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Couple 'shot and buried in garden'

An elderly couple were shot dead and buried in their garden by their daughter and son-in-law who raked in £245,000 by pretending they were still alive for 15 years, a jury has heard.

Debt-ridden Susan and Christopher Edwards sold the home of Patricia and William Wycherley and collected benefits and pension payments as the pair's bodies lay undiscovered from 1998 to 2013, Nottingham Crown Court was told.

A jury was told neighbours and relatives of Mr and Mrs Wycherley, aged 85 and 63, were told after their deaths that they had gone travelling or had moved to the coast for health reasons.

Opening his case against the Edwards, prosecutor Peter Joyce QC said the couple, who married in 1983, had been in "severe financial difficulties" for much of their relationship and remained £160,000 in debt when they were arrested last October.

Mr Joyce alleged the "reserved and reclusive" victims were murdered over a bank holiday weekend in May 1998 at their home in Blenheim Close, Forest Town, Mansfield.

Mr Joyce told the jury of eight women and four men: "Over the next 15 years, in order to continue stealing money and to cover up what they had done, these two defendants lied to family members, they lied to neighbours, they lied to doctors, they lied to financial institutions, and they created and used many false documents."

He added: "They lied to everybody.

"They deceived and tricked everyone into believing that Susan Edwards' parents, William and Patricia, were still alive.

"They could then cover up the killings and continue to fund their own lifestyle and help to solve their financial difficulties out of monies that were continuing to be paid to the Wycherleys."

Mr Joyce told the court the Edwards stole more than £173,000 from the Wycherleys' bank accounts, benefits and pensions after the killings.

In 2005, the Edwards, who were then living in Valence Wood Road, Dagenham, Essex, made a further £66,000 from selling the Wycherleys' home in Blenheim Close.

Meanwhile, they told neighbours the Wycherleys had moved to Morecambe or Blackpool and Mrs Edwards wrote Christmas cards and letters to relatives telling them her parents were travelling in Ireland "because of the good air".

"The purpose of these lies was to enable them to cover up the murders and to allow them to continue spending the deceaseds' money," Mr Joyce told jurors.

But the Edwards fled to France after receiving a letter from the Centenarian Society asking to speak to Mr Wycherley as what would have been his 100th birthday drew near.

The bodies of Mr and Mrs Wycherley lay undiscovered near a fence at their property in Blenheim Close until the Edwards ran out of money, Mr Joyce told the court.

Mr Edwards's stepmother contacted the police after her son asked her for money and told her he had helped his wife to bury her parents 15 years earlier.

The court was told officers discovered the bodies of Mr and Mrs Wycherley wrapped in bedding in a grave measuring between 36ins and 40ins in depth on October 10 last year.

Post-mortem tests showed the pair had each been shot twice in the upper body.

Bullets recovered from both bodies were consistent with being fired from the same .38-calibre revolver, Mr Joyce said.

Police attempted to trace the Edwards in France and the couple agreed to return to the UK last October, when they were arrested.

Mr Joyce told the jury Mrs Edwards had admitted the manslaughter of her mother on the basis of provocation.

After her arrest, the court heard she told police she believed her mother had shot her father during the bank holiday weekend, and she had then argued with Mrs Wycherley before shooting her more than once.

In her account, Mrs Edwards told police that her mother claimed during the argument to have had a sexual relationship with Christopher Edwards in the early 1990s.

But Mr Joyce asserted that her account of killing her mother - when her husband was elsewhere - and then picking up empty bullet casings had been invented before her arrest.

In his police interviews, Christopher Edwards backed up his wife's claims, and denied travelling from London to Mansfield to help her kill her parents.

He told officers he had been a member of a gun club based in Earls Court in London and had possessed a firearms certificate between 1979 and 1995.

He also claimed to have travelled to Mansfield a week after the Wycherleys died to bury their bodies, which had been placed under a bed.

Concluding his opening remarks, Mr Joyce told the jury panel: "The prosecution's case is that the story (given to police by the Edwards) had been concocted and agreed by the defendants to explain the evidence that I have told you about.

"Susan Edwards' parents, visited by their daughter and son-in-law some time during that weekend, were each shot twice whilst they were facing the person holding the gun.

"They were shot in the same way by the same person.

"The weapon had clearly been taken to Forest Town, Mansfield, in order to carry out the murder.

"It was a joint plan and they got away with it by lying and deceit for 15 years, until they ran out of money because the Centenarian Society wanted to know about the father and they had to run away."

Susan Edwards, 56, and her husband, 57, sat around six feet apart in the dock at they listened to the first day of evidence at their trial.

Mrs Edwards has admitted the manslaughter of her mother but denies two counts of murder.

Her husband also denies two counts of murder.

In witness statements read to the jury, it was claimed that Christopher Edwards was seen digging a "large hole" beside a fence near the back door of the Blenheim Close property.

In a statement read out by junior Crown counsel Steven Coupland, the Wycherleys' former neighbour, James Hobson, said the couple's son-in-law had told him they had "gone travelling".

Describing how he saw the son-in-law standing in the hole after peering out of a bedroom window while with his wife, Karina, Mr Hobson stated: "It was 7am in the morning and I can recall hearing a scraping sound.

"I recall the sun was shining and it was bright.

"I remember seeing the man I remember as the son-in-law in the rear garden. He was stood approximately two metres away from the rear doorstep.

"He appeared to be either digging a hole or filling a hole with earth using a spade.

"I recall saying to Karina in a joking way 'He's burying them in the garden' and we both laughed at that."

In one of five other statements read to the jury, another local resident said he found it odd that the Wycherleys' son-in-law would "religiously" cut the grass at their semi-detached property but never carried out other repairs or DIY.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.


From Belfast Telegraph