Dressed in black and standing in silence, around a dozen mourners waited outside Mansfield Crematorium earlier today (Friday 11th July) for the funeral cortege of William and Patricia Wycherley - the reclusive couple who were murdered in their Forest Town home then buried in their own back garden - to arrive.
Most who were there were relatives - still stunned by the gruesome murders and the years of deception that had followed the Wycherleys’ violent deaths.
Many were also victims of the web of lies cast by Susan Edwards and her husband Christopher, after they gunned down her parents in the dead of night at their Blenheim Close home in May 1998, then spent the next 15 years convincing the world that Bill and Pat, as they were known, were still alive.
They had received letters and Christmas cards for years, either from Susan Edwards describing her parents’ latest travels in Ireland, or forgeries signed in the Wycherleys’ names, wishing them well.
Slowly the hearses carrying the Wycherleys’ coffins pulled into view and after a brief moment of quiet contemplation, they were carried inside for a short humanist service.
It was a rare insight into the lives of the couple who vanished overnight - unnoticed by the world for a decade-and-a-half, until a tip-off led police back to Blenheim Close and the grizzly and painstaking excavation that followed.
Leading the service, humanist celebrant Lol Owen described how William Wycherley had been born in Vernon Street, Shirebrook, in 1912 and had initially followed his father down the mines - his early life consumed with a passion for music.
“His father was a coal miner, as were his brothers, and they lived the ideal of the time - self-reliance through hard work, good morals and values from attendance at church,” Mr Owen said.
“Despite, or perhaps because of the family’s lack of outlet for their intelligence, they became creative and between them would play the cornet, paint, read, play the piano and organ, and often they would play at socials through the area.”
Bill Wycherley had hated life down the mines and at first departed for a new life in Canada, before returning to the UK after six months and setting up a window cleaning round with his brother in London.
But he was soon on his travels again, serving in the Canadian Merchant Navy and not returning to Britain until the early 1950s.
Much less is known of Patricia Wycherley, other than she was born in Paignton, Devon, in 1934, but soon returned to London, where her family originated from. She married Bill Wycherley at Fulham Register Office in 1958 and gave birth to her only child shortly afterwards.
It may have been the death of Bill’s father, Samuel, in 1975, and a family reunion that finally drew William back to the Mansfield area, and the couple sold their London home and moved to Blenheim Close, Forest Town, in 1986.
“Bill was 74 and perhaps wanted to be on home ground in his final years,” Mr Owen said.
“In later years they led a contented, self-sufficient life. They were good neighbours and spoke occasionally to those they met and for the most part entertaining themselves.”
But it was this solitude and independence, coupled with a small family that was spread thinly around the country, that may have led to the Wycherleys’ murders going undetected until October of last year.
It was only after the Department for Work and Pensions asked to see William as his 100th birthday approached in 2012 that their terrible deaths were exposed - after Susan and Christopher Edwards fled to France and confided to his step-mother that the elderly couple were buried in the back garden of their former home.
The ensuing media scrum descended on Forest Town, with journalists from the national press and television joining Chad reporters in Blenheim Close, trying to get to the bottom of the macabre discovery.
But as the days wore on and the story unfolded, relatives were drawn into the fray after it came to light that they had been in regular contact with the murdered couple - or at least they thought they had been.
As the small group walked slowly from the chapel, they surrounded the two wreaths that had accompanied the coffins, now laid in a special memorial area at the crematorium.
On both wreaths were small card carrying a simple message - ‘Finally at peace’, they read.
After a few moments of contemplation, the floral tributes were collected and carried away by mourners.
And as the group walked slowly away, to drive to a small family wake nearby, niece Hilary Rose said: “We’re going to take the wreathes to Blenheim Close. It will be nice to fill the house with flowers.”
PICTURED: The Wycherleys’ coffins are carried into the service at Mansfield Crematorium and floral tributes from family members.