The daughter and son-in-law of reclusive Forest Town couple Patricia and William Wycherley have been sentenced to 25 years in prison for their murders.
Susan and Christopher Edwards looked grey and shaken as they returned to the dock at around 2.45pm today (Monday 23rd June), both only speaking to confirm their names.
As defence lawyers spoke in mitigation, Susan Edwards was seen to put her head in her hands and appeared to weep, while her husband reached out and touched her hand.
On Friday, the Edwards were found guilty of murdering the elderly couple in 1998 at their Blenheim Close home.
They then buried them in the back garden and stole around £250,000 in pensions, benefits, loans and through the sale of their house - by maintaining the fiction that the Wycherleys were still alive for the next 15 years.
The jury of eight women and four men were sent out at lunchtime on Thursday and took just under six hours and twenty minutes to reach the unanimous guilty verdicts.
Sentencing, Mrs Justice Kathryn Thirlwall said: “These were shocking crimes. William and Patricia Wycherley were living a quiet, reclusive life in Mansfield. They knew no one. They had as little contact as possible with other people. You knew they wouldn’t be missed if they disappeared, and they weren’t.
“They sold their house at a profit and bought a cheaper one in Mansfield and kept all the proceeds. You never forgave them and your resentment festered for years and at the same time you were getting yourselves into debt.
“The plan was to shoot them, to kill them and you made sure you had a gun to do so.
“I am sure it was you, Christopher Edwards, who held the gun. At point blank range you fired two bullets into each of them with deadly accuracy.
“I am sure, Susan Edwards, that these killings were initially your idea and that your husband agreed to carry them out. I have no doubt that you were acting together.”
Mrs Justice Thirlwall said both Susan and Christopher would serve a minimum of 25 years in prison before they would be considered for parole.
They were also sentenced to a further nine years in prison for disposing of the Wycherleys’ bodies and theft, to be served concurrently.
Susan (56) and Christopher Edwards (57) had claimed that Patricia Wycherley had murdered her elderly husband in a late night row in the back bedroom of their home, and had then been shot by Susan Edwards, who admitted manslaughter.
They Edwards claimed that Susan had then returned to London and brought her husband back to Mansfield the following weekend and told him of the deaths.
He had then agreed to help her dispose of the bodies and joined her in profiting in over £250,000 in benefits, pensions and savings over the next 15 years - finally fleeing to France when they realised the game was up.
But prosecutors said that the Edwards had concocted the plan together - travelling to Mansfield in May 1998 and shooting Patricia (63) and William (85) in cold blood, before burying them in the garden that same weekend.
They said that they were motivated by money and jointly set up new bank accounts, diverting cash out of accounts belonging to the Wycherleys and then closing them down.
Christopher Edwards had been a gun fanatic - regularly attending a shooting club in Earl’s Court, until handguns were banned following the Dunblane massacre in 1995. He also owned a ‘38mm revolver, which could have taken the bullets found with the Wycherleys’ skeletal remains.
Susan Edwards had claimed that she had been sexually abused by William Wycherley and killed her mother when she confessed to knowing about the abuse.
But police said there had been no evidence that any abuse had ever taken place.
Following Friday’s verdict, Detective Chief Inspector Rob Griffin from the East Midlands Major Crime Unit, who lead the murder investigation, said:
“Susan and Christopher Edwards had 15 years to come up with an account of what happen that night in May 1998. In their interviews they didn’t stray from a well rehearsed script, and even used the same words and turns of phrases. I wonder whether they had started to believe their own lies.
“The Edwards’ acted with cold calculation and meticulousness, killing and burying in an unmarked grave to be forgotten the people who raised Susan. They then spent the next 15 years exploiting and profiting from it.
“But we had questions. We scrutinised their every word and while we found fundamental elements of the story to be true there were inconsistencies in the detail. It was that detail which painted a very different picture, one that involved premeditated murder, likely driven by a long-harboured financial grudge and the opportunity to get themselves out of debt.
“I’d like to acknowledge the support we received from experts in archaeology and anthropology for this case, as well as thank the current owner and tenants of the house for their cooperation and patience throughout what has been an extremely unnerving experience for them and a somewhat unique investigation for us.”
“Their surviving family has been understandably stunned and upset by what has happened. I just hope they can take comfort in the knowledge that William and Patricia will now be officially and respectfully laid to rest.”
“When the Wycherleys sold the London house that was the start of the financial grudge, because Susan Edwards was essentially swindled out of her inheritance by her parents.
“William and Patricia then sold the house and pocketed the proceedings and then they moved to Mansfield.
“She has not only been swindled out of the £5,000 that she invested in the house, but she has been swindled out of the capital gain, and then her parents have moved away.
“Our case was that together, aggrieved by the money and because they were desperate, they realised that the easiest way of getting their hands on the money was to kill the Wycherleys.
“I think cold is a better word to describe them than evil - cold and calculating.
“To sit with your wife or husband and plan the murders of your parents or parents-in-law because you are in desperate need of money is cold and calculating.
“I don’t think either of them showed a single thread of remorse, and this is someone who has admitted to killing their own mother.
“With him, it was like he was describing moving items of furniture around the house - not the dead bodies of his in-laws.”
The Edwards spent 15 years carefully crafting the myth that the Wycherleys were still alive - maintaining the garden and making the house look lived in, telling neighbours they had moved away or were travelling, and writing dozens of letters and cards to family members, either pretending to be William or Patricia, or writing on their behalf, explaining where they were and what they were up to.
Some were told in letters and cards as late as 2010 that the Wycherleys were travelling around Ireland, because the air there was good for William’s lungs.
But the truth was that the Edwards were terrible with money and were constantly in debt - spending most of the money they made from the murders on film memorabilia - with police recovering dozens of documents relating to the actor Gary Cooper and the entertainer Frank Sinatra in their possessions.
Prosecutor Peter Joyce told the jury at the start of the trial: “Over the next fifteen years and in order to continue stealing money and to keep up the pretence that the couple were still alive, they lied to family members, they lied to neighbours and they lied to financial institutions - they lied to everybody.”
The Wycherleys were described as a controlling and difficult couple - practically disowning their daughter when they didn’t approve of her choice of husband, moving away from London and forcing Susan Edwards to sign away her half share in the house she had bought with them in London. It was this act that police believe was the beginning of the financial grudge Susan Edwards held against her parents.
Relatives of the Wycherleys declined to speak to the press, but in a statement released after the guilty verdict was announced on Friday, William’s nieces Hilary Rose and Christine Harford said: ““We didn’t know William Geoffrey, our mother’s youngest brother, at all well. We have built a picture of him in our minds based on what she’d told us and photographs we had seen. Sadly, mum died in 2009. Had she been alive now, she would have been horrified by these brutal murders, and the callous treatment of the bodies afterwards.
“It would have been extremely upsetting for her to discover the deception and lies practised by her niece — our cousin — Susan and her husband Christopher against her and others for so long, for their own selfish greed and gain.
“We would like to thank everyone who helped to bring them to justice. In particular, we’d like to acknowledge the police, prosecution barristers, and the jury for their determination and hard work to get to the truth. Also, to the forensic and gun experts whose expertise helped to destroy their web of lies.
“We’d also like to offer a special thanks to the people at Victim Support, for supporting us before, through and after the trial. We had not heard of this charity before now but have learned first hand the important nature of their work.
“We are private people and have found it difficult to have our family thrust into the public eye in such a way. We have felt powerless throughout this terrible ordeal but, while we cannot change what has happened, there is one thing we can do — we can officially acknowledge William and Patricia’s deaths. Our main priority now is to see that they are finally laid to rest with dignity.”
PICTURED (from top): Susan and Christopher Edwards, Detective Chief Inspector Rob Griffin, the rear garden of 2 Blenheim Close after police had exhumed the Wycherleys’ bodies, and police outside the Wycherleys’ former home.