Much speculation where we live about the identity of the Stonegate fare-dodger, one stop up our railway line. He recently paid £43,000 to Southeastern, the franchise holder, to escape criminal charges after five years of constant cheating on his daily commute to London. Obviously no suspicion falls on such fine local citizens as my fellow former editor of this paper, Dominic Lawson, who uses the station, or the great writer Adam Nicolson, or the distinguished actor Robert Bathurst. It would be appalling lèse-majesté if aspersions were to be cast on Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, who lives nearby. The guilty man is reported to be a hedge-fund manager. There is anger that he has bought anonymity by paying up in full when caught. Because he is unnamed, all the no-doubt numerous, blameless hedge-fund managers who commute from Stonegate are being made to feel awkward. Television cameras film the station. Gossip keeps identifying suspects (‘Can’t be anyone from the village: must be someone from the Heathfield direction.’ ‘What about X? Oh no, can’t be him: he always goes by helicopter.’) Possibly the resentment is tinged with envy that he travelled free for so long. The fact that it costs £43,000 to go to London five times a week for five years is the most shocking part of the story.
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