Chapter 46 – The Search
By first light on Monday morning it was clear to the Hampshire Police Chief Constable that the search was going nowhere. He had a press conference scheduled at 8 AM and a series of TV and radio interviews. He needed some results. He needed help.
Using the secure phone in his chauffeur driven car on the way to the field HQ at Blackbushe Airport, he called the personal assistant to the Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police. She in turn used a secure line to call an unlisted number that rang inside the Special Air Services or SAS regiment’s headquarters in Hereford, near the Welsh border.
A little after 12.00 hours, four of the British military’s elite SAS men disembarked from a military helicopter at Blackbushe. The helicopter did not switch off its engines, and immediately took off back to Hereford. The four men, were dressed in dark military combat uniforms with no insignia. They carried large back-packs.
The press photographers camped along the perimeter fence of the airfield took copious pictures. Sky and BBC News showed the helicopter landing live. Speculation was rife.
The four SAS men were a specialist S&D unit – Search and Destroy. They had just returned from Somalia. They had successfully tracked a gang of pirates who were responsible for millions of dollars of marine hijacking. The pirate gangs used high speed boats to catch the slow moving cargo ships. They boarded them at sea and held the crews at gunpoint. Often they planted explosives which they could detonate by remote control.
The pirates knew that these valuable cargoes needed to be delivered on time, and the shipping companies would pay large ransoms to avoid delay.
One gang had forced a large supertanker full of compressed natural gas from Oman to change course, and then demanded a huge ransom. The Sultan of Oman had been educated at Cambridge University in the UK and had then attended the top military training academy at Sandhurst. The Royal Navy had a forward operating base in Oman, and the senior naval officer in charge of the base had been a friend of the Sultan when he was at Cambridge.
The Royal Navy dispatched HMS Dragon a Type 45 Destroyer to the area and a nuclear class submarine. They tracked the pirates from over the horizon and under the sea. By arrangement, the Oman authorities paid the ransom.
The SAS S&D unit went ashore from the Royal Navy Destroyer and tracked the gang to a remote farm house. They planted a radio targeting device on one of the buildings. HMS Dragon launched a sea viper missile from its position in international waters, and over the horizon. The explosion killed the entire gang, and their families. The farm house buildings were raised to the ground.
The incident was never reported, but the second news story circulating in the news media after the murders in Hampshire, was a record order of £4 billion received by a consortium of British defence contractors, for four new Type 45 Destroyers for the Oman Navy.
There were two black men and two white men in the SAS S&D unit. The Chief Constable shook their hands. He could tell by their eyes, that these men were all trained killers. He had arrested many criminals during his time as a Policemen, and in some of the more hardened criminals you saw the same look.
The leader of the unit was a black man called Soji. Not his real name. He wore no insignia of rank, but his body language said ‘I’m in command’.
They drank tea from paper cups, as they stood around a large scale map of the area that had been pinned to a table while the Police briefed the SAS men on everything they knew.
After some discussion, Soji asked the Chief Constable if he could remove his people from the area, and if they could block access to the Common?
The Common was a public right of way, and many people walked dogs and rode horses in the area. The Chief Constable agreed that his offices would restrict access on the main pathways on to the Common.
The SAS men then asked to be taken to the spot where the three horsemen had mounted up and ridden away the previous day.
They knelt in a group, while the other black man in the team began to search the area. He came back to the group and spoke briefly and pointed.
The Commander walked over to the Chief Constable and explained what was going on. He had an English Public School accent.
‘Chief Constable, my colleague here is a specialist tracker. He believes we can follow the trail of the horses. Is there somewhere we can stow some of our gear?’
In fact the tracker was a Maasai tribesmen from Tanzania. He was a legend in the SAS. When he was in the Mess in Hereford, they said he could find a single grain of sand on a beach.
It was not true that all SAS soldiers were selected from the other regiments in the British military after an exhaustive selection process. Some were recruited for their specialist skills. Nobody could pronounce the trackers Tanzanian name so he was known as Trev, which was short for Trevor the Track.
Trev had tracked the pirate gang in Somalia. Trev would now track the horsemen on Hazeley Common.
As soon as the SAS team had eaten a meal on the trellis tables and chairs in the Police canteen, and taken any unnecessary equipment out of their back-packs, they headed out at a fast walk. With Trev moving ahead of the rest of the team, like a sniffer dog.
After about an hour they came to the camp in the woods. The modern junk food had obviously played havoc with the King’s and Eustace’s stomachs, and they found the evidence. Keith on the other hand was so tense, he had not been able to go since his capture.
What impressed Trev was that this group was clearly skilled in the art of concealment. They doubled back occasionally to obviously check if they were being followed. They walked on hard ground not soft, they were careful not to break branches. They moved their horses so the grazing was not obvious. They walked in single file to confuse anyone following. This was all except one of the group, who appeared to have none of these skills.
They found more empty fast food containers and drinks cans. Trev began to follow the trail again.