Manhunt: The Case of the Phantom Teacher

Mar 9, 2020

Have you ever been betrayed? I mean, truly, betrayed? I have. I remember the exact date, time and location like it was last week (it was)- 4th March, 9:30am, Broad Oak Primary School. 

I arrived on the scene with my partner, PC Thomas, a damn fine cop. Smart. Intuitive. A maverick who didn’t always play by the rules, but loyal nonetheless. Or so I thought. 

It was meant to be a straightforward operation. An open and shut case. Mrs Atherton of Broad Oak Primary School had become a victim of identity theft and we were sent in to collaborate with some of the finest minds in St. Helens to solve the crime. 

It was here where I was stabbed in the back. 

Our undercover police operator, a member of staff at the school, was unavailable and PC Thomas needed someone to radio in the information of the case so that she, our young group of detectives, and Mr. Phil Gregory could be briefed…the gun was pointed at me. 

It was a metaphorical gun, of course, but it may as well have been real. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end. I’m just a rookie, still cutting my teeth by writing blogs like this one.

Nevertheless, I had to make the best of it, and use my hi-impact issued walkie-talkie (only the really important people get them) to contact PC Thomas and the class with the details of the case. 

After finishing the script, It was time to make my formal introduction to the class; charging into the sports hall in a panic as I pretended to be completely oblivious to the fact that the case of the century had just been thrust upon us. 

PC Thomas had already gotten permission from the teachers to allow the children to help with the case and was in the process of sifting through the evidence. The first piece to be submitted was footage from an interview between Mrs Atherton and Merseyside Police discussing the identity theft incident. 

The class were then handed transcripts, which they read alongside the interview audio to see if there had been any inconsistencies in the reporting. 

One sharp Y6 investigator found that Mrs Atherton had mentioned her husband in one, but not in the other- CONCLUDING THAT HE WAS THE CULPRIT!

Incorrect, but that’s EXACTLY the type of investigative mentality we’d welcome at the hi-impact Detective Agency…if it existed. 

Regardless, this snippet of information was still important, as it allowed our veteran cop, PC Thomas, to begin discussing the importance of online safety, and where Mrs Atherton went wrong. 

Our class of sharp investigators were able to deduce that trusting too many people with her private details (including her husband and colleagues), using the same password for everything, and being far too lax with how easily she gave up information was likely the reason she found herself to be a victim of this crime.  

The class then started to examine the different types of identity theft that people are prone to, with both PC Thomas and Mr. Gregory teaching them about the dangers of phishing and card-skimming. 

With the children now fully immersed in the case, flooding the room with discussion and hypotheses, a new piece of evidence was submitted; Mrs Atherton’s bank statement. 

According to the statement, Mrs. Atherton had made three recent purchases at locations within close proximity to each other; a McColls, a bus station, and the St Helens R.F.C fan store. 

Using footage gathered from CCTV, PC Thomas and her crack team of Agatha Christie protagonists were able to pinpoint the exact time the phoney Mrs. Atherton had visited the McColls store and made her purchase; thus getting footage of her face!

Finally, a breakthrough! But there was more! Now having a physical description to go on, PC Thomas’ friends at Merseyside Police were able to run a cross-reference with their database of likely suspects. This allowed us to demonstrate use of the filter tool on Excel; sorting the spreadsheet into more narrow parameters which met the criteria of the evidence the children had gathered.

Working on the Y6’s instruction, Mr Gregory and PC Thomas filtered the information based on the CCTV footage, firstly by the suspect’s gender  (F), then hair colour, [this narrowed the possibilities down to just 3 names], then by weight [it was decided she had a normal build], then by DOB. 

Now, this was a category caused some contention, with many of the class divided on how old the suspect looked.

This was where PC Thomas made a horrible error in judgement…she asked the class how old they thought SHE was in comparison.  Needless to say, I was asked to redact that figure from this blog…

…they said 57.

Leaving that nastiness behind us, it was eventually concluded that both the suspect and PC Thomas were in their 30’s, meaning they must’ve been born in the 80’s. This left just two suspects remaining. 

For the final clue, our class of Sherlock’s and Watson’s decided to retrace their steps and go over prior evidence. Doing this, they were able to draw the conclusion that, based on the location of her previous purchases, she lived in the St Helens area. This meant the list of names in the database could be narrowed down to one. 

Nikki Thomlinson was our perpetrator and she’d been caught red-handed.

It was time to call it in. But where was she? It was at this moment that PC Thomas received yet more important evidence- screenshots of a twitter account pretending to be Mrs. Atherton.

 Based on her tweets and a recent photo she had uploaded, the children were able to conclude that she was currently at Sherdley Park Golf Course. Our smoking gun. A classic case of identity fraud. 

We now had to submit this evidence to the station and wrap up this whole ordeal once and for all. 

PC Thomas, proud of her recruits, decided to allow one of them to do the honours and report it to Sergeant Gemma Sapp.

Another criminal was off our streets and it was all thanks to the wonderful Y6’s of Broad Oak Primary School. 

 

We could always use more ace investigators to help us with future workshop-related crimes. If you’re interested, feel free to contact us at [email protected] and we’ll see what we can offer.