Franky falsely accused

The villagers of Little Hangleton discuss Frank Bryce's arrest for the murders of the Riddles

Extract from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

by J.K. Rowling

The Hanged Man, the village pub, did a roaring trade that night; the whole village had turned out to discuss the murders. They were rewarded for leaving their firesides when the Riddles’ cook arrived dramatically in their midst, and announced to the suddenly silent pub that a man called Frank Bryce had just been arrested.

‘Frank!’ cried several people. ‘Never!’

Frank Bryce was the Riddles’ gardener. He lived alone in a run-down cottage in the Riddle House grounds. Frank had come back from the war with a very stiff leg and a great dislike of crowds and loud noises, and had been working for the Riddles ever since.

There was a rush to buy the cook drinks, and hear more details.

‘Always thought he was odd,’ she told the eagerly listening villagers, after her fourth sherry. ‘Unfriendly, like. I’m sure if I’ve offered him a cuppa once, I’ve offered it a hundred times. Never wanted to mix, he didn’t.’

‘Ah, now,’ said a woman at the bar, ‘he had a hard war, Frank, he likes the quiet life. That’s no reason to –’

‘Who else had a key to the back door, then?’ barked the cook.

‘There’s been a spare key hanging in the gardener’s cottage far back as I can remember! Nobody forced the door last night! No broken windows! All Frank had to do was creep up to the big house while we was all sleeping ...’

The villagers exchanged dark looks.

‘I always thought he had a nasty look about him, right enough,’ grunted a man at the bar.

‘War turned him funny, if you ask me,’ said the landlord.

‘Told you I wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of Frank, didn’t I, Dot?’ said an excited woman in the corner.

‘Horrible temper,’ said Dot, nodding fervently, ‘I remember, when he was a kid ...’

By the following morning, hardly anyone in Little Hangleton doubted that Frank Bryce had killed the Riddles.

But over in the neighbouring town of Great Hangleton, in the dark and dingy police station, Frank was stubbornly repeating, again and again, that he was innocent, and that the only person he had seen near the house on the day of the Riddles’ deaths had been a teenage boy, a stranger, dark-haired and pale. Nobody else in the village had seen any such boy, and the police were quite sure that Frank had invented him.

Then, just when things were looking very serious for Frank, the report on the Riddles’ bodies came back and changed everything.

The police had never read an odder report. A team of doctors had examined the bodies, and had concluded that none of the Riddles had been poisoned, stabbed, shot, stran- gled, suffocated or (as far as they could tell) harmed at all. In fact, the report continued, in a tone of unmistakable bewilder- ment, the Riddles all appeared to be in perfect health – apart from the fact that they were all dead. The doctors did note (as though determined to find something wrong with the bodies) that each of the Riddles had a look of terror upon his or her face – but as the frustrated police said, whoever heard of three people being frightened to death?

As there was no proof that the Riddles had been murdered at all, the police were forced to let Frank go. The Riddles were buried in the Little Hangleton churchyard, and their graves remained objects of curiosity for a while. To everyone’s surprise, and amidst a cloud of suspicion, Frank Bryce returned to his cottage in the grounds of the Riddle House.

‘’S’far as I’m concerned, he killed them, and I don’t care what the police say,’ said Dot in the Hanged Man. ‘And if he had any decency, he’d leave here, knowing as how we knows he did it.’

But Frank did not leave. He stayed to tend the garden for the next family who lived in the Riddle House, and then the next – for neither family stayed long. Perhaps it was partly because of Frank that each new owner said there was a nasty feeling about the place, which, in the absence of inhabitants, started to fall into disrepair.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

By J.K. Rowling