Couple trick family to believe murdered parents alive
A DAUGHTER and her husband shot and buried her parents in their own back garden before tricking family members into believing they were still alive and stealing £245,000 from their bank account in an extraordinary 15-year deception, a court has heard.
William Wycherley, 85, and his wife Patricia were both shot twice with a revolver at their home over a bank holiday weekend in May 1998. The bodies of the pair were then wrapped in bedding, 'stacked' one on top of the other and buried under the lawn in a grave measuring between 36ins and 40ins in depth.
The bodies were discovered at their home in Blenheim Close, Mansfield on October 10 last year.
Nottingham Crown Court was told Susan and Christopher Edwards "lied to everybody" for 15 years to cover up the killings of her mother and father.
Prosecutor Peter Joyce QC said Susan Edwards, 56, and her husband Christopher, 57, who deny all the charges, "deceived and tricked everyone into believing that Susan Edwards' parents, William and Patricia, were still alive."
Mr Joyce said two joint accounts held by the Wycherleys were "cleaned out" in early May 1998, shortly after their deaths.
Mr Joyce told the jury: "A total of £40,000 or more was taken and has never been recovered.
"The prosecution's case is that Susan Edwards' parents, William and Patricia, were shot and killed by them over that bank holiday weekend, immediately before the bank accounts were closed and a new one opened.
"They were shot with a .38 revolver and over that weekend, they weren't just shot, they were buried in their own back garden."
"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."
Alleging that the Edwards "diverted" a total of around £245,000 into a joint account in the years after the Wycherleys were killed, Mr Joyce 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 that the Edwards, who were married in 1983, had been in "severe financial difficulties" for much of their relationship.
The court heard that the couple owed more than £160,000 to creditors by the time they were arrested last year. The court was told the couple fled to France after authorities sent them a letter requesting to see Mrs Edwards' father Mr Wycherley, because he was approaching 100 years of age.
Christopher Edwards contacted his stepmother to ask her for money when they ran out while in France. It is alleged that she then gave her an account of what had happened in 1998.
His stepmother contacted the police, telling them her son had told her that he had helped Susan to bury her parents.
The Edwards returned to the UK by agreement on October 30 2013, when they were arrested, Mr Joyce said.
The jury was told £173,767.40 was diverted from benefits and pension payments up to the Edwardses' arrest.
They received a further sum of more than £66,000 when they sold the Wycherley's home.
Mr Joyce told the jury that applications for bank loans and credit cards were made, signed in the dead Mrs Wycherley's name.
He told the court the couple created documents pretending to have been signed by the dead woman to mislead solicitors and purchasers that the Wycherleys were still alive when the Edwardses sold 2 Blenheim Close.
One of the documents was an enduring power of attorney in respect of each of the deceased pretending to have been signed by each, and each pretending to have been "witnessed" by Christopher Edwards, allowing the defendants to instruct solicitors in the sale, Mr Joyce told the court.
The court heard the couple told neighbours the Wycherleys had gone to Blackpool "due to ill health" and others that the couple had retired and gone to live in Morecambe.
"The purpose of these lies was to enable them to cover up the murders and to allow them to continue spending the deceased's money", Mr Joyce told jurors.
Meanwhile, letters and Christmas cards were also sent to relatives telling them the Wycherleys were travelling in Ireland "because of the good air".
The cards were signed "Susan and Chris, Jeff and Patricia". In one card, Mrs Edwards allegedly said her father seemed to be "having his second youth".
"It's good to see them with such zest," Mrs Edwards is alleged to have written. Letters were also written to Mr Wycherley's doctor, declining appointments and vaccines.
These were signed by the dead Mr Wycherley. Mr Joyce said letters were also sent to the Edwardses' creditors in the name of Mrs Wycherley offering to pay contributions towards repayments to their individual voluntary agreement (IVA).
Jurors were told that Susan Edwards has 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."