Brad Fox Part 3
Brad Fox of Fox Investigation Services and winner of Investigator of the Year award for 2020, recounts how he came across the lead that led to locating the person at the centre of his missing persons case.
Brad: Paul's mother provided us with folders of paperwork which moved the inquiry forward in a huge way. These documents included fines Paul had been issued with, the worst of which were for begging at train stations and travelling without tickets. These fines had been sent to Paul’s mother's house in Brighton, which was an address that Paul knew despite never having lived there himself.
There were also fines from the police as well as from Transport For London for a variety of things. What was interesting was that these fines all related to the Kings Cross and St Pancras area which gave us a geographical lead that verified he had been in this area for the given period of time documented on the fines themselves. It was at this point that I decided to travel to the area and engage with the homeless community in that location.
I made up a missing person poster to help with our enquiries and printed thousands of them. Along with a colleague of mine, we travelled to central London early one morning and we spent the day in the area. Our aim was to engage with the homeless community and anybody who may work in that area and be familiar with those sleeping rough. This included anyone who may work for the council such as street cleaners along with any police officers we saw on the beat and ambulances crews etc.
We attended a lot of soup kitchens as well that day and put posters on display where we could. Interestingly, because his name was little Paul, everywhere we went, they said, “Yeah…we know Little Paul. We saw him three days ago”. Initially we thought we had made a breakthrough but it turned out that Little Paul was actually a different person. It wasn't the Paul we wanted to find but someone else.
We continued this approach to the investigation for about a year. I was still approaching charities, soup kitchens, and going over the list that I'd already called before trying to get a better answer from people rather than just being fobbed off with the GDPR.
Interestingly though, homeless charities have a system where if anybody engages with a homeless person, that data is recorded and put into a database. It records the date, time, location and the personal details of the person if they were provided. However, none of them would even reveal what the database is called, or who actually owns the database. They all accessed it but they wouldn’t hand over any details related to it.
The police can't even access it, because it's privately funded. This was another frustrating thing because Paul's parents were in a position to offer help and assistance to get him off the streets. We were unable to have any access to it or gather any information from it but they were able to put a note on the system should anyone update his file stating that his family are trying to find him to help him.
We continued with our attempts to speak to anybody we thought was likely to come into contact with the homeless community and we spoke to a lady at a homeless shelter called Connections who took one of our posters and said she would get in touch if any information came to light.
It was sometime later, via my solicitor, that we received some information stating that somebody using the name and date of birth of our Paul, had been spoken to by an outreach worker in Bethnal Green.
The very next day, we travelled to Bethnal Green, and I spent a day wandering around engaging with the homeless community. This was an area that we'd never worked before in terms of this inquiry. We spoke to numerous homeless people in that area but as you're dealing with people who often have issues related to substance and alcohol abuse the information you can get can be very hit and miss. Eventually, we showed our poster to someone who directed us to an area of a squat in an abandoned railway arch.
We went to the location and it was clearly a well inhabited squat. I approached them, explaining that we were trying to find Paul as his family were looking for him and then one of them said ”Yes I know him. He was here about two hours ago. You’ll probably find him begging around Bethnal Green Tube Station”.
Brad Fox runs Fox Investigation Services Ltd based in Kent. You can access his website by clicking on the link: www.foxinvestigation.net