Rokeby Owes Strike How Much Money?

Believe it or not, this longish post about the child-support money Jonny Rokeby owes Cormoran Strike leads to an attempt (tomorrow!) to figure out whether Leda Strike’s death was a suicide or murder and which of the five principal suspects — Leda herself, Rokeby, Whittaker, Ted Nancarrow, or Dave Polworth — killed her. I think the significant amount of money in question justifies that speculative leap. I look forward to reading what you think about the money owed in the comment boxes below!

Is it possible to calculate the “little nest egg” of money that Strike’s child support money has become between the Spring of 1993, when 18 year old Strike first makes a claim on it, and November, 2014, when he turns 40?

I guess that inquiry assumes one already has a satisfactory answer to the question, “Why would we want to know how much money Rokeby has in the bank that belongs to Strike?

We’ll start there, which requires a review of the history of the child-support money as we learn about it in Troubled Blood.

The first we hear of it is in Strike’s tell-all conversation with Robin after bloodying her nose at The American Bar. He shares the story of his second meeting with Rokeby, Strike age 18, a brief exchange caused by Leda’s having been told that, while Rokeby will not be contributing to her son’s college fund, there is a “nest egg” at hand that will help pay for his education. He presumably goes to get it. Things don’t go as planned.

“Second time we met,” said Strike, “I made an appointment with his management. I was eighteen. Just got into Oxford. We hadn’t touched any of Rokeby’s money for years. They’d been back to court to put restrictions on what my mother could do with it, because she was a nightmare with cash, just threw it away. Anyway, unbeknownst to me, my aunt and uncle had informed Rokeby I’d got into Oxford. My mother got a letter saying he had no obligations to me now I’d turned eighteen, but reminding her I could use the money that had been accumulating in the bank account.

“I arranged to see him at his manager’s office. He was there with his long-time lawyer, Peter Gillespie. Got a smile off Rokeby this time. Well, I was off his hands financially now, but old enough to talk to the press. Oxford had clearly been a bit of a shock to him. He’d probably hoped, with a background like mine, I’d slide quietly out of sight forever.

“He congratulated me on getting into Oxford and said I had a nice little nest egg all built up now, because my mother hadn’t spent any of it for six, seven years.

“I told him,” said Strike, “to stick his fucking money up his arse and set fire to it. Then I walked out.” (723)

Strike does not explain why he explodes at hearing the money he is owed described as a “nice little nest egg,” as if it were a savings account Rokeby had been building up for his prodigal son. Anyone who has read Career of Evil and Strike’s memories of Leda Strike’s married life with Jeff Whittaker, however, a man who married her to get at her Rokeby and Fantoni money, knows why. Leda couldn’t ever convince the gold-digger guitarist and Satanist that the Rokeby-imposed restrictions meant she had no longer had any access to the rock-star’s fortune.

Rokeby was in essence admitting to Strike, bragging on it really, that he had caused Strike’s family, which to Strike means “Mum” and “Lucy,” to live hand to mouth, in squalor, and with Whittaker because Jonny and his lawyers didn’t think she was fiscally responsible. The young man already knew his “mother hadn’t spent it” because of the legal “restrictions” Rokeby had put on it — but to hear it called a “nice little nest egg”? As if the savings produced by his family’s suffering were a benefit to Strike for which Rokeby expected gratitude from his teenage son?

Cue Oedipal outrage.

Now fast forward to the timeline of Troubled Blood.

In his brief 2014 Valentine’s Day conversation, father to son, Rokeby says, “And maybe I can help you out a bit, maybe there’s something you want I can help out with, peace offering, I’m open to suggestions…” (476). Strike explodes, hurls expletives, hangs up on Rokeby, and leaves the Agency office in a rage. He explains to Robin months later as compensation and explanation for his unglued behavior at the American Bar that his understanding of that phone call was “Rokeby rang me in February. First time ever. Tried to bribe me into meeting him.” When Robin expresses surprise at the bribery notion, Strike explains, “As good as [bribery]. He said he was open to suggestions for helping me out… well, it’s forty years too fucking late for that” (721).

He then explains to her the history of his first two meetings with Rokeby and the loan Strike asked for and received from his owed child-support fund in order to start the Agency — and Robin learns only at that moment that the financial pressure the Agency was under from Peter Gillespie to re-pay the loan during the Lula Landry case was a function of Strike’s pride, not Rokeby. The money Strike was paying back was his own money. He’d insisted on a loan rather than being given what he was owed.

Or as Robin asks Strike in rhetorical disbelief on learning this, “That money was yours all along?”

Translation: “We went through all that — for nothing but your self-respect, so-called? You hate Rokeby so much in your Oedipal over-load that you’d lose the business rather than take the child-support money you and your mother were legally owed?”

She doesn’t make the Jeff Whittaker Career of Evil connections because, though she knew about Strike’s step-father as one of Strike3’s trio of suspects, Cormoran did not share with her the facts of his family life in that period with any detail. She does know, however, that Strike believes that Whittaker killed his mother.

We can connect the dots. 18 year old Strike told Rokeby to set the “nest egg” on fire, etc., because Rokeby had all but told Strike gratitude would be his proper posture in receiving it, when Strike felt he was due both the money and an apology for his family not having received it as they were due and for the misery this caused. When just-starting-the-agency Strike tells Gillespie, again, where he can put the “nest egg” -on-fire, after taking part of it as a loan, the money has become something much worse: to Strike it represents, because of Whittaker’s obsession for the pay-outs and his anger in not getting them, one of the reasons, if not the principal reason, that his mother died.

It has, in other words, become blood money and the exteriorization of Rokeby’s Oedipal complex, his desire to kill his father in devotional love to his mother. What he hears in Rokeby’s Valentine’s Day conversation as a “bribe” may have only been the clueless and insensitive Rokeby’s attempt once again to give his son the money in the bank. His whole pitch for a meeting can be read, from “maybe I can help you a bit” to “I’m open to suggestions,” as a man trying to give his son a reminder, even a push to recall that all Strike has to do to get a ginormous check is to ask for it.

He sure isn’t going to offer it to him, given Strike’s behavior at the two previous meetings with Rokeby, Inc., about it. Who wants to be told one more time to put the flaming next egg where he sits? Even Rokeby isn’t that clueless.

Back to the question: “Why would we want to know how much money Rokeby owes Strike?”

Because if it is truly a significant dollar amount, this scenario above makes sense. Rokeby, tax exile and very much aware of his money and the need to take care of it, knows what the 1992 “little nest egg” has become by 2014. If it is hundreds of thousands of pounds, he knows this could make a real difference in his son’s life, won’t cost Rokeby a dime to give over, but, money being a magical thing in the thinking of both the very poor and the very rich, he expects it will at last bring their father-son “feud” to an end.

So, to the original question posed, how much money does Rokeby owe Strike?

The first trick is guessing how much money in child support Jonny Rokeby paid into the account after Leda was ruled incompetent to draw on it without approval and she stopped taking it.

That presents challenges of dating and counting.

When was Leda ruled incompetent and how much was Rokeby paying per month?

In Strike’s tell-all with Robin he tells her the cut-off had happened six or seven years before his second meeting with Rokeby. He has turned 18, which, having been born in November 1974, means we are talking sometime during or after November 1992. The story suggests that Strike goes to see him soon after learning of his admission to Oxford, which, forgive me, I’d assume, being an American unfamiliar with Oxbridge admissions timing, would have come in the Spring of 1993, some four or five months after his eighteenth birthday. Should we assume that his meeting with Rokeby was in the Spring of 1993? Let’s.

One way we can calculate how much Rokeby was paying is to find out the cost of high caste public schools for when Strike was a young man (as in, the privileged school where he met his friend Charlie in Cuckoo).

Then we’d have to calculate what 22 years of interest, assuming that Rokeby didn’t just leave it in a safe deposit box but invested it or put it into a high yield savings account, would do to that sum.

I’m not the one to make this kind of calculations. I turned to our go-to researcher in the UK, Nick Jeffery, and asked if he could give us a ballpark figure for what the “nest egg” had become 1993 to 2014. What follows is his response:

Well, with some assumptions:

1.) Payment begins to accrue from zero in 1985.

2.) Maintenance consists of basic subsistence calculated (£4784 pa in 1985) and average school day fees (£4572 pa in 1985)

3.) Payment stops in 1994 (payment is usually to age 18, or 20 if in full time education)

4.) Payment each year increases in line with UK inflation.

Then, if not invested, the total would be £123,626.

If invested in stocks following the FTSE100 the total in 2014 would be £389,950 (Quite big drops in both 2000 and 2007.)

If invested in a savings account pegged at the Bank of England Base Rate, the total in 2014 would be £417,927 applying compound interest. (Interest rates were greater than 10% up to 1992.)

So we have a range from £123k up to £418k, a fair sum if still some way short of central London office prices.

As always, Nick, brilliant work. Thank you very much!

I’m going to use the savings figure on the assumption that Rowling-Galbraith’s advisers have told her Rokeby’s lawyers would have told him in 1985 that this was the no-fault way to go in order to avoid potential litigation in case of stock market crash or natural disaster. (Neil Blair, the Rowling, Inc., Barricuda Barristers, and her Bertie Bott’s Bean Counters surely all will have been consulted. The author really wants to get the details right!).

For Americans not conversant in pounds sterling, £417,927 translates to $564,167.60, keep the change. Let’s call it half a million dollars even for those out there guffawing at my ignorance of significant figures.

That may not buy a Central London office, as Nick notes, but it would pay the rent for a year or two, no? Not enough for a Stubbs painting of a congenitally doomed white horse, but enough to be getting on with.

And it sure puts Cormoran ahead of Robin’s divorce settlement, which £10,000 after lawyer’s fees and taxes is probably now only a little over £5,000 ($6,750).

If I’m right about Rokeby having this figure at hand, knowing there is more than $500,000 in Strike’s account waiting for him to claim it, that may explain what he meant in his conversation with Strike on Valentine’s Day, i.e., “maybe I can help you out a bit,” “peace offering,” “I’m open to suggestions” might only be an emotionally retarded celebrity’s way of urging his son to pick up his “little nest egg” at last. Al Rokeby no doubt has told his father about where Strike lives. Strike, who has no idea about the sum in question and for whom this money is a potent and valorized symbol of his relationship with his father, of course hears Rokeby’s references as a “bribe,” the most insulting and demeaning interpretation that can be given to the rock star’s awkward overtures.

Which brings us to the natural question: So What? A lot comes to mind, frankly — to include ‘Who Killed Leda Strike and Why?’ I’ll discuss the five principal suspect in Leda Strike’s murder — Leda, Rokeby, Whittaker, Ted Nancarrow, and Dave Polworth — in light of the “nest egg” tomorrow! Stay tuned and please do let me know what you think of the post above!


  1. Louise Freeman says

    I still say Grandpa Whittaker did it. :).

    I’m sure you’ll address this tomorrow, John, but since Strike was over 18 when Leda died, didn’t the money already legally belong to Strike? How would Leda’s death have changed its ownership?

    I must say, if I were Robin, and found out my boss was sitting on a cool half million, after the low salary I’d been earning for three years was a key factor in the break-up of my marriage, I’d be more than a little annoyed…. The yearly interest alone would have been a nice pay raise for her, even if Strike wouldn’t take it for himself. Although maybe this is why he felt OK dropping several thousand pounds on a green dress…

  2. I’m with you, Louise, on the Robin front. He’s just punched her in the nose — and now she learns that the boss has >$500 grand only pride keeps him from accepting and putting to work for their Agency?

    It’s a good thing that Morris showed up for Robin to act out on, “You are my best mate” notwithstanding.

    Who keeps a $500 grand nest egg secret from their best mate-business partner? Let’s try that talking thing indeed.

  3. Louise Freeman says

    Of course, Robin had her pride as far as money goes, too; remember when she left the Flobberworm the first time and vowed not to take more out of their joint account than she put in? And I think if she had pushed back about Matthew’s infidelity, emotional abuse and near-assault, she could have gotten more of the flat proceeds than she did. As it was, she asked only for what her parents had put in.

  4. Rebecca Hocke says

    This is quite fascinating. But I don’t think that Rokeby just paid £9356 pa over 9 years. This would mean that he paid £780 per month. This seems a really small sum for a successful rockstar even in the 80s and 90s.

    And I think Dave Polworth and Ted Nancarrow are no suspects in Leda’s death, especially after Troubled Blood. (I don’t see how the ‘nest egg’ should motivate Ted or Dave in committing murder!) In the Discord Channel Denmark Street, we have a few other suspects too. Some are more outlandish than others but it is quite fascinating that the most popular theory is that ‘Peter Gillespie did it’ followed by ‘Lucy did it’. We also have the Whittaker grandparents as suspects.

    I also think Robin should be a bit more than annoyed about the money that’s sitting in the account for Strike to collect. He should try to reconcile with his father even if it’s just to fulfill the last wish of his Aunt.

  5. I agree with Rebecca that the estimate for Rokeby’s level of support here seems quite conservative! We know that Rokeby was paying more in support than Fantoni, which means the calculations must have been based on total income to some degree. In addition, Rokeby’s money was enough for Leda to take lavish trips to the states, splashing out on hotels and limos, as well as fund other “extravagant” treats – seems like it would take more than the amount you’ve calculated to fund that! It seems possible to me that that nest egg could easily be in the seven figures by now.

    I think the best suspects in Leda’s murder are Peter Gillespie and one (or both) of Whittaker’s grandparents – and I think Lucy is a better suspect than Ted or Dave!

  6. Beatrice Groves says

    I read Robin’s tone differently to everyone else on this thread! – To me – “That money was yours all along?” – was a protective horror on Strike’s behalf that this father had allowed Strike to be hassled by lawyers to pay back money that Strike and his father both know is rightfully Strike’s.

    And – in case it matters for the timing – in 1992 when Strike applied for Oxford, he would have heard back about getting in just before Xmas 1992.

    (Also ‘nest egg’ anyone? Very Leda and Zeus….!)

    Interested to hear more tomorrow John!

  7. I think Louise were saying that Robin could have maybe even should have reacted that way, not that she did. Robin was high as a kite emotionally during the conversation on the rocks, before and after Strike’s declaration of their ‘Best Mate’ status, something of a marriage proposal from the emotionally laconic Western Man, frankly.

    Just before Xmas 1992 means he would have been 18 when he learned, but still pushes the date of his meeting with Rokeby into 1993. I’ll let Nick wrestle with the numbers if he thinks they need adjusting!

    Great catch on the Leda/Zeus “nest egg”! What a riot…

  8. Nick Jeffery says

    The total could easily be estimated up, but in doing so we need to try to guess what Rokeby’s motivation is for making the payments.

    i.) Rokeby has been ordered by a court to make child support payments.
    ii.) Rokeby is making child support payments to avoid being taken to court with the attendant bad publicity.
    iii.) Rokeby is trying to finance the best future for his child, possibly motivated by guilt.
    iv.) This is hush money to stop Leda talking to the media.

    Scenario iv would give the possibility for the highest payments, but as soon as
    Leda is denied access to it, this possibility disappears.
    Scenario iii doesn’t fit with Rokeby’s early interactions with Strike, but even if it was the true reason, would Rokeby really believe that more money given to Leda would improve Cormoran’s life.

    Both i and ii involve either a UK (England and Wales law) court judgement or the threat of a UK court judgement.
    In the UK family court the basic level of child maintenance is set at a universal level (currently £1,723 a month) and only adjusted to reflect the paying parent’s ability to pay. If the couple had been living together then the payment could be ordered to be topped up to maintain the child’s standard of living, but this is not the case with Leda. An argument could be made in court that school fees should be made, but this would be unusual unless Leda could demonstrate that Cormoran had already been settled into private education.
    We know that the support payments did at times cover school fees, so for me the most likely scenario is ii, with school fees added to basic maintenance to allow any case brought by Leda to be quickly struck out.
    The school fees might account for the difference in the Fantoni payments.
    My last bit of circumstantial evidence is the description of the amount. Personally anything in 4-5 figures would be described as “a nest egg”, 6 figures with British understatement is “a nice little nest egg” but 7 figures is heading firmly into the fortune category.
    Finally (and knowing JK’s fondness for accurate statistics) I’m convinced the amount will be exactly what is needed for the plot!

    Happy New Year everyone!

  9. I’ve been reading and thinking about older posts and the Freudian take on Strike’s motivation and actions just feels a little off. I think his life from about eight years on was centered on being able to say to his absent father “you don’t want me and I don’t need you” and simply surviving when he was with his mother. He built up protective mechanisms to block out pain, treating relationships as potential sources of more pain. I suppose he could have been unconsciously looking for recognition from his father, but when I read the passage about meeting with his father at age eighteen my thought was that in his head he had been saying f— you to his father for a long time. The letter Rokeby sent stating he no longer had any legal obligation was the trigger to do it in person. I don’t think he went there for the money.

    Robin has a good understanding of Strike’s internal workings, of his hurt and pride and protective shell. I think she was appalled at the attorney coming after Strike so aggressively for repayment. She knows Strike has been damaged by his past, but she has no problem understanding his desire to stand on his own and admires that about him.

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