Forest Town ‘bodies in the garden’ murderer Susan Edwards loses bid to have jail term cut

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A woman who spun a web of lies over 15 years after she murdered her parents and buried them in their own back garden in Forest Town has been told by top judges she deserves every day of her 25-year minimum sentence.

Susan Edwards and her husband Christopher travelled from their home in Dagenham to Forest Town and killed her mother and father, Patricia and William Wycherley, in 1998.

They then spent the next 15 years living off more than £280,000 of the dead couple’s money and creating an ‘elaborate charade’ to make people believe they were still alive.

The pair were jailed for life at Nottingham Crown Court in June, after being convicted of the murders, and were ordered to serve at least 25 years behind bars.

On Thursday, Susan Edwards challenged her minimum term at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, with her lawyers arguing it was ‘too long’.

Her barrister, David Howker QC, said the term did not take enough account of mistreatment she claimed to have suffered at her father’s hands, which he argued was a ‘slow-burning’ form of provocation.

Mr Howker also said she is likely to die behind bars and will probably never see any visitors as she had no-one except her husband - who she may never see again.

But her appeal bid was rejected by three of the country’s most senior judges, who said it was ‘unarguable’ that her punishment was excessive.

Her husband also launched an appeal but his was rejected on paper at an earlier stage and he did not pursue his case to a full court hearing.

Lady Justice Rafferty told the court Christopher Edwards shot Mr Wycherley (86) and his 64-year-old wife at their Blenheim Close home in 1998.

Their bodies were then wrapped in duvets and dragged into their back garden, where they were buried in a metre-deep hole.

The next working day, Susan Edwards withdrew £40,000 from her parents’ bank accounts and set up an account in her and her mother’s names.

Over the next 15 years, she and her husband took and spent more than £175,000 intended for her parents, in the form of pensions and benefits, and they also kept the £67,000 they made from selling the Wycherleys’ house in 2005.

Documents were forged to maintain the charade that the couple were still alive, and Susan Edwards even wrote letters and Christmas cards and signed them from her parents, so people thought they were travelling.

She also took out loans and credit cards in her mother’s name.

The murderous pair, both now in their 50s, did not live a lavish lifestyle, but spent a lot of the money on Hollywood memorabilia, including autographs and photographs of movie star Gary Cooper and a £20,000 signed photograph of Frank Sinatra.

Fearing they were about to be exposed, they fled to France in 2012 after the Department for Work and Pensions asked for a face-to-face meeting with Mr Wycherley ahead of what would have been his 100th birthday.

Police discovered the Wycherleys’ bodies in 2013 after being contacted by a relative of Christopher Edwards, who had been told they were dead.

The pair then gave themselves up and returned to the UK. They admitted theft and obstructing a coroner in relation to the deaths, but denied murder.

Their story was that Mrs Wycherley had shot her husband and that Susan Edwards had then shot her mother in a state of ‘provocation’.

However, the jury saw through their lies and convicted them both of double murder.

The trial judge, Mrs Justice Thirlwall, said she accepted “on balance” that Susan Edwards had been mistreated by Mr Wycherley as a child and that formed the basis of her hatred of him.

But she did not accept that was ‘provocation’ for the murders, which Mr Howker today argued she should have done.

He said: “We submit that it does have the potential to have been a slow-burning provocation over the years, and that the judge, if she did reject it, was wrong to do so.”

Mr Howker also said Susan Edwards and her husband had lived an ‘isolated’ life which had made her ‘vulnerable and naive’ for her age.

He added: “She had no-one in her life but her husband and she will therefore serve this prison sentence without any prospect of a visit from anybody.

“She will serve it knowing that, whatever the rights and wrongs of her husband’s involvement, she feels completely responsbile for him becoming involved and feels she has destroyed the rest of his life.

“The imposition of this minimum term will probably result in her dying in prison.

“In all those circumstances, we respectfully submit that a 25-year minimum term was excessive.”

But, dismissing the appeal, Lady Justice Rafferty said the crown court judge was entitled to reach the conclusions she did when setting the minimum tariff.

Sitting with Mr Justice Jeremy Baker and Mrs Justice Carr, she added: “She did so having reminded herself that 15 years had elapsed since this young woman had left home, before she returned and murdered the people she said she hated.

“She also reminded herself of the cynical and determined exploitation of the ill-gotten gains, consequent to the murders, which the appellant had enjoyed over years and in more than one jurisdiction.”