"Skilled writers of fiction would struggle to conjure up a plot such as arises here." From John's laptop emerged what the prosecutor would subsequently describe as "an Internet soap opera moving from one scene to another, each character and story line more fantastic than the last." The plots were extracted from what John had seen both in films and in life: thick with treachery, villainy, and betrayal. John had always been "a very gentle, slightly withdrawn personality," his lawyer, Jonathan Goldberg, would inform the prominent Manchester judge David Maddison in his courtroom, but harbored, despite his introversion, dreams of someday becoming a barrister himself.
On the whole, Goldberg thought, a teenager who could spin such tales was headed in the right direction.
It lies off Stamford New Road, close by a shopping mall in the prosperous Manchester suburb of Altrincham, where random stabbings simply don't occur.
And as far as the police could see, it hadn't occurred, at least not the way the older boy had said.
Then Mark pulled out the knife and called an ambulance.
Some madman had attacked his friend, the boy told the police.
After reviewing the tape, the police arrested Mark for attempted murder.
That same camera follows John whenever he revisits the scene of the crime.
From four in the afternoon to seven in the morning, he typed his inventions into his laptop. When he stopped going downstairs for meals, his slight frame shrank even further.It is clear he doesn't have much sympathy for the boy whose brush with death prompted the unprecedented charge."I would say, of the two teenagers, John was the more wicked and more criminally culpable."For months John had corresponded in an Internet chat room with Mark, a bland-featured 16-year-old who possesses as his most striking traits a vast forehead, a tendency to open every sentence with "Ermmm," and, it would later be claimed, an almost infinite store of credulity.He ducks in and out of the small brick sandwich shops and coffee bars, passing the hair salon and the little metal statue of two geese.Everything is as it was that June day when Mark carried the six-inch knife they had bought together.
It was from this injury that the teenager almost died on the operating table—twice, police tell me.