Monday, February 18, 2008

British mediums help find missing soldier’s remains

Soon after her soldier son Blake Hartley went missing in France three years ago, Sally Perrin’s attempts to find him led her to two British mediums, Gordon Smith (left) and Dennis Mackenzie (right). She hoped they would tell her that he was alive and maybe, for whatever reason, had defected and was living happily in Spain or Italy. But both confirmed, independently, that Blake was dead and his body was in a river.

The evidence was specific enough for Sally and her husband, Blake’s stepfather, to focus their search on a particular stretch of a river that ran close to where he and other soldiers had camped. A bone eventually recovered from debris close to the spot indicated by the mediums has been confirmed by DNA to be Blake’s.

Gordon Smith was the first medium to be contacted by Sally Perrin after Blake, aged 25, went missing on 8 August 2004, soon after finishing his second term at Sandhurst Military Training College. He was leading eight other lads on an army adventure-training expedition to France. They pitched their tents at Chamonix, an alpine town close to Mont Blanc which Blake knew well, and after a couple of beers went into town for a meal.

After visiting a few bars they ended up in a nightclub from which Blake and another of the soldiers departed between 2am and 3am. On the route home, Blake disappeared into a garden but the other man said he had decided not to follow and made his own way back to the campsite. And that was the last anyone saw of Blake. No one was particularly concerned, believing he would turn up next morning, so police were not informed until mid-afternoon.

Blake Hartley had apparently disappeared without trace. No body was found in the river. No sightings of him were reported. And a website set up by Sally Perrin produced no new clues. It was then that she decided – though not a Spiritualist – to seek psychic help. Someone recommended Gordon Smith, a medium with such a good reputation that getting a sitting with him is virtually impossible except for the most deserving cases.

Blake’s mother decided to drive to Bristol to see Gordon Smith give a public demonstration of his mediumship and, in the second half, took advantage of a question-and-answer session to ask, “Can you help me find my son?” He agreed to give her a private reading, in London, and as well as providing a wealth of information which, Sally Perrin says, “he couldn’t possibly have known”, he confirmed her son was dead.

He “saw” people chatting around Blake in a bar or nightclub and a new mate he barely knew was with him. He also described a raging river with steep banks on either side, surrounded by marshy flat land with mountains in the background. It was in this river that Blake’s remains would be found – but not, he predicted, until towards the third anniversary of his disappearance.

Gordon Smith had made it a condition of the sitting – because of the already heavy demands on his time – that the Perrins should give no publicity to his involvement. And that is a promise they have honoured. No mention of him is to be found on the website ( that has provided regular updates on their search ever since Blake disappeared.

LifeChangingMessagesWeb.jpgNow that the case has been solved, the Scottish-born medium has agreed to reveal his involvement in the case in a new book – his fifth – from Hay House: Life Changing Messages. And in it Sally Perrin tells her story in her own words, in a very moving but down-to-earth 10-page contribution.

In an interview with, Sally Perrin added further details of Gordon Smith’s involvement and explained how the other medium, Dennis Mackenzie, came to be involved.

Referring to Blake’s death, Gordon Smith had told his mother that he could “hear” fast moving water and felt his body was near a weir, 60 kilometres south of Chamonix. Having accepted that Blake was dead, they wanted closure by finding tangible evidence of his fate. But his body could have been anywhere in a 100-kilometre stretch of river. Fortunately, Gordon Smith’s reference to the weir narrowed the search to a specific point, some 60 kilometres from where Blake had disappeared.

“In fact, there were two weirs close together,” Sally Perrin told us.

She would have liked Smith to visit Chamonix with her and her husband to assist in the search but his commitments – he’s probably the most-travelled medium, right now – did not allow it. Instead, at the recommendation of someone who had seen the Blake Hartley website, they turned to Dennis Mackenzie, a Cambridgeshire medium who was featured in Goodbye, Holly, written by the father of Holly Wells, one of the two girls murdered by Ian Huntley in what has become known as the Sohan Murders.

Mackenzie’s reading provided psychic confirmation of Blake’s death and the fact that his body was in the river. What’s more, he also agreed to accompany David and Sally Perrin to Chamonix to assist in the search – and an ITV Central television news film crew went too.

Not only did they film Mackenzie with the Perrins at the point where he said Blake had gone into the river, but he even traced the final route taken by Blake and his companion, even walking through someone’s garden to the river bank.

Dennis Mackenzie gave us his version of the Chamonix visit and is particularly pleased that his psychic investigation was recorded on film. He made special reference to stopping in front of a red door – which turned out to be the nightclub visited by Blake and his companions – and described events that took place inside. He also claimed to have given the Perrins a name of someone involved.

“Dennis retracing Blake’s final steps was mind-blowing,” Sally Perrin told us. “We’d already established the route Blake had taken in advance and he was spot-on.”

And the nightclub?

“Yes. He came out with a very detailed explanation of what happened in the nightclub: there were a lot of details that have not been published at all about what happened in there, that the boys had told me about, and he came out with that as well. Quite extraordinary.”

What about the name that was given?

“I recall he gave us one name – it was the very unusual nickname of one of the lads who was with the person I suspect knows more than he is saying.”

The mediums had done as much as they could at this point. It was now left to the river and a local man, Joseph Dancet, to offer up the hard evidence that the Perrins needed.

In May 2006 – long after the readings and the visit by Dennis Mackenzie to Chamonix – Joseph contacted Sally Perrin after seeing her website to tell her he had seen a body, which he was certain was Blake’s, 10 days after he disappeared. He had informed the French police but they didn’t seem to believe him.

The couple flew out to meet Joseph who pledged that he and his friend, Claude Antoine, who knew the river well, would do everything they could to help find Blake’s remains. True to his word, that’s what they did for the next eight months, whenever conditions in the icy-cold, fast-running river allowed.

Sifting through huge amounts of debris with strange rakes they managed to recover a human femur on 30 December 2006. DNA proved it was Blake’s. It was virtually two years and five months since Blake had mysteriously vanished.

“It was found in exactly the kind of area Gordon had described,” Sally reveals in Life Changing Messages. “Annoyingly, it was found just a few yards further south of the place where every search that we had conducted had ended, just downstream of a bridge that denotes the beginning of the torrent, where, according to the police, bodies do not get caught up!”

After Joseph had recovered the femur, the Perrins watched as police reconnoitering the area found two more bones which were examined to try to establish the cause of his death.

blake_picture.jpgSo, did Blake just fall into the river after drinking too much – a river whose dangers were well known to him and about which he had warned others?

Or was there more to his death than a simple accident? Sally Perrin believes there was, and is sure not only that at least one person knows the answer, but also that the British Army’s report on the incident is a “whitewash”.

It could have been an accident following an altercation in which the other person is afraid to tell the truth for fear of being prosecuted. Or it could even have been murder. The one person who does know is Blake Hartley, but he’s not saying.

“Gordon Smith told me that he doesn’t want to say, because of a code of honour,” Sally Perrin told us. “But when I pushed him to ask Blake for more information, he said Blake was showing him a large initial. And that’s the initial of the person who I believe knows more than he is saying.”

However, what matters most to Sally Perrin is that Gordon Smith and Dennis Mackenzie ended the dreadful uncertainty about her son’s disappearance and Blake has assured her that he is happy in the next world.

“And I often have to stop myself in those deep moments of grief and remind myself of those words.”

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