My retrospective piece about the Wycherley Murders has now been published on the Mansfield Chad, the news outlet that first broke the story.
It was actually lovely to be able to write the article for the publication that first broke the story, or perhaps more through which I broke the story.
Here’s the start of it.
It was raining outside, grey and horrible and it was a quiet day in the office – one of those where there was nothing much going on . . . the worst sort of days when you’re a reporter.
I was on the calls shift, as it was then . . . things are very different now. Back in 2013 you’d call the police every hour to see what was happening, you’d call the fire service and basically deal with all the breaking news.
Then I saw a conversation on a Facebook page, people discussing a forensics tent that had been put up in the back garden of a house in Forest Town . . . talk that they had found bodies in the ground. The cul de sac Blenheim Close was mentioned.
I grabbed my phone, my pad and a handful of pens and headed to the scene, while colleagues got on the phone to the police.
It wasn’t difficult to spot. As I pulled over there were two police officers stationed at the top of the road, guarding the property on the corner; the tent clearly visible from the road.
I hadn’t even got out of my car when the mobile rang. The office. Police confirmed two bodies had been unearthed and removed. They wanted to make it clear it was a historical find, no mad axeman on the loose, sort of thing.
You can click on or paste the link to read it in full.
I was contacted yesterday by a researcher who I dealt with hen they were making a documentary on the Wycherley Murders a few years back, in a true crime series called A Town and Country Murder. I spoke on it, alone with, as he was then, DCI Rob Griffin.
In a nutshell, the episode has been bought by Pick TV and is re-branded under their ‘Killer in Your Village’ brand – I’m guessing on the back of the Olivia Colman drama, so it looks like the case is set for even more publicity.
Can you imagine dragging two dead, bleeding bodies down a couple of flights of stairs, not long after you’ve just shot them.
Can you imagine digging a pit in the dead of night, throwing the corpses in and covering them with topsoil.
Can you imagine going to B&Q the following morning and buying a load of bedding plants to cover the burial scene.
Can you imagine spending the next seven years routinely going back to the burial site to keep it maintained, to keep it looking normal, to stop it from drawing attention.
Ironically, this very act did just that.
In the years following the Wycherley’s murders, the only thing that neighbours found odd was ‘the young couple’ – Susan and Chrisopher Edwards – turning up, from time to time to do the garden.
It’s one of the first things that I was told, and it has, ultimately, created the title for the new drama that will be made later this year.
It goes a little too far, I would suggest.
In their evidence, Susan and Christopher claimed it was really an act of panic – they were faced with two dead bodies, they had to get rid of them to evade capture. They thought about hiding the Wycherleys’ remains in the attic, but they realised that they would smell, and neither of them had the physical strength to lug the remains of two dead adults over their heads, up a ladder and into a loft space.
But they could take them downwards . . . gravity would help.
So they had lumped them down the stairs; heads banding on step after step; William “as stiff as a board”, Patricis “loose and gurgling” . . . blood pouring out of her.
It would ultimately be part of their story that would lead to their conviction.
Neither of the Edwards were big people.
Christopher was slight; Susan slighter . . . and the notion of them dragging these two, dead human forms down the stairs, through the lounge and into their, almost, final resting place, seemed almost impossible, when it was described during their prosecution.
But they did it.
I have questioned over the years, was this an act of desperation; was this an act of greed and necessity?
Was it both?
In many ways, and this is a key theme of the book; William and Patricia were victims of Susan and Christopher, but Susan was a victim of William, Christopher was a victim of William.
Patricia was more innocent . . . although guilty by her ‘blind eyes’ to her husband’s behaviour. Maybe she just wanted a quiet life. I don’t know.
Was Christopher a victim of Susan. That’s a tricky one. Possibly . . . I would say.
But at what point, after you’ve been bullied and abused – physically, sexually and emotionally – do you become a criminal?
We live in a culture of victims and perpetrators; but the criminal justice system, the courts and the press, never really contemplate the victim . . . or whether they actually deserved the bullets that they got.
William Wycherley was not a nice man. William Wycherley did terrible things. And yet in this black and white world of ‘goodies and baddies’, he is the victim in all of this all the same . . . the vulnerable daughter who he abused, the villain. And maybe we need to look at situations like this through differently-tinted spectacles.
These days I mostly do court reporting – I turn up at various magistrates’ courts around the East Midlands and I ‘see what the cat has dragged in’.
It’s a weird experience, sitting in magistrates.
There’s the notion of court . . . the expectation. If you’re not used to it you sort of expect Rumpole of the Bailey; oak-panelled decor, people in wigs and gowns, a stern-looking judge wearing a red cloak.
In fairness, that’s how it was for the Wycherley trial . . . when Susan and Christopher Edwards’ version of events was put under the microscope, pulled apart and rejected.
But magistrates’ courts are a wholly different entity.
You do get some really serious stuff go through them. Any case has to go there first. A murder case goes there first . . . so Susan and Christopher Edwards made their first court appearnce, following their arrest, at Nottingham Magistrates. The case was then sent immediately to Nottingham Crown Court, where the really serious stuff is tried.
A few weeks ago, there was an alleged double murder in a Derbyshire village, and I went to that – not that you can report much, because as soon as a case is ‘active’ you can’t write anything that could potentially prejudice a jury.
But, by and large, you would not believe what the cat has dragged in.
In the past few weeks, I’ve covered a couple of homeless women who went on a festive shopping spree with a stolen credit card, a bloke who threatened to kill a bouncer for not letting him into a club because he was wearing ‘trackies’, a senior judge accused of assaulting a couple of hunt sab’s, a bloke who lost it with his girlfriend and repeatedly jumped up and down on her new car, causing more than £7,000 worth of damage, and a bloke whose Alsations got out and bit a bloke walking home from work.
My all time favourite, in my log career, was the bloke who stole a bus from a depot in Mansfield, drove it to the bus station and picked up all of his mates, abandoned it on an A Road about six miles away and walked home.
Half an hour later the police were knocking on his front door and he demanded to know how they had found him.
“It’s snowing, you tw@1,” they had replied. “We just followed your footprints.”
This all costs the public purse a lot of money, and is largely the result of poverty, drugs and alcohol . . . I get that.
But there is a large part of you that thinks, “You did fcuking what?” Criminal masterminds, they are not.
I’ll be back to the Wycherleys proper in my next post. Just been stuck in magistrates court all day and needed to get it off my chest.