Bella radioed one of the researchers in the Operation Dingo incident room and asked her to compile a complete list of all stamp dealers in the Brighton and Hove area. Then, with Glenn driving again, they headed for Queen’s Road and the dealer Stephen Klinger had mentioned.
Just down from the station, Hawkes looked like one of those places that have been there for ever. It had the kind of window display that never changed but was just added to from time to time. It was full of boxed coin sets, medals, first-day covers in plastic envelopes and old postcards.
They hurried inside, out of the hardening drizzle, and saw two women in their thirties who could be sisters, both fair-haired and good-looking, not the image Branson had in his mind of a stamp dealer at all. He’d imagined stamps to be a rather nerdy male domain.
The women were deep in conversation and didn’t acknowledge the detectives, as if used to time-wasting browsers. Glenn and Bella glanced around, politely waiting for them to finish. The shop was even more cluttered inside, with much of the floor space taken up with trestle tables on which were cardboard boxes filled with vintage saucy postcards and bygone Brighton scenes.
The women stopped talking suddenly and turned to look at them. Branson pulled out his warrant card.
‘I’m Detective Sergeant Branson of Sussex CID and this is my colleague, Detective Sergeant Moy. We’d like to have a word with the proprietor. Would that be one of you?’
‘Yes,’ said the older-looking one, pleasantly, but slightly reserved. ‘I’m Jacqueline Hawkes. What is this about?’
‘Do the names Ronnie and Lorraine Wilson mean anything to you?’
She looked surprised and shot a glance at the other woman. ‘Ronnie Wilson? Mum used to deal with him some years back. I remember him well. He was often in and out, haggling. He’s dead, isn’t he? He died in 9/11, I seem to remember.’
‘Yes,’ Bella said, not wanting to give anything away.
‘Was he a big trader? At a high level?’ Branson asked. ‘You know, very rare stamps?’
She shook her head. ‘Not here. We don’t deal much at the top end – we don’t have that kind of stock. We’re just high street retail, really.’
‘What kind of values do you go up to?’
‘Small stuff, mostly. Stamps with a value of a few hundred pounds are about the highest we get involved with. Unless someone comes in with an obvious bargain, then we might go up a bit.’
‘Did Lorraine Wilson ever come in here?’ he said.
Jacqueline thought for a moment, then nodded. ‘Yes, she did – I can’t remember when exactly. Not that long after he died, I think it must have been. She had some stamps of her husband’s she wanted to sell. We bought them – not a huge amount – a few hundred pounds’ worth, from memory.’
‘Did she ever talk to you about dealing in a much larger amount? Spending serious money?’
‘What kind of serious money?’
‘Hundreds of thousands.’
She shook her head. ‘Never.’
‘If someone came to see you wanting to buy, say, several hundred thousand pounds’ worth of stamps, what would you do?’
‘I’d direct them to an auction house in London or to a specialist dealer, and hope he’d be decent enough to give me a bit of com-ission!’
‘Who would you send them to in this area?’
She shrugged. ‘There’s really only one person in Brighton who deals at the level you’re talking about. That’s Hugo Hegarty. He’s getting on a bit, but I know he’s still trading.’
‘Do you have an address for him?’ ‘Yes. I’ll get it for you.’