Sunday 19th June 1982, late afternoon
It had been a long slog, getting back out of Pairc. Even under the circumstances, it had been very hard to walk past several potential golden eagle nest cliffs. Not every day you find a body, though.
Ewan didn’t feel like hanging about, suddenly this ultimate empty place had become threatening…not that he’d seen anything that suggested the man had died violently…not that he believed in ghosts or lost souls, or any of that religious mumbo-jumbo…it was the lack of any life, the sheer emptiness, that was causing a growing feeling of unease.
Ewan had found dead birds and animals before, like any “raptor worker”, in upland Scotland, he had seen his share of poisoned baits and victims. He knew that you didn’t touch or move their bodies, you kept the “integrity of the crime scene”, as the police wildlife officer had told them on a training course. That was dead birds of prey – a human body was even more important, of course but he had to touch the man’s neck, to make sure he was really as dead as he looked. He would never forget how cold the skin felt.
Even though he had left his heavy tent and food, the journey was tough and it was 6 hours later when he stumbled into the yard of the steading. The Big House was as usual, empty, its millionaire Belgian owner, looking after business elsewhere. The shepherd’s collies were the first to spot him and responded with an orgy of delighted barking – sometimes it was days before any stranger visited this road end. This in turn, set off the black labs and Border terriers in the keeper’s house across the yard.
Gordon Stoat appeared from round the back of a landrover, where he had been preparing a couple of cut open rabbits, covering their flesh and entrails in “sugar” – keepers slang for alphachloralose poison – ready for dropping off near the raven roost on the cliff at the end of the sea loch. Shit!!..it’s the bird man…. “I’ll be right with you, Mr Caldwell”. He hastily threw a couple of sacks over the illegal baits and closed the van door.
“What’s happening?…didn’t expect you back for a couple of days yet – did you get lonely down there?”
“No, no…Ive come to get help – I’ve found a body..”
“A body?…not an eagle!?..that won’t be me, they die naturally too, you know..”
[Ewan would laugh about that one later, when he was regaling his mates from the BNT in Edinburgh. .”he thought I’d caught him out poisoning!!”]
“No, no. .its a man’s body…its in a cave towards the south end…east side..big guy…he’s definitely dead, quite recent, I think…”
“Jesus!”….Gordon looked genuinely shocked…”how on earth did you find….?………..whereabouts ….exactly?”
Ewan told PC McLeod about this strange reaction later. .at the time he was too busy thinking about who to call…Coastguard, Police, the Boss at HQ!??
“Ah’ll need to call the polis right away…”
“Aye, ye’d better come in the house then, …….hang on a minute and I’ll get the number…”
Dear God..a BNT official in his house..what he’d always dreaded..well, he won’t be looking in the freezer…but better hide that stuffed peregrine in a cupboard..Jesus, how did he find the body?…bastard, bastard!”. Stoat ran round the house clearing up.
“OK, I’ve found it”….he was lying, he knew the Stornoway police number by heart, he was always calling them out, when he thought Macaskill or his pals, were on the river or out at the stags.
“Hello…, this is Ewan Caldwell, the bird man, I’m phoning from Pairc, Gordon Stoat’s place…I found a man’s body in a cave this morning…Aye, I’m sure, I touched him, he’s cold…he’s dressed like a local; boiler suit and jacket…I think he’s one of the regulars from the Long Island…what do you want us to do?”
Ewan gave the policeman a six -figure grid reference, for the cave and arranged to meet a PC McLeod in Stornoway, as soon as he could drive there – the policeman had mentioned trying to get the use of the Customs cutter and he would need Ewan, to show him the location.