Tuesday 18 January 2022
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Notts detective reflects on ‘one of Nottinghamshire’s most infamous and dramatic murders’ ahead of Olivia Colman TV drama

The lead detective on one of Nottinghamshire’s most infamous and dramatic murder investigations has spoken of his mixed feelings ahead of the start of a major four-part television drama about the case.

Featuring Oscar winning actress Olivia Colman, the HBO series Landscapers explores the double murder of William and Patricia Wycherley, whose bodies were found buried in the garden of their Mansfield home 15 years after they were shot and killed.

Broadcast in the UK for the first time from 9pm tomorrow on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV, the show will explore the equally chilling and bizarre tale of murderers Susan and Christopher Edwards, the married couple who subsequently stole and spent vast sums of their victims’ money on Hollywood memorabilia.

For Assistant Chief Constable Rob Griffin, at the time a Detective Chief Inspector who led the investigation, the experience will be a little unusual.

He said: “This has been on the cards for a very long time now, so I’ve had a long time to get used the idea. But it really is a strange experience to see the case my colleagues and I worked so hard on turned into a TV show – especially one featuring someone as famous as Olivia Colman. She really is a fantastic actor so when I heard she was involved I knew it was going to be a fairly high profile show.

“My family and friends have certainly got very excited about it and have been talking about it a lot. Above all, and for me is to remember this was just a tragic case that involved the murder of two completely innocent people. Ultimately that’s what murder investigations are about – trying to get justice for victims and their families. So, while this was an unusual and very high profile case I do think its important to think first and foremost about the victims who really are at the heart of all this.

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“I have participated in several television documentaries about this case over the years and spoken on camera about it, but this will be a completely different experience.”

Assistant Chief Constable Griffin, who first joined Nottinghamshire Police in 1995, does not feature in the drama, and is represented instead by the character of DCI Geoff Collier, played by actor and comedian Daniel Rigby.

However, there was a chance for him to get on screen himself – as a fellow passenger during a scene where the killers voluntarily made their way back from France, or – much to his surprise – as a cowboy.

Both opportunities were politely declined but ACC Griffin did speak at length to the producers about some of the finer details of the case.

“So much of what happened is a matter of public record but they were particularly keen to know more about certain finer details – how they came back from France in particular and some of the less public details about their interviews. I think above all they wanted to understand more about the characters of the people involved.

“Ultimately, though, I really didn’t have a say in anything. This is a drama that was being made with or without our cooperation. But I am very happy that they picked someone ten years younger than me to play my role.”

Susan (Olivia Colman) and Christopher Edwards (David Thewlis) killed the couple in order to steal their money – syphoning off more than £250,000 in savings and benefits payments while pretending the couple were enjoying a happy retirement.

The Wycherleys’ case was unusual, not only in the way the offences were committed but also in the way they were investigated. As ACC Griffin explained, he ended up overseeing a ‘back to front’ investigation. Then a Detective Chief Inspector, he remembered: “With most criminal cases you are made aware of a crime and you set about trying to establish who did it and why, but in this case we started with two people telling us what they had done – but we had no other evidence.

“The first the police heard of it was a report from Mr Edward’s stepmother. She had been called by Mr Edwards and informed about his version of events and then she called the police.

“When the call came to me as on-call DCI my immediate thought was that it sounded like nonsense, but very quickly we started to think differently.”

In the opening episode, drama takes place as the couple travelled home to the UK by train – a pre-planned appointment agreed with DCI Griffin in advance over email.

“Because we had been given the contact details of the suspects we were actually able to arrange an appointment to arrest them at St Pancras station – a scene I know is played out in the show. The idea that a murderer should reach out to the police after all those years and volunteer themselves into custody seems unthinkable – but that’s exactly what happened.”

The partial confession was part of an elaborate plan by the pair to explain away the deaths. In the many police interviews that followed they stuck rigidly to the exact same story – that Mrs Wycherley had shot Mr Wycherley and that Mrs Edwards had shot her mother in return. Mr Edwards, she claimed, had not been present but had later helped to bury the bodies.

The ruse was a response to their belief that their crime was about to be exposed when they were contacted by the Department of Work and Pensions about Mr Wycherley’s upcoming 100th birthday. This unnerved them so much that they fled to France, before eventually contacting the police.

The bodies were soon unearthed in the garden of a property in Blenheim Close, Forest Town, and the investigative team set about testing the evidence against the Wycherley’s account – which was forensic in its attention to detail.

“Their account wasn’t exposed by one piece of evidence alone,” explained ACC Griffin. “It was more a combination of things that proved they simply couldn’t be telling the truth. Sitting above everything else were their confessions, which really gave us a starting point to be able to measure our evidence against.  Everything was recalled in the same minute detail – for example they ate ‘haddock and chips’ rather than fish and chips on the night they buried the bodies. It was clear that they were seeking to deceive us so our strategy was simply to listen carefully to their accounts and test it against the evidence we uncovered.

“When we did that, their story simply could not have been true. The ballistic evidence, for example, showed that both victims had been shot twice in the chest in very similar locations. The idea that two people who had never handled guns before could do that in the chaotic scene described was just not credible. We knew, however, that Mr Edwards had previously owned a gun and had shooting experience.”

The pair were eventually jailed for 25 years.

ACC Griffin concluded: “The great irony about this case is that Mr and Mrs Edwards may still be free if they had just stayed quiet about what they had done. The Wycherleys were not thought to be missing at that point and were believed to have moved legitimately years beforehand. It was the upcoming 100th birthday that unnerved them into speaking out but there really is no guarantee that this event would have led to a criminal investigation. It remains a very strange but compelling case and I look forward to seeing how it is portrayed on screen.”

“Finally but importantly, I wanted to thank the team who were involved in this investigation. I can’t name the all of them but they will know who they are – from uniform colleagues who received the first reports, right through to the detectives who planned and managed the interviews and put together the prosecution file. All around they put in some brilliant police work.”

 

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