There was a man in a London Haagen-Dazs on a rainy Tuesday night. He was suspected of murdering a prostitute and arrested. BOOM! I was there. More excitement than I’m used to in Dorset! Here I recount my bewildering experience, wondering if this will eventually end up in court as an eyewitness’ statement. I hope not, that would be embarrassing.
After enjoying One Man, Two Guvnors, 3 of us decided to satiate our craving for ice cream that erupted during the interval. Haagen-Dazs appeared like the gates of heaven. Granted, 10:30PM on a February night seemed a strange time to want ice cream, but as London is a modern city we assumed it was not a crime.
So, we made a beeline for the comfy seats at the back – the sofa/table combo that you get in fast food chains. Imagine our surprise when a man (on his own, mind) rushed past us and managed to take up the last space, forcing us to sit in front of him at a boring old table. This made us grumble a bit, but we just wanted ice cream. The waiter takes our order, and everything is going well… for about ten minutes.
The first policeman comes in, and naturally I assume he has the same, ice cream related desire as us…
Police cars pull up outside the restaurant in pedestrianized Leicester Square. The first policeman comes in, and naturally I assume he has the same, ice cream related desire as us. However, within seconds it is clear that something is wrong, as four other policemen come in and head for us. As they walk past me I notice bright yellow guns in holsters. I realise I have seen too many Die Hard films and bolt for the stairs (not the exit, my cookie is on its way and I don’t want to waste £1.70). This could be a big confrontation, the assailant might be armed, and as I’m sat directly in front of him I will be first to die. No sir, not today.
I hastily get up with a muttered, flimsy excuse of, “I need the toilet”. My friends don’t believe me for a second, and stay seated to watch the drama unfold as the police surround the suspect. He is cuffed and led out of the restaurant, and when he is out the door I return downstairs. My cookie is no longer warm, unfortunately.
…though we cannot hear what is going on outside, there isn’t much panic…
The Leicester Square branch of Haagen-Dazs has a front wall entirely made of glass, allowing all patrons to see what is happening outside whilst eating their ice cream. A few minutes elapse whilst they are waiting for the police van to arrive, and though we cannot hear what is going on outside, there isn’t much panic.
I, however, am still anxious because I am frightened the suspect is going to “Shoot the glass” (Die Hard reference there, for all you true fans) and kill us all.
“But he didn’t finish his ice cream!”
Happily, no such luck. A van pulls up and takes him away, at which point I breathe a sigh of relief and dance a metaphorical jig. In true British style, bystanders in the restaurant immediately start wisecracking “But he didn’t finish his ice cream!” or “He didn’t pay for his ice cream!” The epitome of black humour – a man is arrested for murder and people are suggesting it is a worse crime to leave ice cream unfinished.
We, however, lick around the plates of our ice cream, and when the waiter comes to take our plates away he says to me, “Were you scared?” Oh dear. Clearly everybody in the restaurant had noticed. Well, that’s awkward.
…It’s only at this point we find out what his actual crime was…
After I had been ritually humiliated, the waiter explains that the suspect was a regular, and the manager had recognised him from the news and called the police. It’s only at this point we find out what his actual crime was – whilst the arrest was going on, we couldn’t have known.
A leftover copy of the Evening Standard on the train home confirmed the waiter’s story. A photograph of the suspect proved it was the very same man that had pushed in front of us in the ice cream queue. It just makes you think – you never really know just who you’re sat next to.