Written by Danny Penman
By the time Joseph Dancet unearthed the human leg bone in the muddy river bank it had been there for almost three years. He stared at the femur for a few moments, desperately trying to make out whether there were any tell-tale cuts or chips that would suggest foul-play.
He eventually pursed his lips and began dialling the local police. They arrived with uncharacteristic efficiency, cordoned off the area, and began an exhaustive finger-tip search of the river bank.
Over the following few days another two human bones were unearthed but precious little else. The police were at a loss. Who could the bones possibly belong to?
Joseph knew. He was convinced they were the bones of Blake Hartley, a British soldier who had disappeared 40 miles upstream in the town of Chamonix two and a half years previously. He knew because two psychic mediums had predicted the time and place that Blake’s bones would be found. And extraordinary as it sounds, the mediums’ predictions proved to be true.
“The medium Gordon Smith told us that Blake was dead and his remains were in the river about 60 kilometres south of Chamonix.” says Sally Perrin, Blake’s mother.
“He told us that Blake’s body would remain hidden for almost three years and suggested that there was some sort of ‘conspiracy’ to cover up his true cause of death. Gordon was bang on. He gave us a lot of very accurate information about my son that he couldn’t possibly have known,”
“I was never the kind of person to believe in these kinds of psychic happenings but now I’m a convert. It’s just extraordinary,” she says.
Extraordinary or not, mediums are now being used increasingly often to help solve murders and discover the whereabouts of missing bodies such as Blake’s. Sources inside the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) say that officers turn to mediums in the hope, no matter how slim, of discovering new leads in their most intractable cases.
One told the Daily Express: “You see these big tough detectives with years of service behind them and occasionally, when you get them alone, they will admit that they use psychics. It’s not something they wish to promote.
“They like the image of rationally solving crimes using science, but in reality they will use psychics if it helps them catch a criminal. They’ll never admit in public but yes the police do use psychics.”
Blake Hartley was a handsome young man when his mother waved him off to officer training at Sandhurst in 2004. As an intelligent, charismatic and super-fit 24-year-old his superiors expected him to become a fine leader. It was not surprising, therefore, that just two terms into his training he was asked to lead an army training expedition to Chamonix in the French Alps. Blake jumped at the opportunity. It would mean climbing the mountains he loved with the men he respected.
As luck would have it, the team of eight arrived a couple of days after Blake’s 25th birthday giving them the opportunity to celebrate it in style. After striking camp, Blake and the lads wandered into the heart of Chamonix to spend an evening sampling fine French food and wine in the local bars and restaurants.
In the early hours of the next morning, Blake separated from the others and headed back to the campsite with a colleague. Blake and the other soldier apparently disagreed on the way home so they each headed in different directions. Ominously, Blake was last seen wandering towards a raging tributary of the river L’Arve. He was never seen alive again.
As soon as Sally heard that her son had disappeared she rushed to Chamonix. She knew that every hour that passed reduced the chances of finding Blake alive. She clung desperately to the hope that Blake had simply wandered off for some inexplicable reason and would turn up safe and sound after a few days. Or perhaps, she reasoned, he was lying injured somewhere near Chamonix and waiting for a rescue team to find him.
“It turned out,” says Sally. “That the French didn’t put much effort into trying to find him. They were nice but useless. The British Army wasn’t much better.”
As the days passed into months she turned in despair to the renowned medium Gordon Smith. Gordon immediately warned her that if he made contact with Blake it would mean that he was dead.
He asked her pointedly: “Are you ready for that?”
Sally took a deep breath before replying slowly: “yes”.
Gordon made contact with Blake almost immediately.
“The information that I received from Gordon was completely accurate,” says Sally. “It wasn’t vague. There was lots of information that was private and that he couldn’t possibly have known about. It was his way of proving his credentials.”
“As an example, Gordon told me that there was a picture close to the telephone of Blake abseiling down an ice-cliff. And there is. I put it up the day before meeting Gordon. Who the heck could have known that?”
“Gordon also said that he could see a gun dog sitting next to Blake, a very happy dog. The description perfectly matched Star, our dog who had passed over a few years earlier. Blake would often take her for a run. He also said that my daughter had received pink bed linen for Christmas that she still hadn’t unwrapped it. Who else could have known this?”
Once Blake had established his credentials through Gordon he began revealing what had really happened on the night of his death. Blake appeared to have died in an accident following a scuffle with another man. He refused to say who the man was or how he was killed.
“It was an unfortunate accident,” says Sally. “He said that ‘mistakes happen’ and that there was a code of honour that he was duty bound to follow. He was quite cryptic.”
Sally was understandably perplexed and continued to press Blake through Gordon. She was desperate to know who was responsible for her son’s death. But Gordon said Blake didn’t know how he was killed.
“Gordon then revealed that Blake’s body would be found towards the third anniversary of his death and described where it would be found. He was quite specific.”
“Blake’s body was found by our friend Joseph Dancet in exactly the area described by Gordon.”
Sally is clearly convinced that Gordon was able to communicate with her dead son and help clear up the mystery of his death. But the manner of Blake’s death is still unclear. The few remains discovered were not enough to establish foul play and police cannot say whether he was murdered or died as the result of an accident. Nevertheless, the fact that Gordon was able to pinpoint where and when Blake would be found is extraordinary.
Sceptics will no doubt claim that Gordon simply got lucky. Throw enough details at someone and some of it is bound to appear superficially accurate. That may be true but some psychics have an amazing track record and Gordon Smith is one of those.
Another is the Irish medium Christine Holohan who was instrumental in tracking down and imprisoning the vicious murderer of Jacqui Poole. The case is no less intriguing and suggestive of an afterlife than that of Blake Hartley.
Jacqui Poole was killed in London in 1983 and her case remained unsolved for nearly 20 years. Shortly after her murder, the medium Christine Holohan began receiving visitations from Jacqui who told her the name of the man who killed her. The amazing story is told in her book A Voice from the Grave.
Christine went to the police but initially received a cool reception. But after she began describing the murder scene and the manner of Jacqui’s death the police suddenly took an interest.
“I had been the first officer on the scene,” says Detective Constable Tony Batters, a member of the squad investigating the case. “I remained there for many hours. Christine could not have seen it but she managed to describe it just as I found it, including the victim’s position, clothing and injuries. She gave us extraordinarily accurate details about the murder scene.”
Christine successfully described the killer in great detail, his age and month of birth, his height, skin and hair colour, his tattoos, the type of work he did, and mentioned his criminal history. In total, of the 130 verifiable facts revealed by Christine, 120 proved to be entirely accurate. She also revealed the most important detail of all: that the killer’s name was ‘Pokie’ – the nickname of Anthony Ruark, a local petty criminal.
“It was absolutely spine-chilling,” says DC Batters. “We’d already interviewed Ruark but at that moment I knew we’d got our man.”
But it was not to be – Pokie had a cast-iron alibi. Try as they might, the police could not pick holes in it. At least, thought the officers, Christine’s testimony had allowed them to move much faster and more thoroughly than would normally have been the case. As a result, they had gathered crucial evidence that might prove useful when forensic technology caught up with Christine’s psychic abilities.
And eighteen years later Ruark’s alibi did finally fall apart. By then, scientists had developed a new way of fingerprinting DNA from the tiniest traces of blood, skin and semen. The evidence gathered as a result of Christine’s guidance could finally be put to the test and it proved to be decisive. Ruark was convicted of murdering Jacqui Poole in August 2001.
Although the case of Jacqui Poole and Blake Hartley bear striking similarities do they really prove that it is possible for mediums to talk to the dead?
Patricia Robertson, a researcher at the University of Glasgow, thinks the evidence is on their side. She, along with the astrophysicist Emeritus Professor Archie Roy, have spent many years exhaustively testing mediums, including Gordon Smith.
“There’s no doubt about it,” says Robertson. “Mediumship works. We are convinced that some mediums can impart to a sitter information about people who have died that they couldn’t possibly know in any normally accepted way. I’m not saying that it comes from the dead, but the most plausible explanation is that the information is coming from deceased personalities.”
And Sally, too, has all the proof she needs: “Blake is with me. I have become convinced that the body is simply a casket for the soul.”
By Danny Penman