The following is an excerpt from a police interview with Imogen Debenham conducted by Detective Sergeant Ellis Oxley on 14 March 2019:
DS Oxley: Do you have any idea why you’re here?
Debenham: Your sniffer dogs…
DS Oxley: Cadaver dogs.
Debenham: Made sure to get that little detail in, didn’t you? All right, your cadaver dogs found something in my rose garden.
DS Oxley: The investigators unearthed a box…
Debenham: Made of four-inch thick cedar planks. It measured 1.143 meters long by .381 meters wide.
DS Oxley: How do you know the precise measurements of the box, Miss Debenham?
Debenham: Call me Imogen, and I know the measurements because I built the box, as you call it, with my own hands.
DS Oxley: And what would you call the box, Imogen?
Debenham: We both know what it is, don’t we? It’s a coffin that I buried just shy of 23 years ago, which makes me wonder why now? What sort of tip could you have received 23 years after the fact and from which of my neighbors?
DS Oxley: That isn’t relevant at the moment, Imogen…
Debenham: Then what is relevant?
DS Oxley: We found remains inside the coffin, which included bones.
Debenham: It’s interesting the details you leave out.
DS Oxley: What do you mean?
Debenham: What type of bones did you find? Animal? Human?
DS Oxley: I’m not at liberty…
Debenham: Detective Sergeant, I intend to cooperate fully with your investigation. I have agreed to this interview without a solicitor, and will answer any question put to me truthfully, provided that there exists a level playing field of honesty between us.
DS Oxley: A quid pro quo situation?
Debenham: Always been a fan of the Thomas Harris novels, I have. So, let’s look at the facts, shall we? You’ve found remains on my property, and although you suspect foul play, I have not been formally charged. So, what type of remains have you found?
DS Oxley: (clears throat) Our forensic team have determined that the bones are not quite human, but they bear certain similarities.
Debenham: Here is where we run into a bit of difficulty.
DS Oxley: How so?
Debenham: I can tell you exactly what they are, the remains, but you won’t believe me.
DS Oxley: You have no idea what I’d believe. I’ve come across things in my line of work that would make a madman’s head spin. So, let’s have it, then.
Debenham: You wouldn’t think to look at me now, but when I was younger, I caught the eye of every man I came across, and I enjoyed the fruits of my beauty and pursued all manner of pleasure with reckless abandon.
DS Oxley: What does this have to do with anything?
Debenham: I was careless. I became pregnant. No idea who the father was, and out of all the men who claimed to love me, who’d do anything for me, only one stepped up to take responsibility. He was a kind man, not the sort I was usually attracted to, but he was attentive and saw me through the pregnancy…
DS Oxley: Imogen…
Debenham: It was a stillbirth.
DS Oxley: I’m…sorry for your loss.
Debenham: The funny thing was I hadn’t planned on keeping the baby. After it was born, I was going to put it up for adoption, and let the kind gentleman and myself off the hook, because I wanted to return to my lifestyle, only a little bit wiser as not to repeat this mistake. But, as soon as I saw the lifeless body of my newborn, I became inconsolable.
DS Oxley: The remains we found were not consistent with that of a newborn child.
Debenham: Of course not. My biological son, it was a boy, in case I hadn’t mentioned, was offered to a family who excelled in the care and raising of dead children, and in exchange, I was given Qomal.
DS Oxley: I need to stop you there, Imogen. Are you saying this family raised your son from the dead?
Debenham: Don’t be absurd. The family was from a race of the embalmed dead, who would embalm my boy and care for him as only they could. They were in a similar situation with a living being on their hands, with no means to care for it.
DS Oxley: So you swapped a dead baby for a living one?
Debenham: I swapped my son for Qomal. So much like a child. All it ever needed was a cup of milk with a few drops of my blood in it every morning, some toys to play with, and sweets and biscuits to eat. To keep the contract intact, all that was required was lighting a black candle every night, burn some incense, and recite a mantra.
DS Oxley: What sort of contract?
Debenham: A Qomal isn’t forever. They’re meant to help you through the grieving process for the loss of a child. It’s like a toddler, you see, except its skin has a greenish hue, its eyes are red and clouded, its ears are pointed, and it has rows of sharp teeth. But while it was alive, I saw none of this, because I was its mother and only viewed my Qomal through the eyes of love.
DS Oxley: And when the contract expires…?
Debenham: You mean when my grief was manageable? The Qomal grows weak, calcifies and dies.
DS Oxley: How did you know to do all this? Making the exchange, observing the terms of a contract?
Debenham: I didn’t. It was my kind gentleman who introduced this world to me.
DS Oxley: What is his name?
Debenham: That I will not tell you. I made him a promise and I intend to honor it.
DS Oxley: Are you two still together?
Debenham: No, we parted ways when Qomal died.
DS Oxley: Why?
Debenham: I was meant to cremate Qomal, place the ashes in an urn and bury it beneath a flower bed, but I couldn’t bring myself to burn something I loved, something that helped ease my pain and nurse me back to sanity. The gentleman said there would be consequences, and I have waited 23 years for them to arrive.
At this point in the interview, loud scratching noises can be heard on the recording, as well as the sound of footsteps and a door being opened, followed by the guttural snarls of an unspecified animal.
DS Oxley: Holy Mother of Jesus!
Debenham: My baby?
The recording concludes with the sounds of screaming amidst a great commotion.
The current whereabouts of Detective Sergeant Ellis Oxley and Imogen Debenham have yet to be determined.
Text and Audio ©2021 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys