Chad reporter recalls day two bodies were found in garden of Mansfield property
Following the news that Olivia Colman is set to star as notorious Mansfield murderer Susan Edwards, journalist Andy Done Johnson recalls the day almost seven years ago when the Chad first broke the story, and the book he is soon to publish about the macabre yet fascinating story.
It was raining outside, grey and horrible and it was a quiet day in the office - one of those where there was nothing much going on . . . the worst sort of days when you’re a reporter.
I was on the calls shift, as it was then . . . things are very different now. Back in 2013 you’d call the police every hour to see what was happening, you’d call the fire service and basically deal with all the breaking news.
Then I saw a conversation on a Facebook page, people discussing a forensics tent that had been put up in the back garden of a house in Forest Town . . . talk that they had found bodies in the ground. The cul de sac Blenheim Close was mentioned.
Air ambulance called in after medical emergency in Kirkby
Reports from the courts: defendants from the Mansfield and Ashfield areas
Mansfield man watched sick child porn on Twitter and tried to mislead police
Students at The Garibaldi School in Mansfield achieve highest A-level results in school's history
Work is underway on Mansfield's new memorial garden and pocket park
I grabbed my phone, my pad and a handful of pens and headed to the scene, while colleagues got on the phone to the police.
It wasn’t difficult to spot. As I pulled over there were two police officers stationed at the top of the road, guarding the property on the corner; the tent clearly visible from the road.
I hadn’t even got out of my car when the mobile rang. The office. Police confirmed two bodies had been unearthed and removed. They wanted to make it clear it was a historical find, no mad axeman on the loose, sort of thing.
Historical? So . . . what? An ancient burial ground? No. police are treating it as murder, but that’s all they’re saying, came the reply.
Getting people to talk wasn’t easy - getting people to talk who had lived there 15 years earlier was much more difficult.
I banged on door after door, got some choice words from the old lady who lived opposite, a lot of the neighbours out at work or working nights, sleeping in bed.
I got a few people saying how shocked they were, saying how things like that just didn’t happen around here.
My frustration had been added to by a call from the office, telling me that the cops had put it out to everyone now; made worse with the first camera crew rocking up at the top of the road.
I wandered away, to the row of shops down the road, who knew nothing as well, when I saw him . . . and that’s when it all changed.
I spotted a guy walking his dog in a little park, and I went to speak to him. He hadn’t lived there long, he told me, but his wife had lived there for years. She’d know, he said. And it worked out that she did.
She knew everything . . . how they’d just vanished one day 15 years earlier, how he used to speak reluctantly if ever he passed while she was in the garden, how she walked 10 paces behind him and never spoke, how she was so much bigger than him.
“Wycherley,” she had said. “They were called Bill and Pat Wycherley.”
Then she told me about the younger couple . . . the ones that came for years, every now and then, to tend to the garden. Never worrying about the house, only the garden.
I was with her for a couple of hours, this lady, and when I stepped back onto the street it was transformed - reporters banging on every door, camera crews setting up, satellite trucks parked on the road . . . more police.
And the story just kept running . . .
News that they’d sent letters and Christmas cards to relatives until the year before their bodies were found, us finding out that the Wycherleys had been registered to vote in Mansfield until eight years after they were killed, the secret police briefing telling the press not to report lines that the Edwards were in France; the subsequent arrests; the agonising year-long wait for the trial; then the trial and conviction, and the full facts of what they’d done being made public.
I even went to the funeral.
It’s one of those stories that resonates. It's one of those stories that stays with you . . . especially if you’ve lived it.
And I suppose, that’s why I’ve spent the past four years - off and on - writing a book about it. The Wycherley Murders did become a bit of an obsession, I have to say.
But I’m pleased that this story is being dramatised, I think it needs to be because, if for nothing else, it really is stranger than fiction.
I think Olivia Colman will be outstanding as Susan Edwards. She doesn’t look like her, but she will be able to capture her. I should know. I spent three-and-a-half weeks sitting 15 feet from one of our most notorious killers in a courtroom.
It’s a grizzley story, it’s a story that put our town under the spotlight, but it’s something that happened in our town . . . whether we like it or not.
Andy’s book, A Garden of Bones, will be available in ebook and print on Amazon in March.