Bill Kitson

 

Read below for an extract from Dead and Gone

2010


‘I thought I was doing right.’ The old man was plainly distressed. ‘They were a good local company, so I thought. I even knew one of the directors, Linda Wilson; the one who has gone missing – known her family for years. It looked like a great chance to provide for the boy.’ His gaze shifted to the photographs on the battered dresser.

The reporter didn’t smile at the description of the farmer’s son, for although now over forty years old, to the farmer, his son would always remain a boy. Indeed, where his mental capacity was concerned, he would stay a child until he died.

‘My wife isn’t well, and both of us are getting older. Our son can be a handful to manage, even for someone younger and fitter than us. What concerns us is what will happen when we’re gone. So when they offered us this share deal it seemed too good to miss. If we could earn a tidy sum from the investments like they promised, we’d be able to set it aside to help with the cost of the upkeep when we’re not around. That, plus the value of the farm, would be plenty, we reckoned. Instead of which it looks as if we’ll have to sell up just to clear our debts; the money we’d invested in those shares has gone.’

The Netherdale Gazette reporter looked sympathetic. ‘Can you tell me what happened, Mr Shaw? With the shares, I mean?’

‘They did all right to begin with. I kept getting reports about the companies I’d invested in, and the share prices seemed to be moving the right way. The profit forecasts were good, so I was happy with the advice I’d been given by Bishopton Investments. The only thing was they hadn’t sent us any share certificates. That should have made me suspicious, but it didn’t. Not until it was too late.’

‘How long was it before things started to go wrong?’

‘A few months – six or seven maybe. The bloke we’d been dealing with said he’d been conducting a review of our portfolio and thought he could make one or two improvements. He suggested three companies that would offer better prospects.’

‘And that didn’t make you suspicious?’

‘Why would it?’ Shaw’s tone was defensive. ‘It seemed like they were looking after our interests, so I was happy to go along with it. The only drawback was the minimum investment they needed for the new shares was higher than the original amount we’d put in. Even that didn’t make me suspect anything, so I borrowed money from the bank to top up our original outlay. It stretched me to the limit, but I was confident the risk would be worthwhile.’

He looked round at his familiar surroundings, and the reporter noticed a tear in the corner of Shaw’s eyes, heard the tremble of emotion in his voice. ‘Now, it looks as if we’re going to lose the lot unless this court case produces a miracle. Five generations my family’s farmed this land. I always knew I’d be the last. Our elder son and his wife were killed in a car smash, and my granddaughter’s not one for farming. Our youngest isn’t up to it, as you know, but despite that I hoped we’d end our days here. Looks like that isn’t going to happen, though.’

The reporter was to remember those words later, but for the time being merely made a sympathetic noise, halfway between clearing his throat and coughing. He’d heard similar stories several times already and his investigation was far from over. The others hadn’t been as poignant, but the dreadful losses were beginning to mount up to huge sums. ‘Do the police think they’ll be able to recover any of your money?’

The farmer shook his head. ‘They have to catch the bastards first. Even that won’t be easy, they reckon. Apparently, when they went to the firm’s premises, the buggers had cleared off and taken all the records with them. There was the bloke selling the shares, but the ringleader was Linda Wilson. She’s the one behind it, and now she’s gone abroad, or so the police say.’

‘They don’t seem too optimistic about your money by the sound of it?’

Shaw frowned. ‘No, and the detective didn’t say as much, but he implied it was as much my fault as theirs.’


The scandal rocked the community. North Yorkshire had never experienced anything quite like it. Most of the residents within the dale heard the news first on Helm Radio or read it in the leader of the Netherdale Gazette. The editor had some difficulty getting his paper’s legal advisors to agree the headline, let alone the content of the article.


‘BIG FRAUD SUSPECTED AS B.I.G. GOES BUST.


Bishopton Investment Group, whose advertising slogan ‘Thinking investments? Think B.I.G’, attracted many small investors to the local financial services company, was today placed in the hands of receivers. The Gazette understands that the insolvency practitioners appointed to handle the receivership called in police immediately after examining the books, fuelling rumours of widespread malpractice already circulating.

Nobody was available to comment, either at the receivers’ offices, Bishopton Investments, or the local police station. However, a reliable source informed our reporters that the sums involved could run into millions. We understand that concerns about what was happening at the company were first raised by one of the senior financial executives at Wilson Macaulay Industries.

Bishopton Investments was formed in 1984 by local businessmen Stephen Wilson and Duncan Macaulay, co-founders of Wilson Macaulay Industries. The investment company remained independent of the rest of the group. Linda Wilson, company secretary and granddaughter of Stephen Wilson, along with Peter Macaulay, grandson of Duncan Macaulay, were still involved with the company at the time of the collapse. Mr Macaulay refused to comment on the appointment of the administrators, or the rumours regarding financial irregularities. All our attempts to contact Ms Wilson have been unsuccessful, and we understand that the police and the receivers are anxious to locate and interview her.

In a statement, local police highlighted the extent of the fraud. ‘Our investigation has revealed that large sums of money have been systematically diverted from the company’s funds to offshore accounts. We believe this was made possible by a corruption in the company’s computer system which allowed one individual to make the necessary alterations. All the changes were authorized by the company secretary, Linda Wilson. However, efforts to locate Ms Wilson have proved unsuccessful. In addition to the theft from within the company, we are also attempting to locate another executive of Bishopton Investments, Mark Tankard, with regard to worthless shares that were sold to investors over the past few months.’


Despite the best efforts of the police, and international arrest warrants being issued for Linda Wilson and Mark Tankard, no trace of them was found, apart from a sighting of Linda Wilson boarding a cross-channel ferry in Hull, and confirmation from hotels in Amsterdam and Paris that the fleeing executive had stayed there. Later, after funds diverted from Bishopton Investment Group and those from the sale of worthless shares were traced to a bank in the Cayman Islands, police there confirmed that Linda Wilson had stayed in a hotel several months earlier. Enquiries confirmed that the bank account in question had been closed following the withdrawal of the money, but there the trail went cold.

By the time the hearing to wind up the affairs of Bishopton Investment Group took place, no arrests had been made. The detective leading the inquiry admitted that all attempts to trace Linda Wilson and the missing share-pusher had failed.

On the day of the hearing, when it became apparent that no recompense would be forthcoming, the old farmer left Netherdale County Court and drove home. The foreclosure on the farm would be enforced within a week. Later that afternoon, he picked up the phone and dialled a local number.

‘North Yorkshire police,’ the constable intoned.

‘My name is Arthur Shaw, of Manygates Farm. I have just suffocated my wife and son. Will you please send someone as soon as possible?’ He replaced the receiver, and as the young police officer was still wondering whether the call was a hoax, Shaw placed the twin barrels of his 12-bore under his chin and squeezed the trigger.


REVIEWS


I have a continuing fondness for Bill's Nash and Miranova - they are as good as any of the major Crime teams in the current round of TV adaptations, and one wonders if this wonderful duo will ever make it to the screen.

 ... Nash and Logan McRae are desperately needed on TV, producers, to replace the flagging Midsomer Murders ...

In this latest caper, Nash and his team are once again at full stretch, with all the attendant furore and an alarmed public.


Bill writes with confidence and authority, his characters are real people, people in whom you can believe, and this is one of the best crime novels to be published so far this year.’


                                                                                               Paul Norman, Books Monthly on-line,  May 2015,