Introduction and Facts
In 1998 Patricia Wycherley (63) and her husband William (85) were shot dead by their daughter, Susan Edwards (assisted by her husband Christopher) and buried in their back garden.
Mr and Mrs Edwards then took £40,000 out of the Wycherley’s bank accounts. Since that date the Edwards pretended that the Wycherleys were alive and well and living in (variously) Ireland, Blackpool and Morecambe in order to collect a further £245,000.
Most of this money seems to have gone on, bizarrely, celebrity memorabilia. They gave themselves up last year after having run out of money. At that point, they stated that the bodies were in the back garden, which were duly found.
At the trial, the couple admitting stealing money from the Wycherleys and obstructing the coroner. Mrs Edwards stated that her mother had shot her father which provoked her into shooting her mother after she found out. She was therefore not guilty of either murder, but guilty of the manslaughter of her mother. Mr Edwards came to help dispose of the body.
This account was disbelieved by the jury, who found them both guilty of murder on 20th June 2014. Sentence has been put off until Monday.
What will they get?
There will be the mandatory life sentence for murder, with concurrent, fixed length, sentences for the other offences. The key question is what the length of the tariff will be.
If these murders had been committed in the last ten years then it would be a murder of two people which puts it in the 30 year starting point. It is probable that the Court will find that it was a murder for gain, which is another reason that puts it in the 30 year starting point.
The two together would mean a starting point above the 30 years. The disposal of the bodies, and long period of time where it was pretended that the parents were still alive, is a further aggravating factor.
For this reason, this is probably a case where the starting point would be about 35 years. Susan Edwards is 56 and Christopher 57, which means with that tariff they would be in their early 90s before they can be considered for release. In effect, then, that would be a whole life tariff.
However. These murders pre-date the Criminal Justice Act 2003. At the time, sentencing was a lot more lenient – the starting point would have been about 16-18 years. Even so, with the aggravating features, there would be a higher tariff – about 19-20 years. In reality, sentencing for these historic cases are a bit inflated nowadays, so we would predict a tariff of 22-25 years.
No whole life tariff?
The starting point is a whole life tariff if there is the murder of two people where there is “a substantial degree of premeditation or planning“.Would this have applied here? Possibly. We would to need to know more about the facts to see whether there is the evidence for that. All we would say is that this doesn’t ‘feel’ like a whole life tariff, even under the new law.
We will have a look at this on Monday when they are sentenced.