Grim Reaper Refuses to Let Death Row Escapee Live, 1980

One man’s fate to die on a date in 1980 was so strong even escaping Death Row could not postpone his mortality. Read here how he met his end.

Such is the antisocial, troublesome character of some people you meet that you just know they’re destined to be dead or in prison before they reach their 40th birthday, and so was the case for Troy Leon Gregg – despite his best efforts otherwise.

Convicted of murdering two men whom he had hitched a ride with in order to rob them, Gregg was clearly a nasty piece of work. For that, he’d become the first man to end a de facto moratorium on the death penalty imposed four years prior.

Four years later on death row and it was 1980 and his long-awaited date with the Grim Reaper was looming imminently, yet Gregg had plans to give him the slip and make a flight for freedom.

On the eve of his execution date Gregg, with three other condemned murderers, sawed through their cell bars, walked along a ledge to a fire escape and, after altering their prison clothing to resemble correctional officer uniforms, left in a car parked in the visitors’ parking lot by one of their aunts.

Success! Gregg and his companions pulled off the first death row breakout in Georgia’s history.

Yet Gregg just couldn’t keep his nose out of trouble. He wound up that night roughhousing it at some biker bar and getting hammered. He started harassing a waitress and hit her when she turned down his advances.

One biker didn’t like what he saw and this guy was the kind of bad-ass, greasy biker who didn’t screw around; Gregg was beaten to death. A number of patrons then helped dump his body in the lake round back.

So, the grim reaper caught up with Gregg regardless. The other escapees were recaptured three days later.

Troy Leon Gregg may have escaped the electric chair, but he didn’t escape his death sentence (thecrimemag.com)
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Sawney Bean’s Cannibal Clan, 16th Century

A tale hard to distinguish fact from fiction, yet there is undoubtedly some truth behind Sawney Bean and his massive family of incestuous cannibals who may have devoured hundreds over the decades and terrorised the locals. Read on to discover his terrible fate.

The tale of Sawney Bean is a gruesome tale from Scottish history.

The man was born in the 16th Century and fathered by a ditch digger but quickly gave up on following in his father’s footsteps. Marrying a like-minded woman named “Black” Agnes Douglas, together they became a couple of real savages.

Incredible though it sounds, they went on to head an incestuous family of 45 cannibals.

They started out as simple robbers and made a home in a deep cave on the coastline. Its entrance would flood at high tide which explains how they lived undiscovered for the next 25 years. The two quickly turned to eating their victims whose discarded possessions began to quickly pile up amongst dismembered limbs, bones and flesh. Their eight sons and six daughters grew up feral, and bred like rabbits, their numbers multiplying until they were more of a warband than family.

They would ambush locals as they travelled between nearby settlements, their numbers quickly overwhelming their prey before they could escape or defend themselves. The steadily growing tally of missing did not go unnoticed but the Bean clan stayed well hidden, only coming out at night.

Their luck eventually changed. Riding back from a fayre nearby, a couple on horseback got ambushed. The young wife was quickly unhorsed and disembowelled as the husband fought desperately for his life. He was a skilled duellist, however, and deftly fought off the savages with sword and pistol before a large party of fayre goers arrived on the scene.

For once outnumbered, the fiends fled back to their cave, this time leaving behind witnesses and a very vengeful husband.

The locals went at once to Edinburgh to report to the King of Scotland himself no less, James VI. Hearing the terrors this family had committed, he personally led a small army of 400 men with several tracker dogs and finally discovered the cave entrance.

The King’s soldiers discover the Bean clan’s gruesome sanctuary (artstation.com)

Horrified by the gory sight inside, they subdued the family, taking them back to the capital to devise a suitable fate for such heinous people.

The entire family was executed. The males first were dismembered like their victims as the women were made to look on and then the females were burned at the stake. And so passed into lore the story of the Sawney Bean Family.

The Nepalese Royal Massacre

The Prince who murdered his family because he couldn’t marry his one true love

This is the grisly story of a truly astounding crime. In 2001 the Nepalese Royal Family was slaughtered in a frenzied shooting spree. What makes this more disturbing is that it was committed by one of their own family members. On top of that, their sad demise fulfilled an ancient prophecy made over 200 years before — that the Shah royal line would end after 10 generations.

On the 1st of June 2001, one of the world’s most venerated royal families; the Shah royal family, was butchered by the King’s firstborn son, Crown Prince Dipendra, who gunned down his parents plus seven more of his kin before turning the gun on himself. That at least, is the official version of events…

Let’s go back to when this saga ultimately began.

The Sage’s Prophecy

The Shah royal family came to rule the Gorkha Kingdom from 1559 AD and conquered and unified the surrounding patchwork of kingdoms into modern-day Nepal by 1768. This secluded, mystical, part-tropical-part-alpine kingdom was hemmed in by the British Raj to the south and the sheer Himalayan mountains to its north and its rustic and rugged interior incubated one of the most formidable warrior cultures on the planet.

The first King of this newly expanded realm was Prithvi Narayan Shah and the story goes that the King was once marching back into the Kathmandu valley when he happened across a sage.

The benign King offered the sage some yoghurt. The learned old man tried the yoghurt then, to reciprocate, blessed it before returning the dish to the King. Yet, the haughty Sovereign didn’t want to eat the yoghurt now this sage had soiled it and he threw it on the ground, spilling the food on his feet. The sage chastised the King for his pride and said if he had taken the yoghurt every wish he made would be fulfilled. Instead, the yoghurt covering the King’s 10 toes now portended a much darker fate; that his dynasty would fall after 10 generations.

From Past to Present

In the intervening epochs, the royal family’s fortunes waxed and waned as the Shahs tussled for power with the Rana dynasty of Prime Ministers between the mid 19th and mid 20th centuries. By 1996 the Kingdom of Nepal was in serious political turmoil with the launch of a Maoist insurgency that would not end until 10 years later. By mid-2001 King Birendra had been on the throne for almost 30 years, siring two sons and a daughter in that time.

King Birendra (en.wikipedia.org)

He was also the 10th descendent of King Prithvi Narayan Shah and his reign and life would soon be extinguished.

Prince Dipendra’s Deadly Attack

What precisely occurred on the evening of June the 1st is mired in murky intrigue and suspicion. In the bloody aftermath, investigators pieced together what happened as best they could.

Friday nights were when King Birendra and his wife Queen Aishwarya would come together with their family to eat at the Narayanhiti Palace, in Kathmandu. That night, the King and Queen were joined by four of the King’s five siblings and their three children. Plus, others were present that night — about a dozen family members in total.

Crown Prince Dipendra, the next in line for the throne, arrived at the Palace at 7:30pm and went to the billiards room to play billiards by himself over a couple of whiskeys. Half an hour later and the Crown Prince headed out to pick up the Queen Mother to take her to the gathering then, once returned, called an aide to fetch him some hashish cigarettes.

Before 8:30 came about, family members saw the Crown Prince now looking intoxicated, swaying and slurring his speech. Four of them helped him to his room. The Queen then sent aides to check on him and who could hear him vomiting in the bathroom, but he came out and, forebodingly, ordered them to go to their rooms to sleep. At 8:30, the King and Queen arrived and entered the billiards room to greet guests whilst the Prince reappeared and exchanged a few words with another guest before telling them: “I am now about to sleep… good night. We’ll talk tomorrow.

The Crown Prince Dipendra meets ‘the people’s Princess’ Diana in 1993.

But Prince Dipendra didn’t go to sleep. He re-emerged from his room donned in black army fatigues and was armed to the teeth. He proceeded to the billiards room and pumped his family with lead from automatic fire. He killed eight people there, including his father King Birendra, a sister, a brother, an uncle and two aunties. He wounded another four. His Mother, Queen Aishwarya and brother Prince Nirajan tried to flee to the inner courtyard. But Prince Dipendra was merciless and he hunted them down too, killing them both before pulling the gun on himself.

Confusion and Conspiracy

In the aftermath, the tragedy sent shockwaves through not just the mountain valleys of Nepal, but the entire world. Messages were sent by the British Royal Family, the Pope, the Indian Prime Minister and UN Secretary-General, amongst others to convey their deep shock and sadness.

Yet, their dismay was nothing compared to the uproar the King’s subjects felt, and they rioted and demanded to know what happened. And who could blame them? No royal family had been slaughtered by one of its own members before.

The frustrating thing about these kinds of ‘lone wolf’ shooting sprees is that the perpetrator’s motive is impossible to ascertain when they typically add themselves to the body count, as Prince Dipendra did. The most plausible theory is that Queen Aishwanya forbade her son from marrying his true love Devyani Rana, due to her mother’s family having conflicting political alliances with the Nepalese Royal Family, so he attacked his family in spite.

There are other rumours that the King’s elder brother, Prince Gyanendra, who shortly became King, might have had a part to play in the massacre due to him being a noticeable absentee at the dinner party.

After the shooting, Prince Dipendra actually survived in a coma for three days and royal protocol awkwardly decreed that he be crowned King now his father had perished, even though he was apparently now a cold-blooded murderer. But once he passed away Prince Gyanendra was crowned King in turn until Nepal became a Republic seven years later.

Even more controversy surrounds the shooting as many, both within and outside Nepal, question whether Prince Dipendra was even the perpetrator of this horrific crime at all. It’s strange to note, for example, that the self-inflicted bullet wound was to the Prince’s right temple, despite him being left-handed…

But I will leave others to sift through the murky ‘conspiracy theories’ surrounding what happened that night. That this massacre fulfilled an ancient prophecy is bizarre enough!

When Nepal’s King Prithvi fell foul of that sage, all those centuries before, who’d have guessed that his prophecy, that the Royal line would end after ten generations, would come true and in such a horrendous fashion?

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Derrick Bird and the Cumbrian Massacre

Why a friendly, sociable local killed 12 people was a mystery to most. Here, his life is scrutinised to expose how it unravelled before its fatal climax

A puzzling episode of Cumbrian history that bewilders locals to this very day. After an angry confrontation with some colleagues, a man named Derrick Bird shot dead his twin brother, his solicitor, then 10 mostly random victims as he sped 45 miles (72km) around West Cumbria before finally killing himself.

Yet, ‘Birdy’ as many affectionately referred to him, was well-liked, sociable and friendly up until that fateful day. Then something inside him snapped and his hidden demons took hold.

The Shooting Rampage

The route of Derrick Bird’s shooting slalom (murderpedia.org)

It was in West Cumbria this horror story played out. Sandwiched between the Irish Sea to the west and the Lake District to the east, West Cumbria is a tight-knit and quaint rural region. It was the kind of place with few strangers.

It was the last weekend of May in 2010 and Derrick was in the pub, as was his way, for a pint and joke or two before he headed off home. ‘Birdy’ was unusually drunk both that Friday and Saturday, however. One onlooker recalled that Derrick was “bouncing off the walls” and “that wasn’t Derrick”.

The next week on the 1st of June a low-level feud between Derrick and a few other taxi drivers, which many dismissed as banter, flared up when someone crossed a line in something they said to Birdy. A witness said Bird “shook his colleagues by the hands to say his goodbyes and said there’s going to be a rampage in this town tomorrow. They just laughed and didn’t take him seriously.

In the early hours of the next day, Bird drove to his twin-brother, David Bird’s, house, let himself in through the unlocked back door, crept upstairs and shot him 11 times with his rifle. Yet, someone recalled that just the week before Derrick and David had enjoyed a day at a scramble track “laughing their heads off like you’d expect warm brothers to do.”

By sunrise, he was seen washing his Citroen Picasso outside his house.

Then at 10:13am Derrick drove to his solicitor’s house. Attempting to leave home in his car, 60-year-old Kevin Commons found his driveway blocked by Bird’s car. Bird fired his shotgun at Commons and hit him in the shoulder. As he then staggered back up his drive, Bird shot him in the head.

From the ‘targeted phase’ of the shootings, what began now was the ‘rampage phase’ in which Derrick — armed with a 12-bore sawn-off shotgun and rifle — shot dead 10 more people.

Bird would call victims over to his car to ask the time before shooting them or he’d take potshots from distance, shooting a total of 21 people. With little rhyme nor reason, Bird cut down friend, foe and stranger alike

As an example, Bird returned to the taxi rank and executed one of his main antagonists, Darren Rewcastle, at point-blank range. Yet, Bird also shot three other drivers, including his good friend Paul Wilson whose cheek he grazed. Fortunately, the three survived.

Other locals came eyeball-to-eyeball with Bird but he let them be, such as Barry Moss, a cyclist who came face to face with Bird as he stood by the side of his taxi, having just murdered Susan Hughes as she walked home with her shopping.

He remembered “He just stared at me, and just had a very blank expression… he didn’t say or do anything really… Then he scurried into his car and drove off.

On Bird went, randomly shooting, killing and injuring some whilst letting others be.

The end came soon after midday; Bird’s car was running out of fuel as the Lake District’s fells (hills) and forest loomed up around him. Trying to pass another car, Bird skimmed a wall and damaged his tire.

This forced him to a stop and he abandoned the Picasso. Bird then headed into woodland with his rifle to kill himself in solitude.

Derrick Bird’s 12 victims, including David Bird, centre-left (bbc.com)

The Enigma

Make no mistake this crime ultimately showed Derrick Bird for what he was — a malicious and deranged gunman.

Yet, he was also an enigma.

A friendly man, Derrick was referred affectionately to as ‘Birdy’ (mirror.co.uk)

52-years-old and fair-haired, ‘Birdy’ was ‘quiet’ ‘friendly’ ‘sociable’, and time and time again referred to with warmth, even after his horrific crime.

This was a man who would pay his local greengrocer a pound for the 85p milk carton and would go out of his way to rustle up a couple of quid for the local church collection.

Derrick also had good reason to be content, having just become a new granddad by one of his two sons with whom he had a good relationship.

He was a taxi driver who worked hard through the Christmas period to pay for scuba-diving holidays in Thailand, he enjoyed motorsports and was very much a regular local.

And yes, he owned a twin-barrel shotgun and rifle, though gun ownership was not uncommon in this rugged corner of Britain.

He was so well regarded, people in the community when later interviewed almost refused to associate the Derrick they knew with the one who went haywire and attacked dozens of innocent people.

So, why did this innocuous member of the community blow up the way he did?

An examination of a number of events and developments in this 52-year-old’s life reveals a man who was actually grudgeful, highly anxious, depressed and who’d grown paranoid also.

Let’s look at what led to this horrific massacre.

Sellafield Job Resignation

The first nail in the coffin was hammered back in 1990.

Derrick had worked as a Joiner at the nearby Sellafield Nuclear Facility but resigned after he was accused of stealing wood from the powerplant.

Bird was subsequently convicted and given a twelve-month suspended sentence.

It’s funny that the idiom to ‘have a chip on one’s shoulder’ originates from 18th Century working practices in the British Royal Dockyards where shipwrights were allowed to remove surplus timber (chips) on their shoulders for firewood or building material, and this was a substantial perk of the job for the dock workers.

A later rule change made it only what they could carry under one arm which limited the amount of timber they could carry, so the shipwrights went on strike.

Ironically, this was the first of Derrick’s own chips on his shoulder for trying to remove timber, in turn.

His long-term partner at the time went on to recall how Derrick had also been really apprehensive about the prospect of going to prison, which was unfounded but would have ramifications later.

Assaulted by Fare Dodgers

18 years later, Derrick was brutally assaulted when he tried to stop some fare dodgers from doing a runner.. They knocked him to the ground, kicked his teeth in and cracked his head on the pavement.

People saw a change in Derrick after this traumatic episode. He became more anxious and started drinking more.

Taxman a-Knockin’

Derrick had committed tax evasion for a few years and his fears of a prison sentence came back to haunt him.

He consulted his solicitor, Kevin Commons, about the issue and Commons informed him that Bird had more than enough savings to cover the five-figure bill from the Inland Revenue, and that should’ve allayed his fears.

Yet, Derrick wasn’t convinced, despite repeated reassurances.

Even more strangely Derrick somehow got it into his head that Commons and his brother were in cahoots in a bizarre plot to bring him down.

Derrick’s Brother David

Regarding Derrick’s relationship with his twin brother David, family members were adamant that there was never a problem between the two, but David had once borrowed £25,000 from their now-deceased father which he never paid back.

Since then David had become considerably more financially successful than Derrick and, with his tax problems having emerged, Derrick, it seems, felt his brother owed him some of that £25,000 he’d have otherwise partly inherited. The presumption is there was some disagreement over this and the twins had argued fiercely the week previous to June the 2nd.

Ailing Mother

Derrick also lived and cared for his ailing mother whose health was now deteriorating, making her son depressed that she wasn’t long for this world.

Taxi Rank Tensions

Finally, taxicab competition had been increasing while the number of customers wasn’t, and Derrick was getting quietly irked that some of his colleagues sometimes jumped the queue and didn’t wait their turn for the next customer.

Banter is a big part of many work environments in a country famed for its humour, especially among men.

When there is mutual respect banter is fun, endearing and helps the workday pass less drudgingly. When the respect isn’t there, though, banter can be unpleasant if you’re not thick-skinned.

Although Birdy had many friends amongst the other taxi drivers of the area, jokes were made, and pranks were played, and Derrick, with his mounting insecurities, was increasingly on the wrong end of them.

Not long before that Summer, Derrick had sent £1000 to a Thai lady he met on one of his scuba diving holidays but the woman ended contact with him shortly after.

Derrick felt he had been made a fool out of and it’s not hard to imagine he got a lot of ‘flak’ for that from the other drivers.

One of deranged Derrick’s many victims (murderpedia.org)

Derrick and His Hidden Demons

Here then was the story of a man who hadn’t aged well.

Derrick Bird’s worries and grievances had been allowed to quietly fester among a stoic, thick-skinned rural community, typical of the English North.

Reading between the lines it seems Derrick felt his life had been on an inescapable slide for some time and his mother’s death plus the legal consequences of his tax-dodging were going to send it plunging.

Was he guilty of being an ‘entitled white male’? The fact Derrick failed to take responsibility for a number of his life choices, instead, projecting them as the fault of others, suggests that argument holds water.

Ultimately, Derrick lacked the empathy for his fellow humans to keep his inner demons in check. For that, one’s empathy for him should be kept firmly in check.

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Chris Foster, The Millionaire in So Much Debt, He Committed Familicide

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.

Millionaire Businessman

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”.

Chris’s Downfall

Despite appearances, Chris couldn’t afford his lavish lifestyle and his financial struggles were causing untold stress (caledoniankitty.co.uk)

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.

The Murders

Relaxed and smiling: Chris, Jill and Kirstie on their last day alive (telegraph.co.uk)

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?

Many described Chris as ‘warm’ and ‘friendly’. Yet, others who knew him better called him a ‘narcissist’ and ‘highly controlling’ (mirror.co.uk)

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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