Dying to See You – or am I?
When people ask what inspired my book, Dying to See You, I tell them a piece of paper. The usual response is, ‘Eh?’ but then I explain.
Picture the scene. I’m in my office looking down at that piece of paper which is the sort of certificate commonly known as a police check relating to a potential employee for my social care agency. In the section headed, ‘Police Records of Convictions, Caution, reprimands and Warnings’ I’m pleased to see the words, ‘None recorded’.
Great, I think, smiling. I can employ this person. All is right with the world.
But is it?
It’s an interesting term, ‘None Recorded.’ All sorts of possibilities surround it:
- The person has committed many a crime but got away with it. The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, killed thirteen women before the law caught up with him. Fred and Rose West went undetected for years too as the bodies stacked up in and around their house in Gloucester.
- The person hasn’t committed a crime yet but who knows what darkness is festering away inside them ready to burst or creep out at some point in the future?
- The person has stolen someone else’s identity.
- The person has a criminal past elsewhere in the world.
It’s scary stuff.
Looking back on my own life, there have been times when I’ve learned things about people that surprised me. One was abused by her husband. Another was stealing stuff from work. Others had aspirations to be an Elvis impressionist or sit in a bath of baked beans. Whatever the issue, the fact is that I fell for the appearance of smiling contentment. I didn’t scratch the surface. I didn’t dig deep. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who harbours secret serial killing tendencies but do I actually know that I haven’t?
I’ve taken chances on people and none more so than my husband who I met in a music bar. My sister-in-law had persuaded me to go out for the evening as I was becoming a bit of a recluse. I was a single parent at the time with a teenage daughter and a nine month old baby.
I never feel comfortable in busy places so I clutched my drink and prayed she wouldn’t suggest we dance. As a distraction I asked her to spot the best looking bloke and she pointed to a tall, dark-haired man standing alone. She’d chosen well because he was stunning. When he walked past me later in the evening, still on his own – Eek! I drew him into a conversation and by the end of the night we had arranged to call each other. I was flattered that such an engaging and well-mannered guy would be interested in boring old me.
A severe bout of flu meant it was two weeks before I was able to meet him again and before he arrived at my front door I struggled to remember what he was like. I wasn’t disappointed. I allowed him into my home and introduced him to my children. We went for meals and really enjoyed each other’s company.
One niggling worry I had at the time was I hadn’t met anyone who knew him so I had no way of verifying he was who he said he was. He could have been a maniacal knife wielder for all I knew. In fact, it was six whole months before I met his work colleagues at a Christmas party and then his parents who confirmed he was telling the truth. In the early 1990’s we didn’t have the internet to search for people to check their identities and levels of honesty.
I trusted my gut instincts (well, he loved his cat so he must be OK) and like most people those days, and even today, I took a risk. Clearly, you will have gathered from what I’ve already said that my instinct was sound and he has proven to be a wonderful husband, father to my children and business partner. We also have a son between us.
I was lucky though. Not everyone is so how can we find out if the person we’re allowing into our lives and giving access to our children is harmless? In my story Sophie meets a man who she thinks is the perfect gentleman. He makes her feel valued, interesting and beautiful but most of all he makes her feel safe.
Sophie’s daughter is less impressed and not so easily won over so Sophie does her best to check out Max’s credentials. In a world of social media and public knowledge of people’s lives there are still individuals out there who step back into the shadows and avoid Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp. Max was one of them.
I, personally, have only started a Facebook account in the past four months and my husband says he’d rather ‘hack a leg off with a rusty saw’ than open one. Having teenage children and grandchildren has widened my eyes to what is out there and I’m beginning to realise the benefits but I can fully understand the middle and older generation’s mistrust of hanging out personal details on the public washing line. My father-in-law still doesn’t trust the internet enough to make purchases online and pales at the thought of internet banking.
So how does someone like Sophie find out about a man with no social media presence? When I started writing this blog I thought there were agencies around that offered a checking service but despite surfing the net for an hour I’m struggling to find one that isn’t a private investigative agency offering tracking devices and call monitoring. I found some that offer to check out prospective employees or tenants but not boyfriends or lovers. And besides, isn’t seeking out the background of a potential lover the ultimate passion killer?
What if the person finds out you’ve been checking up on them? How will that help build a foundation of trust in the relationship? With the growth of online dating sites and the lessening of mutual friends, we lose the personal endorsement of meeting shared acquaintances and this is a big worry as my earlier experiences demonstrated. In my story Sophie is asked to arrange support for Ivy, Max’s frail grandmother, and Sophie can at least see first-hand what a loving, caring man he is. Or is he?
But did you know one in five new relationships begins online?
So, if there are no agencies that check people out for you, (or maybe you know of one or you’re now rushing out to start one – I’d call it CheckMate by the way), how about some simple rules for yourself? I’ve been asking around for tips on how to stay safe and how to stay aware so I’ll share them with you in the hope that you’ll find them useful… (I’ve put ‘he’ for ease of reading but it could be ‘she’)
- Speak to him on the phone. Don’t just text. Ask for his full name and what he does for a living.
- Google his name and see if you have any mutual friends.
- Meet in a public place.
- Pre-plan your journey home so you can decline a lift.
- Have a friend on SOS standby.
- Make sure your phone is fully charged.
- Trust your instincts. If he says stuff like ‘I’m between jobs’ and ‘You can trust me’ or his stories are inconsistent you should listen to those ringing alarm bells.
- Leave early if you are not happy.
- Don’t leave your drink unattended. Finish it before you go to the bathroom.
- Don’t drink too much.
Okay, so you’ve swiped right on a date matching app and so has he, you’ve exchanged contact details, you’ve arranged to meet somewhere busy and you’ve had a friend on SOS standby. The date goes well and you’ve got on like a hay barn and a pyromaniac but you still don’t know if he is who he says he is. What can you do next?
Well, you could check out his birth records by going on one of the ancestry websites or find out if he’s married by visiting www.myheritage.com. You could check his work’s website and try to meet up with his friends.
What you don’t want to do is become an obsessive, stalking bunny boiler. It’s good to take precautions to keep yourself safe but stay rational and respect their privacy. Step back from time to time and look at the relationship like your friends might. It’s easy to lose sight of the wallpaper pattern when your nose is pressed to the wall.
And lastly, please don’t worry if you’re exploring care options for your nearest and dearest. A police check is just one thing in a wide range of security measures we take.