The NHS Student Bursary. A lovely idea - as student doctors, nurses, physios etc will end up working for the NHS, they provide some help to pay for your studies. Great. As a medical student we are entitled to this in our last or 5th year of study whichever comes first. So what do you get? Well actually this is very complicated. After reading through their over 85 page document instructing me, I still was confused.
Anyway I went on an applied in May. They pay your tuition fees for definite, and it seemed to say something about non-income assessed bursary for all students of £1000. Fair enough.
So in May I filled in a form. Sent in some ID and evidence. Great. Oh my Dad has to send in some evidence too? Fine. Oh what you need something else? Ok.
Fast forward to January. My bursary application has finally gone through! Only 5 months late then…
And what do I get… £0.
Wait, what? But this year I received a reduced student loan - over £1000 less actually because of this bursary, but in fact the bursary isn’t giving me any money? Er… yes.
So I’m now over £1000 worse off? How does that make any sense?
It’s been judged on my parents previous years income, and it’s too high for any bursary. (Even though we faffed about for ages telling you how they are now retired - we rang to ask if we should apply with last years earnings or the current situation? We might as well have gone for the fees only one…) And the laughable part suggesting my parents should be contributing £7998 per year towards my living costs? What? So they should pay over twice as much to support me in my final years of university just because I’ve swapped to a different system. Couldn’t I have just stuck with the student loan?
But what about this non-income assessed £1000 - well that would make up for my reduced loan… whats that? that’s only for post-2012 students? Great.
(I only managed to clear this up with extensive googling - a KCL medical school, and newmediamedicine.com forum thread made it clearer than the 85 page document craftily hidden on the depths of the labyrinthine NHS bursary website.)
So future advice:
NHS Bursary For Medical Students Made Simple. If your course started before 2012.
GOOD: Pays your tuition fees for the last year (or last 2 years if you intercalated) So technically less future debt.
BAD: In return you are likely to be worse off in terms of living money. You can only get a reduced, non-income assessed loan from Student Finance, and depending on how much your parents earnt last year you could be over £1000 worse off.
If you started after 2012, then it seems the system may have changed for the better…? Thing is the medical students who will be on this system won’t be receiving a bursary until 2017 - so who knows, whether they will have similar problems or not.)
Oh and to top things off, you will waste at least half a year trying to get them to actually complete your application. Particularly if there is any tiny detail which may complicate your application - as their online system can’t cope with that. In this sense they are as incompetent as Student Finance.
Toby took a deep breath in before pushing open the door of the police station. Through the old wooden doors the Albury police station was a hub of activity. Not what Toby had expected, as from the outside it was the perfect example of a sleepy village police station. The old, vine covered building was only recognisable as having anything to with the police by the old fashioned blue lantern hanging over the doors. The village of Albury was a typical pretty Surrey village - a combination of country and class still a 30 minute train ride from London. More horse and hound than sheep and pigs. Every house looked as though it could be on the cover of Country Living, and Toby was sure a lot of them had. The people milling around the small town centre he had driven through exuded money and status. Each catching up on the news, and no doubt discussing with relish the latest about the horrific case that their little village had been swept up in. They wore classic riding boots and Barbour coats, often with a flat-cap and nearly always with cocker-spaniel in tow. The shops lining the high street were perfect - a small Waitrose, a selection of upmarket antique shops selling furniture at ridiculous prices, an expensive hair and beauty salon and a small branch of Laura Ashley. Each shop front obviously had specific regulations they needed to fit into to maintain the character of the village, as each shop sign hung in tasteful wrought iron over the window. Parking had been a nightmare, but eventually Toby had found a space up a small lane, where he wasn’t blocking a driveway - and parallel parked his aging Renault 5 into the gap between a volvo and a volvo with considerable effort, and several attempts.
Toby had walked briskly back through the village centre, pass the huddles of people, and caught snippets of conversation.
“… but you do know they found traces of drugs in her system?”
“Oh really. Well I could have told you that. And there I was thinking we may have escaped the current drug epidemic that this country is embroiled in!”
“We should be so lucky!”
“But i’m sure you’ve heard the rumours that she was mentally unstable, haven’t you?”
“Oh yes, and to think she was training to be a doctor too! Sound like she may have been well on the way to being to the next Shipman in that case! Maybe it’s a good thing they got her early…”
Toby glared at them menacingly as he walked past. Really he should have stopped and said something to the smarmy bastards, but he needed to get to the station for 10am, and was already 5 minutes late due to lack of parking. He had managed to get an appointment with the lead detective on the Louise case - a stern sounding woman known as DI Shelton. After excessive pleading on the phone that as family he should be informed of updates he had managed to arrange a meeting with the “extremely busy” detective. He really didn’t want to be late and sped up into a half run.
Through the old wooden doors, police officers were everywhere. The building was quite different inside. All original features had been thoughtlessly torn out and replaced instead with a distinctly sixties office feel. There was a booth with a window, where a receptionist was sorting papers on one side of the entrance. Behind that stood a wall made of those glass blocks and swinging door, which was almost constantly open - with all the officers streaming in and out - so that Toby could see into an open plan, disorganised office. Desks strewn with piles of paperwork were arranged haphazardly towards another glass block wall and wooden door with a brass plate - DI Shelton - on it. Toby crossed over to the receptionist. She had a thick layer of foundation on which was caked on to apparently cover a little acne on her chin. Instead the thick orange make-up seemed to accentuate this minor blemish and reminded Toby of melted cheese on a takeaway pizza. The receptionist - Becky, her name tag read - looked up at Toby. She was chewing gum with an open mouth and gave a look like she was way to busy to help.
“How can I help?” She mouthed half heartedly. Toby could see the gum slosh around in her mouth.
“I’ve got an appointment with DI Shelton.”
“She’s really busy at the moment I’m afraid…” Becky replied automatically.
“No, I have an appointment… I rang up? I’m the brother?” Toby hoped that one of these words would grant him entry.
“Alright then. Take a seat. I’ll let her know your here.”
She waved with fake fingernails at a row of plastic chairs on the opposite wall. Toby walked over and slumped down. He hoped he didn’t have to wait to long. He saw the receptionist pick up the phone at her desk and mutter something, before getting back to the immense pile of papers she had been attending to. Toby watched the police officers streaming in and out of the doors. Some of them stopped and chatted to each other as they passed, whilst others bustled on, seemingly too busy to stop.
It wasn’t long before a very young officer, he can’t have been long out of school, strode out of the swing door and came over to the receptionist.
“Alright Becks. How’s it going?”
“Hiya. How your day been? Alright?”
“Yeah not bad, Becks. We got a new lead and everything. Should be enough for the courts to pin it on her.”
At that point Becky put her finger on her lips and pointed towards Toby before whispering, “He’s the brother.”
“Ah right, cheers Becks.”
The young faced officer his red cheeks slightly flushed from embarrassing himself walked over to Toby.
“The DI will see you now.”
He walked Toby through the swing door and through the untidy office over to the DI’s room. He knocked and before waiting for an answer held open the door for Toby. As Toby slid past the young officer he got a strong smell of lynx deodorant and cigarettes. The young officer closed the door behind Toby and he was left facing DI Shelton engrossed in a report on her desk.
In the few moments Toby stood there, unsure if he should say something to announce his presence. DI Shelton was busy flicking through a thick document with a tremendous scowl on her face. Her room was extremely tidy. Not what was expected considering the mess and chaos of the rest of the station. There was a bank of filing cabinets behind the desk, each with a neat tray on top. It seemed as though efficiency was the key here, but even so the trays we filled with several thick stacks of paper. Her desk was almost clinically barren - all it contained was an aging desktop computer and a picture frame. She put down the report and looked up. Toby was startled by the way she said nothing, and felt he should say something.
“I, er, rang up. I’m Toby Redmond? Louise Redmond’s brother?”
“I know who you are.” Her voice was stern, cold and to the point. No regional accent, no mumbling, no messing. “Sit down.”
As Toby perched on the hard plastic chair in-front of the DI’s desk she spoke.
“I presume you’re here to find out where we are in terms of the investigation. No doubt you have heard Miss Redmond’s statement and are wondering why there has not been an investigation into her claims. I would firstly like to assure you that, contrary to her claims an investigation into the series of events that Miss Redmond believes to be true has been performed, and has up until now produced no supporting evidence. This, in addition to the medical report we have received, has shown us that Miss Redmond can not be relied on as a reliable witness to the events due to the illness which she is suffering. As we have supporting evidence for the alternative series of events it is those that we are putting forward in our report. The decision ultimately however will be made in court. I suggest Miss Redmond consults her solicitor further on the matter. Now if you don’t mind, I am very busy.”
With this she picked back up the report, open a drawer to retrieve a pen and began signing a certain portion of the paper. Toby felt bulldozed by her directness, but also angry at the way he was being completely dismissed.
“Actually I do mind. What evidence do you have that Louise shot that guy?”
She looked up from her report, only after she had finished signing the bottom of the page, with the look that a Victorian school-teacher might give to a particularly ignorant child.
“I’m afraid I cannot discuss specific details of the case Mr Redmond.”
“Fine. I realise that. But surely there’s something else to be found. Have you checked the house? What about missing person’s - her friend’s Candy and Hannah - they haven’t updated their facebook since that night?”
“I can assure you that a thorough investigation has been performed.”
“If the evidence you’re talking about is the eyewitness. That could very well be rubbish!”
“The police are thoroughly trained in such matters. I think it’s best if you leave that to us.”
“But it’s only been four days since it’s happened! How can the investigation be closed already!”
“Any evidence that may come to light will be taken into account in the future but…”
“Not if you’re not bloody looking for it!”
Toby voice was raised, and he knew he already lost it. It was like drawing blood from a stone. Anything he said here wasn’t going to help. The door now opened and the young faced officer stuck his head round the door.
“Alright ma’am. The coroner’s here to speak to you.”
“Thank-you.” She looked towards Toby. “I’m afraid we are done. Any more question will have to be directed to the department,” and she walked briskly out of the office.
Toby stood up slowly and followed the young faced officer back out of the room, through the messy and hectic office, out through the swing door, and was left standing in the reception area. That had been a useless trip.
It was only until Toby had reached his car outside that he realised it hadn’t been an entirely useless trip. Despite DI Shelton telling him that the case was pretty much airtight that young officer had given away that they had a new lead, which meant that it could all be pinned on Louise. Which must mean the case is far from closed.
Instead of heading back home Toby decided to drive back through the village. He figured that he may as well check out some of the places that Louise had been talking about so he could get more of an idea about what may have happened. He drove slowly up the leafy road looked down on by large houses set in equally large gardens and it wasn’t long before he pulled up outside the large house where the party had taken place - not that it was particularly obvious. The house looked entirely ordinary. No police tape, no blood spatters, no officers milling around collecting evidence. There weren’t even any signs that a party had even taken place - no trodden plastic cups or rogue empty beer bottles - let alone that the evening had been crashed by several psychopathic murderers. Toby felt worried more than anything, worried that the evidence wasn’t stacking up. He parked the car on the road and got out. He hadn’t really thought of what he was going to say so by the time the door opened and a petite, immaculately dressed asian lady opened the door, he fumbled.
“Hi. I’m, um, Louise Redmonds brother. She’s a friend of…” He paused while he tried to remember Millsy’s real name. Her facebook profile picture came to him. “…Hannah’s. Look. Louise is in… well she’s not… too good at the moment and I was wondering if Hannah was… is ok?”
He realised it didn’t sound good, and the lady had all the right reasons to turn him away. However she didn’t shut the door and she frowned.
“Hannah’s actually not here at the moment.”
Toby jumped at the chance - if Millsy had literally just popped out to the shops, it meant that Louise really was having some sort of mental breakdown.
“So…do you know where she is?”
Millsy’s mum didn’t answer the question.
“What’s wrong with your sister?” She sounded genuinely concerned.
“She’s in hospital.” Toby said quickly. “Look do you know whee your daughter is?”
Now she had started to look worried - as if she was piecing things together. “No, I don’t actually. I think you’d better come in.”
She led him inside through a spotlessly clean hallway, past a large neatly laid out sitting room and into a beautiful kitchen-diner. The place looked like a showhome - it was perfectly coordinated - down to a set of coffee, tea and sugar pots which matched the white wooden cabinets, and the chopping block which blended with the expensive looking black granite worktop. She gestured toward Toby to sit at one of the stools arranged on one side of the island, so he did. “Coffee?” she asked - it seemed almost instinctive. This was a woman who knew how to have guests. Toby nodded and smiled. “Thanks, that would be great.”
He watched her as she filled up the stylish De’Longhi kettle, took out a large Bodum cafetiere and spooned in some freshly ground coffee from the vacuum sealed pot. She removed from black and white mugs from a glass fronted cabinet, and turned towards Toby. She introduced herself as Natsumi - “Nat,” before diving straight into her concerns.
“Hannah wasn’t here when we came back - we just arrived back from the apartment in the Algarve. Just a short weekend break. Hannah stayed here - she’s just come back from uni for Christmas, but wanted to catch up with friends and do a little work so decided not to jet off with us. It worked out quite well as she looked after the house. We skyped once while we were away and everything was fine then. But we got back yesterday, and although the house is spotless - just as we left it - Hannah is nowhere to be seen. We’ve tried ringing, texting, BBMing - we even rang a couple of her friends we knew the numbers for. But nothing.” During this monologue she smoothly made the coffee and poured it into the mugs, put one in-front of Toby and produced a stylish milk jug and sugar bowl.
“So that was yesterday? And you last talked to her…”
“Saturday” She confirmed.
“So that’s been over 24 hours - can you file a missing persons.”
“Well thats the problem. We can’t. We found a note.”
Nat left the room for a moment and returned clutching a handwritten yellow post-it note. She put it down in front of Toby and said “It’s her handwriting.” He leaned forward to read it.
I’m not going to be here when you come back.
Don’t try to find me.
Lots of Love,
He looked up at Nat. He now understood what she meant. It looked like she didn’t want to be found - and as she was over eighteen Toby doubted how willing the police would be to help. Still though - it’s something that could have easily been faked or forced. And if Louise’s story was the truth, then this message could have been written with a gun to her head. Toby decided to omit that part when relating the details of what Louise remembered of the night - in fact he had decided to give Nat a very edited version of Louise’s story to her. He needed her help, and telling her that, in fact, her daughter may be dead would not have helped - particularly when he wasn’t sure it had even happened. He settled on,
“My sister Louise is in hospital. She’s been pretty badly injured. It seems like Hannah had a party here on the Saturday night - which my sister, and several other people went to.”
He could see Nat’s face taking on a cynical look - as if the house was far too spotless for a party to have occurred here - he pressed on anyway, picking his words carefully “At the end of the night some criminals seemed to have broken in and terrorized some of the guests left - Louise managed to escape, although seemed to fall into worse trouble, which I don’t know whether it was connected or not, but some of the others might not have.” He finished with, “If my sister remembers correctly your daughter could be in a lot of danger - or really hurt and this note might be trying to conceal that.”
It was hard to tell exactly what Nat thought of what Toby had just said. She seemed like a woman who knew how to keep her emotions well under the surface. She finished her coffee and set down the mug.
“Your story sounds completely mad - but there’s something to it. I don’t think Hannah would just run away like that. She was happy. Loving uni, loving going out, having friends, coping with studying. We talked about problems - and she was fine. It doesn’t fit.” After a short pause - she looked up to Toby and said, “ So why did you come here? To see if your sisters story was true? Surely the police are investigating it?”
“Well, yeah that the reason I’m here - they’ve dismissed it out of hand, without even checking if there’s any truth to it.” He neglected to mention the psychiatric diagnosis or the section. “So I wanted to see if there were any signs of what could have happened here.”
Nat raised one eyebrow, ad stood up. Toby thought his luck had ran out, ad she was about to ask him to leave, but instead she walked out of the kitchen into the hall, calling back… “Well are you coming to look or not?”
Toby hurried after her. The house was indeed spotless. It looked like a showhome. White walls, cream carpets, black and white furniture. The occasional thoughtfully placed sheepskin rug or woolen blanket to add a slight softness. And they looked thoroughly too - under tables, pushed back a few sofas, behind the curtains - no spill marks or scuffs - no signs of a even a party, let alone an attack of the sort Louise had described. Millsy’s room looked fine too, it was shockingly decorated in garish pink and white - quite a change to rest of the houses tasteful interior. In fact the only thing which did catch Toby’s eye was the large cross stood on the white desk. A couple of used incense sticks and some plastic coloured rosary beads adorned the cross. He must have only been staring at it for several seconds before assuming the family was Christian and dismissing it as normal. But Nat had noticed him look and moved towards the cross. Toby realised he must have had a look of skepticism without realising and was about to apologise when Nat said,
Toby murmured acknowledgment and silently waited for her to continue.
“Hannah lit the incense sticks.” She said it to herself, before looking up remembering TOby was there and explaining further; “ The incense was a present from her late grandmother. And the cross actually. Maria, my husband’s mother was very religious. Catholic actually - well she would be - she was born in Portugal. Married an Englishman though. Anyway she gave them to Hannah - I mean we don’t follow any religion or anything, but Hannah kept them because she loved her Granny Algarve - that’s what she used to call her.” Nat had almost drifted off into her world of reminiscing but caught Toby’s eye again and finished with, “Basically she wouldn’t have lit them. They were a reminder of her granny.”
As Nat crossed to the window to look out - the room looked out over the garden, Toby digested this information. It wasn’t much. In fact it wasn’t really anything. People often went back on their words - or promised to not throw things away which they eventually do. I mean if there was a party here they could have been lit by anyone.
“We should probably keep looking. Maybe the garden next?”
It was cold outside - one of those icy cold breezes that manage to rattle you right down the spine had picked up. Nat was checking the flowerbeds in a thick fur wrap around and stylish hunter wellies. Toby felt his trainers - which had long since started to fall aprt get wet as he strode across the damp lawn and towards the edge of the woods that sarted at the end of the garden. This was where he had most wanted to check, although the thought of finding something was almost too horrifying to imagine. He tentatively stepped pas the tree-line into the woods - the leaves thick underfoot. From Louise’s description the place where it had happened can’t have been far. And trees and leaves would be far harder to clean and scrub down than furniture, floors and walls. And he was right.