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.
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- His driving licence had been revoked by the Police – he didn’t know why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.
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.
Frinton it was..
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.
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.
So, if you’ve got this, why move at all?
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?’
‘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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
His connection is bright and clear, he just can’t see it.
To Be Continued