Will reveals secret wealth of the colonel who was murdered on his own doorstep

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The Independent Online

The last wish of Robert Workman was that his passing should be as discreet and frugal as possible.

The last wish of Robert Workman was that his passing should be as discreet and frugal as possible.

Laying down his final instructions in his will, he wrote: "I wish to be cremated in a simple casket after as simple and inexpensive a funeral as possible and I would like my ashes to be scattered."

Alas, contrary to his wishes, there has been nothing discreet or simple about Mr Workman's death. On a stormy night last January the former antiques dealer answered the door to a caller. Seconds later he was killed instantly at point-blank range. His body lay undiscovered in the doorway of his cottage in the Hertfordshire village of Furneux Pelham until the next morning.

Seven months on to the day, the identity of the attacker - and the motive for the attack - remain a mystery. But police now hope that the wishes expressed in his 12-page will, which has been seen by The Independent, may help them solve this most baffling of cases.

One clue could be the Oxford-educated officer's personal fortune. Last week a removals van arrived at Cock House, the white-washed cottage where Mr Workman lived alongside neighbours including a leading QC and Baroness Williams of Crosby, the Liberal Democrat peer, to remove his belongings ahead of the sale of the property.

The proceeds form part of a legacy left by Mr Workman which, The Independent has learnt, is worth £962,901. The firm of solicitors based in nearby Bishop's Stortford charged with executing the will yesterday refused to discuss whether the funds had been distributed. The recipients are all relatives of Mr Workman and his late wife, Joanna, who died last year after a debilitating illness for which she needed round-the-clock care from her husband.

The document offers a rare insight into the apparently meticulous nature of Mr Workman, known by his middle name of Riley to family and friends.

After he retired from the Army, Mr Workman started a second career as an antiques collector specialising in silverware. One bequest, to a nephew in Australia, reads: "My silver flatware (excluding the Hester Bateman dessert spoon belonging to my wife), my Chinese silver cigarette box, my plate galleried tray, my two pairs of plated candlesticks to my nephew."

It is understood part of the legacy consists of the remains of £400,000 in compensation awarded to Joanna Workman when she was left paralysed by a back operation in the early 1990s. Mrs Workman's step-daughter, Anna, who died in 2002, is said to have been angered when the money, intended for her mother's full-time care, was only used for part-time remedial care.

One relative contacted by The Independent denied there had been any family dispute. The relative said: "For a long time he and Joanna had barely any contact with us. They only lived up the road but we always admired the way Riley looked after her."

Mr Workman's funeral was conducted according to his wishes, but his death has gone anything but unnoticed, sparking global coverage of a murder investigation which has spanned three continents and considered motives from antiques fraud to sexual revenge in its search for the elusive killer.

Hertfordshire Police yesterday confirmed they have yet to uncover a reason for why an ailing, retired lieutenant-colonel from the Royal Green Jackets should have been shot to death on a winter's night with the sort of large-bore ammunition normally used to hunt deer.

A police spokeswoman said: "It has turned out to be a very complex case and, as yet, despite exhaustive work, we do not have a motive.

"There are a number of lines of inquiry but Mr Workman had led a long and varied life. He had risen to a high rank in the Army and ran a successful business importing and exporting antiques. Although he was generally well liked, there were some people who did not like him. Somewhere in his history there lies the reason for this crime. We're working to discover it."

But police confirmed that the will and its contents were being investigated. Meanwhile, it emerged last month that officers had flown to the United States to retrace his footsteps as a housekeeper to two of America's richest and most influential dynasties.

Playing on his Army links and Oxford education, Mr Workman and his wife had moved to New England in the 1970s to work for the Cabot and Saltonstall families, pillars of East Coast society with links to Harvard and a host of philanthropic causes. Dudley Willis, the son-in-law of Richard Saltonstall, who employed the Workmans, said the CID officers had shown an interest in a possible sexual motive for the murder:

"The officers asked if I thought he [Mr Workman] was a paedophile. They believed that could have been a motive for the killing. They had photographs of a boy and asked me who he was. But I had no idea," Mr Willis said.

Police this week played down the significance of the photographs and sexual motive, saying it was currently considered a low priority. The disclosure nonetheless adds to an eclectic range of clues, the most tantalising of which remains the 999 call made at 4.57am on the morning of the murder asking for an ambulance to be sent to Cock House.

Voice analysis revealed that the caller, who used an unusual name for the cottage and has not come forward, was almost certainly a local man in his 50s or 60s. The police spokeswoman said: "We still believe this individual has information about who killed Mr Workman."

In the meantime, life has returned to normal in Furneux Pelham, a verdant corner of the Home Counties awash with large thatched properties and shiny Range Rovers where residents sigh and raise their eyebrows at comparisons between their tragic mystery and the television crime series, Midsomer Murders.

Chris Cantes, chairman of the parish council, said: "There is a feeling that Mr Workman was a man whose history caught up with him. It is deeply sad but whatever it was, we don't need to know. We have to get on with our lives now."