This is a crime tale with a difference.
There are no victims, and everyone involved has an improved situation as a result of the crime.
I had fun telling of this crime to a university class many years ago. It caused much angst, let me tell you as it was a university course module on morals and morality.
To this day, no-one has been able to square this crime with bad morals. So let me share it with you now, dear blog reader, even though it is a long read:
Ann and Peter had moved into the house neighbouring my brother’s, and one balmy summer’s evening, we all got chatting over the boundary fence. This is Ann’s tale about how she got the house for free.
Ann had a husband, Jim, who was mistreated her. She eventually ran away to stay with a friend who owned a Tee shirt stall in the Savoy Centre on Sauchiehall Street. Ann helped her out and gradually took it over – eventually the friend sold it to her.
And that was it for a while. Ann owned and ran the stall and started dating Peter, the student who helped out on Saturdays, and who was many years Ann’s junior. Her divorce proceedings became messy; Jim was most upset that Ann had “moved on”.
“It got to the point where I was scared of what Jim would do next.” She told us. “It was horrible, a real mess, a very bad time for me, and for Peter too.”
“What did he do?”
“Oh, it’s not what HE did, it’s what WE did,” said Peter.
“What do you mean?”
“What Peter means is that I went a bit crazy. I went ‘off the rails’. I felt I had nothing to lose, you know?” said Ann.
“This sounds ominous,” I said, “What was it – revenge? attempted murder? – what?”
“Oh, no, nothing like that, I just told a few lies and bought a house!” she said.
She went on to explain that they needed to get away some place where Jim couldn’t find them. She’d left her friend’s place, and moved in with Peter, but the address was known, and the area was pretty rough anyway.
She went to an Estate Agents and saw a large and luxurious house facing Whitecraigs Golf Course. She managed to get a mortgage because she was a business owner, and had basically “exaggerated” the business margins and her income.
Suddenly Ann and Peter were living in a fantastic house!
“My thinking was ‘sod it’; we’re going out in a blaze of glory. I didn’t care anymore. If I still had to be married to Jim, then he could be made to pay any of my debts.” Ann declared.
They received a letter six weeks into their stay. It was a reminder from the mortgage company that they had missed the first month’s mortgage payment.
They got another letter the following month. And the next. And the next. By the sixth month, the wording had strengthened to threats about repossession by court order. All letters were tossed carelessly in the bin.
Having such a salubrious address, they furnished the place well, and tossed the invoices into the same bin. They were living the high life.
They shopped, they reclined in the hot tub, they enjoyed the whirlpool bath and the sauna. What a life!
Of course, this could not go on indefinitely, and they started to fly close to the wind. They timed their escape well, and got clean away, quietly and suddenly.
And that was that, or so Ann thought. She and Peter had fled to England to relatives of his. They planned to start rebuilding their lives once things had died down regarding Jim and the house.
Then one day a private detective tracked Ann down. She didn’t see any point in protesting or denying anything.
“Yes, I’m her; it’s me” she told the detective, coming clean.
He handed her a cheque for a substantial amount of money from the building society.
She was stunned, “I – I don’t understand…” she gasped.
The detective explained what had happened.
The Building Society applied to the courts for a repossession order. This means that they get to sell the house so that they can recoup their money. They are only legally allowed to recoup all the capital they had loaned – plus all the missed interest payments – and a little bit on top for admin and legal costs. Nothing more.
The house value had dramatically increased since Ann had bought it, so when it was sold, it returned more money than the Building Society could keep, so they had to track her down and give her the money as it was legally hers.
This was the money she used to buy the house next door to my brother’s – so she got it for free.
Now then, let me explain the tale from a morality standpoint:
Ann bought the house, so the sellers were happy as they got the amount they needed or wanted. The Estate Agent got their fees, and the Building Society got all the fees and charges too. Even the Conveyancing Solicitors got paid in full. Everyone is happy. Everyone got well paid.
When the house was sold, the people who bought it got it cheap as it was a repossession, and they are marketed low for a quick sale, so they are happy. The lawyers and estate agents all made money and were happy too.
The Building Society got all the money back, plus interest and charges. So they made profit and were happy. The detective too made money and is happy.
All the debts regarding furniture and everything associated was paid in full and penalties paid too. So they were happy.
Jim had realised what they were up to, and went for the quick divorce to avoid becoming jointly and severally responsible for his wife’s debt.
Ann and Peter got a home of their own, it was mortgage-free, so they could survive on the small income from stall business.
And that’s the tale. A crime, yes, but it turned the economy over big time – a lot of people mad a lot of money, a lot of goods and services were consumed. Everyone involved in this was happier and better off at the end than they were at the beginning.
How can this be immoral or wicked?
The whole thing hangs on a rising house market; if the market had been flat or prices falling, it would have been a very different story. In a very real sense, the happiness outcome, the criminality, the actual morality of this case depends entirely on the economy – the interest rates set by the Bank of England, the control of unemployment and inflation by the Government.
That’s an interesting idea, isn’t it?