[00:00:00] Welcome to Foul Play. This series is called My Aunt and the Hitman. I'm your host, Wendy C, and this is episode three, the Motive. In previous episodes, we learnt how Sharon's body was discovered by her ex-husband Graham George B. On the 7th of December, 2007, how police suspect that the actual date of her death may be the 4th of December, 2007, and about Sharon and her eccentric ways.
[00:00:38] In this episode, we will learn more about the relationship between Sharon and George as well as following more on the police investigation.[00:01:00]
[00:01:05] As far as the family were concerned, Sharon and George were married. Yes, it was unconventional. He never seemed to be there. In fact, she once told me that he lived away most of the time due to the location of his work. He had never been very sociable with the family, but would occasionally turn up to family event.
[00:01:22] He would stand quietly by Sharon's side and people watch more often than not with his arms crossed to make him seem even less approachable, if that was even possible. He was the silent type and wouldn't speak to you unless you approached him. Even then, it was short and sweet while actually just short.
[00:01:39] They were chalk and cheese. Sharon was loud, always had a beaming smile, would wear bright clothes and her energy would fill the room. George was as quiet as a mouse would slip in or out of a room unnoticed and blended into the crowd. I know you are probably all thinking that our memories have been tainted by what happened to Sharon, but I can assure you that we all thought [00:02:00] he was aloof and a little odd at the time.
[00:02:02] And anyway, her we to judge their relationship, Sharon was happy and that was all that mattered. We all thought that Sharon was happy anyway, so can you imagine the shock when just a couple of days after finding out that Sharon had been murdered? We find out that not only was Sharon and George actually divorced, but they had been divorced for almost eight years, since the 10th of February, 2000.
[00:02:26] And yes, there is more. George had remarried in March, 2000, a complete cliche, but he married his secretary, Katherine Kang. Oh wait, I still haven't finished. Not only had George remarried, but he had two children with Catherine too. Well, when I found out, you could have blown me down with her feather. Just six months before Sharon had been at my Nan's 80th birthday, and back in 2005, just two years before her death, her and George hosted a party for her 50th birthday, five [00:03:00] years after they divorced.
[00:03:02] Talk about keeping up appearance. There was only one person in the family that wasn't shocked by this revelation. My Aunt Lauren, Sharon's sister. I would say rather than just in love, she was totally and utterly besotted with him. She couldn't imagine her life without him at all, and it broke her heart.
[00:03:22] When they did get divorced, she never told any member of the family except myself that she was divorced and the shard was that he would turn up at birthdays or any celebration he would turn up as if they were still married. So the whole family just assumed that they were still married. Sharon's friend Phyllis also had no idea.
[00:03:42] I would go to see her after Christmas and she'd say, oh, it's a miserable Christmas, and so on. But it was only later I found out that she spent Christmas on her own because he was over with his family at Epson. This makes me so sad to think that Sharon didn't feel like she could tell anyone what was going [00:04:00] on, especially my nan maybe admitting that things weren't perfect.
[00:04:03] Others would break the spell that George had over her, and she wanted to live in a world where the divorce hadn't happened. Like in so many cases where one partner manipulates the other friends and family see warning signs that don't want to interfere or say anything for fear of being blocked out. The relationship between Sharon and George was no different.
[00:04:23] I remember always finding George somewhat intriguing. He was a short man, looked older than his years, and always seemed to be wearing a suit. He was balding, he had pale skin and small cold eyes. I don't remember him ever giving me a hug or showing any warmth towards me. I don't ever remember seeing him laugh, even when Sharon was gaffing beside him and where she lit up a room when she entered, he was just there.
[00:04:47] I'm not the only one who found him distant and standoffish. My name would often say that he was odd and hard to get to know and feel close to. They say opposites attract, and maybe George was completely different away from the family. [00:05:00] I would love to have been able to ask Sharon about how they met, what attracted her to him, and learn more about their life together.
[00:05:06] Lauren tells me what she remembers. Well, our first impressions as a family were that nobody really took to him. He was very cold. He didn't seem to have any warmth in his aura or the way he approached people. Though he was very personable when he could charm the bird from the trees. He just didn't have any warmth.
[00:05:32] I mean, I. I'm the sort of person that let people be who they are, and I just get on with them. If it's necessary to keep close to my sister, then I just let it sort of wash over me and was friendly with him because it was the easiest way to deal with the situation. Sharon's friend Phyllis also shared with me her thoughts on George.
[00:05:53] Well, I soon realized that he was not really part of the relationship. I couldn't understand how the tour had got [00:06:00] together because Sharon was outgoing and open and he was not. He, I don't think he ever spoke to me. He would sometimes be there and he would always look past me. He. He didn't give you eye contact as if I knew I didn't count for him, basically, and, and I just soon realized that they never did anything together.
[00:06:23] They certainly never went on holiday together. To me, it wasn't a marriage at all. He was doing his own thing and Sharon was there supporting him. And the general mystery around George didn't end. I asked everyone what George did for a living, and it seems that nobody really knows. Let's just say he seems to have had fingers in lots of pies.
[00:06:44] Basically, he, he did something to do wiring up computers, so the whole bungalow was a wash, not only with animal cages, but with. Rolls of cable and as a sideline he did disco. So he would come to the bungalow, presumably home from work, [00:07:00] and then the back of the car will be open. Then he's loading up ready to go off to his disco.
[00:07:03] So he was never there, but we just accepted that was their relationship. It wasn't ours to question. Lauren told me that as well as many failed business ventures, George had worked driving a car for a rich Arabic businessman, taught English as a second language, and worked as a DJ for parties. Retired DC Roger Deacon said he was into business, an entrepreneur of sorts.
[00:07:26] We established that he was, um, I'll say entrepreneur. He was very much into business of some description. There was always something going on with George, whether it was. Setting up an education department for, for a school. He had businesses out in Thailand. He was, he thought he was very water mid. He thought he was very into everything and knew everything was a very business orientated person, but truthfully known.
[00:07:51] That was quite the opposite. In my dad's statement to the police, he mentioned that George had approached him in the early two thousands for some advice [00:08:00] about the dealing involving a contact of his in Brunai, who was a very close friend or relative of the Sultan of Brunai. He said that he believed the idea related to procurement in the construction industry, but he told George not to bother and finally retired DS Cork told me.
[00:08:15] George was a businessman, or he called himself a businessman. I think probably a failed businessman would be the the right way to describe him. He would call himself an entrepreneur, so he dabbled in in lots of different industries. We found documentation that he was importing palm oil and gold, and he was always trying to do a deal, as far as I could tell, and he was always trying to make his million, but it didn't happen.
[00:08:44] For those British listeners among you. All in all, George was a bit of a Del Boy Trotter, trying to make his millions
[00:08:53] DCI Woodall and her team continue to explore the house, speak to the neighbors, and investigate the scene. The [00:09:00] items used to bind Sharon were tested for D n A along with other items of significance from the. Including a role of duct tape that the police believed was used in the crime, and it was on this tape that they found dna n a.
[00:09:14] The significant thing about the Dna n a on the duct tape was that the DNA n a would've been on the inside of the tape as the person wound it around. Tracing her steps back. The police also found CCTV of Sharon shopping in Gilford and returning to the train station. In fact, George told the police that he had dropped her off at the train station on the morning of the 4th of December, 2007.
[00:09:39] DCI Wood explains what she thinks happened on the 4th of December, 2007. Of course, this is just her opinion based on what was found and her extensive experience. Well, it's a mix of what I do know and what I can piece together. I know that George picked Sharon up for her day in Gilford. He drove her to the train station.
[00:09:59] Leatherhead [00:10:00] dropped her off. She got the train, did her shopping in Gilford, bought herself a slice of cake from the market, and a few other bits and pieces missed the train that she was planning on taking. So she called George. I'm gonna be late. She caught the train, the later train, got the bus as normal back to the end of Harriet's Lane, and then she walked up Harriet's Lane having been seen by the neighbor.
[00:10:24] She went in through the back door, unlocking it as she normally would. She's locked the door as she's gone in, she'd got herself out. That piece of cake, teabag in the cup. Ready to have a cup of tea, collected the post. She opened the card from her mom because she would've recognized the handwriting, and then she's torn the stamp off, walked into the bedroom to put it into her little stamp collecting jar, and it's at that point that hit her because we also believe that.
[00:10:52] She was potentially unconscious when he actually killed her.[00:11:00]
[00:11:06] At this point, I've removed the name of the suspect from DCI Wood's Statement, as you will learn more about him at a later date. I also want to explain the little stamp collecting jar that DCI Wood or refers. Sharon, just like her mom was ahead of her times in terms of recycling and trying to save the planet.
[00:11:25] There were lots of everyday items that could be saved and some could be given to charities who could trade them in for money. For example, my Nan used to collect drinks cans and foil milk bottle tops. Both Sharon and her mom collected stamps. They would rip the postage stamp from the envelope and pop it in a little pot until they had enough to donate.
[00:11:44] Sharon's pot was kept in the top drawer of the chest of drawers in her bedroom
[00:11:52] as Christmas 2007 got closer and closer. DC Deacon and DS Cork were getting to know George, their significant [00:12:00] witness. DC Deacon describes the interviews. Again, long drawn out process. It didn't just happen over a couple of hours. It was over days, weeks. In fact, we had to build up the rapport with him as far as he was concerned.
[00:12:12] We were there to find out anything he can tell us about his life, Sharon's life, and things like that. He was there to, to trust me. He took to me my, rather than my friend, my. And I was the one he always phoned up and spoke to when he wanted something or they wish me Merry Christmas and things like that.
[00:12:32] And so we built that rep rapport up and slowly but surely he started making mistakes, which we knew anyway. Yeah, I think she told it in the family. They'd actually divorced as far as the family were concerned. They were still married. Again, he was drip feeding us things that he thinks that we thought we should know.
[00:12:50] And now, and again, he put something in that he thought he was very smu. And explained something and as if we were the idiots. You know, we were the fools and he was playing with us, [00:13:00] but obviously it was the other way around. So, yeah, he started saying things and he started indicating that he'd go, he'd been going back to Sharon's house on a regular BA or his house as he said it.
[00:13:09] Cause they were still joint owners, that he'd go back there on a regular basis. She'd cook a meal, he'd cook her a meal and she'd do his books for him and he store stuff. The interviews were painstakingly slow, but these skilled investigators were drawing George slowly into their trap. The trust was growing and he was beginning to think of them as friends.
[00:13:28] He thought that they felt sorry for him because he had been the one to find Sharon's body. But the reality was they were drawing out little gems of information without him realizing very slowly. Bit by bit, they asked George about his financial situation, and alarm bells were immediately. One of the questions was about his financial situation and how much money did he, you know, was he in debt?
[00:13:50] And he explained, he sort of laughed and said he was in debt. He was always in debt and he, he was financially up the creek. And obviously that puts, puts us at a nice position where we could start [00:14:00] looking at his gains. I said earlier that the financial side of everything that's being looked at anyway, it would become obviously was skin.
[00:14:07] And that we knew that was a motive for the murder of his ex-wife. They say that often murder victims know the perpetrator. So did George murder my aunt. Why would he do that? They were divorced. So what would he have to gain? Well this is where the next sucker punch was delivered to the family. DS Cork Explains.
[00:14:32] We actually found Sharon's will in the house, but George was quite open about the fact that he stood to inherit the house and yeah, financially he would benefit from her death. There was a life insurance policy, which meant think he, he stood gain about 75,000 pounds from that. Yes, you did hear that correct.
[00:14:51] Sharon George divorced in 2000, but just a year later, when George was married to Katherine Kang, Sharon had written a new will. [00:15:00] It was one of those home kits that you buy from the stationary shop, and it was short and sweet. These are the key points. This is the last will and testament of me. Sharon Birchwood made this 26th day of March in the year of our Lord, 2000 and.
[00:15:16] I appoint Mr. Graham, George Birchwood to be my executor. I give and bequeath unto Mr. Graham, George Birchwood of a dress, withheld everything I own, any person contesting this will or attempting to set aside any part of it before any court is to be denied any benefit from my estate. Signed s Birchwood and witnessed by her good friend Duncan.
[00:15:45] As I have mentioned before, Sharon was absolutely beed with George. Sometimes love is completely blind. Even when her husband had divorced her and immediately married someone else, Sharon still left [00:16:00] everything to him in her will, and there it was that snippet that the police had been waiting for. They had motive.
[00:16:10] As a significant witness, the police wanted to find out where George was on the date that they suspected Sharon had been murdered. The 4th of December, 2007. George was very forthcoming and told them that he had been into Epsom to do some shopping. DC Deacon picks it up from here
[00:16:30] and the first one of the things he said to me, you'll find me on cctv, and I said, that's great. He's suddenly just telling me, You know, I never asked about that. I just asked where he'd been, or my colleague did. And of course then he gives up that he was in Epson and he would be found on cctv and sure enough, every possible CCTV camera in, in Epson, he was on, he went everywhere in his shops.
[00:16:51] He went into banks, he went, he was just shopping, apparently, just for looking in the shop windows, which was giving him an alibi, [00:17:00] putting him away from the scene of Sharon's death miles away in. and that's basically what we were at. And it's, to be honest with you, to be at that point. And I think right at the very beginning, we were convinced that, um, he'd killed his wife or his ex-wife, Sharon DCI Wood, or explains why C C T V is so important in an investigation, you would set a criteria for eliminating somebody from an investigation and it would normally be so.
[00:17:29] That had to be CCTV of somebody saying they were elsewhere, a receipt saying they were elsewhere. So there would have to be quite a strict criteria to be able to eliminate somebody from your inquiries. DCI Wood then went on to give her opinion on what she saw. Conveniently, George did have a very good alibi in that he was on CCTV for a number of hours.
[00:17:53] The shopping center at Ashton, I watched the CCTV with George in the Ashley Center. He was just standing around on the [00:18:00] concourse looking in shop windows. He didn't go into many shops. There was a shot of him walking into his bank where you see him facially going in, and he removes. His hat. So it was very unusual.
[00:18:11] It was Christmas time. He wasn't going into the shops. He was spending a lot of time milling around and that wasn't something that George normally did. He was a spender, but we, he didn't sort of say that his pattern was to go to the Ashley Center every week and he would spend hours there just milling around.
[00:18:28] So again, you know, the only, why do you need an Ali? So what was George doing in the Ashley Center on the 4th of December, 2007? Was he shopping or was he creating an alibi for himself? Thank you for listening to episode three of my aunt and the hitman. In episode four, the D n A results from the tape come back and George's interviews take the investigation down a path the police never expected.
[00:18:58] If you can [00:19:00] imagine, I, it'd be great to show you the virtual video, but he'd, he'd sit back if he was talking openly like this, chatting about, yes, it was about, about the weather and everything else. And as soon as he pushed on a hard subject, it was like this, he'd look at you really hard or he'd look down and he'd just frown and his whole face changed.
[00:19:16] Cuz we knew, he knew that he was well, we knew he was lying about or about something. This podcast was written and produced by me, Wendy. It was edited by the amazing team at Foul Play and Arc like media. Any profits made from this podcast will go to Friends of the Earth and Refuge, both charities that were close to my Aunt Sharon's heart.[00:20:00]