My Uncle and his wife went missing and all contact was lost.
My Aunt, his sister died on the 9th May and we had to try to track him down.
We found his solicitor, in Leyburn North Yorkshire and he asked my Uncle to call my Dad – which he did, from an unknown mobile, on the evening of Sunday 13th May, with a strange rambling tale that included:
- 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- His driving licence had been revoked by the Police – he didn’t know why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 rang the owner of the mobile – somebody unknown to the family and asked for the address – she refused.
I drove to Leyburn on Monday, tracked the house, did a property search to confirm that it was indeed my Uncle’s place and rang the bell.
Only to have the Police called on me.
Many hours later, I’d seen my Uncle, discovered that his mind is partway gone and that he doesn’t remember my whole existence.
I raised a safeguarding concern with North Yorkshire Social Services and was informed that the Police had also done so.
I managed to track down ‘Sharon’s’ family – they live about ten miles away from my Uncle’s place and I spoke to Estate Agents, Essex Social Services and North Yorkshire Social Services.
The Picture that was emerging was quite scary, one person who had been in quite close contact said that in their view, Sharon has some real mental problems.
The Social Services net is so loose that they literally moved away from one open case and disappeared from view.
I agreed to let Social Services do the contact as this is just so complicated.
And so we move on.
You can’t put your arms around a memory
Deep down, I already know how this ends.
And it doesn’t end well for anybody.
But I’ll play the game out to the bitter end, knowing that the right thing to do is also painful, fraught with anguish and may break the people I’m trying to save.
Maybe I’m wrong, we’ll see in a month or two.
I got the funeral date from my Dad last week and also spoke to my cousin who’s making all the arrangements and tried to explain how things were. It wasn’t easy.
My Dad is quite despondent about all this, I think that he thinks that he’ll never see his brother again, I’m determined that he will, but it may not be soon.
I made all the right noises to my dad and left a message for the assigned Social Services worker with all the details and a request to:
- Let My Uncle know the funeral date
- That I would pick him up from the Black Bull next Sunday, 3rd June and that we would then drive to Norfolk.
I’m two months into a new job and strike action in France and issues in Colombia along with a twelve hour journey into London and back for meetings kept me busy for a few days so I didn’t chase until Thursday.
When I finally had a conversation with the Case Worker.
It wasn’t good.
Double Talking Jive
First the good news, Healthcare staff were going into the house a few times a week and some rubbish clearing had been done (they filled a skip up) .
The older ladies in the house are healthy and they’ve all been told not to keep the curtains closed all day.
And that’s it for the good news.
‘Sharon’ is very hostile to the Social Workers and won’t allow them into the house, no mental health assessment has been done on my uncle yet and they’re taking it all slowly in case they run again..
I feel for these guys, they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t but this wasn’t helping me at all.
‘So what you’re saying is that I can’t get a message to my Uncle to tell him when the funeral is?’
‘Unfortunately no, at this stage we can’t get past the lady’
‘The one that we all reported as being a potential abuser?’
‘Yes, I’m sorry, maybe if you sent a letter…?’
‘That she would likely open and not give to my Uncle…’
We talked for a while longer about whether I should have Power of Attorney, everybody thinks I should, but – and there’s always a but…..
My Uncle would have to sign that over to me.
I hung up, depressed and angry that one woman could have this sort of power over us all.
Ain’t it Fun
The letter idea wasn’t the worst idea in the world, it was how to execute it so that I can use it as evidence if Sharon didn’t play nicely.
I bought a mobile phone for ‘Old People’
And a Sim
I prepaid it with £30 of credit and I programmed it up, testing it by calling my number and my Dad’s and making an incoming call to test calls both ways.
And I wrote two letters.
Here they are.. only the names and numbers have changed.
‘Dear Uncle George
Your Sister Sarah’s Funeral is on Tuesday 5th June in Norfolk.
When we met, (with the policeman) you asked if I would
drive you there, the answer is still Yes.
I will collect you from the Black Bull on Sunday 3 rd June at
4pm and will drive us to Norfolk.
We will stay in a hotel for two nights – I will book and pay.
I will drive you back after the funeral, so please pack
enough clothes and any prescription drugs for two nights.
In the other envelope, is a mobile phone. It is yours and is
fully paid for.
I have given the number to your brother, my Dad, he
would very much like to speak to you again.
My Number and his number are in the phone and already
I will call you at 12PM on Monday to make sure that we can finalise the arrangments
‘Dear Uncle George
This is your phone. It is fully paid for.
The Number is 0795x xxxxxx
To unlock, press and hold the # key
To turn it on, press and hold the red key
My number and My Dad’s are in the phone, press the key
below NAMES to bring them up.
MY NUMBER IS 0772 xxxxxx
Your Brother’s Number is 078 xxxxxx
Your Brother In Law’s House Number is 0xxxxxxx
I will speak to you on Monday at 12pm
I printed them and put the phone, charger and letter into one envelope and the other letter into a different envelope, I wrote his name in huge text and then went to the next stage,
I was never fully convinced as to whether this plan would work, but by this stage, I was thinking of move and countermove, if I did this, what would Sharon do next – and what would I do after that?
So I booked a hotel for Saturday – It was the Wyvill Arms and I have to say that it was absolutely lovely, if you’re in that area, it’s money well spent. Then on Saturday morning, I took a slow, painful drive across The Pennines on a bank holiday weekend, arriving in Middleham at around 1pm.
I parked uphill from the house, took the envelopes from the car, set my phone to record a video and walked up the path.
Dust and Bones
I could see an old lady asleep in a chair in the lounge window and I put the first of my letters through the letterbox.
I couldn’t get the phone through as the charger was too big, so I left it by the door, very visible, with my Uncle’s name in large script on the envelope.
I’d been recording all this time and on a whim, I turned my phone towards the window as I walked away so that I could view it later.
The old lady may have stirred, but she was asleep again as I passed.
I got into the car and drove to Leyburn for some lunch before going to the hotel.
Welcome to The Jungle
I have a theory about Sharon, I’ve talked to so many people who’ve had dealings with her and my overriding impression is one of arrogance and a sense of her own superiority.
Here’s the thing though, people who think they’re smart very often aren’t and if you use the power of the state as a weapon against other people, then don’t be surprised if it backfires.
The best thing that she actually did was to call the police on me, if I’d got access for 10 minutes, arranged the funeral and done a bit of driving, this would likely vanish into the middle distance again.
But she didn’t, she treated me like some sort of embarrassing lackey to be removed by her footmen and she now has my full attention.
Everything that I show and post is also being put into a file that I’ll be using in a week or two if things go as badly as I suspect, so the photo below is two things.
The first thing is a nice view, taken using the rather nifty OS Maps app, which puts an augmented reality overlay on the photo. Middleham is over to the right of the photo.
The second thing is a small piece of evidence (along with invoices) that I was in the area, at my own cost and that any statements I make further down the line are backed up.
As I mentioned earlier, the hotel is rather splendid and a good meal, with wine, beer and a XO or two made the troubles of the day melt away before I crashed into a strange disturbed sleep with some elements of the day popping into my consciousness at odd stages.
A screenshot I’d taken from my delivery video earlier in the day, I hadn’t seen him, but he was also asleep on a chair, surrounded by clutter and looking very frail. Only he and the old lady were in the room.
I woke at 4am and just lay there and read a book until it was time for breakfast, before getting in the car and taking another quick trip to Middleham before getting back on the road again.
Right Next Door to Hell
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in the thousands of words that I’ve written now, but it doesn’t matter.
My Uncle’s neighbours on both sides are absolutely lovely, genuine people who would have looked out for them as neighbours and brought them into a close-knit community of mostly retired people.
That’s never going to happen while Sharon lives there.
I parked opposite the neighbour higher up the hill to my Uncle and was immediately called over and invited in for tea.
We chatted for quite a while and I can’t say enough nice things about them, working class people who saved for their retirement, living a life overlooking the Dales, with regular pub visits, walks, cheap lunches in the social centre and a weekly ‘lads’ night out for the husband.
They told me horror stories of screaming, shouting and abuse – all from Sharon directed at the others in the house.
I told them that I’d tracked their history and her family and I was quietly pleased with myself when they said that a car with distinctive number plates had been present during their move and also to take them away when they disappeared at New Year. I correctly predicted the distinctive letters (it’s Sharon’s brother’s initials) and they told me that they’d seen the car in Ripon.
Sharon apparently treats my Uncle like a porter and drags him behind her carrying huge bags of shopping while she marches in front of him.
My new friends, no stranger to booze were shocked at the sheer volume of wine bottles that the house produces – pretty good considering that my Uncle has been teetotal all his life.
They owe money to every tradesman in town and are blacklisted by the plumber and the TV shop, not bad given that they’ve only lived there two months out of six.
I had a quick wander down the slope and rang the mobile quickly (twice) – it rang but I couldn’t hear it, so it wasn’t in the skip.
They gave me one last snippet before I left, Sharon was berating my Uncle to keep something tidy ‘for the Estate Agent’..
I drove home, another five hours in the car and waited until 12pm today.
Get in The Ring
I rang the phone, the phone that I bought for my Uncle.
It was switched off, yesterday it rang.
I’ve tried six times now, it’s switched off every time.
I don’t think he ever got it.
That’s OK though, I’ve booked a hotel for next Saturday night in town, I’ll put another letter through the door about the arrangements, I may even get a neighbour to knock and deliver it to him personally if I can.
I’ve booked two rooms for Norfolk.
I have a paper trail.
I have money and will never need a penny from my Uncle.
I have friends.
I have a plan.
Watch this space to see if I can actually get him to the funeral.
It doesn’t matter if I can’t.
I have a plan for this game, I know where every other player is on the board now and nobody can move without me knowing, so they can’t disappear again.
I have a plan.
Sharon, I’m coming for you.