When John Copik decided to cast his nets for the day's catch what emerged when the net was hauled from the deep foam-flecked water left him shocked. It was a body of a man. Who was he?
The summer of 1996 had been a disastrous season for Devon fisherman John Copik. Day after day, Copik and his son Craig had set out out into the English channel in their fishing boat Malkerry from their home port of Brixham hoping for a fat haul of cod, only to return home disappointed with barely enough fish to cover the day's fuel costs. But now, on a bright July morning, it seemed their luck had finally turned. From the moment they shot their nets, about ten miles offshore, John and Craig Copik had been hauling in cod and by lunchtime the boat's hold was full of prime fish.
It would be one of the most profitable trips of the year and John Copik decided to cast his nets once more, before turning for home. It was a decision he would have mixed feelings about for the rest of his life. For what emerged when the net was hauled from the deep foam-flecked water was the body of a man. He was middle-aged, dressed in a blue and white checked shirt, and leather-belted green cord trousers with the pockets pulled out. John Copik could see at first glance that this was no accidental drowning: the man had a savage wound on his head and his hands were bound together by wire. Worst of all, he had been held on the seabed by a heavy anchor tied to his waist.
Staring into the lifeless face the fishermen knew that their day's catch was ruined — the contamination of the corpse in the net meant that the fish were no longer fit for human food.
"Some people would have just chucked the body back and said nothing, John Copik said. "But I couldn't do that. Someone somewhere would be waiting for news of what had happened to him. I knew we had to take him ashore." John Copik radioed ahead to the authorities and by the time he arrived in Brixham, police were waiting on the dockside to take the body for forensic examination.
It was found that it had been in the water for at least a week, there were bruises on his hip and legs and a four-inch gash on his head. He had been unconscious when he entered the water and cause of death was drowning.
But who was he? An expensive Rolex watch provided the first clues: examination of the manufacturer's records showed it had been sold to 50-year-old Ronald Platt, whose last address was in Essex 300 miles away. Police found he lived alone on the edge of a small village and references for the rented property had been provided by a David Davis, a 50-year-old Canadian retired financial adviser now living in the UK with his 21-year-old wife and her two young children. When Devon detectives contacted him by phone, David Davis confirmed that he knew Ronald Platt, with whom he had business dealings, but hadn't seen him for three months. Told that Platt's body had been recovered by fishermen off the Cornish coast. Davis appeared devastated. He said he had known Platt for years and had lent him money to start his first business. As far as Davis knew, Ronald Platt was now living in France. Convinced that they would learn more by interviewing David Davis face-to-face, Devon police sent an experienced detective, Ian Clenahan, to interview him. When Clenahan arrived in the leafy Essex village of Woodham Walter, looking for Little London Farm, he knocked on the next door neighbour's door by mistake and was told: "The man in the farm? He's not David Davis. He's a man called Platt..."
What could that mean? Why was Davis using a dead man's name. As police began an undercover investigation, they came across some startling facts. First, Davis owned a sailing boat, the Lady Jane, which was moored in Dartmouth, Devon, only a few miles from where Platt's body had been found. Second, it was discovered that Sheena wasn't Davis' wife but his daughter. Third, Platt had been the front man for a financial organisation called the Cavendish Corporation, suspe