From the series ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ by John Macklin


Why Eric Tombes and Ernest Dyer ever set up in partnership as farmers mystified everyone who knew them. Two men could hardly have been less suited to work together.

Tombes was conscientious, dour and hardworking while Dyer seemed to spend much of his time either at the races or in a pub.

Nevertheless, the partnership appeared to prosper and their farm on the Kent-Sussex border, bought after their discharge from the Royal Flying Corps in 1919, was making a good profit by the mid-1920s.
Then in the spring of 1925 Eric Tombes abruptly disappeared, leaving behind a heart-broken fiancée and a circle of worried and puzzled friends and relations.

And soon Ernest Dyer was circulating the story that his partner had absconded to Paris taking thousands of pounds’ worth of farm funds and leaving a mountain of unpaid bills.

Nothing could have been more uncharacteristic of Eric Tombes – or at least of the man friends and neighbours thought they knew. And it was while ever-more-wild rumours swept the district that Tombes’s father, a retired vicar living in rural Oxfordshire, had a horrifying dream.

In it he saw his son walking through his farmyard towards some large stone slabs which covered a disused well.
He pointed towards the slabs and then slowly turned around … to show that his face was horrifically disfigured by what appeared to be knife wounds.

The next day, still shaken by his nightmare, the Rev. Edward Tombes knew what he must do. He set off for Kent by train and taxi, arriving at the farm late in the afternoon. Ernest Dyer, now living there alone, treated the worried elderly man with scant courtesy, complaining that the debts Eric Tombes had left would ruin him.

Not even invited into the house, the Rev Tombes spent the night in a nearby hotel and the following day returned to the farm determined to get some answers from the man who had been his son’s business partner.
But he never got the chance.

The house was shuttered and locked and of Dyer there was no sign.

Continue reading in the New Year Annual