No Country For Old Men

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Do You Believe?

That we are all small bright lights in the absolute blackness of a cold universe?

Do you believe that each time we make a connection with another human (or the occasional dog) that we form an invisible but glowing connection that transcends physical distance?

Do you believe that those connections wax and wane throughout our lives and that they never truly vanish, they just grow fainter like the pulse from a distant star, but that the best connections, the truest connections, forged by love; burn bright whether we see them or not?

I’m starting to.

Let’s Recap again

It’s all here.

True Detective  Chinatown Breakdown The Last Detective

My Uncle and his wife went missing late last year and all contact was lost, no phone number, no forwarding address and a drive to his house showed that he’d moved.

My Aunt, his sister died on the 9th May 2018 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  • His driving licence had been revoked by the Police – he didn’t know why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.

But in the background I did lots more work and when we got the date of the funeral, I asked Social Services to let him know the date, only to find that they hadn’t seen him so far.

I wrote two letters that cross-referenced each other and bought him a mobile phone, programming my number and my Dad’s number into it.

The first letter said that I would be back on the 2nd June and would take him to Norfolk on the 3rd June if he still wanted to attend the funeral.

The second letter stated that I would call him on Monday.

I then went back to Middleham, staying in a very pleasant hotel for the duration, delivered the phone and letter by hand, caught up with his neighbours and drove home.

Then on the Monday, I called him – the phone was switched off and stayed that way despite me calling and texting every day.

Until Wednesday 30th May.

He called my Dad and gave a string of vague excuses as to why he couldn’t go to the funeral and I put a plan into motion that produced some startling results.

I went back to Middleham and put a letter and condolence card through his door with instructions to either come to the hotel on Sunday 3rd June so that we could travel to the funeral … Or, deliver the card to me so that I could take it.

Twenty minutes later, while having tea with the neighbours, we saw her put the letter and card into the skip on their drive.

Neither my Uncle or the card turned up at the hotel and I left Middleham for Norfolk and the funeral on Sunday afternoon – and all was lost.

Or it would have been apart from two friends who stayed for a few days to watch the house.

And by something approaching a miracle, contact was made with my Uncle in a cafe, roughly at the same time as the funeral.  A long conversation was had that showed a very dark and disturbed picture of a frightened man cut adrift from his family with no way of making contact.

It was heartbreaking and a very detailed statement was passed to North Yorkshire Police and Social Services on Wednesday.

And that was going to be it for a while.

Plan B.

I was a bit down and missing a few people, so changed my plans for the weekend, heading South on Thursday instead of staying in Nantwich.

I worked a ridiculously long day on Friday and decided that maybe a visit to the coast would be a good idea for today – and maybe, just maybe, I could pull at a few loose threads.

So..

Frinton it was..

Frinton-on-Sea

Is a beautiful little town on the Essex Coast, it has amazing sandy beaches, a promenade that stretches for a mile or so, a buzzing high street and it’s flat.

Very Flat.

So why would anybody move from here to a hill in Yorkshire?

Sharon and her Mother shared a flat on the seafront, here’s a view.

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So, if you’ve got this, why move at all?

Guide Dogs.

Retire at the age of eight and there is currently an Eighteen Year waiting list  for a retired dog, apparently the longest waiting list in the UK for anything. I found this out today from a blind lady at the cafe where we breakfasted. We chatted for a while and she said that she lived on the seafront.

I mentioned the apartments that Sharon lived in and she said that it was nearby but not her block.

She was bright and inquisitive and said that she had a friend who lived there though..

A few more minutes talking and it was clear that her friend lived above Sharon and her mum.

I told her the story and she took my business card with a promise to get her friend to call me when he gets back from holiday. I promised to update her and that we’d all go back for tea soon for a catch-up.

And a small glowing connection was made.

The Estate Agent

Who sold both Sharon’s and my Uncle’s properties was a five minute walk away and after waiting for his customers to leave, I wandered in and introduced myself.

He looked vague for a second and I mentioned my Uncle.

‘Sit down please, I was wondering about him is he OK?

‘Not really, its quite a bad situation that he’s in, I spoke to one of your colleagues before.. ‘

‘ I wish I could say that I’m surprised, but I suppose that he’s still tied up with Sharon?’

‘Yes’

‘Well, I did everything that I could, I even phoned the Police and Social Services and got them involved, but if she’s still around dripping poison in his ear, he probably can’t get away.’

While I sat there in stunned silence, this stranger, this man who could have let things lie and just sold a couple of properties, went on to tell a tale of increasingly bad things.

My Aunt had gone into hospital and my Uncle and already met Sharon and her Mother, he then moved into their flat for at least a month, not returning home at all.

He had his driving licence taken away after a few prangs in his car, but still drove all the way to Yorkshire with Sharon and her mother leaving my aunt behind. 

Essex Police had put out an alert on his car and he was stopped in Yorkshire, his car impounded and he had to get a cab back.

His house was sold in February, but the police and social services investigation meant that the sale didn’t complete until December.

By Summer, it was clear that he was afraid of Sharon and the estate agent, in his own time and after work would make excuses to pick him up to take him to the hospital to see his wife. 

Otherwise he wouldn’t have gone.

Because by this time, they’d moved in with him.

I was near tears by this point, this stranger had done so much, simply because it was the right thing.

He produced a file with phone numbers and names of police officers and social workers, I now have their names and I’ll be passing them on to Yorkshire.

And then he said that we should talk to the neighbours.

So he called them there and then, they jumped at the chance to talk, we made an appointment for an hour’s time.

I also asked him about Sharon’s flat, pointing to it on the wall (it’s up for sale again) and asking what condition it was in.

Awful, we could only take one photo, it was like a bad hoarder sort of thing and it had to be gutted after they left and refitted’ 

I shook his hand and thanked him profusely, promising to come back and update him.

And another connection glowed for an instant.

Intermission

Small dogs and beaches make any situation better.

They just do.

Meet The Neighbours

I can’t use their real names, but we met two sets of neighbours and their interlocking stories are going to haunt me tonight.

But, anyway.

I introduced myself and they were reticent at first, Sharon has scared them, a lot.

Dave, Sheila’s husband asked me what I was hoping to do.

‘Put her in prison’

The ice was broken, but the room got colder.

The whole neighbourhood had been concerned about my Uncle and his wife and had played an active part in trying to help him and also keep police and social services updated.

Because Sharon had physically assaulted Sheila when she went to my Uncle’s to pay him for a favour he’d done.

Because my Aunt had been left alone for three days locked in a room in her wheelchair with only breakfast cereal.

Because the police had to kick the door in to let her out.

Because Sharon had previous and had been charged with assault.

Because the house was a living nightmare.

With.

Obscene things scrawled on all the letters and paperwork in the house, newspapers full of human shit all over the floors, rubbish everywhere and the curtains were closed all the time. Your Aunt had to bang on the connecting wall to get rescued and she was surrounded by her own shit.’

A very nervous, quite gentle lady told me these things and we talked for over an hour, she despairs of Sharon ever getting caught as ‘social services promised that they would send a file to Yorkshire, but they couldn’t have could they?’

We talked a lot and she has volunteered to write a statement and take it to court if necessary.

It probably will be necessary.

The neighbours think that it would be nice if he could move back, they genuinely care.

I promised to go back and update them, kissed both ladies cheeks and left, shocked at the network of people who cared enough to try to help my Uncle.

And two more connections glowed for a moment.

Postscript(s)

During the drive back, I called my new partners in the detective agency, they confirmed that the skip in Middleham was being filled with incontinence pads, so the story is true without a doubt.

During both calls, a glowing connection burned white hot for a few moments.

I then had to tell my Dad the hard truth of what had happened, he took it very well but then..

‘I feel guilty that I’m not doing more, I don’t want you to be alone in this’ 

‘I’m not, I have SO much support..’

‘It’s just that I can’t physically do this’ 

‘Stop, just stop, you did everything for us when we were younger, it’s my turn this time, I promise that you will see your brother again, I promise, I love you Dad’

I hung up as he started crying.

A connection is burning like an arc-welder’s torch right now.

This isn’t over.

It’s dark outside now and it’s even darker where my Uncle is, he thinks he’s alone and cut off now that the funeral is over.

He’s not.

His connection is bright and clear, he just can’t see it.

He will.

To Be Continued

 

 

 

 

The Last Detective

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Let’s Recap – Again

It’s all here… But…

True Detective

Chinatown

Breakdown

I got into this because my Aunt died, I’d offered to drive my Dad to the funeral (once the date was announced) and I went to see him to have a chat, but he was more worried about whether my Uncle would turn up.

My Uncle and his wife went missing late last year and all contact was lost, no phone number, no forwarding address and a drive to his house showed that he’d moved.

My Aunt, his sister died on the 9th May 2018 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.

But in the background I did lots more work and when we got the date of the funeral, I asked Social Services to let him know the date, only to find that they hadn’t seen him so far.

I wrote two letters that cross-referenced each other and bought him a mobile phone, programming my number and my Dad’s number into it.

The first letter said that I would be back on the 2nd June and would take him to Norfolk on the 3rd June if he still wanted to attend the funeral.

The second letter stated that I would call him on Monday.

I then went back to Middleham, staying in a very pleasant hotel for the duration, delivered the phone and letter by hand, caught up with his neighbours and drove home.

Then on the Monday, I called him – the phone was switched off and stayed that way despite me calling and texting every day.

Until Wednesday 30th May.

An Unexpected Call

I use a text programme called Signal to send and receive SMS / Files etc, and I have it set to show me when texts are received, I was surprised then to see a bunch of them go through to the phone, I then got a phone call from my Dad, he sounded angry, hurt and confused.

My Uncle had called him from the phone that I’d bought and in the shortest conversation that anybody can remember, he said that he had an eye problem and that he couldn’t go to the funeral. He still didn’t remember me and seemed vague about the fact that it was his younger sister who was being buried.

I asked my Dad to text me the details so that we had a trail, tried to reassure him with my plan for the weekend and hung up, slightly depressed and more than a bit angry.

I called my Social Services contact with the update and basically brooded for the evening.

Send In The Clowns

Life is strange, the smallest action has repercussions and impacts much further down the line. I’m an occasional shitposter on Twitter but the account is more photos of the dog and nice things these days. I follow a broad cross-section of people and have met a few over the past few years.

Two of these people offered to help and agreed to watch the house for me over the last weekend and beyond to see what happened after I delivered the letter / left the town / went to the funeral.

How photos of a small dog and a bit of piss-taking turns into people offering their time and travel for free can happen I have no idea.

But I’m glad that it did.

And their contribution has changed everything.

I arrived in Middleham late on Saturday afternoon and was joined for dinner by a notorious tambourine thief on Saturday evening and we discussed the events of the day so far.

Because..

Two Hours Earlier

I had hand-delivered a letter to my Uncle.

This is it in full, just the names and numbers are changed

Dear Uncle George

I hope that your conjunctivitis is better, I have driven up to Middleham and will be staying over until tomorrow.

Your Sister’s Funeral is on Tuesday 5th June at St Agatha’s Norfolk.

When we met, (with the policeman) you asked if I would drive you there, the answer is still Yes.

If you would still like to come, please call me on 0772 xxxxx , if you cannot attend, I have a condolence card that you can sign if you wish.

Please let me know what you’d like to do.

I will drive us to Norfolk if you do wish to go I have booked a hotel for two nights, it is fully paid for.

I will drive you back after the funeral if you do wish to go, so please pack enough clothes and any prescription drugs for two nights.

Love

I had enclosed the card and hand-written on the note to sign it and deliver it to the hotel by 1pm if he wasn’t going.

As I posted it, I met one of the neighbours.

The Yorkshire Tea Ceremony

He invited me in for a tea and once again, I had to enjoy the attention of their dog – a Rhodesian Ridgeback that thought that I was either a chew-toy or a hump-toy.  It could have been worse I suppose, it kept me alert at any rate.

We had a good chat and caught each other up on what had been happening, they knew that I’d delivered the phone and were surprised to find that it had actually been used. I explained about the letter and took the opportunity to tell them the real news.

My Uncle’s house would be under surveillance during daylight hours as from Sunday and that any strange cars parked up weren’t sinister.

While we chatted, my Uncle’s door opened and a heavy-set, angry-looking woman appeared, she marched out to the road, looked up and down – presumably for my car and then threw something into the skip while we all watched.

It was fairly obvious what it was, but I finished my tea and chatted for quite a bit longer before leaving and wandering to the skip via a roundabout route.

And.

Unsurprisingly.

The item in the skip was indeed the letter to my Uncle, I took photos and the name was clearly visible. I took photos from a few angles and walked back to the hotel strangely happy.

Cracks in the Armour

We discussed the letter and the conversations with the neighbours over dinner, they had given me some new horror stories and life in the house sounds as miserable as I can imagine. There’s no evidence of physical abuse, but it’s clear that only one person in the house is allowed to have a view or a say in anything.

Dinner was excellent, good food and good service – although I had to get rid of the candle that the landlady had put there after I changed my dinner for one to a table for two….

To walk it off and scout out the house, we took some back paths that bring you out to the corner of the road and we took a slow cautious walk through the churchyard to my Uncle’s house, the curtains were closed but interestingly, the letter was gone, either buried in the skip or removed elsewhere. I can only guess that she didn’t want me or perhaps my Uncle to see it.

Either way, this was good, she’d acted in anger, in full view of two impartial witnesses and it felt like a crack that could be widened with the right pressure.

We parted ways and I tried to sleep.

The Third Man

Turned up on Sunday morning, The Tambourine Thief and I had already walked to the house and met the neighbour on the other side of my Uncle’s house. He offered tea and support and we passed a pleasant ten minutes watching racehorses being walked through the town on their way to the Gallops on the Dales.

Middleham is delightful, I can easily imagine it being a great place to retire to, people are friendly, there are four pubs in a small square, the landscape is amazing and they have a castle just above the town centre.

So why would you move here, cut yourself off, not interact with the neighbours and leave your curtains closed all day when you could be looking at the Dales?

These were the questions that occupied us over coffee that morning while we watched the tourists…

At 12, we split up and the man with the most luxurious moustache in Yorkshire began the first shift of watching the house, which left the two of us with an hour to kill before the card was maybe due to arrive

So, we had a wander and drifted into an antique shop.

Awfully Pleasant Presents

Whereby.

I was bought a splendid Silver Jubilee Plate to replace a plate destroyed by Hurricane Saffa.

The Third Man was bought a delightful perfume bottle in the shape of a poodle with a luxuriant moustache.

Meanwhile, while the Tambourine Thief was giggling to himself like some some of deviant, I picked up a small ornament…

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I paid £7 for this stunning piece of artwork and with a jaunty ‘here you go Princess’ I silenced his frankly sinister giggling.

We then settled in to wait.

And nothing happened.

I phoned my Uncle’s number, it didn’t answer.

I sent a string of disappointed texts. No response.

At 13:30 I drove off, leaving the town behind in the care of my two friends.

Just a note here, they refused to take any money or payment of any kind, not for food, petrol, beer, anything. My suggestion that I should do this was dismissed as ‘Noncery’.

So I don’t use words like ‘friends’ lightly, I have very few people that I call that and I’m proud to add these two.

On the Road Again.

I drove to Norfolk, the landscape gradually flattening out into wide open grasslands and then wetlands, but always staggeringly beautiful.

England is an amazing place to drive through, there’s beauty and history wherever you look and the view changes so quickly that a 3 hour drive felt like an hour.

I stopped once for coffee but was keen to see what updates – if any there were from Bodie and Doyle.

I arrived at my hotel parked my car 100 feet from the water and checked in.

Ugh.

What a dump, I’m going to skip over the hotel with a succinct review.

Poor food, bad service, stairs patched with duct tape, awful room, crappy beer and food poisoning.

HOW MUCH? HOW FUCKING MUCH?

Nothing else happened in Middleham on Sunday, except an unexpected result that I’ll put down to Karma or something. I don’t know.

Anyway.

Remember the £7 sand castle?

An identical one is on eBay – bidding was at £893 on Sunday evening, not bad for a bit of slightly gay tat bought as a wind-up.

Meanwhile

In the world outside, I had a few beers with my cousin on Sunday.

I haven’t seen him for, well, I don’t know. We talked about anything and everything and I was surprised and pleased to find that I really liked him, I put him in a cab and we agreed to meet with his Dad and brother the next day for dinner.

I Don’t Like Mondays

Food poisoning took up most of the day for me, along with work and conference calls.

Cagney and Lacey spotted a fire surround, a TV and some patio furniture being delivered from a hospice van, before Lacey left to go back to real life, leaving just one man to watch the house for just one more day before real life would kick in again.

I had a nice dinner with the family and told the story so far before heading back to the hotel where I had drinks with my Cousin’s sons, who turned out to be excellent company and I told the story again over lots of gin until they threw us out of the bar.

Tuesday was the day of the funeral and I went to bed and again slept badly.

Tyrsday

Is one of the many old names for Tuesday, I’m going to let you look up the god Tyr for yourself, but it’s appropriate, I promise.

I went to my Aunt’s house, it’s in a stunning location and had a cup of tea before driving to the funeral.

I had a chance to catch up with a few more relatives and was quite relaxed on the way as it was still morning and IF anything was going to happen at the house, it’d be PM.

My Dad had arrived first and he looked dreadful, gaunt and drained and it’s clear that losing his sister and possibly his brother was eating him alive.

I didn’t see much of him, just gave him an update that the house was still being watched and some vague reassurances that made my teeth itch to say them.

The funeral was nice, beautifully done and went without any drama.

He left to go home and I went back to the house for another cup of tea.

While I was there I spoke to my Dad’s cousin who walked up to me, gave me a hug and said ‘You’re the Investigator’.

I may have blushed.

She told me that she and her sister had also lost touch, confirming that my Uncle was indeed completely isolated.

And then at 13:15 – it all changed.

The Last Detective

Followed a taxi from my Uncle’s house to Leyburn and watched them wander around for a while before ‘Sharon’ went to a hairdresser and my Uncle wandered off and was lost to sight.

A few minutes later, he found my Uncle in a cafe, managed to get a photo of him and then actually struck up a conversation with him.

He’s written a report for me on the conversation, there’s no standout admission that he’s being abused, but the transcript verifies everything that we thought and more.

Much More.

I told my Dad about this yesterday and I could hear the pain dropping away for a few seconds before realisation kicked in that the situation really is bad.

But…. I now have the report and after sobbing my heart out for a few minutes, I sent it to Leyburn Police and North Yorkshire Social Services (they knew that it was coming) .

It’s heartbreaking stuff and I think that it’s going to make my Dad cry or scream when I read it to him later, but it’s evidence that nobody else has managed to get, an interview that nobody else has managed to get and it’s going to change everything.

A Few Good Men

This isn’t over by a long way, I think it may have to go to the Court of Protection, but I’ve already done the paperwork. I can see some some of light ahead now.

I’m proud of what we’ve achieved in a few weeks and sad that the system can’t quite fit together despite a lot of good people.

But…

I have no words for my friends right now, they have my loyalty until the day I die and I can never repay them.

To Be Continued