“As I hear; Bob only called them the beginning of October, Bob realized the game was up. He spoke to Robin that weekend and told him he had to disappear. Robin said he needed three weeks. He told Maxwell to hold on until the end of the month, and then go down to his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine. He’d organise a plan and Bob had to follow it.
“That’s how we work, and I understand Robin did just that. By the Wednesday, Robin had his Plan, and told Bob to get to the boat in Gibraltar by Friday, go to Madeira, and they’d meet in Reid’s Hotel, on the Saturday, and finalise the details. Oh, and by the way, would Captain Bob organise one million to be paid into the usual account by then.
“Bob got through the worst days of his life, and left on Thursday, without any of his usual entourage. He flew into Gib, where the gin palace was parked after saying he’d be back on Monday to give a speech to the Anglo-Israeli Society. That way, no one could have any guess he was doing a bunk.
“He ordered the boat off to Madeira, where the mate drove him up to Reid’s Hotel, and Robin met him in the garden. Bob was told the Plan, and could now relax. There was a boat in the Canaries, a fast cruiser, ready to take him to the Caribbean. Bob had to get there on Sunday, keep taking the telephone calls – and make appear all was normal. Robin would do the rest.
“It was a lovely, simple plan, but dear old Bob nearly blew it. You see, it had to look like an accident. ‘Tycoon falls overboard’. ‘Tragedy at sea’. ‘Captain says he was the usual old Bob, and what a tragedy’.
“Instead, the old fool got the jitters. He couldn’t relax. He got angry with reporters on Madeira, and went off to a deserted island, when the old Bob would have eaten them alive. He asked Captain Rankin to drop him off at an airport, where he could fly to Bermuda. When the boat reached Santa Cruz, Bob ordered it down the coast to Abono.
“That’s where 1 reckon the switch came. Bob goes swimming, so does the double, they cross in the port, and Bob’s away The double goes back on board the Lady Ghislaine. The switch might have come later but I doubt it.
“On board, Bob’s taken straight to medical quarters, and the surgeon drugs him, before starting liposuction. By the time the boat lands, they will try and reshape the old fatty, and get the black dye out of his hair.
“Once they reach port, the cosmetic surgeon will come on board, and rearrange his face, so even his secretaries won’t recognise him. Within a month, Bob will be a fit-looking, gray-haired 15 stone stranger, unrecognisable from the old Maxwell.
“Meanwhile the double refuses to eat on board, and goes ashore. When he finished dinner, he left without his jacket, then asked to be taken to a flamenco show – anything to pass the time before he had to go into action, and to make sure he’s remembered.
“When finally he got back to the boat, he only had to do one thing – order Rankin to sail round the Grand Canaries, instead of going the short way to the airport. This was crucial to Robin’s plan. He wanted him off the tip of Grand Canaries, so the second boat could make straight for the Caribbean. And he needed extra time, so Maxwell would be well away by the time the search began.
“Now comes the only tricky part. The double has to get down to the stern in the middle of the night, out of sight of any eyes that happen to be awake. But he’s very fit and, even if anyone does see him, they’ll only think Bob’s going to do one of his famous peeing into the sea acts.
“All he has to do is flash his torch on and off to say he’s in place. He knows the crew will be asleep. Rankin is at the wheel. No one is likely to see what happens.
“Robin drops the dinghy from his boat, with probably a couple of men. The dinghy catches up to the stern of the Ghislaine: one man climbs up with a rope ladder and attaches it to the rail. The double climbs down into the dinghy. The ladder is unlooped, and the dinghy takes off, back to Robin’s boat. The disappearance has begun.
“The double has probably been told that he’s got a role to play for a few days, impersonating Bob, once again, while the great man saves his empire. Enough money would be dangled, so that Mr Double could retire in comfort.
“The poor sucker probably never knew his last moment had come. You remember that mark the autopsy found just below the corpses left ear? That’s where I reckon they got him. A quick injection of lethal stuff that brings on a heart attack in minutes but leaves no trace. Standard treatment.
“The public first heard about it when the Romanians started jabbing it into people at the end of an umbrella. A nice touch that. Wasn’t it the Romanians’ chief that Bob supported? Very nice.
“Anyhow, the sucker’s gone, and they pitch him overboard. Robin nearly blew it then. They should have pitched him overboard before he died, so that he struggled in the sea, and got water in his lungs, but he probably died too quickly and Robin had no choice.
“Anyhow the authorities were so stupid they said the body had obviously died before it hit the water, and that explained the lack of water in the lungs.
“I tell you, it’s only in the books that detectives see your mistakes. In real life, they’re as stupid as my dog. There’s this corpse with no sea water, the wrong colour hair, an athletic body – and still they say it’s Maxwell. Robin was lucky to get away with it.
“You know, the more you look at it, it wasn’t one of Robin’s better jobs. Here’s a man who’s made his reputation for being so careful about details, and he doesn’t even fill the double with alcohol, so that the autopsy would show a stomach full of it. I mean, listen. Bob was a lush. He drank like the proverbial fish. Bottle of brandy a day. Champagne. Beer. Mind you, it didn’t stop him doing deals, but his body obviously needed it. It was his drug.
“Yet, he’s on board his yacht, can’t sleep, knows his empire is crashing around his ears. But doesn’t drink? No way. But according to the autopsy there are hardly any traces of alcohol.
“Of course there aren’t. Because the double hardly drank. But Robin should have filled him up. Makes you wonder if Robin wasn’t hoping the plan would fail, and the police would start hunting
for him. I now wonder if Robin didn’t have two paymasters – Bob and some government.
Anyway, getting back to the Tuesday, the Ghislaine has sailed into Los Cristianos and, just as Maxwell planned, no one searches for him until after 11.00. Robin wants at least twelve hours sailing before the body is found, to get out into the Atlantic and away.
“His second team’s job is to make certain the body is found. After all, what’s the point of this charade if they don’t find a body? I don’t know if the second boat kept the body until later. I would have done, then dropped it over, where I was certain it would be found. Maybe they did that, maybe they didn’t.
“The autopsy said the body hadn’t been burnt by the sun, so maybe they did the same as I would, and kept the body until the afternoon.
“Then the second team dropped it over, where they knew the fisherman would find it.
“Anyhow it was found around six o’clock that Monday night. The scam was complete. Maxwell is on his way to a new life. His double is ready for the autopsy.
An exhumation of the body and an official identification would end speculation that Robert Maxwell may be alive.
“And now you see we come to Bob’s chess plan. As a Jew about to be buried in Israel, the body has to get to Tel Aviv by Friday. The investigators have to let it go by Thursday night, at the latest.
“Is that your husband, Mrs Maxwell?” pulling back the shroud for a few seconds. “Yes,” says dear Betty, turning away.
“She identified him in the few seconds she saw his face, and I’m certain she thought it was him. You don’t choose a double who looks like Cary Grant. The poor sucker looked like Maxwell: that’s why he got the job, and a bloated face like Maxwell’s looks even more like a pudding, when its been dead in the water for half a day.
“So the authorities did their autopsy, and released the body to the family, who got their dear old Bob on a hired plane to Tel Aviv by Friday morning.
“Now came the final test. Lloyds sent along a new team to carry out a second autopsy in Tel Aviv on the Saturday morning. Mind you , there wasn’t much of Bob left. His heart and kidney’s had gone to Madrid. The winches of the rescue helicopter had distorted him, and some fool embalmer had covered him.
“Still it was touch and go. The Israelis were preparing a State funeral; the rest of the family had arrived; and Dr. West arrives from London to carry out an autopsy at the request of Lloyds. Finally he gave his verdict, that it was impossible to be certain how death had occurred.
“Who says you can’t get away with murder? Bob had done it. Robin had got his million in Geneva. Bob’s old paper, the Daily Mirror, mourned the passing of the great man.
“The body is released and, on Sunday, Bob gets his State funeral, and is lowered into the ground on the Mount of Olives. Great touch that.
“No body has ever been dug up from there. It’s holy ground. And he’s there by courtesy of the Israeli government. You see, that was part of the chess plan. He’d become the biggest foreign investor in Israel over the previous five years. He’d prepared the ground – sorry about the pun – for this ultimate emergency, and it worked.
“Where is he now? South America? Caribbean? If I had to make a guess, I’d say Miami. He couldn’t keep away from the action. He’s changed his appearance, his name. He’s still got millions out of his private companies, numbered accounts in BVI and Cayman, new passports. None of that’s any problem.
“I just bet there’s a 15-stone, white haired, 80 year old, looking 60, dealing out of a waterside villa on somewhere like Venetian Isles, dealing daily without a trace of regret, and surrounded by pretty, young, nubile secretaries.”