Friday, 18 July 2014

Radio Review: 18 July

Just what happened to high-flying 1920s tycoon Alfred Loewenstein?

Written by Louis Barfe
Louis-Barfe-newBWNow in his seventh series as Radio 4’s tongue-in-cheek private investigator, Steve Punt turned his attention last week to the 1928 disappearance of Belgian tycoon Alfred Loewenstein. During a flight on his private Fokker VII , Loewenstein nipped to the loo and never returned. His companions found the lavatory vacant and the plane door flapping open. Did he jump or was he pushed?

Punt surveyed all the theories floated over the years, and noted that if his favoured explanation sounded improbable, so did all of the others. Accidental death was ruled out pretty firmly: external pressure would have made the door hard to open in flight, unless somebody really wanted to open it. Suicide was also unlikely. Loewenstein was a religious man, convinced that those who commit suicide never reach heaven.

This seemed to leave murder as the only explanation, but Punt had begun to favour the idea that Loewenstein, under pressure in his business endeavours, faked his own death. A retired police officer who was an expert in the case was sceptical about whether the body recovered was Loewenstein.

This was a fun and informative half-hour, but Punt went a little heavy on the Alan Whicker-esque puns. Loewenstein had been ‘gone a while’ before it was discovered he’d ‘gone AWOL ’. Punt was also a tad too gleeful in suggesting the tycoon’s valet had gone to check on ‘his master’s movements’.

I can forgive everything, though, if in the next show, about the Baker Street bank heist, he addresses the rumour I’ve heard about what was in the deposit box. Folklore says it was compromising pictures of Princess Margaret, but I’ve been told the 10 by 8s depicted a PM, a heart-throb actor and a lewd act. Fancy.

Punt PI, BBC Radio 4, Saturdays at 10.30am.
Louis on Twitter: @LFBarfe or email:

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