The Moor

By Sam Haysom

A group of 13-year-old boys go hiking on the moors of South West England -- and gradually begin to disappear, one by one.

News Cuttings (1951 1997)

From the Devonshire Herald, 13th August, 1951

Police Appeal For Information Regarding Missing School Children

Anyone with any information on the whereabouts of two missing school children in the Rutmoor area has been asked to contact Devon and Cornwall police immediately

Devon and Cornwall Police have issued an urgent appeal for information regarding two school children who were last seen on Friday evening.

Matt Reece, 16, and Charles Gregson, 14, were reported missing on Saturday after wandering off from a school camping trip in Rutmoor National Park.

Teachers and classmates, who camped in the North East of Rutmoor just south of Gorgon Tor, noticed their absence after they failed to show up for roll call at 8am on Saturday morning. Upon inspecting their tent, trip leader and school PE teacher Mr Simon Matthews found it to be empty.

Aside from two pairs of walking boots, the rest of their possessions were still in the tent.

Police were contacted by Mr Matthews after a search of the surrounding area yielded no trace of the boys.

Reece is described as being an athletic, sensible young man with several years’ walking experience and a good knowledge of the surrounding area. He was in training for the 12 Peaks Challenge (Gold Award) after successfully completing the Silver Award the previous summer.

Gregson is described as sensible and intelligent, but an inexperienced walker. It was his first visit to Rutmoor National Park.

The boy’s mother, Mrs Sarah Gregson, has issued a passionate plea for information regarding her son’s whereabouts.

“If anyone has seen my boy or has any information at all, no matter how small it seems, please contact the police immediately so we can get him back safely,” she said. “Charles doesn’t know the area at all well and we’re very, very worried about him. Please come forward so he can be safely returned to his family.”

Chief Inspector Douglas Brown, who is heading up the investigation, said the public should not to hesitate to contact police.

“No matter what you think you may have seen or heard, no matter how small or insignificant you think it may be, we would like to hear about it,” he said. “We’re also interested in speaking to anyone who was out walking or camping on Rutmoor on the night of Friday 10th August or at any time over the following weekend.”


From the Devonshire Herald, 15th August, 1951


Shoe of missing school child sparks further police appeals

The discovery of a walking boot thought to belong to missing 14-year-old Charles Gregson has prompted fresh appeals by police and a £50 reward for information

Devon and Cornwall Police have issued a further appeal for information after the discovery of a child’s walking boot thought to belong to missing teenager Charles Gregson.

The boot was found by a dog-walker on Tuesday 14th August, 15 miles south of the area Gregson and fellow camper Matt Reece were initially reported missing.

Police say the boot was discovered on the bank of Foxglove Stream, but have refused to give further details at this stage.

Charles Gregson and Matt Reece were on a school camping trip in the north east area of Rutmoor when they were reported missing on the morning of Saturday 11th August.

Parents and teachers are said to be organising a search of the 15 mile area between the children’s original campsite and the spot where the boot was found yesterday.

“We’re following up a number of leads and speaking to various people,” said Chief Inspector Douglas Brown. “At this stage I’d urge anyone who may have seen or heard anything unusual in the Rutmoor area, at anytime from Friday 10th August to now, to come forward immediately.”


From the West Devon Gazette, 23rd June, 1958


Mans body found in Rutmoor National Park

Police are launching an investigation after the body of an 18-year-old man was discovered beside Collier Lake in south Rutmoor 

The body of 18-year-old Fred Phillips has been discovered on the shore of Collier Lake in Rutmoor National Park.

Phillips and his fiancée, Jude Peterson, were camping half a mile from the lake near the top of Collier Tor. Peterson woke Sunday morning to find her fiancé’s sleeping bag empty. After searching the nearby area for approximately 30 minutes, she told police she came across his body on the southern shore of the lake.

The cause of death is thought to have been drowning.

Devon and Cornwall Police are appealing for information from anyone who may have been in the area in the early hours of Sunday 22nd June.

They say they are not treating the incident as a murder inquiry.


From the Plymouth Daily Herald, 22nd June, 1986


Teenagers drown in freak river crossing accident

George Perry, 18, and Paul Samuels, 19, died after falling into the Sully River in Rutmoor National Park on Saturday

Two teenage boys have drowned while attempting to cross Rutmoor National Park’s Sully River.

The bodies of the two boys were found by two hikers a mile down the river from the place they attempted to make their crossing on Saturday afternoon.

It is understood that the boys had tried using fallen branches to cross the river at a narrow point at the base of Stallion Tor. Police say one of their packs was recovered from the bank next to the makeshift crossing.

“That river is fast, a lot faster than most people realise,” said Inspector Daniel Rodgers. “It’s likely that one of the boys fell in and the other went in after to try and rescue him, and the current swept them away. It’s a real tragedy.”

Perry and Samuels were out camping in Rutmoor – a place they were familiar with after completing the 12 Peaks Challenge there together while in school at Plymouth Comprehensive – for a long weekend.

“I don’t understand how it could have happened,” Perry’s father Roger told the Daily Herald. “Both of them knew the terrain well; they’d been all over that moor while they were at school training for their 12 Peaks event.

“I just don’t understand why they would have tried to make such a dangerous crossing in the first place. They were taught about the dangers at school, they would have known what was safe and what wasn’t.”


From the Yeovil Daily Post, 6th April, 1997


Yeovils cat serial killerstrikes again: decapitated Persian is latest victim in series of bizarre pet murders

The decapitated body of a 2-year-old Persian cat was left on its owner’s doorstep in what local animal safety officers are calling “one of the worst acts of violence towards a pet” they’ve seen in the last decade.

The killing is the latest in a string of brutal cat murders that has left Yeovil residents locking their pets up indoors to keep them from wandering the streets at night.

72-year-old Mr Terry Patrick, the owner of the Persian and Yeovil resident for over 40 years, said he was “devastated”.

“I opened the front door in the morning to let Jonesy in – I’d been meaning to put a cat flap in but he normally likes to wander at night and I hadn’t gotten round to it yet – and when I walked out onto the front step I seen him lying there in front of me.

“It was just his body and his head was missing but I knew it was him, he’s got this little dark splodge of black on his left leg and I knew it was him.”

Mr Patrick said the discovery left him feeling “ill for days”.

“I reported it to the police and I just hope they catch the person that did it, so no-one else has to see what I saw,” he said. “My wife passed away three years ago and I got Jonesy because the house felt too empty.

“I’m devastated, to be completely honest with you.”

The Yeovil Animal Safety and Rescue Centre have issued a warning to residents, advising them to keep their pets locked up indoors at night.

“We’ve had reports of mutilated cats turning up for several weeks now,” said a spokesperson. “We believe it could be the work of the same individual, or individuals, and we’d advise anyone in the Yeovil area to keep a close eye on their pets.”

Last week on Wednesday, the Daily Post reported on a 5-year-old cat that had been found with its stomach slit open and some of its organs removed. The week before two more cats were found dead with their throats cut; one of them was missing a tail and the other was missing its front paw.

A spokesperson from Avon and Somerset Constabulary confirmed they are working with the RSPCA to investigate reports surrounding suspicious animal deaths in the area, and that an investigation is underway.

Dr Timothy Flagstaff, a lecturer in Criminology at the University of Bristol, said the evidence could suggest the work of a serial killer.

“These reports are very concerning,” he said. “The extreme violence of the killings coupled with the missing body parts – which could be being kept as trophies – suggests an individual with a disturbing lack of empathy.

“When we look into the cases of well-known serial killers or psychopaths, these individuals have often committed acts of violence towards animals in their teenage years,” he continued.

“What may start as a thrill for the individual in question gradually loses its effect over time, which often leads to the criminal taking greater risks to recreate their initial excitement.” 





This time it’s the rain that gets him.

Every year, every time he makes the journey out of London – starting on a train at Waterloo and winding away from the city, flashing past towns and villages and cutting back into the countryside of his childhood – every time there’s something that triggers the memories.

Last time it was the sight of the sun catching a field of heather, peeking out from behind a cloud to turn the mass of purple into a lighter violet that made him squint his eyes as he stared out of the train window; this time it’s the rain.

Only it’s not really rain, is it?

Pissy fucking drizzle is what Gary would probably have called it, and Gary may have been wrong about a lot of things but he wouldn’t have been wrong about that.

He stares out of the train window and the droplets seem to hang there in the air, blowing about in the wind like snow, and he knows it’s the type of drizzle that’d soak you through to the skin in less than a minute if you were stupid enough to go outside without a decent rain coat.

It’s the type of drizzle they used to get on Rutmoor.

He lays his head back against the red patterned seat of the train and stares out at the drizzle, and when he shuts his eyes a series of images pinwheel across his vision like a film reel.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how something as small as the sight of rain from a grimy window can invoke such strong memories?

He used to get it a lot in the years after leaving university and starting work – something would catch one of his senses and hit him hard enough to transport him briefly to another place, another time. He’d hear a snatch of MGMT’s Time to Pretend and he’d be taken back to a summer festival, any summer festival, or he’d open a can of Grolsch and the smell would remind him of the house party in first year where he’d lost his virginity.

Small things that for some reason brought on strong memories. Little moments that could make you infinitely nostalgic.

Now, looking at the rain and cutting south away from London, he doesn’t feel nostalgic.

The rain makes him think of Rutmoor, it makes him think of the summer of 2002, and in his mind he sees drizzle picked out in cones of light from their minivan as they carve their way through cracked country roads; he hears the sound of whispering and twigs breaking outside a tent; he tastes the badly purified water they drank from streams that were little more than trickles in the mud. Mostly, though, he remembers Tim and Mr Stevens.

Mr Stevens looking up from his map and the sun reflecting off his glasses, turning his eyes into hard rectangles of silver light.




He’s got a large bag that’s shoved up in the luggage area above the seats; it’s his walking bag, the big green one, and it’s got most of his stuff in it.

On the seat next to him is a smaller bag, a brown one he takes to work with him. It’s full of paper. Cuttings, mostly, bits he’s torn out and built up over the last few months, but there’s something else in there too.

He glances around him to check who else is in the carriage. It’s a Thursday, midday and it’s not very busy, but there’s a couple across the aisle from him and an old lady a few rows in front. She’s reading a book, though, and the couple are watching some film on an iPad.

He glances back into the bag, satisfied, and pulls out an old polaroid. It’s yellowed around the edge from being handled over the years, but the picture is still clear.

It’s all of them, the six that went to Rutmoor together in 2002. All standing together outside a tent. Everyone in the photo is smiling, and he runs his finger from left to right checking them off: Gary, James, Tom, Matt, Tim, and Mr Stevens, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

All present and accounted for.

He frowns to himself and flicks the photo with his finger, looking out at the drizzle-soaked scenery.

When he thinks about his friends – both the ones that died and the ones that are still alive, no matter how different the surviving few may look now – it’s always this photo that he sees in his mind.

All of them lined up like that, smiling in front of a row of green tents, a small campfire on the ground in front of them and some water bubbling away in a saucepan. All frozen in time.

Who was it that took the photo? He can’t remember now, and doesn’t think it matters.

The whole nightmare started with the six of them, after all; they were the ones who mattered.

He glances at the pieces of paper stuffed in his bag, then shakes his head.

The nightmare didn’t start with the six of them; it would do him well to remember that. This was something that had been going on for more than half a century, probably even longer.

At the time – during that long weekend in Rutmoor in the summer of 2002 – it had seemed like it was just about the six of them, but when you’re 13 years old everything feels as though it’s just about you, doesn’t it?

Now he knows better.

He’s different from the boy smiling out of that polaroid photo – maybe not that different physically, at least compared to the others – but he knows he’s different nonetheless. He’s a lot less tolerant, for one. A lot less forgiving, too.

If Im going to put a stop to the whole thing once and for all, he thinks, Ill have to be.

For a while he goes back to staring out of the window, not really thinking anything at all. Eventually the drizzle eases up.

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