause of the previous Coroner being recused. This was because of a potential conflict of interest between his legal position and his work as president of the LAOMB – Lemon and Orange Marketing Board.

‘Analysis of the deceased’s blood showed an excess of the chiral fructose. As you will know, this is the left handed molecule of fruit sugar that is found as a much smaller percentage of the total fructose.’

‘And what is this normal percentage Doctor,’ demanded the coroner.

‘It is usually between 2 and 4% of the total fructose, but this is much higher, up to 17% in lemons from one grower in  Jaffa, Israel. This is a new variety recently developed. It has, of course, been tested and the fructose level was found to be normal. The main benefit was that this new variety was much less susceptible to the the feared disease that is know as Lemon Rot, which can destroy whole lemon groves. The increase in Left Chirality fructose was not found until recently because it had never been a problem in normal lemons and so it had been assumed that it would not be a problem in this new variety, especially as the total fructose percentage was the same.

‘And what was the effect of this Doctor?’

‘Since Mr Smith’s death, my research has shown that an excess of the left chirality fructose in the blood can act the same as LSD, perhaps better known to you, Madam, as Lysergic acid diethylamide, a psychedelic drug known for its psychological effects. This may include altered awareness of the surroundings, perceptions, and feelings as well as sensations and images that seem real though they are not.’

‘Thank you for that insight Dr, but I assure you that neither of its names are well known to me, I am not old enough to have known Tim Leary personally although I have, of course, read about him.’

‘Quite so, Madam.’ cringed Henry. ‘My research further showed that the levels of LSD equivalent in Mr Smith’s blood would have easily resulted in a psychedelic episode and so he would not have been aware of the danger posed by the fast flowing river. He  therefore could have fallen in without the intention of doing so.’

‘And this could have been caused by his intensive slicing lemons in the pub night after night?’ Queried the Dame.

‘Yes, he could easily have inhaled an active dose of the drug which would have accumulated in his bloodstream until it reached a level that resulted in an attack of Zestinationa Citrosa, or Zestination as it is sometimes referred to.’

‘And this happened just because he bought a cheap batch of lemons from a new supplier in Jaffa that happened to be a new variety that had an elevated level of Left chiral Fructose.’

‘Yes, you have put it very pithily, err…  zestily, Madam.’

‘Thank you Doctor – good luck with your research. Next witness please. Your name nand your relationship with the deceased?’

‘It’s Jack Robinson and I was perhaps Ben’s closest friend.’

‘Can you tell us why Ben obtained these particular lemons?’

‘Ben had two main priorities as far as the Strangled Ferret was concerned…’

‘…What is a strangled ferret, may I ask?’

‘It’s the name of the pub in Ferret on Trent and has been since at least as far back as “5th Eliz.” or 1563 in our present day calendar. We have documented evidence of a poacher who was caught and when asked to explain himself said he was just out catching vermin and took a strangled ferret out of his poacher’s pocket to prove it. It is not known whether the land owner believed him but he was let off anyway and celebrated his unexpected good fortune in the local ale house. It has been know as the Strangled ferret ever since.’

Thank you Mr Robinson for clarifying that, now please tell us what Mr Smith’s two priorities were.’

‘He wanted to have the best beer in the area on offer to his customers and he was meticulous in trying to get a balance between the best quality and the best value from all the items that he bought in. That applied to the beer and all food ingredients – including lemons. He was known for his determined negotiations with his many suppliers and they all knew that Ben would demand their best quality and price or they would be struck off his list.

‘What happened with the lemons in particular in the days and weeks leading up to his death?’ asked Dame Agnes Anstruther from her commanding height.

‘The price of lemons was going up almost weekly because of an infection of lemon rot in some of the groves in Israel. A representative from a consortium came to see Ben and offered a new variety that was immune to the lemon rot fungus and was being offered at an attractive introductory price. Ben tested them and was happy with their flavour so, after negotiating an overider discount dependant on the volume he used, he agreed to sign a contract for sole supply from the Jaffa company. He was of course, completely unaware of any chemical difference in them – they tasted fine to him.’

‘Thank you Mr Robinson. I will now sum up the evidence.

Mr Smith clearly drowned in the River Trent, this is clear, What is less clear and somewhat surreal is how he fell into the river. Dr Stamshaw has explained to us that analysis of his blood showed that he was under the influence of a psychotropic drug at the time which would, at the very least left him confused and not spatially aware of his surroundings so he could easily have walked over the river bank and fallen in to the fast flowing river.

I will therefore return the result of this inquest into the death of Benjamin Kingsley Smith as  death by misadventure.

We now come to any recommendations that this court can make to try to prevent a reoccurrence of this tragedy and any other possible similar deaths caused by these lemons.

The first is that pubs should have a well ventilated area for slicing lemons so that the operator will not inhale an excessive quantity of aerosols of lemon juice.

Secondly, the import of these particular lemons that contain the left hand chirality fructose should be banned until the grower can show that he has bred a new strain with a much lower fraction of LH fructose – we suggest below 5%.’

The Coroner walked out of her court.


© Richard Kefford                                                                                                        Eorðdraca


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4 thoughts on “Tales from the Strangled Ferret – Part 15. Did he die twice?

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