This is the story of two men, Eric Gordon-Tombe (25) and Ernest Dyer (27) who served in the First World War. Unlike many of their companions, they returned physically unscathed from the War and set about rebuilding their lives. They both secured jobs in London at the Air Ministry.
Tombe had £3,000 and Dyer had dreams and grand schemes – more often than not including horses or cars. Together they went into several ventures. On top of legitimate business, the pair also ran a number of scams to help fund their lifestyle of drinking, partying and women: Tombe “ran a scam submitting false invoices from fictitious companies to the British government for maintenance work supposedly carried out on military vehicles” (murder-mayhem.com)
First there were two motor businesses that went under fairly quickly. The friends regrouped, and bought a horse-training stable/farm called The Welcomes Farm in Surrey. Dyer, his wife, and three children moved into the farmhouse onsite. Tombe lived in Haymarket, but every morning would catch the train over to the farm for 9am, taking the return journey around 6pm every evening.
Dyer had grand dreams, but they didn’t always come to fruition. In April 1921, The Welcomes Farm house burnt down. Thankfully, none of the family were hurt, and moved into another building on the property. A hefty insurance had been taken out on the property, more than double the purchase price, and suspicions from the insurance company founded by the discovery of petrol cans near the house, meant they wouldn’t pay out. Dyer chose not to pursue the claim further.
At this time, he was running a little short on money and began borrowing from Tombe. On a few occasions he also forged Tombe’s signature to obtain further funds.
On 25th April, 1922, Tombe was due to meet his girlfriend at Euston station but Dyer appeared instead to inform her he’d gone overseas for business. Also in April, Tombe’s parents received a letter letting them know he was coming to visit. His parents waited patiently for a visit that never came. His father, George Gordon-Tombe, grew concerned and travelled down to London to try and find some answers. No-one knew anything about the location of his son. He spent weeks asking around and finally had some luck. A Haymarket barber that his son used to frequent: although he hadn’t been seen there recently, the barber was able to give the name of a friend from his records who could be asked. The friend was Ernest Dyer, of The Welcomes Farm.
George Tombe arrived up at The Welcomes Farm, asking after the friend and his son. In residence was Dyer’s wife and children who were equally in the dark as to his whereabouts. He had left a few weeks prior.
In November 1922, a Yorkshire Detective Inspector Abbott was investigating cheques that weren’t cashing. He approached Mr James Fitzsimmons who was using these cheques. The Detective was invited up to his hotel room so they could discuss and solve the matter in private. On the way up, the detective noticed him fumbling in his coat pocket and thought he might be trying to destroy evidence. A scuffle ensured which resulted in a gun going off in Fitzsimmons’ pocket – the pocket he’d been fumbling in. Fitzsimmons slumped on the floor dead.
A search of his hotel room uncovered Tombe’s passport, a suitcase bearing the initials E.T. and a large number of cheques with a fake signature on. Mr Fitzsimmons was determined to be Ernest Dyer.
George Tombe was still continuing his search, and made an appointment to see the bank manager of the bank his son used. Upon seeing some paperwork, George Tombe declared the signatures supposedly from his son to be forgeries. Concerned, the manager then produced a letter supposedly from Tombe declaring that Mr Dyer was his power of attorney. The bank account was also extremely overdrawn which accounted for the cheques in Yorkshire not cashing.
Tombe’s mother began to have a reoccurring dream about her son that he was deceased and lying at the bottom of a well on The Welcomes Farm. In September 1923, George Tombe took this information to the police and they decided to investigate the five wells on The Welcomes Farm. They had been filled in over time.
The police do not generally investigate information provided by dreams, but on this occasion, given the other evidence against Mr Dyer, Superintendent Carlin decided to have a look. The third well they excavated initially yielded little more than mud, but twelve feet down they found a human body.
George Tombe positively identified the body as that of his son. The coroner found a bullet hole in the back of the head, estimated to have been from a shotgun at close range. The date of death isn’t completely sure either, but estimated to have been around the 21st April 1922 about a year prior to the body being found, around the same time his parents received the letter.
Upon interrogation, Mrs Dyer admitted that one night her dog had become agitated, barking at the door. When she went outside to investigate, she found her husband outside in the dark. When he saw her, he shouted “Don’t come in here. Don’t come out. Get into the house again, for God’s sake” (The Supernatural Murders). What made this so noteworthy is Mrs Dyer believed her husband to be in France at the time, not in the back garden.
If Mrs Tombe hadn’t relayed her dreams, would her son have ever been found? Did her son come to her from the afterlife?