Pair guilty of 1998 Mansfield 'garden bodies' murder

The BBC's Jo Black reports on the dark secret kept by Susan and Christopher Edwards for 15 years

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A husband and wife have been found guilty of the murder of the woman's parents, whose bodies lay undiscovered for 15 years, buried in a back garden.

Susan and Christopher Edwards shot Patricia and William Wycherley and buried them at the Wycherleys' home in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, in 1998.

The couple then stole thousands of pounds, siphoned off the Wycherleys' pensions and sold their house.

The bodies were found last October after the Edwards gave themselves up.

They had fled to France because officials were trying to contact Mr Wycherley, believing he was approaching his 100th birthday.

The couple had spent much of the money on Hollywood memorabilia and were heavily in debt.

Shooting provoked

They were arrested at St Pancras station in London when they returned from France after making contact with the police.

Both of them denied murder, but Susan Edwards, 56, admitted the manslaughter of her mother.

William Wycherley Before the trial, police released photos of William Wycherley. Police said they were unable to source a picture of Mrs Wycherley.

She claimed during the trial she was provoked into shooting her because her mother had shot her father.

She said she returned to her parents' home the following weekend with her husband and he helped her to bury the bodies.

'Motivated by greed'

Start Quote

The tragedy of this case is that Mr and Mrs Wycherley were murdered by those closest to them”

End Quote Dona Parry-Jones Crown Prosecution Service

At the start of the two-week trial at Nottingham Crown Court, the couple admitted obstructing the coroner in the execution of his duty and theft of a credit balance.

The first working day after the murders, Susan Edwards cleared £40,000 from a bank account belonging to Mr and Mrs Wycherley, aged 85 and 63.

Despite taking £245,000 over the next 15 years by pretending the Wycherleys were still alive, the Edwards remained in severe financial difficulties, the trial heard.

They had debts of £160,000 when they were arrested last October.

They spent thousands on film star memorabilia, including signed photos and autographs of Hollywood actor Gary Cooper and singer Frank Sinatra, one of which cost them £20,000.

It was the "only evidence of significant spending", police said.

Card In 2010, Susan Edwards wrote to a relative: "Father was always one for the Gypsy life"

Dona Parry-Jones, a senior prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, East Midlands, said it was a "a cold, calculated murder, motivated by greed".

"The tragedy of this case is that Mr and Mrs Wycherley were murdered by those closest to them, dying un-mourned and denied any dignity in death."

Shot twice

Susan Edwards, a former librarian, wrote Christmas cards and letters to relatives telling them her parents were travelling in Ireland "because of the good air" and told neighbours they were in Blackpool or Morecambe.

The Edwards fled their home in Dagenham, east London, for France after receiving a request from the Department for Work and Pensions to interview Mr Wycherley.

When they ran out of money, Christopher Edwards, 57, called his step-mother for help.

Gun Police believe it was Christopher Edwards who shot both of the Wycherleys as he was "experienced with guns"

He told her he had helped to bury his in-laws in their back garden 15 years earlier. She called the police.

Post-mortem tests showed the Wycherleys had each been shot twice in the upper body with the same .38 World War Two commando revolver.

The Edwards were arrested after emailing Nottinghamshire Police to give themselves up.

In a statement Mr Wycherley's nieces Hilary Rose and Christine Harford said: "We didn't know William Geoffrey, our mother's youngest brother, at all well. We have built a picture of him in our minds based on what she'd told us and photographs we had seen.

"Sadly, mum died in 2009. Had she been alive now, she would have been horrified by these brutal murders, and the callous treatment of the bodies afterwards.

"It would have been extremely upsetting for her to discover the deception and lies practised by her niece - our cousin - Susan and her husband Christopher against her and others for so long, for their own selfish greed and gain."

The couple will be sentenced on Monday 23 June.

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