Van Hallan was located on the side of Porsche Cars Great Britain’s new car storage facility at Harper’s Yard, which AFN also used to store accident and long term storage cars. Inevitable people would come and knock on our front door at Van Hallan seeking to find people in the AFN or Porsche Cars Great Britain organisations. In work times Harry Olrog was always around and keeping a sharp lookout and was usually out of the starting blocks the moment he heard the front steel gate open, but out of hours, we at Van Hallan attracted a number of callers.
One such caller appeared one day whilst Bill was away on a shoot and I was doing my usual dark room activities. This man was probably in his early thirties and was very polite to me when I answered the front door. He told me his Porsche 911 had been in an accident and that he wanted to retrieve some personal items from it. I asked him to wait outside in the street, whilst I took his car details and went off to check the damaged cars in the yard. I found his new Porsche 911 2.4S under a cover and the front of the car had been badly damaged, which I suspected was hovering on a write off. I returned to see him and said his car was here all right, but I could not let him inside out of normal working hours, as I did not work for Porsche or AFN. However, if he could he let me know what it was he was trying to retrieve from his car; I could go back and look. He suddenly got a little nervous at my question and the tone of his voice rose, so I told him I was sorry but I could not help him. Around an hour must have passed when I heard another knock at the front door and he was back all apologetic and asking, “Could I not let him in for a few minutes”, and he offered me a fairly thick wad of cash notes to turn a blind eye. I reiterated my position and told him I was sorry, but once again offered to collect any personal items if he could describe these to me. He told me no as he needed to do it himself and left saying he would be back the next day to see AFN staff. I thought nothing more of this until Bill came in later that day and I recounted events to him. Bill stated, “The man was up to no good and I did right not to get involved.”
When I first joined Bill Bates – Van Hallan, I was mindful of the responsibility we all had to look out for Porsche and AFN especially out of hours. In effect one of the reasons John Aldington and Peter Bulbeck had leased the shop to Bill was that his work took him in and out at all different hours, so he was in fact an ad-hoc watchman of sorts and I also took on this unofficial responsibility.
Later that evening, I went and took another look around this damaged Porsche 911, looking through the glove box, door pockets, under seats, and in the front bonnet, but there was absolutely nothing in the car at all, other than its own standard Porsche fitted equipment. This raised further questions as the man had obviously lied to me on two occasions and I also began to think things were not right at all.
The following morning I told Harry Olrog about this man and I asked Harry to let me know if any stranger comes around and I would pop out and tell him if it was the same man. Sure enough the chap was back in around lunchtime whilst Harry was having his usual packed lunch in his workshop. Harry popped along and knocked at the side door to our shop and asked if I could I pop out and casually bring him a mug of tea and this would give me an excuse to look at the man. A few minutes later, I walked up to Harry with his tea and sure enough, this was the same man. I told Harry I would catch up with him later and went back to my work, keeping an eye out for this chap leaving. I knew Harry would not let him do anything other than look at his car and he would also refer the man to AFN offices on the London road. Shortly after this chap disappeared, Harry popped his head in to have a chat about this man. I said there was something going on here and that Harry should call and tell Lawrence Hardwicke.
That evening Bill and I were discussing a number of things when I mentioned again to Bill that the stranger was in seeing Harry trying to get something from his car. Bill immediately stated, “It must be drugs or something illegal.” Harry had gone home for the day so I took a screwdriver and a couple of Allen keys and went to check the car for myself. I took both door trim panels off and was not surprised to find several separate plastic bags of white powder in the bottom of the doors! I did not touch these, so I could not be sure what this powder was, but common sense indicated it was drugs. I went in to tell Bill and he came out and took a look and then he told me I should put things back to normal and leave the car as I found it.
We almost certainly had a real crime on our hands and after a much deliberation, both decided we did not want to get personally involved, but that we should make sure The Authorities were alerted.
I left the matter with Bill and Harry and I never really knew what actually happened after this event, but the following day there was quite a bit of activity in Harper’s Yard around that particular Porsche 911. It was later taken away by a car transporter, which I assume was to the police for detailed investigation.