Jack Shepherd (pictured) may have changed his appearance since going on the run. He was last summer convicted of the manslaughter of a young English Literature graduate who drowned in the Thames in 2015
Tucked away in a corner of rural South Wales is a stone cottage with a well-tended vegetable garden, children’s toys on the patio and a pile of logs for a wood-burning stove.
It is home to a 29-year-old woman — a well-regarded member of the local community — and her son, aged two. She travels daily along single-track roads to her office job in the nearby market town. Her social life centres on the village pub, which is where she saw in the New Year.
Just one thing is missing from this scene of domestic bliss: a husband. Not long after her son’s first birthday, the woman’s spouse left abruptly. He was last seen in March 2018.
What sort of man abandons his wife and forgoes all contact with his only child? His identity offers a clue. The absentee husband is 31-year-old Jack Shepherd, the notorious fugitive ‘speedboat killer’ at the centre of Britain’s biggest criminal manhunt.
On the run since last summer, when he was convicted of the manslaughter of a young English Literature graduate who drowned in the Thames in 2015, the fugitive’s location remains a mystery not just to the mother of his son, but also to the British authorities.
The latest and most compelling theory as to his whereabouts centres on a remote town in northern Thailand, where the Mail this week found one of his friends.
Both Shepherd and his friend are freelance web designers, able to earn a living — using a laptop — anywhere in the world.
Jack Shepherd (left) was found guilty of manslaughter after Charlotte Brown, right, died on his speedboat in the Thames. He was granted legal aid to stage an appeal despite having absconded from justice
The latest and most compelling theory as to Shepherd’s whereabouts centres on a remote town in northern Thailand (pictured), where the Mail this week found one of his friends
Thailand would be perfect: a place where Western backpackers can live cheaply in £150-a-month apartments and remain out of the eyes of the authorities.
Shepherd’s friend — who cannot be named for legal reasons — flew to Thailand last July, telling an acquaintance he was going to ‘be near to’ Shepherd.
A regular source of income for the man has come from a tech firm based in South-West England, which, until recently, has been paying him to work remotely for it.
‘He was working for us as a freelance from South East Asia,’ said a source at the company.
Shepherd may be surviving on a significant financial war chest, having taken out roughly £50,000 in loans in the months after the tragedy that led to his prosecution at the Old Bailey in July.
Described in court as a prolific sexual predator, the jury was told how he plied Charlotte Brown with alcohol at a chic restaurant on the 32nd floor of The Shard in London, before taking her for a late-night ride on a 14ft speedboat he kept for the purpose, he later told police, of attempting to ‘pull women’.
In a crude seduction routine (previously tried, the court heard, on as many as ten other women), Shepherd waved around a bottle of champagne as he drove the 1980s Fletcher Arrowflyte at more than twice the speed limit, in near darkness, from Hammersmith to the Houses of Parliament.
Shepherd’s boat was a death-trap, with faulty steering, a broken ‘kill cord’ (the safety device that cuts its engine should the driver become incapacitated) and a partially opaque windscreen. Life jackets had been tucked out of reach under a container on the floor.
The boat (pictured) capsized near Wandsworth Bridge in central London, throwing both Shepherd and Ms Brown into the cold water
Prosecutors called it an accident waiting to happen. As Shepherd, who’d been warned for speeding at least twice by police in previous weeks, drunkenly careered down the river, Charlotte, a 24-year-old business consultant, was heard exclaiming: ‘Oh my God, you’re going so fast!’
Shortly before midnight, the boat hit a submerged log and capsized near Wandsworth Bridge.
Shepherd was found clinging to its hull, calling ‘Help me!’ (not, it was observed in court, ‘Help us!’). He was also unable to give rescuers his companion’s name.
Charlotte was eventually plucked from the freezing water but she never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead in hospital.
This appalling tragedy occurred in December 2015. Due to legal complexities, it took two years for Shepherd to be charged with Charlotte’s death, and another six months for the trial to start.
By that time, he had decided to vanish. Convicted of manslaughter in his absence, he was sentenced to six years in jail.
Since then, Shepherd has shamelessly remained on the run. Making a mockery of justice and causing untold extra trauma to Charlotte’s family, he was recently allowed to appeal his conviction and sentence from his secret hideaway.
Taxpayers, who had already paid £100,000 towards his legal costs, are footing the bill via Legal Aid.
His solicitors, with whom he remains in contact, are not required to reveal his whereabouts, and say they don’t know anyway.
This scandal, described by Theresa May as ‘shocking’, has attracted global attention. The Mail is offering a £25,000 reward for information that brings Jack Shepherd to justice.
The killer, who is also facing trial for grievous bodily harm after being accused of glassing a hotel barman, has not expressed any regret for the various lives that his actions have shattered.
Perhaps that is no surprise, considering details of Shepherd’s past behaviour which we can now reveal. For behind the facade put up by the computer geek lies an arrogant sociopath with a violent temper, who has betrayed, alienated, or selfishly abandoned almost everyone who has had the misfortune of knowing him.
Above all, his estranged wife and their small son.
Typical of his heartless actions was the fact he married his wife just two months after the fatal speedboat incident. Indeed, as she walked up the aisle, she seems to have been unaware that her groom had, behind her back, spent most of their relationship using internet dating sites to seek no-strings sex with other women.
His infidelity appears to have remained secret throughout her pregnancy, too, during which time they lived in a rented house in Notting Hill, West London.
Indeed, Shepherd’s double life was only really laid bare to his wife two years later, when he was finally summoned to court.
By then, they had moved to Wales. Friends say she discovered her husband’s serial treachery only when details of the manslaughter case — including the fact that Shepherd had met Charlotte Brown on the website OK Cupid — appeared on the news.
As the deceit unravelled, his wife must have realised that her husband’s work life was as much of a charade as his personal one. While portraying himself as a successful web developer, who worked for firms such as Apple, in fact he was deep in debt, having defaulted on around £50,000 in loans seemingly taken out to finance their lifestyle.
The family of Miss Brown (left to right) father Graham Brown, sister Katie and mother Roz Wicken arriving at the Old Bailey, London, for the manslaughter trial of Shepherd (pictured July 2018)
It takes supreme arrogance and selfishness to carry out such a betrayal, but such characteristics have always been his hallmark.
Born Jack Sebastian Shepherd in Torquay in 1987, he grew up in the nearby Devon town of Paignton, with two younger sisters and a younger brother.
His father, a divorcé who worked as a product control administrator, was 40 at the time of Jack’s birth and had already fathered five children from previous relationships. His mother, 26 at the time, was a sales assistant.
The couple ran a health food shop in Totnes and kept what was said to have been a chaotic household (‘the parents were hippy-dippy types who never properly punished their kids’, says one acquaintance).
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They split up when Jack was a teenager. At the time, he was showing promise at South Dartmoor College and had developed a fascination (or perhaps obsession) with computers.
However, he struggled socially and made few friends. After being moved up a year and then back again — ‘because he wasn’t mature enough to handle it’ — he is said to have stolen cash from the shop run by his parents.
A classmate recalls: ‘He was always trying to hack the computer network and threatening people.’
Richard Pennell, a teacher at his school, has recalled Shepherd being a disruptive pupil who ‘caused us a great deal of trouble’.He added: ‘He was an extremely arrogant young man who thought he was better than anyone else.’
He said that Shepherd took great pleasure, for example, from plugging electrical devices into power outlets in order to trip the school’s fuses. It took months for electricians to trace the problem.
‘He had this arrogance about him,’ said Mr Pennell, ‘and we felt at some point something bad would happen — and tragically this is what it resulted in.’
Another incident, in Year 9, resulted in Shepherd being disciplined for refusing to sign exam papers with his real name. He had signed them as ‘Jesus’.
In the school yearbook, which has pictures of every other sixth former (along with a brief remark), Shepherd’s section is blank.
After leaving in 2005, he did not go to university. Instead, he took several casual jobs in Exeter before finding work as a web designer for two local furniture companies, Sleepright and FW Home Stores.
According to an old CV, which he pompously headed ‘You’d be crazy not to hire this guy!’, Shepherd moved to London in 2010 to help work on the internet site design of budget airline FlyBe, before taking freelance jobs at publisher Time Inc and Apple.
Shepherd (pictured, left) took out more than £50,000 in loans after Charlotte Brown’s death (pictured, right, Miss Brown)
In 2013, he also incorporated a web development company, naming it JSS Web after his initials. It was registered to an address in Shad Thames, a trendy riverside street by Tower Bridge, where he was briefly. The firm was struck off by Companies House six months later without filing accounts.
In 2014, Shepherd created another software business, JS Digital, using it to funnel his subsequent annual earnings of around £30,000.
This firm was registered to a series of addresses he occupied during this period, including a rented house in Blackheath, which he shared for about a year with an ex-girlfriend who worked as a dentist, and also a houseboat called the Ying Yang, moored in Brentford.
‘Jack moved around a lot because, frankly, he found it hard to keep friends,’ says an acquaintance from this period.
‘At first glance, he could pass himself off as quite normal, but after a while the mask would slip. There was something slightly odd about him. He also drank very heavily, which could make him aggressive.’
In late 2014, Shepherd moved again, telling friends that he was struggling to afford the Ying Yang’s rent. Next stop was another houseboat, Barge Elsie, moored in Hammersmith, less than a mile from his future wife’s then home.
At around the same time, he was running a Dating In Kent website, which claimed to have more than 7,000 members, with advice on ‘how to impress on the first date’.
Another website linked to Shepherd included a ‘newbie’s guide to no-strings-attached sex’ as well as a section on ‘planning the perfect dirty getaway’.
Both websites have now been closed, along with his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. But historic posts seen by the Mail offer an insight into his double life as a sexual predator.
Four months before the speedboat killing (at a time when he must have been dating his future wife), a young woman called Clare Hyam posted an image of herself ‘drinking champers’ on his speedboat near the Houses of Parliament.
Around that time, Shepherd was conversing with multiple other women online using several dating websites. He posted on Instagram that he’d spent an afternoon ‘offending rowers with doughnuts’ (slang term for a circular boating manoeuvre that creates waves).
A second girl, Amy Warner, gave evidence in court recalling how Shepherd drove recklessly in the speedboat to impress her on a first date.
It was this modus operandi which led to the death of Charlotte Brown. She had been messaging him online for several weeks prior to their ill-fated meeting in December 2015.
Apparently shaken by Charlotte’s death, Shepherd promptly moved out of his houseboat. He married a few weeks later.
In the month before their wedding, he took out four personal loans totalling £35,000, using a variety of former addresses, seemingly to prevent the risk of lenders declining to extend credit.
In April 2016, two months after his marriage, Shepherd took out four more loans, worth around £20,000, and opened two credit card accounts, again using a range of past addresses.
None were repaid, and creditors began legal action in September that year.
Perhaps hoping to avoid them, Shepherd moved to South Wales (where his wife had grown up) shortly after the birth of their child in November 2016, erecting a satellite dish at their remote cottage to receive an internet signal of sufficient strength to allow him to carry out freelance work.
Charlotte’s sister Vicky Coles and Graham Brown told Good Morning Britain how devastated they were by the death and why Shepherd should come back to face justice
At the time, Shepherd presumably hoped the change of scenery would herald a new life. But Charlotte Brown’s death meant otherwise.
On the waterways, there is no equivalent charge to dangerous driving, so it was initially unclear whether he’d be charged with any offence related to Charlotte’s death.
Due to the complexities of the case, the investigation was passed from Wandsworth CID to Scotland Yard’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command.
It wasn’t until September 2017, following a campaign by Charlotte’s family, that Shepherd was charged with her death. A court appearance followed three months later.
His devastated wife hasn’t discussed the details of the case with neighbours. However, they believe that although she knew he’d been involved in a fatal speedboat crash shortly before their wedding, she had no idea it had been caused by his attempts to seduce a young woman.
As soon as she discovered this was the case, Shepherd moved out — first to Abergavenny and then to Devon.
The disintegration of his marriage also saw him begin to drink heavily.
Last March, he was charged with glassing a barman during an altercation at the White Hart Hotel in Dartmoor. Days later, he seems to have decided to abscond.
His victim, a war hero, was apparently knocked unconscious and remains seriously traumatised by the incident.
Shepherd, needless to say, has expressed not a scintilla of remorse for any of his actions. In fact, allies have used social media to claim that he ‘has a good heart’.
Several anonymous Twitter accounts — which he could, of course, be running from Thailand or anywhere else in the world — have sprung up to defend him. One recently claimed he ‘loves’ his son and is ‘missing his family, too’.
The feeling is almost certainly not reciprocated. And if this cowardly fugitive really did love his child or miss his family, then should he not simply come home — be it from Thailand or some other bolt-hole — face justice and make amends to everyone he has hurt?
Additional reporting Emine Simnaz and Sian Boyle in Thailand
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