Janet Confronts The Truth Of What Happened To Fred Handford

The Stranger In My Life
Search goes on for missing farmer

Everyone I’ve met or interviewed so far believes that Fred Handford would never have left Ball Beard Farm: Janet, the police and Fred’s sister, Mags all believed that no matter how tough it might have been for Fred he would never have left his farm or his animals.

So, if he didn’t leave Ball Beard Farm of his own volition where is he?

I had previously suggested to Janet that in order to get to the bottom of the fugue state she’d experienced in March 1976, when she ‘lost’ four days of her life, that she might consider therapy and Janet, although sceptical, had agreed to give it a go.

On 12 April 2010 Janet has her third session with psychologist Dr Belinda Browne-Thomas and on 16 April she calls me.

There have been ‘developments’ she says and she would like to meet me face-to-face rather than discuss anything on the telephone. I suggest Sunday morning at one of the service stations on the M56 and we agree a time: 10.30am. I have a sneaking suspicion that Janet may want to pull out of the project since I’m wondering whether all this digging into her background is proving too intrusive.

On 18 April I set off in the sunshine, making sure I arrive in plenty of time, in fact I intend to get there early so I can decide what my reaction should be if Janet tells me she’s had enough. To be honest, I can’t tell if I’ll be relieved or disappointed: I feel as if I’m going round in circles.

Fred Handford plough Ball Beard Farm
Fred Handford ploughing at Ball Beard Farm

But even though I’m ten minutes early, Janet is there before me. She’s sitting in the sun with her friend, Mary and they see me before I see them. She looks small, tired and vulnerable. She’s wearing her usual shapeless sweatshirt and blue trousers and I know as clearly as if she had just spoken the words out loud: Dr Belinda Browne-Thomas has made a breakthrough.

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