Are you sitting comfortably? I have a story to tell.
It’s only a few days old and it’s still developing.
Every single word is true, I wish that they weren’t, just the names have been changed for now.
Is four years older than my dad and is the oldest of three siblings, followed by his sister and then my Dad. He’s one of the nicest men I’ve ever met. In truth he’s a simple soul who has lived a life free of complications for 83 of his 84 years.
He married his best friend’s widow, a lady six years older than him as it was ‘the right thing to do’ and they’ve been married for well over 50 years. I used to see a lot of him as a kid as he was a lorry driver who did regular runs to the coast and the Anglian countryside and he’d take me along as a treat and a day out.
He bought my Nan’s house after my Grandad died and lived there until he retired. The house was in Leytonstone, so he sold it for a reasonable profit and moved to a small town near Clacton in Essex.
Although we’re not a massively close family, my Dad would call him once a week or so, just to catch up and make sure that all was well. Occasionally one of my brothers would drop in to see him on the way to another town on the coast.
A Strange Event
That meant little at the time occurred when my Brother dropped in and found that my uncle had gone out to give ‘two women a lift somewhere’. My Aunt wasn’t sure when he was due back as he’d been gone for two weeks.
This was roughly 18 months ago.
Dropping off the Radar
Around 8 months ago, my Uncle stopped answering his phone, my dad left a series of messages until the system stopped answering. After a few weeks of this, we made physical contact and he called my Dad to say that the answerphone had filled up.
Then he disappeared. No phone calls, nothing.
An Empty House
Another visit found that the house was empty, with mail piling up and a ‘for sale’ sign outside. There was no forwarding address and he had no mobile phone.
He was gone – so was his wife and another person who had appeared on the electoral role that year. Nobody in the family had ever heard of her, but a search has since revealed that she’d lived in two houses in the same town previously – at some point with her husband and then ‘alone’.
And that was it for a while.
Web searches showed nothing – no variations of a search helped at all.
Follow the Money
My Uncle’s house was sold in December 2017 and that enabled to make initial contact with his solicitor, who confirmed that my uncle was alive and that he would ask him to get in touch.
but nothing changed until last week.
My Aunt, their sister died in hospital on Wednesday night and I told my Dad that I’d drive him to the funeral as it’s around a 100 miles from where he lives.
I drove to see my Dad on Sunday this week (the 13th of May) to check that he was OK and to see if there was any news about the funeral.
We chatted for a while and it was clear that he was worried about whether my Uncle would attend. He’d still not managed to talk to him, but the solicitor had promised to go and see him personally and ask him to call. My Dad was beginning to believe that my Uncle had no interest at all and was both angry and upset. I took the Solicitor’s number and tracked it to Leyburn in North Yorkshire, a move of over 270 miles for a man of 84, who as far as we knew had never been to that area, even on holiday.
I said that I’d try to track my Uncle down, gave my Dad a hug and drove home.
An Unexpected Set of Events
Three hours later, my phone rang as I pulled onto the drive, it was my Dad and he was very concerned. My Uncle had finally called (from an unknown mobile number) and came out with a long rambling story.
In summary though:
- He didn’t know or wouldn’t say his full address – just the house number and not even a town.
- His driving licence had been revoked by the Police – he didn’t know why
- Social Services may have visited and said that he shouldn’t live alone. Although he clearly didn’t – there were three women in the house with him, his wife and two others.
- His bank account might have been frozen and he had no money and no car
- He would send his details to my Dad – by post – at some point.
I took the mobile number and rang it.
An old lady answered it – I didn’t recognise her voice, but confirmed that she was indeed ‘Ada’ who had appeared on the electoral roll and asked to speak to my Uncle, who was apparently in the garden.
Ada called for him five or six times and I could hear another, younger, sharper voice demanding to know who was on the call and took the phone from her.
I asked her name and she replied that it was ‘Sharon Chaverson’ (obviously I’ve changed this and because she’s quite snobby and cold, think that she’d hate this name.. )
I asked to speak to my Uncle and here’s the conversation.
‘He’s too busy in the garden to speak to you’.
‘OK, can you let me know the address there please?’
‘No, I’m too busy right now’.
‘You don’t want to give me your address?’
‘No, I’m too busy, we told your father that we will write to him’.
‘I’m sorry, but we don’t know when the funeral will be and that doesn’t help us at all’.
‘Well, I’m too busy to talk to you and we will have to get back to you’
‘You know that this sounds strange now? If you won’t give me the address. I’ll have to contact the Police as I’m now concerned about this’.
‘I don’t appreciate being threatened like this’.
‘Sadly, it’s not a threat, just a next step’
Thirty minutes later, my Dad rang to say that Sharon had called and stated that we could pick my Uncle up from the Black Bull if he wanted to go to the funeral and that neither she nor my Aunt appreciated visitors. He then told her to Fuck Off and she hung up.
That was it really, I had to commit to my Dad that I’d go to Leyburn and find my Uncle.
The Search Begins
The Black Bull isn’t in Leyburn, Sharon had narrowed the search down to a much smaller town called Middleham.
I packed a bag in case I had to stay for a few days, packed my work laptop and checked out hotel availability just in case..
I then sent a text to Sharon. Something about this whole thing was worrying me and going formal seemed best.
This is the text word for word.
Good evening, following my call earlier, please furnish me with details of my uncle’s property by return text. If this does not occur, I will be at Leyburn Police station by 830 am tomorrow to ask for their assistance. Thanks in advance.
I had a quick meal, sat and brooded over a gin and went to bed, setting an alarm for 4am.
SatNavs are SkyNet’s Advance Guard
Let’s be clear, SatNavs want to kill us all. I programmed in Leyburn and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a 10 mile shorter journey than Google Maps had said.
This might be because of this…
30 miles of narrow, winding, blind bends and steep inclines. Straight into the rising sun, making me half blind for a lot of the journey and terrified for the best part of an hour.
I’ve never had a more stressful drive in my life.
I arrived in Leyburn just after 8am and managed to find a small cafe for breakfast. I’d decided to go to the Solicitor’s office first and see if he’d be willing to help. Breakfast was a good idea and I was nicely calm again after bacon, eggs, sausages, black pudding and tea..
And at 845, I wandered into the solicitor’s office. I’d prepared for the day by wearing a nice blue suit, with a tasteful and low key slightly pink shirt and had a stack of business cards with me.
Inside the office, I saw a set of larger private offices and caught the eye of the gentleman in the office nearest me.
‘Can I help you?’
‘I’m looking for Mr Smith’
‘Ah, there’s two of us, I’m John Smith’.
‘It’s you I’m looking for, my name is Small ThunderDog’ – he raised his eyebrows quizzically. ‘No, I’m his son, I understand that he’s been in contact with you, can we chat?’
He waved me into his office and closed the door.
I started by raising my concerns regarding my Uncle’s wellbeing following the calls the night before and my main concern that he didn’t even know where he lived.
‘Well, I spoke to him last week and he’s up to date on current affairs, Brexit and the Government, but if you were to ask him why he took £50 from the bank, he may not be able to tell you. But he would know if he’d split a meal bill.’
I reiterated my worry that he didn’t seem to know his address and the issues around his bank account and driving licence. He looked at me for a while before answering.
‘Well, I can tell you that he does know his address and that his bank accounts aren’t frozen, although he probably has lost his licence – you’re aware of what he did for a living?’
‘Yes, Lorry Driver, I used to go on trips with him, the issue is that I need to make sure that he’s OK, I’m very worried that if he does know his address, why wouldn’t he let his brother know it and why would a woman that we’ve never heard of be acting as his gatekeeper and telling us that we can only pick him up from the Black Bull for his own sister’s funeral?’
‘Was that a suggestion?’
‘No, Sharon stated that this was her final word on the subject to my father, you can see my concern here, that there may be coercion.’
‘She doesn’t help herself sometimes I’m afraid, but I don’t think I can give you the address, I’m sorry.’
I looked at him without speaking for a minute, letting the silence build while I thought about what he might not be saying.
‘I appreciate your position, but you have to know that I will find him today, the Black Bull is in Middleham and if he doesn’t have a car and they’re taking taxis everywhere, I’ll start with the taxi firms and work it from there, I know the house number, if I have to check every number 11 in the town, I will’.
We looked at each other.
‘Would I be correct in saying that one of your father’s sons has had a run-in with the police in the past?’
‘No, it’s two actually, but I’m not either of them’
I passed over a business card, he looked at it for a long while before answering.
‘You understand where I’m coming from? I have to check this’
I pondered the strangeness of his question and looked at him for a while again.
‘Well I think so, but you have to understand that nobody in the family is interested in whatever money he has or doesn’t have and I’m interested that you even know that detail about my brother or why it’s relevant. To be as blunt as I can here, nobody cares what he’s up to, if he’s in a weird 4 way relationship and is taking Viagra 16 hours a day…’
‘When I find him and if he tells me he’s OK and that he has no interest in the funeral or the family, then I’ll walk away and let my Dad know what the answer is.’
I sat and watched him for a while.
‘I’m sorry, but I still can’t tell you the address, however, as you stated, he is in Middleham, there is no car, they’re all very late risers and there aren’t many number 11’s in the town. In fact, the first estate is on the left hand side of the town’.
We shook hands and I drove to Middleham.
A walk in the Sunshine
I actually found the house on the first pass but couldn’t be 100% sure so parked up in town and wandered around for a while looking for other possible number 11s – none of them fit, but the town is a very pretty little place with a number of racing stables and a large equine business base.
I walked through the churchyard and smiled at a woman and made a small fuss of her dog as they walked past, eventually going back to the town and getting a coffee before driving back to the house.
I walked up the drive and was struck by a large amount of household rubbish that more or less blocked it, along with offcuts of wood. The curtains were all closed, even though it was 10am but one of the windows had a large number of small dog figurines that I recognised from my childhood.
I’d found them. I was sure of it.
It had taken less than two hours.
I heard a voice.
‘Hello, are you looking for somebody?’
It was the lady from the churchyard.
A Sunny Day Becomes Slightly Darker
We chatted and she immediately confirmed that one older man and three women lived in the house but that the two older women were more or less bed-bound. She apologised but said that they were all rather strange, that they had moved in just before Christmas but had then all left in a taxi and disappeared for four months and had only been back for three weeks.
The council had been called as the food they’d been dumping in the back garden had attracted rats…
I drove back to town and did a property search while I drank yet more coffee.
Keep Following the Money
The house had been bought in December 2017 and was paid for in cash. Three people are on the deeds.
- My Uncle
- His Wife
- The mysterious Sharon
My Uncle sold his house for £81,000 less than the purchase price of the current house, leaving a question as to whether Sharon had contributed or he had taken £81k from his account to pay for the balance – potentially answering the question as to why his bank account may have been frozen – maybe.
I hung around until just after 11 , drove back and rang the doorbell.
No answer, I rang again.
And again. And again. And again.
And again. And again. And again.
I knocked loudly.
Still no answer.
I walked away and a voice came from the garden below.
I shook my head.
‘Fancy a brew?’
I jumped at the chance and met another set of neighbours and their dog who decided that I was a potential chew toy.
Rats, Pharmacy Deliveries and Ambulance Rescue
Here’s the thing, if my Uncle had moved in the normal fashion, he couldn’t have asked for nicer neighbours, but the same story came out.
Move in at Xmas, disappearing for months and particularly scathing comments about Sharon who had called the neighbourhood a hellhole.
The rats that the other lady had mentioned had been spilling into this couple’s garden as the house in on a very steep slope, with the gardens being around 2 metres different in height. Nobody could understand why they’d moved there. Town was too far for them to walk, there are only two buses a day and there’s only one small shop.
The neighbours had spotted a pharmacy delivery service making multiple attempts to deliver over a period of weeks, delaying prescription medicines getting through.
The house was full of boxes and junk and Sharon had apparently rung the vendor to complain that he hadn’t left the fridge as promised. it was behind a pile of boxes that they’d never moved.
My Uncle had fallen off the edge of his garden, through the hedge into the neighbour’s garden. An ambulance was called and he had to be rescued by being lifted out with a rope. He’d dislocated his shoulder and was taken to hospital.
As with the other lady, I left my number with them and asked that they call me if they had any concerns going forward.
I then went back to the house.
Repetitive actions in a Repetitive Stylee
I rang the doorbell
No answer, I rang again.
And again. And again. And again.
And again. And again. And again.
I knocked loudly.
And again. And again. And again.
And again. And again. And again.
I rang Sharon’s number – it was switched off
I tried again
And then she answered.
‘Hello is this Sharon? This is Small ThunderDog, we spoke yesterday’
‘I don’t know who you are’
‘I’m George ThunderDog’s nephew and I’m on the doorstep, can you answer the door please?’
I didn’t like the sound of that.. and so… two minutes later
Woop-woop! That’s the sound of da Police
A van pulled up and a policeman walked towards me.
I put on my best helpful face and walked out to meet him, getting my driving licence out as I walked.
‘Morning officer, here’s my details, my uncle lives in that house and I’m trying to get to see him to see if he’s OK and to discuss his sister’s funeral’
‘Over here sir, let’s have a chat, we’ve had a report from the owner that you’ve been trying to force entry – where are the others?’
I looked blankly at him.
‘I’m alone, that’s my empty car across the road, you can check if you like’
He called his control and asked for a check on me. I don’t have any sort of criminal record, so just stood there and tried to look as unthreatening as possible, that was probably wise as another van with two more policemen swooped up. ‘My’ policeman signalled them that I wasn’t a threat and they waited while he did the check.
Once he’d confirmed who I was, I then showed them my property search on my phone showing my Uncle as owner of the property. I also showed them my text to Sharon from the night before saying that I would go to the police.
I explained my concerns about the two older women being bed-ridden, the rubbish, the rats and the state of things inside.
Things calmed down nicely and the two new policemen went to the door to see what they could do.
We waited and chatted.
Eventually, my Uncle appeared at the side of the house and his face lit up as he saw me, a huge, slightly confused smile on his face.
‘You’ve put on weight’ – I’m both taller and broader than my dad, but we look reasonably alike.
‘Well, I am 55 now’
‘55 how can that…’ – he looked confused.
‘I’m your brother’s son, we have the same name’
‘His son, he doesn’t have a son with that name, my sister has a son with that name, but not him I think’
His eyes were watery and a bit lost, he was so shrunken, but he’d gripped my hand and wouldn’t let go.
‘No, he does, it’s me, don’t you remember, I used to go to Cromer with you in the lorry, we used to go for breakfast at..’
‘Mrs Brown’s place, yes, I remember, but.. he doesn’t have a son with that name does he?’
I wanted to cry. There was no way that this man was fully in control of his self, his clothes were covered with bits of food and he was so very confused.
‘Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about your sister’s funeral’
‘I don’t think I’ll go, it’s er.. .’
I looked at him, he was still gripping my hand.
‘Don’t you think you should? She’s your only sister..’
‘Could you pick me up and drop me home again?’
‘Yes, of course’
‘Ok then, It’s a shame it’s come to this’
‘Come to what? That I had to drive for three hours to find you after you moved house and didn’t tell anybody that you’d gone? That you haven’t rung your own brother?’
‘Well I’m sorry that it’s come to this’
‘Why did you move here? This is such a long way from Clacton, and this house seems not quite right for you, it’s miles from anywhere.’
‘I don’t know, it might have been a mistake’
We talked for around 10 minutes, his memory was hit and miss and he was vague on a lot of things – but I agreed that I’d drive him to Norfolk for the funeral if he wanted and he slipped away from view.
A Small and Very Strange Coven
I then spoke to the policemen again, they’d moved their view a long way from 30 minutes before and were very solicitous.
But, they also told me that the three women in the house, including my aunt, who I’ve known all my life, was present through a lot of my childhood and was a guest at my wedding stated that I wasn’t allowed in the house under any circumstances and that I’d have to collect him from the pub on the day of the funeral.
An Unexpected Outcome.
The two other policemen left and ‘my’ policeman, to my surprise and gratitude, said that he had a few worries and would run them past social services, I said that I’d be raising a safeguarding concern as soon as possible. We shook hands and drove off.
I Need a DRINK..It’s only been 24 Hours So Far…
I went home, grabbed a bit of food and had a couple of beers before sinking into a strange and disturbed sleep.
A Call to The Council
To continue my run of positive things, I had a 45 minute conversation with a lovely lady from Yorkshire Council, I referenced ‘my policeman’ and the job number and that he mentioned that he might raise a case. There was nothing in the system at that point, but she was incredibly supportive and raised a safeguarding case with:
My Uncle, his wife and Ada – (who it turns out is Sharon’s mum) – as the victims
Sharon as the perpetrator….
I emailed ‘my’ policeman to both say thanks and to let him know that a case had been opened and he may get a call.
Synchronicity, Like Wow. Just WOW Man.
Less than a minute after I sent it, the phone rang and it was ‘my’ policeman. He was calling me to tell me that he’d opened a safeguarding case directly with the local team and that they were likely to call me.
He’d done some digging in his own time, had found that there had been some earlier social services contact and had interviewed the estate agent who sold the property to find out his views.
The estate agent had confirmed that my Uncle was making noises about the house being ‘wrong’ and that he wasn’t sure why they’d bought it.
As I’d guessed, my whole conversation with my Uncle had been closely monitored and the look of joy on my Uncle’s face when he saw his ‘brother’ had convinced ‘my’ policeman that something was wrong with the whole story.
So that meant that as of yesterday morning, two separate investigations had been launched into a situation that nobody was aware of on Monday morning.
An Unexpected Update
I was at work this morning and received a call from one of the neighbours.
The Police and Social Services turned up yesterday and managed to get in while my Uncle and Sharon were out.
They then called for environmental service support and a skip was delivered and boxes and rubbish removed from the house.
Today they went back, with two police cars and more social workers but couldn’t get access. There was a lot of shouting and talk of warrants.
And That’s It For Now
I don’t know what happens next – I’m waiting for a call from social services to update me, but I guess that a warrant is going to be needed. The next thing for me once I hear is to try to find out more about his finances and how the house was funded.
Whether he has a will and what it says.
This isn’t over by a long way. I don’t care about my Uncle’s money, I do care that it’s looking increasingly like he’s a victim.
The only question is how many people are involved.
It doesn’t matter, I’m taking this all the way.
A lot has happened and..
This is continued in Chinatown