Good day to you whomever you might be and felicitations, your good health and a happy life to you! Why are you reading this little account of myself, I wonder? For I know I shall be long dead before you read it. A comforting thought for me.
This tale is all about how I made lots and lots of money from, to put no finer point on it, a blag. Yes, one big, huge colourful, ins and outs BLAG!
You may know me as a philanthropist of sorts, a kind man, a gentle soul who landed a fortune through no offices of his own, and lived well, not excessively nor extravagantly, on said fortune to this very day. But, this very day has come. And I am finally writing it all down. For me it's a Catharsis, a letting go, a kiss-and-tell, The Whole Truth And Nothing But, M'Lord. I didn't land the fortune, I blagged it. I didn't inherit, I nicked. I didn't come by it, I stole it good and proper. But I stole it from you my friend, though you'll never feel the loss. And I stole it because I could, and, yes, because I was young and cocky. And very, very lucky. I swiped it from under the nose of the Authorities, with their signatures all over it. It was such larks, and the very most fun I've ever had.
Then here begins my outpouring of what and how, when and where, I pulled off the biggest blag in British history, and why you've never heard of it. Until now.
I'm literally on my death bed, so no cozzers will come round to take me away having read this. For I shall be deceased, gone to meet my maker, joined the Pythons invisible and no longer accountable to any living person on earth. God will be my Judge, and He doesn't exist, so that’s alright. I begin at the beginning, when the germ of it first came into my young head.
When I graduated from Oxford Kings College in July 1977, I had a double first in English an no desire to teach or be an academic, which were the only routes at the time to a paying job. I needed money, I liked the good life, my college years were funded by my dear old Pa, and then abruptly ended when he did. He wasn't good with the old dough, as I was going to be, and died owing a considerable amount of money to the Tote.
They never got it back.So, penniless and pretty much alone, I applied for all kind of Government jobs, boring jobs, but jobs that paid the rent and had a fine pension and other benefits. Significant other benefits as it turns out. Anyway, I managed to get my way into a junior clerk's job at the Land Registry. All wood-panelling and leather desks for the bosses, squeaky chairs and woodworm-holed furniture for the rest of us. My new boss was one of the jolly good old fellows who didn't really need to work, had money of his own (well, his wife's money) but really needed the comfort of the nine-five. The Monday to Friday and a drink in the bar with workmates after hours.
A very nice life he had indeed.
On my first day, he called me in for a chat, and told me that, with my qualifications and with some aptitude, I could do very well for myself in the Registry. You could go very far indeed, young man. Him pontificating along those lines, and waffling about, my mind drifted away a little, then found myself looking at what he was doing, all the while telling me of the greatness I could become.
He was signing papers.
Top of In-Tray, onto desk, squiggle accurately on the dotted line, top of Out-Tray. And repeat. Waffle waffle waffle.
Now there's interesting! He's not actually reading the stuff he's signing. I could go very far indeed, with a little application, I thought to myself, oh yes! He finished his homilies, wished me well in the job and sent me back to my desk. With an Idea.
Now, I was a generally law-abiding citizen, don't do no wrong, as my old Pa used to say (and, it might appear, never stuck to himself), wouldn't rob an old dear of her life savings etc. But back then I could be a bit of a devious fellow, looking for the main chance, seeing around me "opportunities" that passed everyone else by. I'd managed to get the best desk by the window with a bit of the old charm I could employ, when I wanted to, and all that. But My Idea was going to be a big one, one that wouldn't bother too many people, and eventually make a great deal of money without much effort. Just the way I liked it. And still do. The easy life.
So, I had to be there for a while to get my bearings and be a good employee. I worked overtime, which was grim in winter as the heating went off abruptly at 5pm. I did a few weekends, and I was oh so very nice to everybody, played losing golf with the boss, went on away-days and all that hard graft expected of you for a typical Government career path. In fact, I did this with an amount of humility and gracefulness which I had to learn, as it wasn't in my typical nature, because I wanted to be good, but not too good. Be just under the radar, so-to-speak. Not high-flying, because I wanted to stay pretty much where I was in the department.
I was spending my evenings thinking, just wondering what could be done, not writing anything down, because that could be dangerous, so it was all in my head. A plan began to form itself, and every angle peered at from all directions. I went over it and over it and over it. And the plan seemed to be there, I just had to screw my courage to the wall and, well, just get on with it.
So the time came to put all my eggs in one basket, hope for the best, hope that prison food wouldn't be as awful as they say, and drew up a Registration Document. In official Land Registry headed foolscap paper, assigning the land at 26 Downview Avenue in my name. I put it near the top of a sheaf of papers destined for the boss's In-Tray and gave the pile to Heather, as I always did on a Wednesday afternoon. Then I saw her go into his office, and I followed her in.
"Just a quick word, Mr Gibbons, if you have time?" I said.
"Of course, Master Andrews, happy to, young man, come in, come in, sit down! Heather, two teas if you'd be so kind? Thank you!"
I sat across from him and started my prepared little speech.
"I was wondering, Mr Gibbons, as I've been here for some time, what you might think I could do to get a promotion. I remember my very first day here, sir, and inspired by what you said, I should be most grateful if you could guide me a little more about what I could do next?"
Well, that did it, just the right tone. He was off, pretty much everything he'd said to me on my first day he said again. And quite delightfully, and giddily excitingly for me, he was signing the papers. My one off the In-tray, onto his desk, accurately signing on the dotted line without much of a look at it. And the next one, and the next, until he'd finished his speech and looked at me, eye-brows raised, for some kind of response. I said,
"That's very helpful of you, Mr Gibbons, sir, I shall look into doing that extra bit of studying and talk to Mr. Stove tomorrow. Most grateful for your help, sir."
"Think nothing of it, young man, pleased to be of service to one of our brightest stars, yes."
Well, I was not sure I wanted to be a bright star, but I kept repeating to myself the essence of what he said, because it was really difficult to concentrate on anything but my signed document. I think I left rather quickly, nearly bumping in to Heather on the way out. Heather was going to be unwittingly useful.
So that was The First One. I waited a week or so, saw the document come back into my in-tray and it was all legal. I owned the land under the garage at Downview Avenue. Time to capitalise on that then, I thought, as I handed the pile to Heather for filing. Time to make it pay.
It was a grey, drizzly kind of day as I drew up to the garage on the following Saturday morning. I got out of my battered looking Austin Princess, grabbed my briefcase with a single document in it, and walked into the office of "Braithwaite Motors - car servicing, brakes, tyres, exhausts and MOTs”. Mr Braithwait, an elderly weather-beaten looking man, sat in his office swivel chair writing out an MOT. He looked up, then, I remember, immediately looked out of the window at my car.
"Princess, is it, sir, the bearings gone, have they? Usual thing with those charabancs, I'm afraid.”
"No, its not about the car, Mr Braithwait - it is Mr Braithwait isn't it?"
"Yes, me 'imself, only one left working here now, and not long for my retirement, so get your booking in, I'd say, soonish."
He paused, looked up at me and said, "Oh, not about the Princess then, sir?"
"No,” I said, "It's about your garage."
"My garage, what of it?"
"I own the land it's sitting on, and I'm charging you one hundred pounds per year ground rent, starting today.” Actually, that's the essence of what I said, I think I was much more charming than it sounds, because Mr Braithwait didn't seem too fussed, his retirement must have been on his mind.
"Got any proof, Mr, err…?"
"Andrews, yes, it's here", I opened the briefcase and placed the document on his desk for him to see. I remember not wanting him to touch it with his oily hands.
"Well, yes, that looks kosher to me, Mr Andrews, I've often wondered what was to be done about the lease, no harm in dealing with it now then, I don't suppose. A hundred pounds a year, sir, is that what you're saying?"
"Yes, it is,” I said, being very confident of myself, which is the part you have to play in these situations, naturally,
"And it will be a hundred pounds per year in-perpetuity, Mr Braithwaite, that means it will never go up as long as I own the lease, that's my promise to you."
"I know what it means, Mr Andrews,” he was dangerously close to picking the thing up, so I took it and put it safely back into the briefcase.
"Well,” he said, "I'll have my friend look at it, before I hand over any cash, he's a solicitor.” My heart jumped a bit, and I nearly started stuttering my words, but no, that would be fine, I said, it is a legal document, I know, I work in the Land Registry. We set up a time for us three to meet at the garage; the solicitor, Mr B and me for Monday at six pm.
That was pretty scary, but it all seemed to go better than planned. The solicitor was a bit of a hiccup - why didn't I think of that? Obvious really.
I'd get one in the same situ. I would.
Then something most fortunate happened, fortunate for me. As I say, I have been very, very lucky. The meeting with the solicitor did not go well at all. In fact the solicitor was very, very doubtful about the whole thing. He didn't think the document was fake, but he recognised the signature of my boss, and thought it was a bit iffy all round. He'd speak about it to Mr Gibbons (David, apparently, I didn't know) when they next played golf.
No! That was another unplanned event, I really should think about these eventualities beforehand. In hindsight, I was actually learning rather a great deal about how to be a criminal. So, the solicitor shook my hand and said he'd be in touch, and not to even think about setting up a payment schedule with Mr B until he got back to me. He made some notes in a notebook that he just carried about, like a policeman, he had no briefcase to put it in. Luck point number one. The meeting with Mr B, me and him was quite short. Mr B went off and busied himself with a gearbox he had on a bench, not really interested in the whole thing, then went off somewhere else, so the conversation about the iffiness was 'twixt me and the brief, Mr B hadn't heard any of it. Luck point number two.
Luck point number three, and the very reason I am here in my mansion bed, writing this out - the solicitor, never did remember his name - got run over by a very fast car swerving into the garage on the wet concrete just after I shook hands with him. Good heavens! How terrible! Knocked out stoned dead on the forecourt. And his notebook landed at my feet.
My second blag wasn't going to be the near disaster the first one was, so I'd got some land under a funeral directors just to keep, and maybe sell in my dotage. I was seeing quite a bit of Mr Gibbons, I was on some special projects, can't remember what they were, all boring stuff the Registry has to do every now and then. Slipping the papers in seemed to get easier and easier. And that was my master stroke - don't get greedy - that's how most crims are caught, just one last job and all that. Actually, there was just one last job, but that was later on. I'd eventually got four pieces of land to sit on, and that would do. It would certainly do as it turned out, land prices went through the roof eventually, especially commercial land, which I found easier on my conscience to acquire.
My business with Mr Gibbons was going very well, even though it was a strain on my nerves at times. But I was young and being a good employee, keeping up appearances and doing all the right things. And with one very nice promotion which paid more, got me out and about a bit, and I still got to sit in the same desk. So all was good.
Then it suddenly got more exciting.
It was at a retirement do for one of Mr Graham's contemporaries in a different bit of the Registry. I very nearly didn't go. I had a stinking cold and didn't want to go out in the evening at all. I just wanted to sit at home, read about commercial property law and keep myself to myself that evening.
"But you must come, Andrews! Heather and all the others are going, you'd be very sorely missed, please do pop in, if only for a short while."
Gibbons practically shouting at me down the telephone. Oh well, if I must. So very glad I did.
Land Registry evening do’s are very odd. You know most of the people there, those whom you work with day in, day out, but then there are the husbands and wives there too. Certainly changes your perspective on people, seeing their other halves, I can tell you. Heather's chap was significantly older than her and a bit squiffy, even as he came in. Mrs Gibbons, though, was exactly as I'd imagined her, monied, slightly patronising, dowager-kind of galleon, with very bouffant hair and pearl necklace, standing very straight indeed, like she was a Field Marshal. Perhaps she had been. The party was at the retiree's house, very nice stockbroker belt semi-detached with bay windows and a heavy front door and lion door knocker. Very nice. Mr Stove. For it was he, was the retiree and I'd been to see him a couple of fruitless times. He'd said that he didn't see me in his department, might not fit in with the non-college educated staff and all that, so not very helpful at all to my career. Apologetic, of course, very; if there was anything else he could do then say the word, but I never thought of anything else, so I didn't.
Anyway, there he was, enjoying his party with all his chums, and having rather a lot to drink. Which seemed to suit him rather well, he was witty and charming, far more so than at work. He staggered over to where I was standing, me trying to keep my cold to myself, and he nudged me and hiccuped at me for a bit then said,
"Really sorry old chum about not finding anything, hic, in my dept for you, old chum. You know how it is, awfully sorry. Tell you something,” he nudged me again in my ribs with his elbow, nearly spilling his brandy.
"If you want to make a few bob, nudge nudge, blind bat, old chum,” he was wavering a bit and trying to speak sotto-voce not very successfully, "Wink wink, I know of a stash of diamonds, and they're god-awfully difficult to get at, 'cording to the documents I've been reading lately."
What is he talking about? Diamonds? Stash? Documents? He went on, “And I'd have a jolly good go at getting 'em meself if I wasn't such a law abiding fellow, you know, what?"
He went on, "Anyway, Andrews, word to the wise, 45 GreenAcre, that is the place, 45 GreenAcre, nudge nudge, hic!”
Then he prodded me again and tottered almost till he fell over. I guided him to a nearby chaise longue for him to sit on, which he practically fell onto and sat, breathing quite hard. I was worried for him. I had his brandy glass in my hand, he seemed not to be missing it, so I drank it down, medicinal purposes, of course. Then Stove recovered quite well now, on the chais longue (who has those these days, except in stage sets?)
The party carried on as per normal, Stoves now recovered, gave a fairly decent speech and people started to drift away. I went over to him, just to see if I could get what he was on about, but he got surrounded by well-wishers, so I left and got a taxi home due to the brandy.
So had Stoves seen what I'd done? Did he know anything or everything about the registration documents I had? Maybe that's why he'd not wanted me in his department. That would make sense, his excuses were pretty thin. Law abiding, he'd said, this was not good. But then again, we'd never see him again in the office because he had just retired. Could he hand me over to the police or have a word with Gibbons? That too seemed unlikely, because he'd been quite chummy with me, gave me a nudge, nudge tip - I remembered 45 GreenAcre, that's for sure. I'd look it up when I got back in the office. But what of these documents he mentioned? Did Stoves have access to secret stuff? I think Gibbons had a buff envelope on his desk with SECRET stamped on it in red once. So maybe that echelon of bosses got access to secret Government documents once in a while, to do their job? That makes some sense. But why would Stoves say secret stuff to me? Against the OSA, surely? He was very drunk, but then, people who have access to these things tend to be really good at keeping secrets, even when seventeen sheets to the wind, it comes with the job.
I was never to know about Stoves' intentions in speaking to me that night. But I'm so very glad he did. He died a week after his party, suddenly, as if he'd decided, well that was it, passed the secret on, now I'm off. Dead.
I looked up 45 GreenAcre in the usual files but it really didn't exist. Maybe he’d got the number wrong, so I looked at any GreenAcre and, sure enough, there was a street with numbers 1 to 44, 46 to 78. No number 45 in our documents. I decided that I really had to see those secret documents old Stoves had seen.
But how was I to do that?
Well, here's the catch. I'm not going to tell you how I got to read that Top Secret document (not Secret, there is a distinction apparently) because there are people alive who had an unwitting part in my subterfuge. I want them to live long happy lives unencumbered with visits from Authorities making enquiries. Added to that, you may be wondering if the names are real too in this final missive of mine. Nope. Well, Braithwaite is - I gave his family back his land after the diamonds job. Made me feel better about myself. Not even the Land Registry department is quite real either, but it was a Government department, I still get a Government pension and it was to do with land. Sorry, but too many people might be at risk.
The Top Secret document old Stoves had been reading was very interesting indeed. It told of several hushed-up police stings, catching would-be diamond thieves attempting to get at a stash of uncut diamonds locked in a safe within the basement of 45 GreenAcre. Hushed up because they didn't want the wider public to know of the existence of said stash. No one knows who owns the things either, the report suggested that 'all was being done to locate the owner(s) and to ensure a safe delivery back to whomever they were', which was seemingly a fruitless exercise to date. Only a few lags knew about them, they'd all been rounded up and charged with various other offences (tax dodging, that kind of thing) with police keeping on eye on them, potentially for the rest of their lives. There have been several attempts on getting at the diamonds, all failed and all by the lags using explosives, power drills, tunnels and all kinds of ways into the basement. The document listed every single one of the lags. Full names and addresses. Handy. Of course I'd need a fence, or someone in on it to cut the diamonds. Split the share if need be 60/40. Millions and millions of pounds sitting under 45 GreenAcre. Or Millions and millions of pounds sitting on top of some land, as I saw it.
I memorized all of the names, middle names, aliases ('Fingers' Wilson), telephone numbers, lengths of time in jail and significant others (not many per lag). Altogether fifteen old buggers to be watched round the clock by a few senior coppers in the know. That really isn't going to happen, I thought at the time, it really isn’t. Of course, I didn't want to commit any of it to writing where it may be discovered, so the memory bank did the job. I was young, it was easy. I liked to use Sherlock Holmes's mind mansion, or whatever, it seemed to work rather well. The mansion was actually a row of prison cells.
Then I picked one. I needed knowledge. I needed to know who owned 45 GreenAcre and I needed an assistant to help with fencing and possibly cutting the diamonds to increase their value, if that was even necessary. Also, I wanted one of the fifteen to want to help me, and not be at all surprised at my visit. And I didn't need muscle or equipment or alarm technicals, or anything like that.
He was ideal, my choice - Harry. He was always the lookout, always the getaway driver, on the outskirts of any operation, never got his hands dirty, never in on the action. Ideal, as I say, he'd be most keen. And so he proved to be.
I had to talk to him, win him round and get him on board. How to do that? I knew where he lived and what hours he kept and, of course, I knew he'd be on the lookout, constantly, for coppers banging on the door at any time of night. Bingo! I'd bang on his door at 3am. Dressed as a policeman.
I really needed to look fairly realistic, need a police revolver and some kind of truncheon, plus the air of a copper : over-confident, rough, authoritarian. But I needed a uniform first.
Now, in those days there wasn't much trade in police uniforms, the joke shops had Keystone Kops or old-fashioned Z-Cars outfits which, even at 3am in the morning, wasn't going to cut it. I don't know, can't remember, how I hit on the idea of talking to male strippers, especially as there weren't that many around, as there are today. I took to wandering around Soho, in and out of sex clubs and managed to find a, rare, gay one. Mincing at the top of my game, I got to know Robert at the Vortex, who had exactly what I wanted, a proper coppers kit. I really didn't want to know how he came by it, but I chatted him up and somehow got him to lend it to me (for a few quid and a promise) on a Tuesday night when he wasn't working, wasn't stripping.
It fitted rather well and damn well looked the part. In my small flat I practised being a copper, a copper who knew things. I watched them in my lunch hour and studied TV programmes and got the knack of it. The revolver, a real one, came from Heather. I did buy a truncheon from a joke shop, it wasn't going to be used and it would hang from my belt, so didn't need to be too real. I was ready.
I kept myself awake all day and all evening with coffee and pills so I was pretty wired too, which was going to help. Got up in my uniform, revolver in holster, I looked knuckled-headed at myself in the mirror. At 2am that Tuesday night I drove round to Harry's road, parked up some way away from the house and waited. No-one about, none of these senior DI's keeping any kind of check on the house, nothing, all quiet. As 3am approached I knew I was ready. I got out of the car, it was a bright, cold night with a full moon, which helped me get round the back of Harry's house nice and easy. Hammered and hammered on the back door and saw the lights come on and Harry was there, in the kitchen seeing me. I grabbed and pushed at the door handle which surprisingly let me into the kitchen facing Harry, the door was unlocked. Idiot. More shouting.
"Harry Smith! Where were you on June 12th at 7:15 am then Harry, eh? Harry?"
He sat down at the kitchen table really quiet resigningly. I had my revolver pointing at him and he just stared at me.
"Oh yeah, what do you think you have on me then, me lad? You can put that thing away, I ain’t going nowhere. Tea?"
"Tea? Tea? TEA?” I shouted, "Yeah, go on then, put the kettle on, no funny business Harry"
"You look young for one of them. Not my usual sort of visitor. Fast-track is it then, me lad?"
"Stop with the lad, if you please Harry, two sugars and leave the teabag in, got it?" I said, as I sat opposite him, put the gun in its holster and my helmet on the table.
"Make us some tea, harry, we've got some talking to do. And all to your advantage, mate. All to your financial well-being, if you get me, Harry?"
"Yeah, right, two sugars and the bag in then.”
He got up and sauntered to the kettle, not slightly perturbed. Maybe that's what prison taught you, if you survived it mentally. Filling the kettle, he looked round at me,
"What's your game then, PC Plod?"
"Get the tea on, sit down, and I'll tell you. Not PC Plod, you might have worked out. MI5, senior job. I know stuff, I know stuff,” I said. With the kettle on he sat down opposite me. I looked into his eyes, he looked beaten, resigned, old before his years, a grey parlour about his cheeks, not a good look.
"I want to make you very, very rich Harry," I said, "Very rich indeed, maybe richer than me. All I ask is that you talk to me. Tell me things only you know. Every word will be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to you, Harry, so lets talk."
"I suppose you are high up then, in MI5 or whatever, as young as you look, otherwise you'd not be bothering the likes of me. In fact, just you tell me what it is you want from me, I'll consider it, then let you know. In writing, by return of post if you want,” he looked round, “Kettle's boiled, I'll do some tea."
He got up and stomped to the kettle, deliberately slowly then got mugs off the mug tree, set them down and poured hot water into each. Then rifled about the PG Tips box and dropped each tea-bag in. A time-wasting ritual, I guessed.
"To the point Harry,” I said, "I know about 45 GreenAcre and no-one in my department at work knows except me. No senior cops know about me, no one knows I'm here, just you and me Harry, and the doorknob. I want to know all there is to know about 45 GreenAcre, but not just the stash..."
"The stash?" Harry almost cried out, "The stash? You telling me that it's still bloody well there?"
"I am, Harry, I am. And what's more, you and me and no-one else will take full possession of it, if you tell me all I need to know about the house. That's all, Harry, just the house. No strong-arm tactics, no power-drills or alarm tech is needed by me. All I want to buy from you is knowledge. Sit with me, tell me what you know and we'll get the diamonds. That's it, Harry."
"Well, bloody hell, PC whatsyer-name."
"Andrews, and that's my real name,” I said as Harry went on,
"You mentioned the stash by name. The Diamonds,” he put on a posh voice, just for me, "The Diamonds are still bloody well, in situ and not been returned to their rightful h'owner.” I laughed. So did Harry, a bit.
"Fuck me,” he said.
"What do you know about the house, who owns it, and so on?” I said.
"Now listen here, jack-the-lad, I'm too long in the tooth for this sort of thing, lumbago and all that.”
He paused and looked at me.
"Just one last job?”
I smiled at him and he sat back in his chair, folded his arms and looked at me for a long time.
"Nope, you got the wrong feller.” Harry said, “Trouble is I know about you now so it'd be no good going off to see Fingers or Rupert or any of the others, you know that?"
"I do,” I said, "and what's more I've no need to go off to see Fingers Wilson, or Rupe the Dupe, or no-one else. Just you, Harry, just you.”
He carried on silently staring at me.
"So, this is what I need, what we need, partner. You firstly tell me who owns the house, the land, the garage, the garden and everything about number 45, eh? You can start now, if you like. I've all night. Be worth it, Harry."
"Hmmm, Mr Andrews, not sure. But, if all I need to ‘fess up is my 'knowledge', and I'd be worth a million pounds, then, well, here goes..."
Harry spilled all, and quite delighted in telling me a whole host of things about that house and a whole lot of things about Fingers and Rupe, which I really didn't want to know. And, believe me, you don't either. Crux of the thing was that the old lady who owned the place ran it as a half-way house for drop-outs occasionally, and had been offed by Rupe. Fingers went down for it, there were straws drawn for that, Anthony Wilson drew the short one. She was a Mrs. Margaret Alison Threadshaw and she had, has, a daughter, Wendy Alison Peterson. This Wendy is married, kids, living in Devon, with no knowledge of her legacy whatsoever. This was due to Mummy and Daughter falling out years before. Wendy didn't like her house (Number 45 GreenAcre) being used as a doss-house. Bit right wing, bit Conservative with a capital C. She owns the house, the freehold, the gardens and the garage. Wendy has left it alone, no interest in selling the place, had plenty of up-market flats rented out and she knew (thought) that the place would be pretty valueless and not worth the faff of trying to sell it. Nice.
I had to go find Wendy dearest and get a copy of that lease.
Harry talked until the milkman came (“keep yer 'ead down, might not be a milkie at all”) and we parted on good terms. I arranged to see him again when the job was to be done. Except it wasn't going to be a job at all, nice for me, very nice for Harry. I've wondered since why he trusted me with all that gen, seeing as a pretty much broke into his house pointing a police revolver at him. Tired of being the look-out, the man on the edges I guess, and I'd mentioned The Stash by name. Only a select few knew, and perhaps I just didn't look like I'd done any time. Bit posh, me, perhaps too. The old reverentials coming back in.
So, back at work, Wendy Peterson was easy to find in our records, but there were no ownership documents in the file at all. So I had to have a plan to softly get her to open up to me and allow me to photocopy the lease. I initially wrote to her on Land Registry headed paper. A casual request to update our records in the fullness of time. Then a quick, friendly phone call. Yes, very busy, I understand,
In your own time, that will be fine, and thank you. Then there was the waiting. I couldn't be seen to harass her at all. I met with Harry a few times, for reassurance, and tell him some of the progress without telling him the whole story, not just yet. As Harry said, time for talking it all through was when we get to handle the stones and feel them slipping through our fingers like sand into a soft leather bag. Lovely.
The next step was a little trip down to Devon, and a 'chance' meeting with Mrs Wendy Alison Peterson to be arranged.
It was a pretty little Devonshire village, with its usual tea-shops, bookshops and a castle on a hill. I'd dressed in a pretty shabby suit, as befits a lowly civil servant and sat in the Cosy Corner teashop on the corner of the High Street, sipping tea and buttering my scone. When I'd finished and had a little chat with the waitress about the weather, paid and asked her about Wendy. Yes, she was a bit of a bigwig round here, lots of properties and second homes in the area.
"You don't want to get mixed up with the likes of Peterson, sir,” she said, "I was in one of her flats and it was like a hovel, it was sir, really damp, and she wouldn't lift a finger to do anything about it. Nasty piece of work. I won't let her in here, I can tell you. Not thinking of renting down here, are you sir?"
"Yes, actually, but thank you for the tip - how do I find out what properties are hers then?"
"That's easy, just don't go into Stephens and Clark Letting agents, she does all her shitty deals with them."
"Thanks, that's great, Stephens and Clark Letting agents to avoid then!"
The Stephens and Clark's premises were very smart, and had plenty of staff. The man in the sharp suit welcomed me in and asked me what sort of place I was looking for.
"Well, I want a small flat to rent for three months as I'm down here for a short assignment for work, Government stuff, can't talk about it. Is there anyone I can speak to about payment? It needs to be acceptable to my department who will be paying - perhaps a landlord I can talk to?"
The next day Wendy was sitting across from me at her desk. Her office was an old church building converted to business units. There she was, the key to my millions and millions of pounds, and Harry's assured future too. What was I to say to her? Well, I'd had an idea, and a bit of a realisation, even as I sat there with her. It wouldn't be Wendy I'd have to be all charm with, or her secretary, however much he seemed to like me, or anyone in the good offices of Stephens and Clark's. It would be The Solicitor, and you know I've not had a good time with briefs at all. It would be a solicitor who acted as gatekeeper to the freehold documents that Wendy owned.
So, I was short with Wendy, asked her lots of perfunctory questions, and finally, as I was leaving, all Detective Colombo, "Just one thing, I need to talk to your legal team about the rental arrangements, my department head will want to talk to them, no idea what about, just, well, you know, legal issues with Government money, as you might imagine."
Wendy proffered a business card, I took it and walked out, never to see her again, thankfully. She was awful. She had plainly no time for me, as it was such a short let on only one property, she obviously only saw clients personally who had the money to rent many places over a serious amount of time. Me on my own with a three month flat was wasting her time completely, even if it was Government money. Which she faintly dismissed as I remember, she didn't believe me. But I'd got her solicitor's details, and that was a success for me.
I took myself afterwards to the swanky hotel and spent a significant amount of credit card money on a decent room and the best wine and a Michelin meal. Richly deserved, for the card had Mrs Wendy Alison Peterson's personal lawyer's details on it. Job done.
I awoke the next morning, a bit hungover, and had a decent breakfast and went for a walk around the town to clear my head. I walked up the hill to the castle, had a look around, oddly I didn't feel I wanted to pay the £9.50 to see inside, and made my way down the hill again, only to be met with the useful waitress from the Cosy Corner cafe.
"Oh, hello, you're the chap who wants a flat here - avoided the witch, then, I do hope?"
"Yes, yes, hello, you're from the cafe, aren't you? I did take your advice, but I just got a call from my boss. All off apparently, must be back in the office soon as.”
"Soon as what?" she asked.
"Monday, I hope. I do get to stay here a day or so more it would seem, know any sights I should see?"
As it happened she did. And for that she has one of the gems, cut and brilliant, mounted on a ring on her finger. Reader, I didn't marry her, it was a 'friendship ring'. Mighty glad of it, and a little nest egg too. For it was her who introduced me to the W. Peterson Solicitor, whom she knew quite well. We met in a fine pub I wouldn't have noticed on my own, and we were all relaxed, chums together for a jolly good evening of gentle banter between 'professionals'. Some of the stash went his way too.
Now, don't go to Devon and start looking for solicitors about the place who may know things about The Stash, as surely he doesn't and surely didn't and surely never will. He isn't a bent brief either. But I did get a copy of that leasehold. Nudge nudge and wink wink, I'm not telling.
I'd said at the start I was a lucky boy and indeed I was. I'd got the lease and signed it all over to me at work, which was pretty straightforward, nicely signed by Mr Gibbons. He was about to retire, which would have made things very tricky indeed. But my gentle reassurances, and those of Heather, kept him in-post right up until the time I left. Had joint leaving do's actually. Anyway, it just so happened that Wendy was not a well person, oh dear, which could have explained a lot. And she passed away, oh dear, quietly and painlessly (not by any of my endeavours, honestly) a year or so after I met her.
Leaving me with 45 GreenAcre all to myself.
It was a rather rainy and miserable day when I went back to Devon to see my friendly lawyer to Get The Keys To Number 45. Plus the various security codes and combinations needed to get at The Stash. But the weather didn't stop me from feeling fantastic, holding all that info in my battered briefcase, shaking hands with the lawyer, and taking the afternoon train home to London. Nice.
I went round to Harry's place that very evening, and we'd had a celebratory tin of light ale each, as we went over the details. Harry had indeed found a decent fence, and a cutter who might only do a few, or suspicions might be raised, but that was just fine. I showed him some of the documents I'd got, and the combinations interested him a lot. He knew them, recognised them, had them already in his head, but he couldn't remember quite how. He thinks they matched his birthday a bit, or a wedding day, long, long ago. Apparently his gang wanted to blast their way in and wouldn't listen to Harry who thought he knew the numbers. Too risky. Bit miffed, he could have had them all to himself all this time. Well, you'd need actual keys to get through the front door and to the safe room, I'd suggested, but he was sipping at his beer, looking at me in that way of his.
So we set the plan in motion. A very simple plan. Sunday afternoon at teatime would be ideal, and the weather was going to be just fine. Sunday would be a day where there may not be so many coppers around, not that they could do anything at all about us.
It was a gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon when me, Harry and the Devon waitress, walked up to the front door of number 45 GreenAcre. We looked liked an excited couple moving into our new house. Harry was in a suit that we thought would look the best as an estate agent, me and the girl hand-carrying pot-plants and various delicate ornaments. Harry put the key in the door and turned it, while I prodded at the entry-keypad, Harry telling me each number in turn, from memory.
A soft click and we just walked in.
Leaving the door open, and carrying various bits and bobs from the car into the house we hovered on the threshold to - not a very small fortune indeed. Finally we closed the front door and had ourselves a good look around. The safe room was in the basement, which had steps down from a door on the ground floor. A quick squirt of WD40 freed the lock and we were slowly moving down the stairs with torches. And there it was. A big safe, about 5 feet high and broad, with a big Vernier dial on the front. Harry and the girl held torches as I turned the dial, one way, then the other, then again, again, again and... Click.
"This is it Harry me lad," I said as I turned the handle and slowly pulled open the huge front door of the safe.
We couldn't believe what we saw, really couldn't believe it. Harry gasped almost in shock. My waitress let out a muffled scream. There was no space in the safe at all, not a square inch. Crammed, top to bottom, back to front, left to right with clear packets of glittering gems!
All in all it took us six weeks to get all of the packets out, place each one in a Jiffy bag (we really had to scour all of the local, and not so local, stationers to get so many Jiffy bags) and get them to our fence. And the fence, Gawd-Bless-The-Bugger came back with hard cash, bankers drafts, cheques, bank account numbers and all sorts of clean money. Sweet.
All done then. Just the five of us : one Land Registry clerk, one ex-con, one pretty waitress, a solicitor and a mysterious fence managed to pull off the biggest jewellery heist you've never heard of.
We did get a visit from a very senior H'Officer Of The Law one day, at 45 GreenAcre. I gladly showed him all of the documents we had (copies of) and let him take his own copies too. As I say, I was young and brash, I didn't need to do that, but it was so very satisfying. We heard one more time from him, and then nothing. I got the impression he probably knew what we'd done, but not how, and didn't care at all. It meant he could finally be rid of having to look after fifteen lags and a hidden house. Relief all round then.
When all the money was in all the right places, I had the basement filled with concrete and converted the rest of 45 GreenAcre into flats, charging peppercorn rent to whomever came along and asked. I wasn't going to be an evil landlord at all. Plenty of young couples starting out and old dears lived there happily. When there was a lull in tenants and no-one was living there I sold it to someone who appeared to be high up in the CID. Most probably, I like to think, that very senior H'Officer.
Harry bought himself a nice villa in Marbella, where all his lag friends would have dearly wanted to go, and lived a peaceful life, as much as his improving lumbago would let him, which was quite a bit. But not too much. My lovely waitress, last I heard, was biding her time in Devon, not being overly spendy, but having great taste in clothes, and foreign travel and being happy. The solicitor just carried on doing his job, and also just being happy. The Fence, I've no idea, but he, or she, probably stopped fencing and started being happy I imagine too. So, money, lots of it, can make you happy, if you know what you're doing, it really does.
I carried on working for the Land Registry until I eventually announced that my true calling was with the circus and I was going to train to be a clown, leaving on the same day as Mr Gibbons. It may be my feverish imagination, now I'm old and doddery, that Mr Gibbons gave me the wink as I left our leaving do. I think he might have known everything.
And so I end my tale. I've been most unwell in recent weeks, my doctor has given me all but a few days. And now, having written this, I can feel at peace with myself and can drift away knowing I've done some good things with that cash over the years. And I've made the final confession, which I know will make it's way up to the highest level in the police force and perhaps enquiries will be made. I'm very confident that no-one will find any of the people I've described here in my story because I've encoded it very well.
A confession it certainly is, but not an entirely truthful account. But what did you expect of a successful criminal, eh?