A man I know has just been arrested out here in Spain and
theyre taking him back to the UK. I say a man I know, but to
be more honest he was barely an acquaintance as I met him just twice, and very
briefly at that. Mr. Slater his name was - but thats not the name the
police used when they detained him.
I must say Im very surprised and tend to think the police
have got it wrong and theyve arrested the wrong man or something. To me
he seemed a decent enough chap, and I was glad I could do him a good turn
before this all happened. I do hope it soon gets sorted.
Id been back in Spain a week after my short trip to
England when we first started hearing rumours. Then it appeared in the English
language papers, and the Costa Blanca News had the story on the front page, so
it was official. Certainly the man in the photograph was our Mr. Slater -
though they called him Joseph Reynolds. Perhaps Id better tell you what I
know and then you can see why I think as I do about it all.
Muriel and I have our own special watering hole down on the
seafront at La Corumba, the town where we spend the winter months every year.
Its La Piña - Spanish run, French owned place - very friendly and
very cosmopolitan, so while were chatting away in English there could be
Spanish, German, Dutch, French all around us.
I had to go back home for a flying visit to keep an important
appointment with the eye specialist. This would mean three days away from Mu,
and we were talking about this and my flight when this chap from the next table
spoke to us.
He apologised for butting in, introduced himself as Mr. Slater,
and said he couldnt help overhearing, and was there any chance at all
that we could do him a special favour? I listened to him, sized him up and
liked what I saw. A younger version of me really. A man in his fifties,
quietly-spoken, presentable and very respectable - something he confirmed when
he told us what he wanted. He came over to us as a little bit old-fashioned
with his general politeness and slightly formal way. Among all the shorts and
tee shirts and things there, Mr. Slater looked out of place. He was dressed in
a dark suit and was wearing a black tie, so when he said hed just come
from a cremation in Alicante we werent too surprised. He asked where we
lived in England and when we told him, what we said seemed to make him keener
than ever for our help. I pride myself on being a good judge of character -
after all, I was an accountant for many years. In accountancy, where other
peoples money is involved, you cant be too careful. With Mr. Slater
being so obviously such a nice man, we offered to help if we could.
It turned out that the funeral hed been to that morning
was of a dear friend who had died over here on holiday. They were both Lay
Preachers from neighbouring churches in Sidmouth across in Devon, and its
only about an hours drive from where we live. Mr. Slater wasnt
going back to the UK immediately, but hed undertaken to take his
friends ashes to the Church where they were going to be kept. He asked if
there was there any chance that I might take the urn with me and he would
arrange to have it collected from our cottage back home. End of story. That was
it. So with a quick glance at Muriel for confirmation, I agreed to help. Well,
you would, wouldnt you? He wanted to pay me something for my trouble but,
of course, I said no. The outcome was that we arranged to meet the next day, at
La Piña, when he would let me have a box that held the urn.
Mr. Slater turned up the following day and left this package
with me. He had to dash off quickly to keep an appointment, so after confirming
he had our address right and the collection details were understood, he thanked
us again and left. A charming man we both agreed. He had wanted to have it
called for on the evening I got back, but when I explained I would be out then,
we changed it to the following afternoon when I could be sure of being back
from the hospital. The rest was down to me. All very clear and straightforward.
When we got back to our apartment, we opened the box and looked
at the contents. It was a metal urn, possibly bronze but I wasnt sure,
about eight inches high and four inches across, with a screw lid that had a
clip device on it to keep the lid from accidentally opening. There was a thin
metal label saying simply Iestyn Malachi Evans. 1955-2011.
Neither of us liked seeing it and thinking about what was in it,
and Mu clearly felt that the sooner it had gone the better. It was a bit
spooky, no doubt about it. I wrapped it in a towel and put it into the single
travel bag I was taking with me. For a short trip I was travelling light, with
just that one bag.
I had no problems on the flight, or at either Alicante Airport
or Exeter. The X-ray machines must have seen it but no questions were asked,
and with so little luggage I was the first out of the airport and in my
sons car and home in excellent time.
That first evening back I took David out for a meal to thank him
for his help. By this time the urn was on the kitchen table and with it were
two ten pound notes. David always refuses to take anything from me, but we have
an established ritual. I put some money on the table after his refusal, and he
takes it quietly and discreetly so it doesnt look as if he has. Its
just our little game.
When we got back from the restaurant the money wasnt on
the table. I assumed David had it, and then I noticed that the urn wasnt
there either. We both looked for it; David confirmed he hadnt taken the
money, so wed presumably been burgled between eight and eleven while we
were out. By this time wed found the broken pane in the back door glazing
- so there we had it. Some local yob had broken in, seen the money, thought it
was his birthday, snatched the urn that was next to the banknotes and went. We
didnt bother reporting it to the police - it didnt seem worth it.
The chap I was expecting to call next day and take the urn to
Sidmouth didnt turn up. Ive no idea what happened to him, but
its just as well he didnt come anyway. I didnt have his phone
number, nor one from Mr. Slater, so all I can really do is hang on till someone
contacts me. Theres nothing else I can do.
I had quite a tale to tell Mu when I got back. Imagine being
picked on to be burgled like that. From what I could find out no-one else
nearby was robbed at the same time, so someone was either very lucky to find an
empty house or they had been casing the joint. Thats the term
they use, isnt it?
My little bit of excitement was soon overshadowed when the news
came of this police arrest. It was being talked about all over the place ?
nothing much happens in our corner of the Costa Blanca. It turned out that the
police involved with Mr. Slaters arrest were from London, with the
Spanish people doing the actual arresting side of it - to keep the legalities
right I suppose. We soon heard that the charges against Mr. Slater were very
serious. There were hints of him being very big in the drug business
Lets be clear. We - that is Muriel and I - both think the
boys in blue have got it wrong. Im a strong supporter of the police but
theyre human and no-one is infallible. No way can we see a decent man and
a Lay Preacher like he is being involved in anything criminal. When its
all been sorted out and they find out who he really is and tracked down the
real Joseph Reynolds theyre looking for, then I expect Mr. Slater will
get in touch. Im not looking forward to that at all. He asked us for our
help with something personal and precious to him. So how do I break it to a
thoroughly nice man like that that Ive let him down?