Brad Fox Part 4
Winner of the ABI’s Investigator of the Year award for 2020, Brad Fox of Fox Investigation Services recounts the moment he found the subject of his search for a family’s long lost son.
After receiving information which verified the target and information as to where he could be found we headed straight over to Bethnal Green Train Station. For the next two hours, we kept walking in and out of the tunnels and doing the circuit again and again and again. We were so close to finding Paul and it was frightening to think that in just a split second, he could walk through one of the exits and we’d miss him.
We had no luck at the tube station but then I saw a guy on the opposite side of the road picking up cigarette butts.
He was the right kind of build to Paul but bear in mind, the photo we had was when he was just 14 or 15. We were looking at somebody who had been on the streets and struggled with many challenges for over 20 years. Therefore, the difference between him on the picture we had and how he looked now could be dramatically different. However, I kept looking at this guy and I followed him for a while as he picked up cigarette butts and kept walking towards him to see if I could verify his features.
At about 7pm in the evening he went into a coffee shop which was just closing up and I watched him speak to the person behind the counter. I decided that he could be our guy so I waited until he came out of the shop to speak to him.
A few moments later, he came out, so I approached him and asked him his name. He said his name was Paul, so I asked him if his surname was that of the family I was representing and he said it was. The penny dropped for us as we had finally found our man. I told him I had been looking for him for some time and that his family were desperate to locate him and help him. It was a really strange feeling.
We moved to sit in this abandoned railway arch a few minutes’ walk from the café we had met outside of and had this lovely conversation. He told me what he had been doing and how he had survived all of this time on the street. It was very emotional. He even wrote a letter to his mum which he asked me to pass on and it was at that point that I asked him what he wanted to do. For most people the obvious thing to do would be to get in touch with his family but things are never as simple as they may appear to an outsider.
I had purchased a Pay As You Go phone with plenty of credit on it so I gave it to him. It had all the numbers he would need installed on it and I told him to think about it and to contact me if he needed anything.
That was it. We’d done our job and we’d found him but of course it didn’t feel like a victory. I had no idea of what would happen next but he did get in touch with his parents and a reunion was arranged for a few weeks later. Just prior to it taking place I went to see Paul and paid for him to stay in a Travelodge so he could stay clean before the big meeting. I took him to a barber to get his beard and haircut and then we bought him clothes from Primark so that he looked as good as he could. We bought him food and toiletries and looked after him as best as we could.
My colleague and I wanted to be there for the reunion and we also wanted to make sure that Paul was OK as it must have been a very strange day for him in so many ways. We picked Paul up from the Travelodge and took him out for breakfast. He looked like a completely different person in his new clothes.
The reunion was between Paul, his mother and her new partner. I went to meet his mother as my colleague stayed with Paul and we arranged the meeting to happen in a park. I entered with Paul’s mother and partner from one end and Paul entered with my colleague from the other end. As they walked towards each other they both sprinted the last 100 yards to embrace. It was very emotional. After spending some time in the park, we all headed for coffee and lunch after which my colleague and I decided to leave them to it.
As for what happened after the reunion, of course we all hoped that everyone would live happily ever after, but things are never that simple. Paul and his mother stayed in touch and are now in regular contact. However, the downside of it is that although they’ve been reunited, his mother of course worries when she doesn’t hear back from him, when he doesn’t call and has promised to or doesn’t reply to a text for days on end.
Although them being reunited was the ultimate goal of our work, there is now a new concern for his mother which is arguably just as, if not more painful, than the not knowing. She knows what he’s been through and the challenges he has faced so when communication stops its incredibly difficult for her. It is ironic that this is the outcome of achieving what we all wanted of finding Paul after all those years.
Brad Fox runs Fox Investigation Services Ltd based in Kent. You can access his website by clicking on the link: www.foxinvestigation.net