Diss betting shop staff turn detective and save pensioner’s life

Michael Base, 72, with Jamie Scales (right) and his Betfred colleague, Jack Bell. Picture: Jon Parker Lee.
Michael Base, 72, with Jamie Scales (right) and his Betfred colleague, Jack Bell. Picture: Jon Parker Lee.

Two betting shop staff members have saved a Diss pensioner’s life after they discovered him collapsed at home – after failing to show up to place his daily bets.

Michael Base, 72, visited the Betfred shop in Mere Street twice-daily for more than a decade, usually placing £1 wagers on the football, horse races and the lottery.

Michael Base, 72, with Jamie Scales (right) and his Betfred colleague, Jack Bell. Picture: Jon Parker Lee.

Michael Base, 72, with Jamie Scales (right) and his Betfred colleague, Jack Bell. Picture: Jon Parker Lee.

But, when he failed to show up for a couple of days, the betting shop’s staff became concerned and decided to track him down.

Turning detective, deputy manager Jamie Scales and colleague Jack Bell checked through betting slips for Mr Base’s distinctive hand-writing to establish when he last turned up.

The pair knocked on doors in the town and asked residents if they knew where Mr Base lived.

Mr Scales said the 72-year-old, nicknamed Popeye, is very recognisable and carries a distinctive tartan bag.

I don’t think Jamie and Jack saved my life – I know they did

Michael Base

Finally finding his address, they peeked through the letterbox and spotted the bag in a hallway.

The pair called the police when they got no response from knocking on the door.

Mr Scales said: “I knew something wrong when I saw that tartan bag because he’s never seen without it.”

He then knocked on the door of retired carer and Mr Base’s friend, Glen Bingley, who said he’d not been seen by Mr Base for awhile.

Officers broke into Michael’s semi-detached home and found him slumped on the floor where he’d been for at least four days.

Mr Base spent a month in intensive care after he was found in a diabetic coma.

The 72-year-old said: “I don’t think Jamie and Jack saved my life – I know they did”.

Mr Scales said: “I left the police to sort things out and they rang me later to say ‘really well done, he was on his last breath’. I’m just so happy he’s all right and that I got there on time.

“Jack and I work different shifts and we had to check with everyone who knew Michael including customers before we went into the company’s systems to ensure no other staff member had taken a bet from Michael while they weren’t there.”

Mr Base, who worked at the Grampian chicken factory for 44 years, always went to his betting shop when the best bets were on at midday and 5pm.

Mr Bell added: “He knows his different types of bets and is aware of when you can get the best odds.

“His favourites are football accumulators. He always has a smile for us and the customers who would love to see him back in here enjoying himself.”

After the rescue, Mr Base said: “I don’t really know how I ended up on the floor in a coma at home but it was obviously to do with my diabetes.

“I was only a few yards from my tablets but couldn’t reach them”.

Mr Base’s neighbour Glen said: “He’d have died had it not been for the Betfred fella going round.”

Mr Base was kept on a drip whilst being cared for in the Intensive Care Unit at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for a month. He spent time in a respite unit and is now being cared for in the Culrose House residential home in Dickleburgh, where Mr Scale and Mr Bell have visited him.

While visiting, the pair passed on best wishes from customers who have been missing Mr Base – who once gifted staff and customers out-of-date croissants from a bin, laughing as he told them the wrapper was still on.

Hans Daugaard-Hansen, operations director at Culrose House care home, said: “Michael is a very lucky man. He’s a mischievous and bright fella who is lucky to be alive . He certainly loves his racing.”

Mr Base said: “I miss going to Betfred where I’ve had some good winners over the years including £350 on the horses once.”

Betfred boss Fred Done said: “Jamie and Jack clearly went the extra mile to help a regular customer. They did brilliantly and are a credit to the company.

“I am delighted Michael is on the mend and hopefully we’ll see him back in the shop where he clearly enjoys his daily flutter.”