Ray Williams is Hazel Furley‘s live-in boyfriend. He is a former firefighter who was recognized for “brave and meritorious conduct,” according to the framed citation Strike sees hanging over the cistern in Hazel and Ray’s bathroom.
When Strike arrives at their flat in Finchley, Ray answers the door. He has a Geordie accent and is described as a burly, bald man with a bushy gray beard. He’s been crying along with Hazel and their neighbor, so “the eyes behind his glasses were swollen into bee-stung slits and his ruddy cheeks were shining with tears.”
He tells Strike he’s been working nights — to explain why he’s still in a dressing gown in the middle of the day. After Ray goes upstairs to bed, Hazel later explains to Strike that Ray broke his back when he fell three stories while trying to rescue a family from a burning house. Now he’s been relegated to “cash in hand … shift work” because he refuses disability pay and “nobody wants to give him a proper job … not with his back and his age and his lungs not being the best,” according to Hazel.
Hazel tells Strike that Ray was always more patient and better in general in dealing with Kelsey than she was. This fact made it even more infuriating to Hazel when the police roughly questioned Ray in the wake of Kelsey’s murder. It isn’t until photos are presented of Ray at a stag weekend in Shoreham-by-Sea that his alibi is established and he is cleared by the Met.