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Masquerade: continued

 
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Branston called in one of his reporters and briefed him to go and see Thompson while Branston himself set off to visit Guard. He made sure both he and the reporter cornered their quarries at the same time so the two men would have no chance to cook up a story together.
“The reporter who went to see Thompson didn't get much out of him,” he said. “And I didn't get that much from Guard. But he wasn't denying it. As I left, after chatting to him for half an hour or so, he said ‘Well, in the end, the only one who made any money out of it was the bank.’ I took that as being reasonable confirmation. In fact, you didn't really need that much confirmation, because the chain was the point.”
Branston's assumption now was that the little performance Guard and his mother had staged for him after the hare's discovery was simply an attempt to put the editor of their local paper off the scent. “Guard and Thompson must have found it eventually,” he said. “They clearly didn't want it known that it had come out via Kit Williams' girlfriend, so they'd have some difficulty in how to make it public. But I do know their hand was forced, because they saw signs of digging there. Whether that was the teachers or somebody else, I don't know, but I think that's what forced their hand into finding a way to bring it out into the open.”
When I asked Branston if he thought Guard and Thompson could ever have found the hare without Roberts' help, he laughed aloud and said: “No! Not a chance in hell. John Guard was OK, but he wasn't that bright.”
Branston wrote up the full story for Bedfordshire on Sunday, giving the paper a considerable scoop. The Sunday Times' Barrie Penrose followed this up a few days later, leading his own story on the revelation that Williams now felt he'd been “conned” by Thompson. “Williams says he has always had reservations about the find,” Penrose began. “Now, new evidence obtained by The Sunday Times, has convinced him there was a complex plot to find the hare, involving a former girlfriend of his, late-night digs with metal detectors, and even militant animal rights groups. ‘This tarnishes Masquerade, and I am shocked by what has emerged,’ Williams said last night.” (13)
The story went on to spell out the chain connecting Thomas, Thompson, Guard, Roberts and Williams, just as Branston had discovered it. Eric Compton's role was mentioned too, along with the 1,000 Guard had offered him, Guard's promise that the hare's proceeds would fund animal rights groups and the plan to sell it in America. Then it continued:

“Roberts said last week that, from the first time she met Guard, he was interested in her connection with Williams and that he introduced her to Thompson so that he could question her about the jewel's whereabouts. She now concedes that it was she who pointed Thompson towards Ampthill, where she had often visited Williams in the 1970s. [...] Roberts will say only that she ‘cannot remember’ if she went on the dig; ‘I don't say they're liars, but my mind is now blank’. She does, however admit that, when the hare was found, it was Guard who told her that ‘Ken Thomas’ was Thompson. ‘It was mind-boggling. I was very worried that the link might be made’.”

Penrose closed his story with one final quote from the man who'd started it all.

“Williams said: ‘I never really believed that he [Thomas] had solved the puzzle, but I had no proof. This new evidence convinces me. [...] I have tried to think why Veronica would get involved, as she was not interested in money. The only thing she would do it for is animal rights groups.”

'They clearly didn't want it known the hare's location had come out via Kit Williams' girlfriend'

Returning to this topic 20 years later for our Radio 4 programme, Williams recalled a picnic trip he'd made with Roberts while working on Masquerade. “I had gone to the spot, on the exact day, on equinox, to sit and wait for the shadow to come,” he said. “So I'd know exactly where it was. And I had taken with me a little magnet. So I sat and waited for the sun to come round at mid-day and, at that moment, I just pushed the magnet into the ground, so I knew at night I could find it. She didn't see any of that at all. But whether, later on, when we parted, she thought ‘That was a strange thing that we did that day.’ That's the only way I can think of that it came about.”
Asked the same question by the BBC Four team, he added: “I said I wanted to just sit here and have the picnic. I didn't tell her about the magnet, and she didn't know about the magnet. But she must have guessed.”
Barker and Rousseau felt the Sunday Times story explained a lot of the shenanigans they'd been unable to understand at the time of the hare's discovery. O'Farrell asked them if they'd felt cheated by the whole thing. “A bit,” Barker replied. “Wouldn't you?”


The Whistledown team and I started work on the programme we'd sold to Radio 4 early in 2009. Naturally enough, Williams and Gascoigne were two of the people we were keenest to interview, but in the event both said ‘No’. They'd each had their fill of Masquerade obsessives 30 years ago, and neither man wanted to risk poking his head above the parapet again for fear of provoking another flood of mad letters. They wished us luck in making the programme, but politely declined to take part.
That was a disappointment, of course, but we knew there was plenty of Williams audio available in the BBC archive, so it wasn't an insurmountable problem. We drew up a list of interviewees covering all the other aspects of the story we wanted to include, and got to work with them.
John Guard was already dead by then - the victim of what Branston called “a mixture of drink and drugs” - and all our efforts to find Veronica Roberts proved fruitless. We asked Dugald Thompson to appear on the programme several times, but he always refused, saying he preferred to reserve his own account for a book he was working on. As soon as the book's remaining legal difficulties were cleared, he told me, then he'd be able to tell the real story which only he knew.
Speaking after the programme's transmission to a local BBC radio station, he continued to dispute everyone else's version of how the hare was found. “Dugald Thompson maintained that he found the pendant on his own,” the station's website reported. “However, he also said that, because of legal reasons, he still can't reveal the full story about how he discovered its location”. (14)
Working in fits and starts between other projects, we gradually got the programme together and, by the beginning of June, we had a rough cut assembled. Our delivery deadline was already looming when Williams called, saying he'd decided to give us an interview after all. This was rapidly arranged, and Emily set about trimming back all the other interviews to make some room in the programme's 28 minutes running time. Some of the other interviewees were annoyed to find their own contributions cut to the bone in the programme's final edit, but we simply had no choice.

US lagomaniac: continued


victory could be acknowledged.
      He began to see everything around him - a London cabbie's casual conversation, a scuffle in the local pub - as vital clues to the conspiracy. Back home in Philadelphia, he matched his own experiences to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, and allocated roles from the book to his own tormentors. Any fresh information which contradicted his convictions was simply evidence of how cunning his enemies could be in laying a false trail.
      “I convinced myself that Kit Williams' book was a media masquerade,” he later wrote. “Performed in print, on television, involving perhaps hundreds of people in every country where the book has been published. The biggest masquerade in the history of mankind.” (6)
      And then, on March 14, 1982, Williams announced that Ken Thomas had found the real hare medallion - not in Hounslow, but in Ampthill, near Bedford. When he heard this news, Dale assumed the development was just one more twist in the global conspiracy against him.
      His suspicions were further raised when Thomas insisted on hiding behind frosted glass for his one and only television appearance.
      Were Williams and his cronies indirectly acknowledging that the hunt was over, but substituting an actor for Dale? Could Thomas even be Williams himself?
      For reasons which remain unclear, Dale decided the extra task he was expected to perform must involve toilet paper. He mailed Williams a roll from Philadelphia and then, concluding this had probably been stolen by UK postal workers, followed it up with a long strip on which he had written the entire Sermon on the Mount.
      Finally, he decided that Agatha Christie must be behind the whole cruel plot. After all, she had died in 1976, the year Williams began work on

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