Sunday was a typically grey winter’s day. I spent most of it writing up my project and researching on the computer so that I could hand it in at school on Monday. By the time I had finished it looked really good, in my opinion. There were the copies of the photos of my family in Lavender Road, newspaper reports on the bombing and about using the Town Hall and Library as a hospital and morgue. Then I had my research about the Royal Corps Signals and why their cap badge was called a “Jimmy”, plus my drawing. Finally there were the details about my Great Grandfather receiving his Military Cross, and his Obituary. The only thing that was missing was a picture of his grave, but I used my photo of the wreaths on the communal area instead.
I then had some time to think about all we had discovered during the week, and the one thing that was really bothering me was Councillor Duncan. Ten years in prison did not seem long enough for all the things that he had done to our family, let alone all the others. The Judge hadn’t known about him falsifying burial records and putting my Grandmother into an Orphanage under a false name so that nobody could find her. Surely we could sue him for that.
I re-read the articles that Tom had given us and noted the sentence:
‘Mayor Johnston apologised on behalf of the Council and said that if any further victims came to light they would be duly compensated.’
I did a search for ‘George Duncan Councillor’ on the internet, and an article appeared:
“’South London Times, 17 May 1985 - Notorious Councillor Dies.
’George Duncan, of 16 Bishops Road, Wadham, died yesterday at the age of 85. He gained notoriety during the war by preying on victims of bombing raids by taking over their properties and sub-letting them, for which he was jailed in 1949.
’A Council employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: ‘It is still not known how many victims suffered at his hands. Although some people did come forward to say they were renting from him, we suspect that many others kept silent in the hope they did not have to pay rent after he was sent to prison. Indeed, we know of one case where his former tenant went on to sell the house, pretending to be the owner. There could have been more people who continued to live in those properties and, when nobody came to claim them, sold them instead. We may never know for certain.’
’Duncan is survived by his wife and son.”
I printed this off and thought over its contents. So George Duncan was dead and I couldn’t take any further action against him. But he did have a wife and son. And the Council may also be able to give us compensation. An idea was beginning to form in my head. I went on Wadham Council’s website and searched for the name ‘Duncan’. There was nothing about Councillor Duncan but something else caught my eye, ‘Terence Duncan’ who was Head of Security. Could this be his son, I wondered? I would definitely have to investigate further. He would have to be pretty old, if he was.
By this time it was already dark and Mum had arrived back from work. She called up, “Had a nice day, love?”
“Yes Mum,” I replied. I hid my printouts away and went downstairs to see her.
“I hate leaving you all day on your own like this,” she told me, sounding guilty.
“Oh don’t worry about that, I’ve finished my history project and I’ve been getting my school stuff ready.”
“I’ll make us a nice dinner,” she continued. “Sue at work told me to go to Citizens Advice about that house.”
“Good idea, Mum, because John bought his house from his father, George Unwin, so they must have owned their house.”
“Yes, I suppose that might help. But the problem is, we’re going to have to sort out Nan’s details, because she was known as ‘Irwin’. How we are going to prove that she was really an ‘Unwin’ I have no idea. That’s another reason I need advice.”
I realised then that it wasn’t going to be as easy as turning up to the Council offices and demanding our house back, and that I was going to have to help Mum gather as much information as possible. I hoped we didn’t have to wait too long before the certificates arrived.