The grisly true story behind Olivia Colman’s new drama Landscapers: How Susan and Christopher Edwards shot her parents and buried them in garden… then lied for 15 years that they were travelling world so she could raid their savings
- Susan and Christopher Edwards killed William and Patricia Wycherley in 1998
- They buried bodies in garden and kept up elaborate charade that they were alive
- Bodies found 15 years later after Christopher made confession to stepmother
- Grisly tale to be brought to life in Sky drama Landscapers starring Olivia Colman
For 15 years, the bodies of William and Patricia Wycherley lay buried in the garden of their Nottinghamshire home.
To the world, the couple were very much alive, with neighbours and relatives told they had moved to Ireland to enjoy the ‘good air’ and false letters politely declining doctors appointments received by medics.
Only those sending the notes knew the grisly reality of Mr and Mrs Wycherley’s fate until October 2013, when their remains were unearthed from shallow graves in the garden of their Mansfield home.
The couple had each been shot twice with a Second World War revolver by their daughter Susan Edwards and her husband Christoper on the May Bank Holiday weekend in 1998.
The grisly tale will be brought to life in the new four-part Sky drama Landscapers, starring Olivia Colman and Harry Potter star David Thewlis as the deceitful couple.
The show – described as ‘blackly comic’ – is said to draw viewers into ‘the surreal fantasy world that Susan and Christopher created by casting themselves as their Hollywood heroes in stories of their own invention’.
Susan (left) and Christopher (right) Edwards were sentenced to life in prison for the murder of William and Patricia Wycherley in June 2014
Olivia Colman and David Thewlis star as Susan and Christopher Edwards in Landscapers
Susan and Christopher spent 15 years keeping up an elaborate charade that her parents’ were still alive, looting the Wycherleys bank accounts and spending thousands on celebrity autographs and memorabilia.
But years of falsehood came crashing down in 2013, when Susan and Christopher received a letter from the ‘authorities’ requesting to interview Mr Wycherley as his 100th birthday approached.
The couple panicked, scraping together what little they had left and fleeing to Lille, France.
They eventually surrendered to UK Border Force authorities at a Eurostar terminal in London.
They were convicted of planning and carrying out the murders the following year.
Susan and Christopher were sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years each at Nottingham Crown Court for the murder of her parents and burying the bodies in unmarked graves.
Mr Wycherley (pictured) and his wife Patricia were twice shot with a Second World War revolver and buried in the garden of their Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, home
A Second World War Commando Colt .38 calibre revolver of the type police say was used in the murders of William and Patricia Wycherley
Between the murder in 1998 and the discovery of the bodies, the Edwards’ stole £280,000 from the dead couple by siphoning off their pensions and benefits and selling their home.
The couple, who married in 1983, had faced financial difficulties for much of their marriage, but saw an opportunity following the brutal murder of the Wycherleys.
Following the killings, Susan acted fast to clear £40,000 from two bank accounts in the names of her parents, before closing the account and opening another in the name of herself and her mother.
She spent the next 15 years diverting £173,767 in pension and benefit payments to the account, banking another £66,000 from the sale of the house in Mansfield and making applications for loans and credit cards in Mrs Wycherley’s name.
The total amount diverted into the joint account was said at trial to be £245,705, although this was later revised upwards to £286,285.
The bodies of William and Patricia Wycherley were found in the garden of their home in 2013
The couple, who married in 1983, had faced financial difficulties for much of their marriage, but saw an opportunity following the brutal murder of the Wycherleys. Pictured: The home on Blenheim Close
Despite this, the couple remained in financial trouble and owed £160,000 to creditors upon their arrest.
Susan and Christopher regularly travelled from their home in Dagenham, east London to the property on Blenheim Close to maintain the garden, with Mr Edwards posing as a nephew.
They told neighbours and relatives that the Wycherleys had gone on a tour of Ireland for the ‘good air’ or moved to the seaside.
This story was relayed in a series of letters and cards purporting to be from the Wycherleys, sent in a bid to trick relatives, doctors and financial institutions into believing they were alive.
In one letter, the couple had posed as Mr Wycherley to decline an appointment at a chest clinic: ‘(I’m) feeling better, and I will be visiting with relatives over the next months: for that reason it is not convenient to make an appointment.’
Another declined a free pneumonia vaccine in December 2006, while in December 2007 Christmas cards sent by Susan to relatives claimed her parents had decided to tour Ireland ‘because of the good air’.
Susan and Christopher regularly travelled from their home in Dagenham, east London to the property on Blenheim Close to maintain the garden, with Mr Edwards posing as a nephew. Pictured: The scene in 2013
They told neighbours and relatives that the Wycherleys had gone on a tour of Ireland for the ‘good air’ or moved to the seaside. Pictured: The home in Mansfield
Susan and Christopher were sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years each for the murder of her parents and burying the bodies in unmarked graves
But the charade collapsed in October 2013 when Susan and Christopher received a letter from the ‘authorities’ requesting to interview Mr Wycherley as his 100th birthday approached.
After finding the note from the Centenarian Society in 2012, the couple panicked and fled their east London home for Lille, France.
But with little money to their name, Susan and Edward could not survive for long, and Mr Edwards was soon forced to contact his own elderly stepmother to ask her for money and relay a ‘carefully hatched and rehearsed story’.
He claimed his wife had been staying with her parents when she woke up to discover her mother had shot her father.
Mr Edwards said Mrs Wycherley then boasted she had slept with him, her own son-in-law – and her daughter shot her in anger.
But instead of going along with their story, the horrified stepmother contacted police in October 2014.
Susan and Christopher spent the next 15 years keeping up an elaborate charade that her parents’ were still alive, looting the Wycherleys bank accounts and spending thousands on celebrity autographs and memorabilia
Christopher spent $2,999 on memorabilia including a Gary Cooper autograph letter in 2010
Detective Chief Inspector Rob Griffin said: ‘When we received that call on October 1, it was difficult to believe that what she said had happened could have happened. But we took it seriously and that is when the investigation started.
‘In the days that followed, we started to see that perhaps it was all true, and that was confirmed when we started the excavation in the garden and discovered Patricia and William were there.’
The defendants were arrested after returning to the UK later that month and stuck to their ‘fatally flawed’ story, Nottingham Crown Court heard.
CARDS AND LETTERS FULL OF LIES: HOW HUSBAND AND WIFE DUPED FAMILY INTO THINKING THE WYCHERLEYS WERE STILL ALIVE
The jury heard extracts from letters and cards purporting to be from the Wycherleys.
Oct 2005: Posing as Mr Wycherley declining an appointment at a chest clinic: ‘(I’m) feeling better, and I will be visiting with relatives over the next months: for that reason it is not convenient to make an appointment.’
Dec 2006: Declining a free pneumonia vaccine: ‘As I will be staying with relatives…I would prefer not to be sent letters offering me vaccines I will not want.’
Christmas 2007: Cards or letters sent by Susan Edwards to relatives claimed her parents had decided to tour Ireland ‘because of the good air’.
2009: Describing breaking the news to her father of his sister’s death, she wrote: ‘He can get quite confused and upset…he has never mentioned it again because it upsets him too much I think.’
2011: In a Christmas card to relatives about her parents travelling in Ireland, she said her father was ‘having his second youth’, adding: ‘It is good to see them with such zest.’
Police had attempted to contact the couple after the bodies of William and Patricia were found in October 2013 and officers rushed to identify them.
No images of Patricia have emerged publicly since she was unearthed.
‘Neither William nor Patricia was ever reported missing and we can find no evidence of either of them being alive or dead,’ Mr Griffin said at the time. ‘The discovery in their former garden last week may be the reason why.
‘We have yet to formally identify the remains and so cannot say with 100 per cent certainty who we have found, but it’s not a great leap to imagine it might be the Wycherleys.’
It was understood the house stood empty for a number of years before a new tenant moved into the property in 2006.
Police quickly ruled them out of their investigation.
Following the discovery, relatives of the couple had reported receiving Christmas cards from ‘Bill and Pat’ until at least 2009, which cast doubt on the identification.
Hilary Rose said that her mother had received a card signed ‘Bill and Pat’ more than a decade after the Wycherleys were believed to have disappeared.
Neighbours said the pair were believed to have emigrated in the 1990s, but no one had heard from them since.
One woman, who did not want to be named, said: ‘I only saw the man a few times. I never saw the lady or any family.
‘I’ve lived here for 18 years. They were living at the house when I moved in. But they never had any visitors. I never saw anyone coming or going.
‘My friend and I always used to say, “I wonder what happened to that couple.” They just disappeared. We thought they had emigrated.’
The investigation became a murder probe six days after the bodies were unearthed, and police continued to contact the Edwards by phone and email to no avail.
But on October 30, Mr Griffin found an email in his inbox.
The message, marked as high importance, was from Christopher. It said: ‘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.’
The couple were arrested at London St Pancras International after arriving on a Eurostar from Lille and charged with murder three days later on November 2.
Appearing at Nottingham Crown Court, Susan and Christopher denied they murdered the couple between May 1 and May 5 1998.
Susan and Christopher told family members that her parents were travelling in Ireland in 2011
The cards and letters sent by Susan Edwards to relatives claimed her parents had decided to tour Ireland ‘because of the good air’
They admitted obstructing a coroner in the execution of his duty and pleaded guilty to theft of a credit balance from a Halifax bank account.
Susan Edwards told police she shot her mother after severe provocation, telling the court Mrs Wycherley told her she was an unwanted child and that she and her husband both wanted an abortion.
She claimed her father had abused her between the ages of seven and 11.
Ms Edwards told the court: ‘She said I was an unwanted child, she wanted an abortion, they both wanted an abortion.
‘She told me she knew that my father abused me. At some point she threw the gun on the bed. I picked it up.
‘She kept going on an on and I asked her to stop saying these things. I asked her, please stop saying these things, will you go away. She didn’t. She kept on and on.’
However, upon their sentencing in June 2014, Mrs Justice Thirlwall told Susan she was ‘an accomplished liar and a fantasist.’
She added she was satisfied it was Christopher Edwards ‘who held the gun’ and who shot the pensioners in the back bedroom of their semi-detached home and not Susan as the couple had claimed.
Susan and Christopher were sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years each for the murder of her parents and burying the bodies in unmarked graves.
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