The Armchair Treasure Hunt Club
A Shut And Open Case - The Solution

This article first appeared in the October 2002 (issue 64) newsletter. Newletters are sent bi-monthly to all current members.

© 2002 all rights reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

by Matt Edwards and Nick Perry

When we were writing A Shut and Open Case, we were keen to construct a hunt that conformed, as far as possible, to the ideals of any armchair hunt, elegant simplicity, style and a good read. We found these hard ideals to reach for but hope we went some way to producing an interesting hunt that appealed to veterans and new members alike. We had hoped that the hunt might last about three months – and getting the ‘level’ of the hunt right was certainly the most difficult aspect of the puzzle.

We were pleased when club hunt veteran, Paul Harkin gave the hunt some concerted thought one weekend and sent us an email containing the correct solution, at 5:30 pm on Sunday 23 September 2001 – just three weeks after the hunt was published. Not quite the three months we were thinking of, but it proved the hunt could be solved at least!

Paul despatched his hunt-setting partner Martin Dennett to the spot where the booty was buried and he arrived in the unlit location at around 9:30 pm. Martin found the marker but in the darkness was unable to locate the buried treasure. Martin returned with Deborah Hatton, a week later, and this time in daylight. They located the booty including the 1985 gold sovereign, after poking around with a skewer to locate a box buried a few inched underground. But Martin and Deborah re-buried some of the found items, along with a note, to give someone else a chance to solve the case.

Shut and Open again

And so the case was shut and opened once more. A solid gold 2001 half-sovereign was on offer to the next person to solve the hunt and dig up the remaining booty, but this time, in an effort to appeal to members who hadn’t previously been successful (we know how they feel!) the second prize was only open to members who had not won a previous club hunt or herring. Paul had proven it could be solved quite easily so we were not expecting the rest of the treasure to remain in its hiding place for long. But months passed, and infuriatingly, we saw correct aspects of the solution, discussed on the club bulletin board over and over again. But no-one seemed to piece it all together like Paul had done previously. We didn’t want the hunt to drag on for too long so we kept drumming up enthusiasm in the club newsletter – firstly dismissing the red herring (which Paul had also solved) – and later printing the most useful parts of the bulletin board discussion in the newsletter.

And then, one year and one week after the remaining booty was re buried, the venerable club treasurer and co-ordinator, a name know to us all, Sandra Young, finally cracked it. Remarkably Sandra hadn’t previously won a club hunt or herring and this was a well-deserved win. Sandra and her husband John dropped everything and set off the next day to dig up the booty and close the case for the final time.

The Solution

So how did Paul and Sandra work it all out? Well the instructions for solving the hunt can be summarised in one sentence:


The newspaper article included with the evidence, suggests that the stolen statements contain hidden information directing you to the booty. Clark’s outburst in court tells you how to extract this information: “Ignore the lies and the truth will out” – he claimed.

Examining the police transcripts reveals that the suspects’ answers are indeed full of lies – which we discuss in more detail later.

Working through each of the suspect’s interviews reveals that each told the truth just once. ‘Ignoring’ or eliminating the lies leaves one true answer for each suspect:

Ray Eastham – his second answer is true, beginning “Now and again…”

Stuart Finch – his last answer is true, beginning “Apply to the landlord…”

Terence Clark – his fourth answer is true, beginning “Pictures of some new insect stamps…”

The next stage in the hunt involves more elimination of the lies, but a pointer lay in the first words of the truthful answers, which read:


The words were carefully chosen to work in any order and to show that this was not a coincidence – a useful confirmer that the correct statements had been found:


With three pictures and three suspects it would seem logical that each of the pictures relate to a different suspect. Indeed such a correlation could be found in one of two ways. Firstly from clues in the statements themselves:

Ray Eastham relates to the photo from Paddington Underground – “I took some big cheese from Paddington…”

Stuart Finch corresponds to the photo of the cab on Piccadilly – “I got a cab back from Piccadilly

Terence Clark links with the picture of the bus to Chelsea – “…an old chap who comes in regularly from Chelsea

Secondly, there was a connection between the numbers appearing in each picture, and the numbers (in the form of both words and digits) appearing in each suspect’s answers. For instance Clark mentioned the ‘News at 10’ and later on, ‘a set of six silver candlesticks’. The numbers 10 and 6 appear only in the picture of the bus – on the ‘Standing room’ notice and bingo advertisment respectively.

Continuing the theme of ignoring the lies, the numbers appearing in the suspects’ discredited statements could similarly be eliminated from the pictures, leaving, from each picture, a set of numbers that have not been eliminated.

So, the first stage involved eliminating the lies in the statements and identifying one true answer for each suspect. And the second stage involved eliminating numbers in the corresponding photographs.

Suspect Picture Numbers (Lies Remaining)
Eastham Tube 1 2 4 8 11 27 78 95 200
Finch Cab 1 2 5 7 16 18 25 33 38 74
Clark Bus 3 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 34 69

The final stage was simply to put the information together and apply the numbers back to the corresponding truthful statements. Quite simply, the numbers indicate which words to pick out of the corresponding truthful answers. The result is that each suspect reveals one key phrase to point to the stash.


The North Downs Way is a National Trail, very little of which actually falls within the M25. Examining a map around Junction 6 of the M25, near Oxted, Surrey shows the borough of Tandridge, and Tandridgehill Lane crossing the motorway and running alongside the North Downs Way, up Tandridge Hill, to Hanging Wood at TQ 369 536. All that remains is to make sense of Eastham’s clue: OFFSIDE BACK LIGHTS.

There is a car park at the top of Tandridgehill Lane, and a signpost for the North Downs Way. Following the finger pointing down the path alongside the lane and into the woods for about 50 metres takes you to a rather surprising landmark for a National Trust property - a burned-out car. Now we know what happened to Ray’s minicab! The treasure was buried in a steel cash box in front of a tree root, beneath the car’s offside back lights.

The gold sovereign was inside the cash box amongst a number of other items taken by the gang during the robbery, such as 1985 stamps, (fake) bank notes and pre-1985 coinage.

There was also a note congratulating the finder, in which we managed to correctly predict the winner in our list of likely suspects!

The Lies & Truths in more detail

The intention with the statements was to make the lies relatively easy to research, so that those without internet access would not be disadvantaged. We created lies that a trip to the library or a good bookshop would easily expose – in fact a volume such as Whitaker’s Almanac 1986 could help out with most of the time-related statements.


“Reading a book…” is a lie. The author of First Among Equals is indeed Jeffrey Archer. But, he was made Deputy Party Chairman in September 1985. This was long after the day of the robbery (6 April).

“Now and again…” is true. The Millwall v Luton FA Cup tie did take place in March, and was marred by riots.

“Go to the high street boys…” is a lie. Ray needs a monkey (£500) to pay for his new gear box. If he borrows a ton (£100) and wins at odds of 11-4, he ends up with just £375. Not enough to pay for the new gearbox that Ray claims he bought with his winnings.

“Don’t talk to me about that old rust bucket…” is a lie. If Ray set off at 8:30 and waited 2 hours for the AA man who arrived at midday, he would have to have driven all the way to Leeds (190 miles) and back to Watford in about 90 minutes!

“Our next door neighbour…” is a lie. A sneaky one. Second class stamps did cost 13p for most of 1985, but were reduced to 12p for Christmas – so Ray actually had 200 second class stamps from before Christmas – and certainly not first class ones which were 17p.


“Victory! For me that is…” is a lie. FA Cup semi-finals are always played at neutral venues. So he couldn’t have picked the two teams playing at home.

“No - not with Terry…” is a lie. Live Aid took place in July 1985, not in April as Finch claims

“That’s a joke…” is a lie. Frankie Goes to Hollywood were not at number 1 at any point during 1985.

“Apply to the landlord…” is true. The confirmer was that Rubik, the inventor of the cube, is indeed Hungarian


“Enjoying a film…” is a lie. Out of Africa is an epic 2hrs 35mins long. There’s no way Tel could have watched an 8’o’clock showing and made it back for the start of News at 10.

“Trick of the trade” is a lie. Iris is not the river goddess, she’s the goddess of the Rainbow

“Under my covers…” is a lie. If Tel hadn’t changed his clock for the summer time (put it 1 hour forward), then it would be one hour behind and at 11’o’clock it would strike 10 times, not 12.

“Pictures of some new insect stamps…” is true. The stamps described are exact descriptions of a set released in 1985, just before the date of the robbery. (We placed some postcard replicas in the treasure cash box!)

“A little over three months…” is a lie. Ivory would not be an appropriate present for a 10th wedding anniversary. Stu Finch should have been looking for something made from tin.

The Fishy Codes

The set of codes in the document references at the top of each interview transcript were a complete red herring, and were described fully in the April 2002 newsletter.

To recap, they were totally irrelevant to the hunt’s solution. They worked well in slowing people down at the start, and did lead to a very conclusive end point for those who cracked them such that one was left in no doubt that they were not relevant.

In each case, the name of the police officer conducting the relevant interview told you what type of code was being used.


The easiest code to crack was the CAESAR cipher – with a ‘shift’ of 17. Hence by shifting each code letter back 17 places, the solution POSTCODE could be obtained. This told you what you were looking for.


The VIGENERE cipher was also straightforward (especially for anyone with a copy of The Code Book) as we gave the letters to be used on the Vigenere square: DLV. The solution was ADVERT. This told you where to look to crack the third cipher...

D C Elaine BEALE: 10-13-18 / 9-19-3

This was a BEALE cipher. Beale ciphers involve counting the words from a specific piece of text, and taking the first letter of each word found. Consequently, the reference to First Among Equals in this transcript threw many people off track. The code puzzle was in fact self contained and did not involve the transcripts. The place to look was revealed by the Vigenere answer - ADVERT. By counting through the words and numbers in the newspaper advert for Bugzaway, the solution could be obtained: E14 5ST

We hoped that this would be quite an exciting discovery, because postcodes do narrow down very specific areas. There are several ways to find the area represented by a postcode. One of them is to type the postcode into an internet site such as Typing this postcode into such a site revealed a large arrow pointing directly at... Billingsgate Fish Market!

Other Diversions and Hints

The page numbers at the bottom right of each transcript were meaningless, but we did create a hidden message for anyone who used them to pick out words from the suspects’ answers like this:

‘1 of 5’ = ‘take word 1 of answer 5’ = OUR

‘2 of 5’ = ‘take word 2 of answer 5’ = LITTLE

‘3 of 3’ = ‘take word 3 of answer 3’ = JOKE

The Bugzaway advert was mainly there to help complete the Beale code, but there was also a pun to confirm the hunt’s method of ruling out lies: “ELIMINATE LICE FOREVER!

The M25 Limits article just confirmed what you already knew - that the treasure was to be found within the M25.

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