The neighbours in Blenheim Close would sometimes look over at the semi in the corner of their quiet cul-de-sac and wonder what had become of the older couple who’d lived there.
Some speculated that they were travelling or had emigrated.
A couple, presumed by the neighbours to be relatives, appeared every few weeks to check up on the house and mow the lawn. Eventually the property was sold and no one gave much thought again to Patricia and William Wycherley.
Or at least they didn’t until October 2013, when - about 15 years after anyone last recalled seeing them - a police forensic tent appeared in the back garden of the Wycherley’s former home in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.
The remains of Patricia, 63, and William, 85, were soon discovered wrapped in duvets and buried on top of one another.
The truth about their fate emerged shortly afterwards. They had been murdered – by their daughter, Susan.
Susan Edwards and her husband Christopher had killed her parents to solve their financial problems, and then embarked on an extraordinary cold-blooded deception. They acted as if her parents were still alive.
By means of forged signatures and the setting up of joint accounts in her and her mother’s name, Susan did not just empty £40,000 from their building society account, she obtained loans and credit cards by the same method. The couple also helped themselves to their private pensions and benefits.
A longer version of this article appeared in the September 2021 issue of Saga Magazine: subscribe today
Including the sale of the Blenheim Close house, the Edwardses defrauded more than £286,000. Yet when they gave themselves up from their home in France, the couple had just one euro between them. Most bizarrely, perhaps, they had spent much of the stolen money on Hollywood memorabilia, which they bought and sold, including £14,000 on autographs of Gary Cooper and £20,000 on a signed photograph of Frank Sinatra.
The chilling tale is now the subject of a four-part Sky Atlantic and Now TV mini-series, Landscapers, starring Olivia Colman and David Thewlis as the Edwardses.
A week after the discovery of the remains, the investigation turned into a murder inquiry. A post-mortem later revealed the Wycherleys had each been shot twice. A bullet was found lodged in Mrs Wycherley’s spine.
Detectives sought to contact Susan. She and Christopher had been living in a rented flat in Dagenham, east London, but in 2012 had moved to Lille in France. Nottinghamshire Police tried without success to contact the couple.
But then, DCI Rob Griffin, who headed the investigation, received an email from Christopher that read: ‘Later on today, we are going to surrender ourselves to the UK Border Force authorities at the Eurostar terminal at Lille Europe station. We would prefer to do this since my wife is already sufficiently frightened. Please could you notify the UK Border Force at Lille Europe so that they may expect us.’
Instead, the Edwardses took the next Eurostar to the UK, and were arrested at St Pancras International by officers sent by Griffin. Three days later, they were charged with murder. While Susan and Christopher admitted they had buried the Wycherleys in the garden, they denied murder.
When the case went to trial at Nottingham Crown Court in June 2014, Susan admitted manslaughter of her mother on the basis that she was provoked. According to the former librarian’s version of events, she had been woken by a loud bang on the Sunday morning of the May Day bank holiday weekend in 1998.
Susan said she found her father on the floor in her parents’ bedroom and her mother holding a revolver. An argument followed. Susan insisted she had shot Mrs Wycherley after extreme provocation, claiming, ‘She said I was an unwanted child,’ and said her mother also knew she had been abused by her father as a child.
‘At some point, she threw the gun on the bed. I picked it up. She kept going on and on and I asked her to stop saying these things. She didn’t.’
After shooting her mother, Susan said she hid the bodies under a bed before driving home to London, and that it was only after stopping for fish and chips on the way to Mansfield the following week that she told her husband what had happened.
In his evidence, Christopher said he had agreed to bury his in-laws because he believed his wife’s story and didn’t want to ‘throw her to the wolves’ by going to the police. He even claimed to recall watching the Eurovision Song Contest before bringing the bodies downstairs to bury them, which, if true, would mean the burials had taken place a week after the murders.
However, the prosecution insisted that the Edwardses had both been present on that fateful weekend and it was most likely that, as a former gun club member, Christopher himself had fired the shots from a Second World War vintage .38 revolver.
Neighbours also recalled seeing him ‘up to his waist’ digging in the garden at the time.
A jury of eight women and four men took six hours to convict unanimously Susan and Christopher Edwards of murder. They were each sentenced to life with a minimum of 25 years.
The scale of the couple’s deviousness in maintaining the charade that the Wycherleys were still alive in order to cash-in was exposed. Hospital appointments were cancelled. A free pneumonia vaccine was turned down in December 2006. By then, the Edwardses had sold the Blenheim Close house, in 2005, for £66,938, with a false signature.
In 2007, Susan wrote to a relative, saying her parents ‘had been travelling around Ireland, because of the good air, on and off for some years’. In 2011, Mr Wycherley’s niece received a Christmas card from Susan insisting that her father was ‘having his second youth’.
What finally panicked the Edwardses was a letter in 2012 to Mr Wycherley from the Centenarian Society, which helps people to celebrate their 100th birthdays, asking for a face-to-face meeting. The couple fled to Lille, but money ran short again, and Christopher called his stepmother to ask for a loan.
When she asked why they had gone to France, he told her what had happened, though he claimed his wife had shot her mother. It was the horrified stepmother who went to the police at the start of October 2013.
When the couple’s assets were later investigated, Christopher had £17 in his bank account. Susan had assets of £11,608, but nearly all of that was tied up in Hollywood memorabilia.
In another twist, the court heard that letters Christopher believed the couple had been receiving from actor Gerard Depardieu were actually written by his wife.
‘There seemed to be an element of folie à deux – madness shared by two people,’ says criminologist Professor David Wilson, of Birmingham City University. ‘With folie à deux, there is usually a dominant and a subservient party, but, with the Edwardses, it is not clear which was which.
‘What is clear is that the couple were skilled at what they did and well-organised to have kept up the pretence that the Wycherleys were alive for so many years. So, I don’t buy that this could have been a spur-of-the-moment crime. If it had been, the Edwardses would have been consumed by guilt.’
Susan lost an appeal against her sentence in 2015, and the couple remain in jail today. The golden age of Hollywood with which they were so fixated could hardly have come up with a more improbable script.
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