The Foster family lived in Maesbrook.
“Maesbrook, Shropshire, is a beautiful, well-to-do village on the Welsh borders. The houses are vine-covered Georgian mansions. The cars parked in the driveways are Range Rovers and Porsches. The people of Maesbrook are, by and large, self-made millionaires from Birmingham and Wolverhampton, entrepreneurs who've made it big.”
Jon Ronson, Author
Christopher Foster presented the image of a loving husband and a devoted father. Neighbours remember him always laughing and cuddling with his bubbly 49-year-old wife Jill, and how he ‘doted’ on his 15-year-old ‘horse-mad’ daughter Kirstie.
In fact, Christopher was believed to have had at least eight mistresses.
“He wasn’t a good looking guy, but money did the talking.”
Anne Giddings, sister of Jill Foster
It is also believed Jill had affairs. It was what his PA termed an ‘open’ marriage.
His teenage daughter Kirstie loved the horses her father had bought her. But she knew better than to get on the wrong side of his quick temper.
LORD OF HIS MANOR
50-year-old Christopher was not a happy man. He hated being still. When he was at home, despite having a housekeeper, he was always fixing or cleaning something in his three-storey mansion or on his 16 acres of land. His barn was spotless. His riding paddocks and lake were picture postcard perfect.
He had spent £50,000 landscaping his property. He was said to have spent over £200,000 furnishing the inside of his palatial home with antiques. Not all of his purchases were authentic. But then again, neither was Christopher.
He was known in the village as the ‘millionaire’. He’d made his money in the oil business. In 1987 Christopher was just an ordinary bloke from Burnley, married, with a sales job in Wolverhampton. The next year, the Piper Alpha oil platform explosion killed 167 men. Christopher seized the moment. He invented and patented a new chemical formula for oil rig insulation.
“Chris saw this tremendous opportunity. He saw Piper Alpha in flames and considered his opportunity...he put everything into it, he took a risk. It’s one thing Chris was, he was a risk taker. I think you’ve got to admire him for that and making it work...He’d made a lot of money, I mean at one point you know he was bringing product in he was putting a label on it and sending out the door making 50, 60 percent plus mark up. It was a license to print money.”
Andrew Foster, Christopher’s brother
Christopher and Jill went on the first of many first class holidays. They also moved from Telford to the more exclusive Maesbrook and into their new £1.15m home.
“Jill had been shopping in Sainsbury’s and she’d picked up the...’Shropshire Life’ (magazine). And in there was a house that she fell in love with. They went the next morning and Chris put in an offer that very same day...”
Valerie Pitchford, Christopher’s PA
Christopher started to collect classic cars. His collection became a fleet. He had two ‘his and hers’ Porsches, an Aston Martin, a 4x4 for his wife (with the personalised plate, ‘Jill 40’). And to go with his country estate he had a tractor, three horses and four dogs. To complete the image, Jill even owned doves.
But while his insulation invention was award winning and money making, it wasn’t making that much money. Christopher was living on credit. Like many before the credit crunch, he never believed the easy money would ever stop.
Added to that, Christopher had started to behave dishonestly.
In 2003 Christopher had entered into a contract with a company called DRC to manufacture his invention exclusively. In 2004, he’d been worth £10m. But by 2005 his vast spending was outstripping his income. So Christopher tried to break the terms of the deal. DRC successfully sued.
Lord Justice Rimer said at the Royal Courts of Justice that Foster was:
"...bereft of the basic instincts of commercial morality. He was not to be trusted."
The victorious DRC took over his patent. They made it a global success.
Christopher’s company went into compulsory liquidation in September 2007. His salary was stopped and a £3m freezing order was put on his assets. On top of all this, he owed the Inland Revenue nearly a million pounds. For not only was Christopher a bad businessman and a big spender, he was a poor taxpayer. He didn’t pay VAT, National Insurance or indeed much tax of any kind.
Christopher had started to lose control. He was left with nothing to do but stay at home.
ARMED AND SUICIDAL
Christopher’s hobby was clay pigeon shooting which he did every Tuesday. It’s why he was allowed to own guns. Of course, being Christopher, he’d think nothing of spending over £12,000 for a shotgun and £8,000 on a three day shoot. But whereas most use their hobbies to relax, Christopher couldn’t. He had to come to first. He had to have shot more, fished more, and done more than the ‘competition’.
“Jill used to say he was a control freak. He had to be in control of things totally.”
Andrew Foster, Christopher’s brother
Andrew later revealed that when they were young brothers, Christopher had sexually abused him. The brothers hadn’t spoken for years.
Christopher had lost his money making patent, his company, and effectively his wife, marriage and family. When a concerned friend texted him asking if he was OK? Foster replied;
“Not really. I think everything’s coming to a head for me.”
But when Christopher told others that they should look after Jill and Kirstie if he topped himself, they thought he was joking.
By the end, Christopher had remortgaged his home three times. He had 20 different bank accounts. One of them was overdrawn by £330,000. He faced personal bankruptcy.
Christopher obtained antidepressants in the spring of 2008. He went to his GP. He admitted to feeling suicidal.
He confided to a business associate, Mark Bassett, he’d rather take his own life than lose his family home.
“...They’re not having my stuff. I will top myself. They will carry me out of the house in a box.”
A LUCKY ESCAPE?
In July 2008 Christopher was parked up on his tractor. For no reason he could fathom, he decided to reverse the tractor. Minutes later, a ‘massive branch, as big as a tree’ broke off a willow. It crashed down just where he’d been parked. If he hadn’t moved, he could have died.
In August, bailiffs pinned a letter to the gates of the house.
In the week before he died, Christopher looked online at websites dealing with suicide and looked through old photo albums of him and his family.
It’s not known if by this point he had planned that Monday, 25 August 2008 would be the last one of his life.