COVER

Tears and lost wealth

D’ARCY JENISH July 6 1998
COVER

Tears and lost wealth

D’ARCY JENISH July 6 1998

At home with ‘Ron’ and ‘Noël’

During Albert Walker’s six years on the run in England with his daughter Sheena, she gave birth to two children. Here, in excerpts from a forthcoming book, is an account of their life at those critical times. It begins in Devon, England, in 1993, where they rented a cottage from sisters Carole Poole and Judith DiMarte, who knew Albert as Ron Platt and Sheena as Noël.

BILL SCHILLER

It was fall now, and the Walkers had migrated and metamorphosed yet again. It was as if this had become their autumn ritual. They had picked up and moved three times in four years, not just geographically but psychologically, moving further and further away from their ever more distant Canadian reality. All of that south-central Ontario flatness, once so familiar, was growing dimmer, hazier and a little | more out of focus. Albert was skilfully removing

Sheena from her past, creating a tightly controlled present, one from which she could not escape and, hopefully, from which she would not wish to escape, provided he could make it attractive enough and exciting enough, provided he could make her believe that they were partners

engaged in a common enterprise—but partners in a plan in which she would always defer to him. He made the plans. He set the rules. He was the mastermind capable of achieving anything.

On Wednesday, Sept 22,1993, at Tiverton and District Hospital in the County of Devon, Sheena Walker gave birth to a girl. They called her Emily Jane Platt A month later, Albert filled out the birth registration form: “Father: Ronald Joseph Platt. Place of birth: Wallasey, Merseyside. Occupation: Artist. Mother: Elaine Claire Boyes. Occupation: Artist Place of Birth: America.” In the space allotted for the two signatories of the form to identify themselves was written: “Father, Mother.” One would have thought that, as a man in his late 40s, “Ron” was a bit old to contend with the 24-hour demands of a newborn. Yet he was invigorated by it. In fact, he appeared to the sisters to do almost everything. He cooked, he cleaned, he changed diapers, he played with Emily, he cooed to her, tossing her up in the air and teasing “Dada”

From their perspective, he was every inch the image of the new man: sensitive, caring and unafraid to pitch in and do what other men of his generation might consider women’s work.

from her again and again.

He did so much, there were times it seemed as though he were looking after two children. “It is remarkable,” Carole said to Judith one day, “I mean he is old enough to be Noel’s father.”

True. That probably explained why Ron went to such extraordinary lengths to appear young. The sisters noted his hair was dyed black, with occasional patches of embarrassing grey bursting in from time to time; and there were always those tight jeans. Far too tight for a man his age, they felt. “It’s a bit sad, really, isn’t it?” Judith said. “But with such a young wife, he probably feels the pressure.”

Albert was a chameleon. He knew how to adapt. In Harrogate, he’d fostered his image as Noël’s caring and protective father. In Devon, he was Noël’s romantic older husband. “Would you like to see our bed?” Ron enthusiastically asked the sisters one day, before leading them up the staircase to see the massive mahogany lit bateau he’d managed to squeeze into their pine-panelled bedroom. It was the same one he’d brought from Harrogate. He did seem romantic.

Despite the depressing Christmas, the month of December, 1995, hadn’t been all bad. In fact, for Sheena, it came not with a silver but a golden lining. Dec. 5,1995, had marked the fifth anniversary of the Walkers’ flight from Canada together, five years of an entirely new life. Albert gave Sheena five gold bars. It was the stuff of fairy tales, strengthening and solidifying her loyalty—a loyalty that was remarked upon by several acquaintances as something resembling outright subservience. Except for Emily, Albert was everything to Sheena now: provider, teacher, father, husband—Lord. He continued to have a powerful, almost Svengali-like hold over her.

On Jan. 14,1996, in St. Peter’s Hospital in Maldon, Essex, only a few kilometres from the parish where former obstetrician to the Royal Family Dr. Peter Chamberlain invented the forceps in the 17th century, Sheena Walker gave birth to Lillian Claire Platt On the birth certificate, “Ronald Joseph Platt,” whose occupation was listed as “counsellor/lecturer,” was registered as the father, and “Elaine Claire Boyes, otherwise

Lily was brought home from hospital. Emily had a sister. All the neighbors remarked on how the new baby looked “just like Ron.”

Reprinted with permission from A Hand in the Water: The Many Lies of Albert Walker, copyright Bill Schiller, to be published in August by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., Toronto.

Noël Platt,” as the mother. Noël’s occupation was not filled in this time, but her place of birth was again noted as “United States of America.” The couple’s British address was registered as “Little London Farmhouse, Woodham Walter,” and in the box noting the qualification of those submitting the information to the registrar were the typewritten words “Father. Mother.”

Walker cooked, changed diapers and got the baby to call him ‘Dada’