Who Was Fred Handford? And Why Did He Disappear?

Reading through my notes – and what I know so far – I realise I haven’t shed much light on Fred Handford’s character.

All I know for sure is he was an uncommunicative man who loved his land and his animals, he was divorced from his wife, never saw his daughter and used old-fashioned farming techniques. Those meagre pickings are simply not enough to explain what prompted his sudden disappearance.

I look at the only photo that Janet has given me that shows Fred’s face and I try to read something into the high cheekbones, the sharp nose and smooth forehead. The photograph is water damaged but his expression is clear; he is looking directly at the camera.

Fred Handford, Ball Beard Farm
Fred Handford with Dick at Ball Beard Farm

It is 1968 and Fred would have been about 47 years old. He is holding onto Dick’s head collar while the horse waits patiently for the picture to be taken.

Dick is pulling a load of silage in the flat cart which is something he would have done countless times over the years and Fred looks completely relaxed, his hand in his trouser pocket. It’s as if Janet has run up the fields and asked Fred to smile for the camera and he has – almost. His cap is on, but it’s at a jaunty angle, his mouth is almost pulled up at the edges and I realise that this isn’t the pinched expression I’d assumed I’d see in a picture of Fred Handford. I would almost go so far as to say he looks happy.

I glance down at my notes scattered all over the floor and sift through them yet again looking for inspiration. My hand goes to Janet’s statement to the police on 9 April and I read it one more time.


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