• Gina Fegan

Chapter 38. Moving on.

Maeve knew this might be a tricky situation and didn’t want anyone else to call her yoga buddy. Doing yoga on Zoom had cut down all the before and after class chat, but Maeve had stayed in touch with Carla on WhatsApp so that they could occasionally swop messages like ‘was she trying to kill us?’ Or ‘who on earth loves downward dog?’ Now they had all got a bit better at the practice, so it had morphed into, ‘that was a good session’ or ‘I needed that stretch’, which was less fun but equally a good sign that they were making progress.

Maeve messaged Carla, ‘have you got a minute to spare, now?’ Luckily she hit Carla on a comfort break. Maeve might not have a job right now, but she pitied all those stuck on Zoom, especially as at this very moment she was looking out over some beautiful countryside, under a completely clear blue sky.

Given Carla’s time constraints, Maeve tried to be as concise as possible so put a string of questions to her.

“Do you deal with post graduate students and their visas? If not, who does?”

Carla needed to know more, “So what’s the situation? Surely you don’t have a visa problem? I am the ‘International Pathway Manager’, so I do deal with foreign students, but I can’t help if I don’t understand what you are dealing with.”

Maeve sighed, she didn’t really want to go into all of the details but it might be quicker if she did. So she explained that Adam, who everyone knew about because he had been in the press, Adam, had two passports. He had entered the UK on his Greek passport and now that seemed to be a problem.

“Ah, that makes sense. Otherwise, if he only had a Greek passport he would have applied for ‘settled status’, if he didn’t do that then I can see there might be an issue.” Looking at the time, Carla wanted to solve this quickly, “Okay, here’s my suggestions. He contacts the Kent Union, which is the UKC student union, they have a visa department, they should help.” Carla was still frowning as she was processing the situation and thinking through possible solutions. “This really shouldn’t have happened, though, because the University has a Compliance Team who are very thorough. I’m sure they would have told him.”

Maeve was pretty sure that this was a minor error, a mistake on Adam’s part because he had a British passport, so he had been thoughtless when coming through passport control. She also thought it likely that someone in the police station was being over zealous, she just wasn’t sure why.

“I mean,” Carla was still thinking through options, “I guess the easiest thing might be for him to leave the country on his Greek passport and come back in on a British one.” Then thinking Maeve might act on that immediately added, “Don’t quote me on that, get the proper advice first, but it might be that simple.”

Maeve was relieved to have some suggestions, at least some positive steps that they could follow. She made a quick call to Marianne, who didn’t answer, so she left a message to get Marianne started on contacting the student union, giving her Carla’s other thoughts too. Then switched off her phone and headed back to Inverness. It was a lovely day for a drive.

Steve was dealing with the fall out from the fiasco in the woods. Matthew was indeed ex military, he started out in the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment in Canterbury before transferring to Special Forces. He received honours for bravery in Iraq and Afghanistan and had been invalided out of the army when a rocket propelled grenade hit the vehicle he was in. There had been media attention around the awards for bravery, which was unsurprising, the guy was a hero.

What pulled Steve up short was the press clipping stating that Matthew had driven himself, at one hundred miles an hour, into a tree. Steve was amazed the guy was still alive, but guessed that living out in the woods was his way of getting out of the limelight while trying to figure things out.

As far as the police were concerned they couldn’t find a witness who would come forward and confirm that he had threatened to shoot them. All the people they had contacted, when pushed, said that they heard someone else shouting it and had simply repeated it.

Matthew claimed that he shouted at the people below him to get them to stay on the paths and stop damaging the forest, and that’s all.

The police believed that he had shouted authoritative commands, possibly with something ‘gun like’ in his possession frightening the onlookers, but with no confirmed witnesses, there were no charges.

Steve made a few calls to see if there was anyway he could get Matthew some help, no joy. Catching Lives would help if he wanted it for practicalities like food, shelter, washing facilities, but they couldn’t help with the level of therapy he seemed to need.

Matthew wanted to get out of the station, he wanted everyone to piss off and leave him alone. He had his own demons. He was dealing with them in his own way.

Within the force Steve had his own problems. In every walk of life there are rivalries, from Steve’s experience it manifested as petty acts to irritate, paperwork delayed, applications rejected, but sometimes it could be more serious. Whichever way you look at it police men and women are people too, human with human frailties.

After the fuss over the drama in the Cathedral which had given Steve’s reputation a boost among the powers that be, the animosity between Steve and his colleague Tim Horton had begun to re-surface. Tim had not had an equivalent ‘win’, over time his resentment had deepened.

A little while ago, Tim had been mouthing off about ‘bleeding heart liberals’ and how people had to take a stand, or things were better with a bit of rough justice. He had been feeling out colleagues who might hold the same views, be on his side, if he ever needed that extra support.

Since the Brexit debate, there had been a rise in racist activities everywhere, even during the pandemic. Most recently there had been a far right march in Dover.

The protestors carried placards with ‘We want our country back’ as they sang Rule Britannia while they blocked the main route into the port, the A20, in both directions.

On the same day in the centre of town in Market Square there was a pro-migrant demonstration. All in all plenty of potential for some nasty confrontation.

The Kent Police were clear what their role was, the Chief Superintendent was quoted as saying ‘As a force, it is our responsibility to facilitate peaceful protests, however we will not tolerate violence or disorder.’

There were many who held the view that there were a lot of ‘grifters’ in the far right groups. Meaning that Dover was acting as a lightning rod drawing protestors from all over the country, as the centre of their attention, because of the media images of refugees in small boats.

On this particular occasion the Kent police had over a hundred officers, a mounted unit, and a dozen police vehicles there on the day. They made nine arrests.

Internally individuals held their own views. In the past following tip-offs, the force had more of a role in picking up asylum seekers, who were often dumped in service station car parks on the motorways out of Dover or Folkestone. They would take them to Dover to the screening centre. Since the new systems had come in this was no longer a police priority. Cuts do that, they mean that priorities have to be set.

However, when dealing with Steve, Inspector Tim Horton, had been really pissed off with the shenanigans in the woods, a complete waste of time and resources. He happened to be in charge of the team that picked up Adam. They had never officially met, but Tim knew exactly who Adam was, he also knew that Adam was a friend of Steve’s, but he didn’t let on.

Once Adam was in the station, Tim took over the interrogation, and decided this was a good opportunity to cause a bit of trouble. Calling over Constable Clive Richards, a like minded colleague, Tim winked at him as he said,

“This one might be an ‘illegal’. Take him over to Border Force in Folkestone, they can deal with him.” It was clear that this was not the normal process but it would be a waste of time for Adam, and certainly for Steve when he found out.

“And bring ‘Roge the doge’ with you, you can drop him home when you're done.” Tim tipped his head towards Roger, a new Special Constable, who was very keen but a bit clueless so unlikely to pick up on anything out of the ordinary and who would appreciate a lift home. Meaning ‘Roge’ wouldn’t be in the station when Steve got back so couldn’t spill the beans by accident, but equally, procedure had been followed. Tim smiled to himself, he liked it when a plan worked out.

Before he handed Adam over to Clive, Tim had explained to Adam that Adam had a problem with his visa and visa issues were dealt with by Border Force, so to speed things up Constable Richards would take him straight over there. Adam, not suspecting a thing, thanked him for the help.

By the time Steve had caught up with the situation, Adam was being processed as an asylum seeker under Home Office regulations and out of police hands. As it was pretty late when Adam had arrived, possibly under Tim’s guidance, it seemed that no one had managed to get through to the University to confirm Adam’s side of the story. So they handed him over to the accommodation unit for the night. He had already spent the night in Napier Barracks.

As Maeve was driving through the Scottish countryside, Steve had accepted that he had been set up. The “oops sorry” from Tim as he grinned adding, “of course I should have recognised his name as the victim you saved in the nick of time, shouldn’t I?” Turning round to Clive with a wink, “Sorry mate, my mistake.”

Steve was so angry that he couldn’t speak, he turned on his heel and headed over to Folkestone to rescue Adam. As he sped through the Kent countryside, Steve thought this was going to be another day wasted, which he unfairly put down to Maeve and her eccentric family

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