AN AUTHOR from Hoole got more than she bargained for when she agreed to write the life story of a farmer from the Peak District, whose business partner has been missing for almost 40 years.
Helen Parker, a former Chronicle journalist, was questioned by police for nine hours without a break during her research on The Stranger in My Life – the true life story of Janet Holt who, in 1976, lost four days of her life following a complete memory loss.
During that time, Janet’s business partner Fred Handford disappeared, never to be seen again.
Mother-of-two Helen said: “As part of my research, I was interviewing Fred’s daughter and sister and had already interviewed the police for an hour-and-a-half.
“Then the tables were turned and they came to my house to question me. It was obvious that they thought I might know something about what had happened.
“It was terrifying.”
Janet originally contacted Helen via her website in January 2010 and asked her to help with her biography.
Helen said: “She told me she wanted to write a story full of amusing anecdotes about the 40 years she spent farming alone at Ball Beard Farm in the Peak District of Derbyshire.
“But when I read the manuscript that Janet sent to me in the post I realised the real story was the lost four days and the disappearance of Fred Handford. Janet also told me that the police file regarding Fred’s disappearance was still open.”
Following advice from a psychologist, Helen advised Janet to see a professional therapist to get to the bottom of what is known as a ‘fugue state’.
“I was also very concerned about the nightmares Janet told me she’d suffered since 1976; terrifying, vivid images that continued to haunt her and which she had only just got under control,” said Helen.
The book took two-and-a-half years to write and Helen describes the process as ‘totally consuming’.
“I interviewed as many family and friends as I could and, while I was not given access to the police file, I was able to interview one of the officers in the Derbyshire Police who was around in March 1976.”
Without giving away what happens, the book is full of mystery and suspense and has already received very good reviews on the Amazon website.
“Yes, we do discover the truth,” says Helen. “And getting there makes riveting, but sometimes uncomfortable, reading. Janet now wants as many people as possible to read her story.”
The Stranger in My Life is available as an ebook or paperback on Amazon and other outlets or from Www.thestrangerinmylife.co.uk. Fifty percent of the profit from sales is going to charity.