Lee Woodgate was born in Cotgrave, Nottinghamshire in 1970. An only child, he grew up in an impoverished household deeply affected by the recession of the early 1980s. Due to these circumstances, the young boy missed out on many opportunities growing up. Resigned to focusing solely on his studies, he passed his GCSEs and ‘A’ levels with flying colours, and then went on to study English Literature at the University of Leicester. He left in 1993 with a first class degree. His tutors remember him as a hard-working student, blessed with a motivation that set him apart from his peers.
His parents beamed with pride at his graduation.
After university, Lee spent two years in the Philippines, teaching English as a foreign language. On his return, he settled back in Nottingham, renting a small flat in Burrows Court, Sneinton.
In 1995 he was interviewed for a teaching position at the local primary school. Easily the best candidate, he was offered the job and was due to start at the beginning of the next school year, on Tuesday the 5th of September.
He never arrived for his first day.
In fact, he would not be seen for the next ten years.
6th June 2012
Lisa Jolley is a large, stocky woman with a firm handshake and an infectious smile. Indeed, she possesses the frame and mannerisms of a friendly nightclub bouncer, should such a thing exist. Currently employed as a chauffeur, in 1995 she was a newly promoted detective in the Nottinghamshire Constabulary, and eager to impress.
She agrees to meet me on a gloriously sunny afternoon at The King William, one of the area’s older pubs. We take a table on the terrace and, over a couple of pints of ale, we discuss the events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Lee Woodgate.
After some initial pleasantries, I enquire as to her general experiences of the paranormal. I have learnt over the years that members of the police force always have a tale or two to tell.
Ms Jolley chuckles quietly to herself and rolls a cigarette.
‘Oh man, we used to get weird shit like that all the time. I tell you, I could write a book out of these. Well, maybe not a book. More of a large pamphlet, but you get the idea.
‘It was normally just people off their tits on something, or off their meds. We once had a guy ring up and tell us that a giant, dirty foot turned up in his living room, demanding to be washed! That was my favourite one.’
She chuckles again.
‘But that isn’t why we’re here, is it Doc? You want to hear what I have to say about the Woodgate case.’
I tell her that is correct.
Ms Jolley puts her cigarette out and hefts a large selection of dog-eared, yellow files on to the table between us.
‘Well, I guess we should start at the beginning then.’
She opens the first file with a sigh, handing me a blown-up passport-style head shot. It shows a dashing, blue-eyed and blonde haired young man with a slightly crooked smile. On the back of the picture is the name ‘Lee Woodgate’.
‘Evidently Mr Woodgate had been gone for a few days before we were called in. His parents contacted us, saying they couldn’t get in touch with him, and he’d apparently failed to show for the first day of his new job.
‘He wasn’t answering his phone, so we went ‘round to his flat in Burrows Court.
‘Burrows Court. How I came to hate that place.’
Burrows Court was built in 1967. Sitting atop a hill and standing 21 stories high, the building dominants the skyline, a testimony to the folly that was British housing policies in the late 1960s. Originally intended to replace the low rise terraced housing that make up the majority of the suburb of Sneinton, it eventually became a hotbed of crime, home to squatters and drug dealers, as well as people just trying to get by. In 2005 the council sold it to a private investor, relocating all of the tenants.
To this day it stands empty.
Ms Jolley continues:
‘When we arrived we found the door unlocked. All of Mr Woodgate’s belongings seemed to be present and correct; his passport, his clothes etc. There was even a half-eaten piece of toast on the kitchen counter, stone cold.
‘We couldn’t rule out suicide, but there was no note, and according to his parents, Mr Woodgate was quite happy with his lot in life. You know, excited for the future, what with his new job and all that.
‘My instincts told me that something else was going on here, so we decided to start knocking on doors to see if any of his neighbours knew anything.
‘We didn’t find anything useful, at least not until we checked the flat directly below Mr Woodgate’s. What we found in there was fucked up, to say the least.’
According to Ms Jolley’s report, the door to the flat beneath Mr Woodgate’s is unlocked and ajar. As the detective and her partner enter, they are greeted by the smell of cooked meat.
In the centre of the main living area, someone has scratched a pentacle onto the floor. Inside this pentacle is the partially burnt body of a stag.
‘The only way I can describe it is that it was like someone had taken a set from a Hammer horror film and just dropped it slap bang in the middle of suburban Nottingham.’
She shows me a photo of the scene. It is indeed macabre.
‘Have you ever seen a stag up close, Doc? They’re huge. And this one had these weird burns all over it, burns that kind of looked like trees pressed on to the flesh. The vet we called in eventually told us that those marks only appear when something living is struck by lightning.
‘Where did this animal come from? And how did it get up here? Like I said, this thing was enormous, a slab of pure muscle. One person alone couldn’t have got it into the lift, let alone dragged it all the way up the stairs. And how did it die? There hadn’t been a thunder storm in the area for at least a year.
‘So now we have a dead animal and a second crime scene. A quick search of the second flat turned up a pair of Mr Woodgate’s slippers in the living room, tucked under the sofa.
‘So we also had a connection between the two locations.
‘We did some digging and found out who owned this second flat, and began to look closely at him.’
Ms Jolley closes the first file and passes me the second. She rolls another cigarette, watching me as I scan through the document.
The second flat belonged to a thirty-two year old man named Josiah Jeniker. This individual was unemployed, and was known to frequent a local pub, the Lord Nelson, where he would regale student drinkers with card tricks and sleight of hand. He was often heard to refer to himself as a ‘weekend occultist’, and was known to drunkenly pontificate at length on his theories regarding ‘natural’ magic.
By that point, he had not been seen for at least a fortnight.
It is worth noting that Mr Jeniker had no dependents and no immediate family. Other than the regulars at the Nelson, there was no one to miss him when he vanished.
There is an accompanying photo in the file. It shows a short, skinny and dark-haired man with a thin beard and a widow’s peak.
He looks like he would struggle to lift a cat, let alone a fully grown stag.
‘We looked into the disappearance of both men as best we could, but you have to remember that the mid ’90s were a difficult time in Nottingham. Gun and knife crime were both on the up, plus we had the ever escalating turf war between rival gangs in St Ann’s and the Meadows. We didn’t really have either the time or the resources to investigate two missing people and a deer that had been burnt to a crisp.
‘I’ll level with you; the case got kicked into the long grass, so to speak.
‘I spoke to the family of Mr Woodgate on occasion, trying my best to reassure them that we were doing all that we could, even if that wasn’t exactly true. I told them that I’d be in touch if any new info came to light. Eventually they stopped calling.
‘It just became another case to add to the ever growing pile of unsolved cases.
‘That is, until the 12th of July 2005, when we received a very odd phone call.
‘It was a Mrs Singh, the last tenant left in the building. She said there was a dead man up on the roof of Burrows Court.’
I must interject here and add that on the night of the 12th of July 2005, multiple witnesses claim to see a series of curious blue flashes in the sky over Nottingham city and its surrounding suburbs. These flashes occur on and off for over an hour.
Ms Jolley goes on:
‘Because of that incident in ’95, Burrows Court seemed to become my ‘patch’. Normally we’d send a couple of uniforms out first, but we were short staffed and none were available. So muggins here had to go.
‘As I said, Ms Singh was the last tenant left in the building. All the others had been relocated, but she was putting up a fight.
‘We’d had calls from her before, things like the neighbours playing their music too loud and youths loitering outside, the usual sort of thing. But she’d mentioned a dead body, and as soon as any talk of that kind gets started, we have to look into it.
‘Anyway, I get there, and Ms Singh answers her door. She seems agitated, hopping from foot to foot, almost. I ask her about the body. She says she thinks it’s on the roof.
‘I calm her down and say that I’ll take a look. I must admit, I was sceptical. She reckons that she hasn’t seen it, but she knows it’s there when she closes her eyes.
‘She actually said that. ‘I know it’s there when I close my eyes’.
‘But I go up to the roof anyway. The door’s locked from this side but I managed to open it with a bit of shoulder. The place is being emptied anyway, so I figure ‘who cares’? At this point I’m just tired of all this crap.
‘I cannot impress upon you enough, Dr Gotobed, how much I wish they’d sent someone else that night.’
Ms Jolley goes on to tell me how she found yet another pentacle, again scratched into the floor. Inside this shape lay the still, naked body of a man, a man with blue eyes and blonde hair.
This man is Lee Woodgate.
He is dead.
An autopsy on this body reveals Mr Woodgate to have been in rude health at the time of his passing. The official cause of death is listed as unknown.
‘That poor bastard. What happened to him to end up here, all alone, locked up on the roof of that damn block of flats, ten years after anyone had last heard from him?
‘That was the thing that made me realise that I didn’t want to be a copper anymore. I handed my notice in the next day.’
At this point, Ms Jolley steps away from the table to take a phone call. She returns a moment later and offers her apologies, but some urgent business has come up and she must leave.
She collects the files, leaving one with me.
‘Look over that and call me if you have any questions, Doc.’
She flashes that infectious smile as I shake her hand and thank her for her time.
Finishing my pint, I open this last file. In it there is only a handwritten note. It says: Rampton Secure Hospital, Room 117.
8th June 2012
Rampton Secure Hospital is a high security psychiatric facility designed to hold those who have been detained under the criteria of ‘mental disorder’ as detailed in the Mental Health Act of 1983.
Although obvious attempts have been made to cheer the place up, I must confess that I find the site more than a little disturbing, to say the least.
I visit in the late afternoon, just as official visiting hours are coming to a close. I am greeted at reception by a clearly overworked member of staff by the name of Doctor Mahmood.
As Dr Mahmood leads me through the labyrinthine corridors of the hospital, to the isolation wing, she tells me about the patient we are going to visit.
‘He walked into a Burger King a couple of weeks ago, completely naked and raving about… I don’t know, all manner of odd things. He threatened some customers then leapt over the counter and attacked a member of the staff.
‘The police arrested him and took his fingerprints. But there’s some discrepancy with his identity, so he’s ended up here.’
I ask what she means by ‘a discrepancy’.
I get no answer.
We reach a heavy door and Doctor Mahmood opens a small panel and motions for me to take a look inside.
Sat on a bed at the end of a padded cell is a short, skinny man with a full beard and dark hair in a widow’s peak. He sees me and raises his head, offering a nervous, crooked smile.
‘As you can see, Doctor Gotobed, the chap in there is clearly Josiah Jeniker. However, he claims to be someone different.
‘He says his name is Lee Woodgate.’
I was only able to speak to the occupant of room 117 once. He knew many obscure facts about the life of Lee Woodgate, facts I was able to corroborate with official records. His insistence that he was, in fact, Mr Woodgate at times bordered on aggressive.
He was unwilling or unable to answer any questions relating to the life of Josiah Jeniker.
Sadly, whoever it is in that cell refuses to speak with me again, or anyone else for that matter. He has since lapsed into a melancholic silence.
I decided against interviewing Mr Woodgate’s parents. I feel they have been through enough. They have never visited the man detained at Rampton Secure Hospital.
There have been instances in the past of individuals receiving some massive head trauma and subsequently waking up able to speak a new language, having an altered personality or, in a couple of more extreme examples, claiming to be someone completely different entirely.
But these cases are rare and, due to their scarcity, seldom thoroughly researched.
Whatever happened in Burrows Court seems altogether different. Somehow the fates of Lee Woodgate and Josiah Jeniker appear to have become hopelessly entangled, and all that remains now appears to be the mind and memories of the would-be teacher trapped in the body of the ‘weekend occultist’.
And what of the mysterious lights seen on the nights preceding the discovery of the body on the roof of Burrow’s Court? Are they mere co-incidence, or are they somehow linked to the fate of these two individuals?
I fear that without the further co-operation of the gentleman that resides in room 117 of Rampton Secure Hospital, a satisfying resolution to this strange and unfortunate series of events will remain elusive.