23. The Box
At the house, Neil's dad, Colin, was going through his son's stuff. There was a winter coat folded up at the bottom of the wardrobe on top of a pile of jumpers. Colin took the coat out, put it on a hanger and hung it up. He found some space in the chest of drawers and started to re-fold and put away the thick wooly jumpers. At the bottom of the pile, there was a shoebox shoved right to the back of the wardrobe. He took the shoebox downstairs and sat down with it at the dining room table.
The shoebox was nearly full to the brim with medication boxes. These were not plain white cardboard boxes that pharmacies gave out prescriptions in, but glossy retail boxes with logos of the pharmaceutical companies and drug brand names emblazoned on them in bright colours. The medications had smarmy names like Abilify and Effexor, suggesting they would confer abilities or be effective.
Some of the boxes had text that was predominantly in Arabic or Cyrillic script, and it was hard to tell exactly what the medication was.
As well as the boxed medications, there were also pills in blister strips that had their ingredients and dosage printed on the silver foil. Some of them had pharmacist's instructions printed in purple ink directly onto the unboxed strips, along with the price, in Indian Rupees.
Finally, there was a big plastic bag filled with mixed loose pills. Some pills were round, others were lozenge shaped, a few were in capsules and others were diamond or triangular shaped. All the pills and capsules had letters and numbers stamped or printed onto them. The pills were mainly white, blue, pale yellow, pink and aquamarine. The capsulses were half green and half yellow or half red and half white.
In a notebook Colin started to write down all the names and dosages of the boxed and blister packed medications. The boxed medications all had two names, but the pills in the strips mainly seemed to only have one ingredient printed on their foil. He then wrote down a description for each of the loose pills: "Round, light pink, GG925".
There were nearly 30 different medications in that shoebox, none of which looked likely to have been prescribed by Neil's doctors.
Going into the box room, Colin now located a small filing cabinet where Neil kept his old bank statements and credit card bills. He returned to the dining room table with a stack of paper that was dated within the last year. The bank statements mostly had recurring direct debit payments for things like mobile phone and Internet. A quick scan through the credit card bills found a few transactions in foreign currencies. It was wholly unclear what the payments were for from the various merchant names.
He went back to the filing cabinet and pulled out all the credit card bills for a two year period, ensuring he had every single one. Then, he found all the bank statements and credit card bills in a big pile of unopened mail. It was no surprise to find that there was no money spent on the credit card after Neil's disappearance.
Putting everything in chronological order, he marked any suspicious transactions on the statements. There were one or two foreign currency transactions on every statement for 6 consecutive months. Immediately after that, some payments to "Frog Eye Wares Ltd" caught Colin's eye. The transactions were all for the same amount - £27.90 - and there were 3 on one statement and 4 on the next: 7 in total.
The credit card transactions ended 6 weeks before Neil had disappeared. Going back to the bank statements, there were two payments to Western Union of circa £150 and daily spending that seemed to always be just over £55, as well as regular cash withdrawals for £50. In a little over a month, Neil appeared to have siphoned off nearly £2,500 from his current account, either getting cashback at local shops and pubs, or at an ATM.
Doing some quick calculations, Colin estimated that his son had spent about £1,300 in foreign currency transactions that he assumed must have been to buy medications from overseas. Neil also seemed to have diverted approximately £3,000 somewhere else, over a 6 week period. "Any problems with drugs or debts?" Lara and the family had all been asked by police officers and private investigators when he went missing. There was no way that this paltry sum of money suggested either. Neil's parents weren't rich, but they would have lent him a couple of thousand without a single question if he'd asked. Besides, Neil's bank account still had money in it and he only had a few hundred pounds of credit card debt.
When Colin was opening Neil's post, he'd made a pile for Lara, but he'd spotted another pile on a sideboard that Neil must have stacked up before he disappeared. Looking through the first few letters, they were all addressed to Lara, but he decided to go through the pile in case there was anything for Neil mixed in with it. He was questioning the futility of the exercise when he found a single piece of paper folded in half.
Paid in full, with thanks.
A credit card card receipt for £27.90 was stapled to the invoice, with "customer not present" printed on it. There didn't seem to be a telephone number or an address anywhere on the invoice, just a website: For all enquiries go to www.frogeyewares.co.uk.
Back at the filing cabinet for a third visit, Colin pulled out Neil's mobile phone bills. Some really old ones were itemised with every number and how much the call cost, but the ones from recent years simply showed the amount for line rental and the total amount for call charges.
Unplugging Neil's laptop which was sat charging on a desk in the box room, he coiled the cables and took it downstairs. Returning the shoe box to the wardrobe upstairs, he turned off all the lights and left the house with the invoice tucked into his notebook, the laptop and its charger.
Back at the family home, Colin booted up the laptop and managed to log in using a password that Lara had suggested. She had suggested several of Neil's possible passwords, as well as some variations, but the first one on the list worked. Colin was no computer expert but his job in the civil service had required him to be reasonably IT proficient, so he was able to search for any documents on the computer, check Neil's email inbox and Internet browsing history. The laptop was completely blank, as if it had never been used from the day it was bought.
Using his own computer, Colin now started searching the Internet. The first thing he tried to do was to visit the website from the invoice.
"This website is now closed." was displayed in plain white text on a green background. Nothing more, nothing less.
Searching for "FRL-V4-0.5G" produced no results. Shortening the search terms to "FRL-V4" the Internet suggested a website about a seaport in France. This seemed unlikely to have been sold 7 times, and for less than £30. The acronym "FRL" turned out to have a multitude of uses, none of which offered any promising leads. It was a dead end.
Finally, searching for "frog eye wares" turned up two hits: one was a County Court website and the other was an article from a local newspaper from that area. The court website would not show the result when it was clicked on, displaying instead a "page not found" error message. The newspaper said that a local businesswoman and two of her associates had been arrested and were standing trial in connection with the frogeyewares.co.uk website. There were no details except the date of the article, which was 3 months old.
It was getting late and phoning the court or the newspaper would have to wait until Monday morning.
Now, searching for each of the names of the medications in his notebook, Colin found that the boxed ones were a mixture of antidepressants and atypical antipsychotics with antidepressant effects. The pills in the blister packs were medications more commonly prescribed for narcolepsy and attention-deficit disorders.
Finding out what the loose pills were was a much harder challenge, but there was a website with an excellent search facility that allowed the shape, colour and any markings on the pill to be input. For white round pills, the results were reliable, but for pills that were pinkish or greenish, or of more exotic shapes, there weren't any results. Searching for the markings alone found a lot of results, but Colin ploughed through the pages and narrowed it down to a likely set of candidates.
With a list of active ingredients from the pills, he then searched the Internet to find out what kind of medications they were. There were anxiety drugs, sleeping pills, painkillers, analgesics and more ADHD medication. There were also treatments for fatigue, lethargy and the promotion of weight loss through appetite suppression. A significant number of the active ingredients were listed as controlled substances.
Perhaps Neil did have a drug problem, but if so, why had he left these precious pills behind and how had he managed to hide and pay for an addiction so cheaply? Neil would have lied, cheated, stolen and gone into debt before he disappeared without a trace. Drug problems spiralled. The evidence was undeniable: Neil had been illegally in possession of a number of controlled medications with abuse potential. However, he didn't appear to have been buying them or taking them in great enough quantity to suggest drug abuse.
Not wanting to upset Lara and family with incomplete theories, conjecture and inconclusive evidence, Colin decided to keep quiet over the weekend and pick up his investigation again on Monday morning. He was frustrated and confused, but he was a patient and methodical man, calm and stoical in a crisis.