Landscapers . . .

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.

Landscapers.

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.

Susan and Christopher Edwards

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.

Coming soon . . .

One of the most horrific parts of the Wycherley Murders was the disposal of the bodies.

Tomorrow I’m going to write about how the Edwards disposed of the remains of William and Patricia Wycherley, the lies they told, and the story they concocted . . .

And how one slip in the ‘web of lies’ that they build, contributed towards their conviction.

There might even be a bit more book . . . just a bit.

You did WHAT????????????

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.

Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court, where I spend way too much of my time

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.

Fantacists . . .

Susan Edwards lived in a dream world . . . a surreal world. Susan was plain. Susan was ugly. Susan did not attract the sexual interest and desire of the opposite sex. Unless Christopher Edwards had turned up, Susan Edwards would have died a virgin.

Susan and Christopher Edwards

Perhaps she is . . . I honestly don’t know, but the Edwards did not come across like a sexually-active couple.

It looked more like a friendship . . . two people who had found each other, two people who could not find anybody else. They were the very best that either of them could do. Very sad. Mote than very sad, to be honest because I spent the best part of a month sitting a few metres from them both while this whole sorry story unfolded, and I did not once detect any closeness whatsoever. It seemed more like an arrangement than a marriage. They had been married for years by the time they were caught. They were childless. Did they have problems having kids? Did they choose not to have kids? Were kids never on the cards?

I think the latter. I just don’t think sex existed in their marriage. I think they got off on something else. I think they got off on fantasy.

Quite early in the trial, we heard that Susan had told Christopher that she had once been invited to a hotel room by the late Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly. Christopher had appeared mortified, in the dock, when this was exposed as a fiction.

We heard a bizarre story about Susan Edwards setting up a pen friend arrangement between Christopher and the French actor Gérard Depardieu. Christopher and Gérard ha spent years sending letters, Susan had even bought a franking machine so the actors letters seemed more real. Seemed more like they had been posted from his Paris home. Clearly nonsense . . . but then Christopher had played along with it for years and years.

These games . . .

It was a fantasist’s world . . .

They lived in their own heads . . . in their own fantasies. He was obsessed with Churchill and De Gaulle, her with Silver Screen icons like Gary Cooper, and they spent literally thousands, buying memorabilia, bringing their heroes into their lives . . . into their homes.

At the heart of this was the deepest insecurity . . . that they weren’t great, or notorious or famous, or legendary.

That they were ordinary . . . more than ordinary.

At some point tomorrow . . .

I’m going to write about what the Edwards spent the money on . . . and you won’t believe it, if you don’t know the story,

Blenheim Close

When Susan and Christopher Edwards were arrested at St Pancras Station, they had the clothes they were wearing, a few coppers in their pockets, and a suitcase full of signed photographs from Silver Screen icons like Gary Cooper, which they’d paid more than fifteen grand for.

They were fantasists. They lived a fantasy life. But then how do you work that into a novel?

A bit of my book . . .

Here’s just a snippet from A Garden of Bones. I hope you enjoy.

The room smells of sleep, although it’s already late morning and she’s still sitting in her slippers and a heavy, pink dressing gown. 

Maybe they’re late risers, I don’t know. I don’t ask.

All the windows are shut, the curtains partly drawn with no sun on the front yet, leaving the room – small and darkly carpeted – feeling more like dawn.

She’s let me in moments earlier, unsmiling but not unfriendly. I tell her who I am, she nods, and opens the door a fraction wider – enough for me to squeeze inside and close it behind me.

I offer to take off my shoes but she says it doesn’t matter, so I sit in an armchair, comfortable, old and slightly faded, with a dated floral design. 

She’s old too – not ancient but old enough to have seen a few comings and goings, late sixties maybe, or a little younger.

She’ll talk to me, she says, but only me. She doesn’t want bothering by any of the others, if they come. 

Will you tell them that?

I say I will, knowing it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference. Doesn’t work like that, at least not in their eyes.

“Your . . . husband,” I guess. She doesn’t correct me so I carry on.

“Your husband was just mentioning to me that you might have something to say. You might have something to say about the old couple who lived in the corner house.”

She says nothing at first. She stares at her slippers and occasionally, reluctantly, at me. 

“Is it them in the ground?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I reply. “I expect so. Hard to imagine who else it’s going to be. Did you know them?”

I sit forward, a grubby biro hovering over a blank page in my pad, waiting for her to speak some more. She won’t give me her name. She doesn’t want it going in the paper.

“What if it’s just for me?” I ask.

“Just so I know who you are, just so I can write your name next to these notes I’m making, 

so I’ve got proof I spoke to you if anyone asks.”

“Edna,” she says, suspiciously. “Edna Dawson.”

I write her name in the top left-hand corner of my notepad, certain she’s just given me a pseudonym. 

She doesn’t need to. If she doesn’t want her name in the paper then that’s up to her.

“I saw them,” she tells me, “regular as clockwork. Every day I’d see them walking past. It was always about the same time. Him always ahead by a good ten paces, little and slumped and bent over. Her, tall, broad and ungainly – walked stiff and upright. We thought she might be a man. Odd couple.”

My hand, which has been scribbling frantically, comes to an abrupt halt.

“What, like a cross-dresser?”

“I don’t think she was. I don’t want you writing that,” she tells me, wagging a finger at me.

“She was just so much bigger than him, and always walking behind, like she was a decrepit old dog on a lead.”

A bit about me . . .

Andy Done-Johnson

This is my author bio . . .

Andy Done-Johnson was born and grew up in Derbyshire and studied at The University of Hull. After a stint as a a largely out-of-work actor and barman in London, he returned to Derbyshire where he stumbled into journalism, got married and had a son, who is now a grown-up. Aside from writing, he loves books, walking, exercise, travel, history, art and dogs. He has worked as a print and online journalist for 20 years, largely in the Midlands. In 2013 he broke the Wycherley Murders. This is his ‘version of events’.

Coming out of the woodwork . . .

It’s probably not surprising that, following the news that the Wycherley murders is set to be turned into a major new drama, people who were involved have started talking about it again. I mean, let’s face it, that’s exactly what I’m doing . . . although I’m publishing a book about it.

In a statement issued by Nottinghamshire Police, Chief Superintendent Rob Griffin has shared his memories and thoughts on the case. Rob Griffin – a Chief Inspector at the time – ‘took the call’ when he was working for the East Midland’s Major Crime Unit. We’d probably have called them ‘murder squad detectives’ a couple of decades ago.

Griffin appears as a minor character in A Garden of Bones, along with a number of police officers, pathologists, scientific experts and lawyers. I have made every effort to stick to the record here.

What he does in the book, he did in real life.

Speaking about the case, he said: “I have mixed emotions about the programme being made. It involves victims who have a family and people’s lives have been changed forever because of this. Having said that, I understand why people want to hear about this case. It’s a unique story and I will be interested to see how it plays out on television.”

“I have mixed emotions about the programme being made. It involves victims who have a family and people’s lives have been changed forever because of this”

Rob Griffin

Speaking about the case, he continued: “There had been no reports that they were missing. “I think it was Christopher Edwards’ intention that what he told his stepmother should make its way to the police. It’s not often that we start off with a part confession, effectively from the suspects themselves.

“We knew Susan and Christopher were in France. While we were preparing a file to try and get them extradited back to the UK, Christopher sent me an email saying they were going to surrender themselves to the UK border force in France. It was so strange; I thought the email was a hoax.

They were clearly motivated by money, but the use they put it to really doesn’t explain the meticulous lengths they went to in order to get it. They spent all of it on weird Hollywood memorabilia – they didn’t spend any of it on things like cars and holidays like you might expect.”

Stranger than fiction, it really is.

I fully agree though on the impact on the Wycherley’s relatives. I dealt with them quite extensively towards the end of the case. They were lovely people, and they seemed truly shell-shocked by it all.

A Garden of Bones – a true crime novel about the Wycherley murders

“An elderly couple who lived in a Forest Town house where two bodies have been
found in the garden mysteriously disappeared in the late 1990s, neighbours have
claimed” – Andy Done-Johnson, Mansfield Chad, Friday October 11, 2013.

This is where it all started for me one drizzly Friday almost seven years ago now. I was in the office when I was made aware of a police tent in the back garden of a house in Forest Town, Mansfield. It took over my professional life for over a year – The Wycherley Murders: the story of my career as a journalist.

Now, in early 2020 I will be publishing my novel – A Garden of Bones – about the gruesome murders of William and Patricia Wycherley, killed by their own daughter and son-in-law – Susan and Christopher Edwards – and buried in their own back garden.

Neighbours all assumed they had just moved away. The Edwards sent letters and Christmas cards to relatives, keeping the Wycherleys ‘alive’ in the eyes of the world while they stole hundreds of thousands of pounds in money owed to William and Patricia. Here is what the journalist and broadcaster Jenny Kleeman had to say about A Garden of Bones . . .

An extraordinary, stranger-than-fiction story told with an incredible eye for detail by the man who knows it best. Dark and compelling.”

Jenny Kleeman

So why now? In fairness this novel has taken me more than three years to write, and came about after I was contacted by a number of true crime producers wanting me to talk about the case for documentaries. Then the BBC came along, talking about making a drama about the case, so I spoke to them as well.

And I thought, ‘”You know what? I know more about this story than pretty much anyone else alive. Write a book. Tell your story, and tell their story – tell the story of William and Patricia, tell the story of Susan and Christopher . . . why they did it and how they were eventually caught.”

I’d always planned to publish A Garden of Bones this year but then, out of the blue, I heard that Olivia Colman was preparing to play Susan Edwards in a major new drama called Landscapers. So now is the time, and here we go.

I’m in the run up now – cover designers and typesetters have been commissioned, ISBN numbers being sorted and I’m looking at March 2020 as my launch date. I will keep you posted.