The family of a “much loved” British pensioner found dead at the bottom of a well in France blamed Interpol for the failure to discover his body for five months.
The international police organisation was convinced – and convinced French police – that David John King had unexpectedly left his cottage in Normandy to visit his daughter in Australia.
As a result, a French police investigation and searches of the area around his home were delayed for many weeks. The body of Mr King, 70, was recovered from a well 500 metres from his house on 8 April.
A 28 year old local man, who lived rough in a nearby cottage, has admitted to French investigators that he pushed Mr King’s body into the well “after a quarrel”. He has been formally accused of murder.
In a statement today, his daughter Sandie Ray, who lives in Perth, western Australia, said she wanted to express her “frustration” at Interpol’s role in the case.
“Two weeks after my father was reported missing Interpol advised that he had arrived in my country of residence, Australia, but gave no further information… It took over a week of constant investigation on my part in conjunction with the local police to determine that it was a different David King with a different passport number and similar date of birth. 06/12/44 instead of 12/06/44 .”
“This was established by the end of November 2014 however the French authorities still had not been formally notified of this via Interpol until approximately 3 months later.”
An earlier discovery of Mr King’s body “would not have changed the outcome”, Ms Ray said, “but it would have saved an awful lots of anxiety and frustration for our family and dad’s friends.”
Her brother, John King, who lives in Brighton, said: “The Interpol misunderstanding was a nightmare and really held back the investigation. After my sister, Sandie, had tirelessly battled with the Australian authorities, with the help of one brilliant friendly Perth policeman, she found out the truth that there had been a mixup.”
Although Mr King’s passport was found in his house in the village of Pierres, near Vire, in Calvados, and the Australian authorities informed Interpol about the two David Kings, the international police body failed to update its records. As a result the French gendarmerie (rural police) refused to treat Mr King’s death as suspicious.
“The French police stood fast on what Interpol were telling them. We were in a bureaucratic nightmare of not being able to update Interpol, you can't just phone them up. There is no number,” John King said. “It was only when, for reasons we do not know, that Interpol finally updated their records that the investigation began afresh.”
Mr King said that his father, a retired fork-lift truck breaker from east London and then Suffolk, restored his Norman cottage from a ruin and had lived there for 15 years.
“He had a close group of friends in France, both English and French, and was loved by everybody. He never lost his cockney accent and was a big lover of comedy, from the Goons to the Young Ones. His main passions in later life were gardening, cheese making and cooking,” Mr King said.
“Although he had had a heart attack six months before his disappearance his recovery was going well. The doctors told him his heart had made a full recovery and that he had plenty more years left in him. Although my dad is not aggressive he is not a pushover and would have clearly told this neighbour to clear off if he was begging for money or causing trouble”