Chapter 17 – Keith is missing
Maud Maxwell, Keith’s mother, became worried when he had not returned for his lunch. She had expected him home for his elevenses, coffee and biscuits at 11 AM.
She waited until 1.15 PM before she rang his mobile and left a curt message on his voicemail that his sandwich had gone cold. This was 15 minutes after the time she served lunch. They were always punctual, a routine she and Keith had established ever since he was a boy. She had expected him home by mid-morning. They always had toasted sandwiches for lunch on Saturday, and they were promptly on the table at 1 PM. She had eaten hers, and left Keith’s to go cold.
At 2 PM she left another voicemail, much more conciliatory, and asking him to call her because she was worried. At 3 PM she rang again, but she hung up before leaving another message. Maud called her sister who lived a few miles away in Basingstoke. After discussing the situation with her sister at some length, the consensus was to call him one more time, if he didn’t answer call the Police. Maud thought this was very uncharacteristic of Keith and there was probably something seriously wrong, but her sister thought Keith was absent minded and had probably just got side-tracked by one of his mad-cap science schemes. After she had hung-up from the call with her sister, Maud, tried his mobile one-more time, and then she called the Police.
Maud was a fit lady in her seventies, but was not used to calling the Police. In fact, she had never done it before. She called 999, and was asked which emergency service she wanted. She hesitated and said, ‘It is to report a missing person?’
The efficient voice on the line asked her to call a different number for non-emergency Police matters. Maud wrote the number on a notepad. She hung-up and dialled the new number, and was held in a telephone queuing system for 2 minutes, before a call centre operative spoke to her. She said, ‘Hampshire Police, how can I help you?’ in a broad Liverpool accent. Clearly, she wasn’t in Hampshire.
Maud Maxwell said, ’I would like to report my son missing.’
The ‘lady in the Liverpool call centre’ took the details efficiently and promised that a Police Officer would contact her within 2 hours, if they did not she should call back. She gave Maud a reference number, which she wrote down on a note-pad next to the telephone number.
At this point, Maud was more angry than concerned. She thought it more likely Keith had forgotten it was Saturday and gone off somewhere, than anything bad had really happened. He liked routine, but he was equally absent minded. She felt slightly foolish calling the Police. She sat down with a cup of tea, and tried to distract herself by doing the Telegraph crossword.
Then there was a knock on the door. Two uniformed Policewomen stood there, and as they asked her name, one look at their facial expressions was enough for Maud’s knees to collapse under her.
The Policewomen put Maud gently in an armchair and gave her a glass of water. They also called an ambulance. A Police car and then an ambulance outside of her modest 3-bedroom end of terrace house, caused the neighbours curtains to twitch. Within 40 minutes of the Policewomen arriving, the first journalist arrived with a photographer. The Policewomen called for back-up, the Police arrived with an Incident Room and more vehicles, and soon the press circus outside the house was in full swing.
What was at first a simple missing persons call, turned quickly to a murder enquiry as the two officers were on route. A young-woman walking her dog on the common had found the bodies of the riders, and called the Police on her mobile phone. They had found Keith’s jacket at the scene with his mobile phone in the pocket. The three missed calls on his phone were from ‘mother’. They traced the calls back to Maud Maxwell.
The story was now the headline on the BBC 6 O’clock News. Maud watched in disbelief, and she sat on the sofa holding her sister’s hand. He sister had driven over from Basingstoke at the Police’s suggestion. The report featured a live video image from a helicopter flying over Maud’s house. They could hear the helicopter overhead, she even recognised the neighbours parked cars.
The murder of the two women was the lead story on the news bulletin, beating the continued political bickering about over spending on the London Olympic Games into second place. Maud covered her mouth in horror as an image of Keith appeared on the screen and the reporter said that Dr Keith Maxwell an eminent space scientist was wanted for questioning in connection with the murders. Maud could hardly believe her ears, and sobbed into her sister’s shoulder.