Bodies in the Garden: A Couple Gone Hollywood Mad

It’s not every day that you hear of children killing their parents. It’s even rarer to hear of a woman killing her parents for cash. And then, like a needle in a haystack, there’s this story. This story, which is now an HBO series called Landscapers, is of a woman (and her husband) who killed her parents, buried them, and used the money for Hollywood memorabilia.

Olivia Colman / Backyard / Newspaper Clipping / Backyard.
Source: YouTube

Say what? That’s right. This happy couple wasn’t satisfied with just milking her parents’ bank account dry. They needed to get their hands on the good stuff. A House? A car? Non-stop vacations? Nah, these folks wanted signed autographs of celebrities from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

It Begins With a Box

It took 15 years for police to find the bodies of William and Patricia Wycherley, who lay buried in their own lawn after being killed by their own daughter and son-in-law. The quiet cul-de-sac went from being just a regular old home to the scene of a crime.

A sketch illustration of Susan and Christopher in court.
Source: Pinterest

But how does such a thing go unnoticed for a decade and a half? And what’s the story here? It actually begins at the end, as it does in some murder mysteries (and Tarantino films). When the authorities found a box filled with Hollywood memorabilia, they knew this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill homicide case.

What’s in the Box?

In the box was a signed photograph of Gary Cooper in a tweed jacket and tie. There’s also a bank form, aged with time, in which Cooper authorizes his stockbroker to sell some of his shares in a Mexican steel company.

A photograph of Gary Cooper with an authenticity certification.
Source: YouTube

And then there’s the table card from a 1940s dinner dance – signed by Frank Sinatra who attended. For us, these are just regular old pieces of paper with simple signatures from (albeit) some extraordinary people. But for Susan and Christopher Edwards, these were everything their beady little eyes had dreamt of.

The Stuff You Kill for… Apparently

Those autographs, and many others like them, belonged to Susan’s parents, William and Patricia. It would be the understatement of the year to say that Susan and her husband wanted these memorabilia.

A picture of the uncovered shallow graves in the family garden.
Source: Nottinghamshire Police

To be more accurate, this couple was prepared to kill for them. And that’s exactly what they did. In 2014, 56-year-old Susan and 57-year-old Christopher were sentenced to 25 years for murdering her elderly mother and father. What made the matter worse was that they tried to hide the fact for 15 years, while they collected the contents of the box.

On May Day Weekend

From their mugshots, you can sense that these two aren’t all there, but, on paper, they were an ordinary couple. She was an unassuming, middle-aged woman, and her husband was a bookkeeper. Who would have expected them to commit such a heinous crime? And how did it go unnoticed for 15 years?

A mugshot of Susan / A mugshot of Christopher.
Source: Nottinghamshire Police

William and Patricia Wycherley were killed in their home in Mansfield in 1998 during the May Day bank holiday weekend. By the time the banks reopened on Tuesday morning, Susan and Christopher were already opening a joint account. They were going to transfer everything the Wycherleys had.

Every Last Penny

They took all of her parents’ savings, pensions, disability benefits – every penny. Despite having gone missing, and their money dwindling down, the elderly couple’s whereabouts went unnoticed. Nobody came looking for them, and no one noticed they were gone.

A picture of a letter written by Susan.
Susan’s father. Source: Pinterest

It’s probably because Susan and Christopher paid their dues; they visited the house regularly, mowed the lawn, cleaned the windows and the gutters. They would write letters to the Wycherleys’ doctor’s office, excusing them from any vaccination reminders that came in the mail. They went so far as to send Christmas cards to relatives.

Fake Holiday Cards

They would write little explanations in the cards with news of her parents’ “extended holidays.” Susan wrote to one of her cousins in 2011: “It is like he is having his second youth now because when he does speak now, he speaks of travel – and traveling. I cannot really keep up with where he is planning to settle!”

A photo of one of the holiday cards.
Source: BBC News

Susan had buried them 13 years earlier. Why they chose to bury them in their own yard is another major question mark. They wrapped her parents’ bodies in a duvet cover first…

In Their Own Lawn

They then buried them a meter down in their own lawn, a few steps from their back door. This couple clearly had time, which they used to concoct the plan that they carried out for a decade and a half. Susan and Christopher ended up stealing a total of £285,286 ($377,450) from her dead parents.

A picture of the house’s back yard.
Photo by Angela Ward

As we know now, they spent most of it on autographed collectibles, which the Wycherleys bought online from British and American dealers. The bank form with Cooper’s signature? That cost them £3,000.

On His 100th Birthday…

Cooper also sent a two-sentence typed letter to a woman, thanking her for some fan mail. They bought that too, which set them back £2,000. As the years went on, the purchases continued, and the packages kept arriving at the Wycherleys’ front door.

A picture of Susan’s father.
Susan’s father. Source: Pinterest

That is, until 2012, when the Department for Work and Pensions sent William a letter, congratulating him on his upcoming 100th birthday. They wanted to meet him face-to-face to assess his benefits and even arrange a telegram from the Queen! Too bad the guy had been dead for 14 years…

After a Year on the Run

Susan and Christopher started to sense that their time was running out. So, what did they do? They went on the run to France for a year. Afterward, they decide to fess up and surrendered themselves to the police in early 2014.

An exterior shot of an area beside the train station in Lille, France.
Photo by BSIP/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

By the time they were arrested, they had practically nothing to their rotten names: just €1, some clothes, and a suitcase stuffed full of Hollywood memorabilia. Although they turned themselves in, they didn’t fully admit to everything. The Edwards confessed to committing manslaughter, but not the double murder.

A Wild Cover Story

They claimed that she alone (without her husband) was in her parents’ house when it happened, and it was her 63-year-old mother who had shot her 85-year-old father in a late-night argument. The Edwards had an entire story to tell the cops (they had 15 years to conjure it up, after all).

An exterior shot of the house.
Source: Google View

Their story was wild, to say the least. They said that Patricia turned on Susan, telling her daughter that she was having an affair with Christopher, which provoked her to point the gun at her mother.

A Crime of Passion, They Say

Susan then told the police that she had been sexually abused by her father until she turned 11. She also mentioned that her mother had been complicit in her father’s abuse. At the end of the day, they chalked it up to a “crime of passion” and swore that Susan acted alone. Copyright: Warner Bros.
Olivia Colan as Susan lays in bed watching television.

She said that she only told her husband a week after the shooting, when they came to Mansfield from their house in Dagenham, to eat some fish and chips and watch the Eurovision contest.

Beep Beep: Time to Bury the Bodies!

In other words, it was supposed to have been a night of relaxation before getting up at 2 a.m. to bury the decomposing bodies. “They’d had 15 years to prepare a story that would bring them the least amount of time in prison,” stated Rob Griffin, the case’s lead investigator.

An image of an alarm clock ringing.
Source: Getty Images

Griffin had to prove that this was a pre-meditated double murder, motivated by greed. The investigator had his work cut out for him as the murder was committed in another era, really. It was 1998; there were no cell phone records, no CCTV, no emails to look through.

Old School Detective Work

“The footprints people tend to leave behind nowadays weren’t there for us,” Griffin noted. Griffin had to resort to what he calls “old-fashioned detective work,” tracing down relatives and neighbors from the late 1990s to piece together what had happened.

A picture of Rob Griffin next to the crime scene.
Source: Pinterest

Not much is known about the victims. We know that William was the son of a coal miner and served in the merchant navy. He married Patricia in 1958 when he was 46 and she was 23. She was pregnant at the time with Susan, their only child.

Just Two Photos

The police found only two photos of William. One showed him as a young man with dropped shoulders, wearing a suit and tie. The other photo showed him as a much older man, with white hair, his arms folded across a cardigan and buttoned-down checkered shirt.

A photo of a young William / A portrait of a much older William.
Source: Nottinghamshire Police

In both photos, he has a deadpan expression, looking away from the camera. As for Patricia, the cops didn’t find any photographs of her. It’s strange, to say the least, to not find at least one photo of a person. Did Susan and Christopher hide them?

An Enigmatic Couple

The police didn’t find even one friend of either William’s or Patricia’s. They also couldn’t trace any of the couple’s close relatives. Authorities did, however, get a hold of William’s nieces – the ones who got the Christmas cards.

David Thewlis and Olivia Colman as Christopher and Susan in a film adaptation.
Source: YouTube

The thing is, they were distant relatives and barely even knew their uncle. In fact, they never even met their Aunt Pat. “Neither of the Wycherleys were members of clubs, and neither engaged with the neighbors,” Griffin shared. As for their home, it was equally unreadable.

Meet the Neighbors

They were living in a semi-detached, two-story brick house, which sat at the end of a dead-end road in the neighborhood of Forest Town. The road next to the garden fence, behind the spot where the couple lay buried for so long, is where the neighborhood children like to play.

A shot of the neighborhood.
Source: YouTube

In order to know the Wycherleys, we need to know the neighbors. A couple, John and Lesley Ward, shared a hedge with the Wycherleys for 29 years. And they were more than willing to speak with Griffin and the police about the people they were next-door neighbors with for all those years.

A Ned Flanders Type?

John is actually a police community support officer and was shaken when he learned that the biggest crime his town has ever seen happened right under his nose. “You can imagine the stick I got at work,” John said.

An inspector addresses the media next to the crime scene.
Source: YouTube

“Worked for Notts police for 25 years and didn’t even see a double murder,” he said. He explained that when the investigation began, he realized he knew nothing about his longtime neighbors. He did pay attention to certain things over the years, though. Neighborly stuff, you know…

Polite or Removed?

He saw that William would trim his side of the hedge, snipping away with his little scissors. John offered to go around the hedge with his own hedge trimmer, but William always politely refused: “No, I’m all right, thanks,” is all he’d say.

A general view of William’s garden.
Source: BBC News

William was either polite or didn’t want anything to do with John. For instance, if William was in the garden and John went out to cut the lawn, William would go back inside. “He didn’t seem to want to be spoken to,” John explained.

A Pair of Homebodies

But William wasn’t “rude or anything,” he clarified. “They were just happy being on their own.” William and Patricia seemed to always be in or around the house. “They didn’t seem to go anywhere.” Lesley had her own impression of her neighbors, particularly the woman.

An exterior shot of the house.
Source: YouTube

She said that Patricia was “very old-fashioned” and looked older than her age. She would often wear a dark green raincoat. As for William, Lesley said he was “very straight and upright…” John chipped in to say he was “like a Victorian father, head of the family.”

A “Brother-Sister” Couple

A strange observation they made of their neighbors was that they never walked together. “She was always 10 yards behind him,” Lesley remarked. “At one stage, we actually thought they were brother and sister,” John admitted.

A general view of Forest Town in Nottinghamshire.
Source: Wikipedia

The Wards are well-known in Forest Town. Their garden was designed for entertaining, and their lawn was equipped with a train track and a little pirate ship on the porch for their grandkids. They’re the kind of couple that likes to have last-minute barbecues. They always invited the Wycherleys. They just never came.

A Chain-Smoking Organ Player

Sometimes, the Wards could hear William playing music hall classics on the organ. There was a time, once, when another neighbor named Brett went to their door to complain about the noise. “He said it was very unloved, shall we say,” Lesley shared.

An image of a man playing the organ.
Photo by Noelia Ramon/TellingLife/Getty Images

The Wycherleys were chain smokers. Their home looked like it smelled of cigarettes. And it did, at least according to Brett, the neighbor. For a while, as John recalled, they didn’t see William or Pat. Then, one day, the back door opened.

The Place Was Quiet for a While

“Being nosy, I went around,” John said. He thought the Wycherleys had burglars, so he passed the invisible red line and walked onto their yard. That’s when he saw the man he now knows as Christopher Edwards come out of the house with an extension cord.

An image of an extension cable next to a garden wall.
Photo by hmproudlove/Getty Images

“My uncle Bill has moved away,” he told the seemingly nosy neighbor. “They’ve gone to live in Morecambe. I’ve just come to do a bit of gardening.’” And so, none the wiser, John left him to it.

Oh, They’re Living the Life

Why would John ever think that his neighbors, as strange as they were, were actually buried in their own yard and their “nephew” was really one of their killers? Christopher would show up in the garden a few times a month, and when he did, John would ask how the couple was doing over in Morecambe.

An exterior shot of the house at night.
Photo by Fabio De La Costa

Christopher would tell them what he rehearsed: “Oh, they’re fine, they’re loving it up there, it’s just what they always wanted.” He would even add details to the cover story to make it sound real.

Hmm, That’s Weird…

Christopher would tell John things like, “He’s getting on a bit, he’s in his 90s, but he’s still having a little walk on the seafront.” Lesley, who works at the local post office, said that Christopher came in once to pay the Wycherleys’ phone bill.

A newspaper clipping that reads ‘‘We Had Blood On Our Hands.’’
Source: Pinterest

“Some calls had been made and I thought, crafty, they’re using their phone while they’re away.” It was a minor little hiccup, but the Wards never thought too much about Susan and Christopher’s visits. Neighbors can be weird sometimes, at the end of the day (am I right?).

Fence Goes Down; Fence Goes Back Up

Back in 2005, something minor but notable happened. A woman who lived uphill from them (on Blenheim Close Road) forgot to put her handbrake on and crashed her car right through the Wycherleys’ garden fence. A few days later, the fence was already repaired.

An exterior shot of the backyard.
Source: YouTube

John remembers saying to his wife that the fence was mended rather quickly. If it happened to them, he would have gone through insurance, and the process would likely have taken months. Of course, we now know what happened. Susan and Christopher were quick to act.

No One Missed Them

They didn’t want anybody sniffing around the house since the fence was a little too close to the grave. How did the Wards feel when the bodies were discovered just a few feet away from their own yard?

Olivia Colman and David Thewlis as Susan and Christopher in the film adaptation.
Source: Sky

“Upset,” Lesley stated. “Tragic, really, because this had happened, and no one knew about it. To think they were so reclusive that no one missed them.” The Wards felt bad about the whole thing. “They were nice people. They just wanted to be left alone,” John said solemnly.

It’s Obvious Who “Wore the Pants” in Their Relationship

Just like the Wycherleys, the Edwards also wanted to be left alone… to their fish and chips and Hollywood memorabilia. So, what do we know about Susan and Christopher? Well, they met through a dating agency, and as a couple they had no children or friends.

David Thewlis as Christopher in a still from the film.
Source: Sky

Christopher had colleagues, though, from his job as a credit control officer for a copywriting agency in the city. Still, he wasn’t much of a people person. He never socialized with his coworkers, and if he wanted to, Susan didn’t like the idea of it.

The Lonely Librarian

In her early 20s, Susan worked as a librarian. But she hadn’t worked for decades afterward. While Christopher went to work every day, Susan stayed at home. The only people in her world were Christopher and her parents.

A picture of Olivia Colman in character as Susan.
Source: Sky

Despite that, the two couples had irregular and strained contact. When the police interviewed Susan, she said her father never approved of Christopher and even suggested that he was jealous when they married in 1983. Judging by their bank statements and credit card bills, Susan lived in a fantasy world.

Pen Pals With Gérard Depardieu?

Christopher was something of a history buff and was interested in the military. Susan also became fixated by World War II leaders. In the late ‘90s, they started buying and collecting stamps as well as autographs. Soon enough, memorabilia became Susan’s passion.

A portrait of Gerard Depardieu.
Photo by Eric Fougere/Corbis/Getty Images

During the trial, it was revealed that Susan had forged a 14-year correspondence with the famous French actor, Gérard Depardieu. She even told Christopher that she and the actor were pen pals. Actually, she was writing to herself in gibberish English.

A Fantasy World of Her Own

For 14 years, no less, Susan would write these phony letters to herself, using a special stamp to make it look like the envelopes were stamped with a French postmark. Susan was living in her own fantasy world, clearly. But, in reality, they lived in a tiny, rented-out, top-floor apartment on a quiet road in Dagenham.

A movie still of Olivia Colman in character as Susan.
Source: YouTube

Many of their neighbors are real, working-class people who’d lived there for decades. Yet none of them knew who Susan and Christopher were. They couldn’t describe what they were like if a gun was pointed to their heads.

Like a Couple of Ghosts

Their neighbors in Dagenham were amused to hear that they were living next to murderers. One woman who lived two doors down from them (and chose to remain anonymous) said that nobody really knew them, so “it’s not really bothered anybody. What do you do with recluses?”

Olivia Colman and David Thewlis as Susan and Christopher in a still from the film.
Source: Copyright: Warner Bros.

“I’ve had more conversations with the new couple that moved in recently than I had in the 30-odd years they lived there.” She said the couple were “like ghosts” and probably wouldn’t recognize her if she walked past them on the street.

The Odd Couple

“She was very subdued, very quiet,” the neighbor who lives opposite from the Edwards said. Apparently, Susan wouldn’t talk to people. Even when she was with Christopher, she kept her head down. According to this neighbor, it was mainly Christopher who wanted to talk.

A still from the film adaptation.
Source: YouTube

This neighbor also noticed how the odd couple liked to collect things because they always had parcels delivered to their door. But Susan never opened the door for the postman. “One of my old neighbors used to get quite worried about the lady,” this neighbor shared.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far

The neighbors worried about her because they would never see the woman, yet they knew she was in there. “And if they did walk down the street, they wouldn’t be walking along together; she’d be behind him.” Sound familiar? Her parents did the same thing…

An image of an apple hanging from a tree branch.
Photo by daitoZen/Getty Images

John and Hilda Black were a couple who lived in their building and used to see the Edwards heading to the bus stop with bags. Looking back, they were probably on their way to her parents’ house to tend to the yard.

In a World of Their Own

Detective Griffin was under the impression that the couple was very close. “They were completely in love with each other,” he asserted. He spoke of the times in the courtroom when she would signal something to Christopher…

A movie still from a scene in court.
Source: YouTube

When Christopher would answer a question, Susan would make these strange movements at the back of the court. He would then flap his hands up and down and “shake his head wildly.” If Susan lives in a fantasy world, she shares it with Christopher, whether he likes it or not.

He Looked Like a Proper Gentleman

People were more than surprised to hear that the Edwards stole over a quarter-million, despite the way they looked. Hilda said they “looked as though they needed money… they dressed old-fashioned. They didn’t have a car; they didn’t even have a bike.”

A mugshot of Christopher Edwards.
Source: Nottinghamshire Police

There was a local family-run grocery store where Christopher used to shop. The staff was shocked to hear the news. The manager’s eyes lit up when she saw his mug shot. “He was my regular customer!” She thought she looked like a “proper gentleman, working in the city with a big company.”

A Calculated Man

The manager of the shop would notice him coming in after 5 p.m. with a briefcase. But Christopher wasn’t like the other city businessmen. When he did his shopping, it was always in small bursts and very calculated.

Christopher and Susan’s characters are having dinner in a still from the film.
Source: YouTube

According to the manager, he would buy five or six items and write the prices down on a little notepad. “He was very careful with his money. When you gave him the change, he’d count it penny by penny. He’d stand by the door and look at the receipt and check.”

Counting Pennies

Apparently, Christopher would count pennies because he and Susan were broke. In 2005, they sold Susan’s parents’ house to try to pay off their debts (they used the Wycherleys’ birth certificates and forged their signatures).

An image of coins in an open hand.
Photo by Tim Grist Photography/Getty Images

It wasn’t enough, though. So, they took out debt-management plans. All the while, their memorabilia deliveries kept coming. They were paying £700 a month in credit card debt while spending over £7,000 on one shipment of signed Gary Cooper pieces. Susan didn’t seem to care; she was spending the money she was entitled to.

A Ticking Time Bomb

Her step-grandmother left her £10,000 back in the ‘70s, which used to belong to Susan’s maternal grandfather – money that Patricia believed was rightfully hers. Susan spent half of the money on a trip to Graceland with Patricia.

A still from Susan’s film character sitting in bed.
Source: YouTube

The other half was used to buy her parents’ former home, with Susan’s name on the deed. Susan felt like she was cheated out of an inheritance. Her resentment turned into a grudge, and Susan herself became a ticking time bomb. She kept buying the memorabilia every three to four months.

Fleeing to France

Everything was going relatively smoothly (all things considered, of course) until 2012, when the DWP asked to meet William for his 100th birthday. The Edwards freaked out and went off the grid and off-plan. Christopher stole £10,000 from the company he worked at and ran away to Lille, France.

An aerial view of Lille, France.
Photo by Bernard Annebicque/Sygma/Getty Images

But they couldn’t access the Wycherleys’ account from abroad, and Christopher couldn’t find work, so their money ran out pretty quickly. Did they sell their precious memorabilia? Nope. They decided to fess up instead.

A Desperate Confession

In an act of desperation, Christopher called his elderly stepmother, Elizabeth Edwards, and told her something she never expected. He told her that they buried Susan’s parents and then asked her for money to save him and Susan.

An interior shot of Lille-Europe station.
Source: Pinterest

Elizabeth called the police. When the case got to Griffin, he didn’t want to storm into Wycherleys’ property and start digging, because a woman and her teenage daughter were living there at the time. Moreover, he only had a hearsay story from a woman in her 80s to go on.

Putting the Puzzle Together

Of course, Griffin did some preliminary checks. For instance, the solicitors and realtors involved in the sale of the house confirmed the fact that they never actually saw the Wycherleys in person. All of the old couple’s medical appointments stopped in 1998.

A picture of Rob Griffin.
Photo by Joseph Raynor

The pieces started to come together. Authorities finally excavated the garden and found the Wycherleys’ remains. Keep in mind, this was 15 years after the fact, and it took a whole team to make it happen.

The Murder Weapon Was a Collectible, Too

They used ground-penetrating radar, cadaver dogs, an archaeologist, an anthropologist, an entomologist, a forensic radiographer, a pathologist, and a ballistics expert. The murder weapon was determined to be a WWII service revolver. That’s right; even the gun was a collectible.

A collectible photograph of Gary Cooper.
Source: Pinterest

Meanwhile, the police were busy looking for Christopher, who, after speaking to Elizabeth, couldn’t be found. Not long after the bodies were found, Griffin received an email. It was from Christopher. The subject line read: “Surrender.”

Subject: Surrender

It was “an extremely polite email,” Griffin said of the confession email. In essence, Christopher said he wanted to return to England to hand himself in “for a double murder.” The Edwards were taken in, and their memorabilia was seized.

An image of shiny silver metal handcuffs.
Photo by Catherine Falls Commercial/Getty Images

At first, Griffin didn’t realize that the Hollywood letters and photos were exhibits in the crime. Forensic analysis also put their cover story to rest. It was clear that both William and Patricia had been carefully shot twice in their torsos.

Motive: Money

The notion that Susan and Pat pulled the trigger was hard to believe, especially after Christopher let slip during his interrogation that he was once a member of a gun club. Ultimately, they incriminated themselves.

Griffin speaks to the media.
Source: YouTube

The forensic team was able to determine, from the mention of watching Eurovision, that the murders took place on the May Day bank holiday weekend. They also learned that Susan emptied her parents’ bank account on Tuesday, the first business day after. The motive was, thus, determined: the Wycherleys were killed for their money.

An Intimate Funeral

A mere 14 people went to the Wycherleys’ funeral. None of them knew the couple they came to mourn. Three of them had met Patricia: John and Lesley Ward and another unnamed neighbor. William’s nieces came, as did some victim support officers and Sue Bramley and her daughter – who later lived in their house.

A photo of the Wycherleys’ memorial welcome sign.
Source: YouTube

Oh, and a reporter from the local paper. Does Sue plan on moving? Nope. She said people always ask her how she could possibly want to live there, to which she says, “I love our home… We’ve got a great garden, and we’ve had a lot of happy times here.”

As for our dear couple, it took a jury of eight over six hours to unanimously convict the killer couple of murder. Each was handed a minimum sentence of 25 years. In 2015, Susan lost an appeal against her sentence.