The story of Chris Foster, the man who committed familicide rather than face the bailiffs
One of the most unsettling crimes you’ll ever read about; on the 26th of August 2008, Chris Foster murdered his wife and teenage daughter and set his house on fire before killing himself.
What went so wrong for the once-successful millionaire that he killed his family? Was he evil, or is our obsession with money the true root of this sad saga?
It was in Maesbrook village this tale unfolded, a tranquil, richly green locale in England where city slickers who make their fortunes on the mean streets of Birmingham retreat to enjoy the fruits of their labours. Expensive cars and grand houses are everywhere in this well-to-do Shropshire village, as a result.
Into this environment Chris Foster, with his wife Jill and daughter Kirstie, fitted right in.
Ulvashield – Chris’s Eureka Invention
Chris had been an ordinary salesman from Burnley until he had a eureka moment in 1988.
Inspired by the Piper Alpha oil rig explosion of that year, Chris seized upon an idea to invent a new oil rig sealant. By 1996 he had invented and patented a product he called ‘Ulvashield’ complete with a five-star safety rating.
Orders began pouring in and the fortunes of Chris’s newly formed company skyrocketed. Flush with success, it wasn’t long before he started living and dressing like the millionaire he’d become.
And he was clearly a very materialistic man. Chris dressed well and liked nice holidays. Soon after moving his family into the village, a fleet of cars came through the gateway of his new home, Osbaston House — Porcshes, an Aston Martin, and a 4X4 for Jill.
He bought horses for Kirstie and spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on a gun collection which he loved to shoot as an avid member of the local shooting club.
He always looked the part; a flash, successful millionaire.
But that was the first nail in his coffin; Chris spent money like it would never run out… Except soon it did.
Although the man was clearly smart in that he had invented a great product, that didn’t make him a great businessman. A judge later described Christopher as “bereft of the basic instincts of commercial morality” and “not to be trusted”.
By 2005, Chris’s extravagant lifestyle had outstripped his earnings and he had racked up debts of £2.8 million.
To maintain his non-stop splurging Chris was happy to cut a few corners; he breached the contract he had with the suppliers of Ulvashield by finding a new, cheaper supplier. But the manufacturers took legal action against him for damages, and the wheels of his downfall were set in motion.
By 2007, his company was liquidated.
It’s unclear how much his family knew about their circumstances now that Chris had no income, but friends remained completely in the dark whilst the man kept up a façade of affluence, continuing with social gatherings and bragging to friends that he had a multi-million-pound business deal in the pipeline.
Behind Chris’s big smile and warm handshake, however, his mind entered a dark, dark place. Now that he had no business to attend to only his 15-acre property could occupy his time. Chris pottered around, keeping the grounds of his house immaculate, even moving his tractor from spot to spot such was his restlessness.
As he tinkered away, his thoughts dwelled increasingly on his predicament and his fears of the unbearable shame that would come once the stark truth of his failings was exposed. The Summer of 2008 had been exceptionally wet and grey. One imagines it did nothing to keep the dark clouds off his mind.
It’s likely Chris started to plan his end, and that of his wife and daughter’s, as that bleak Summer waned with the coming of August. Chris by now had no less than 20 bank accounts overdrawn and didn’t even own his home anymore.
Then the day came he’d been dreading; the housekeeper he still employed found a letter attached to the gate. It was from the bailiffs informing him that they were coming to repossess all his possessions within a week. She later recalled how Chris had looked distressed but said nothing.
On the day this sad saga ended the Fosters were invited to a friend’s barbeque and clay pigeon shoot. Chris spent his last day on earth enjoying the hobby he loved.
It’s chilling to note that none of the guests that night noticed any red flags with Chris, who seemed in particularly good spirits. It is a paradox that a suicidal person can be the happiest they have been in a long time knowing the end is nigh. A photo of the family shows all three smiling at the camera and looking relaxed.
One can only wonder what the mood amongst the Fosters was like that night, on the drive home, and getting ready for bed.
Was Chris quiet or chatty? Did Jill and Kirsty detect an air that something was off? Was there an air of foreboding?
Around 11.30pm Chris told his daughter to go to bed.
Around 3am Chris, 50 years old, shot his wife Jill, 49, in the back of the head. He then went into his daughter’s room and shot Kirstie, 15, in the back of the head too.
He went on to kill all the family pets; the four dogs, three horses; even the ducks and chickens.
Chris then doused the house, the stables and his cars in heating oil to set them alight.
He also made sure to block the driveway with a horsebox and shoot out the tires in order to prevent first responders from quickly extinguishing the fire. The man was so bitter he wanted his creditors, the people who’d supposedly put him in this predicament, to get absolutely nothing out of him.
As the fire took hold, it filled the house with smoke and Chris went to rejoin his wife. He succumbed to smoke inhalation.
It took three days for firefighters to extinguish the fire and allow the investigators to begin their grim task of sifting through the mangled wreckage of Chris Foster’s life.
Is ‘Money Evil’ …or Was Chris?
The chilling tragedy shocked the nation and commentators inevitably tried to make sense of what had happened.
A once successful man was so ashamed of his business failings, he destroyed everything he loved and owned before ending his life. Why?
In the days after, amongst the cards and flowers left by the gateway was a note saying ‘Money is the root to all evil.’
It seemed to sum up the sentiments of many bereaved. Here was an average man who achieved something special; he invented something so great it made him a millionaire, and he shouldn’t have had to worry about money ever again.
Yet instead, it hooked him onto the vice-like trappings of materialism and vanity. Marketing and media make us covet fast cars, swanky clothes and everything else in between, so once Chris got a taste of the good life he was addicted like a heroin addict no matter how much debt he got into, until his creditors hounded him into a corner he couldn’t escape.
Chris appeared to be a loving father and husband, and one friend described him as ‘down to earth’, ‘open’ and ‘warm’. Yet, was he such a nice guy?
Well, Chris was described by others variously as a ‘schoolboy bully’ a ‘narcissist’ and ‘highly controlling’ who was known to have hit his wife at least once. Some commentators suggested Chris’s murder spree was the last act of control over his family, to deny them a future free of his domination.
Whatever the truth, the sad Foster family saga is testament to Capitalism’s fickle fortunes and reminds us of the maxim: ‘The bigger they are, the harder they fall’.
Chris Foster, the big man with a big smile, fell very hard indeed.
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