Although I use my imagination to create fictional characters and plots for my crime thrillers, the twists and turns of real life occasionally cause a sharp intake of breath. Here are 5 real murder cases that caught my attention – and may even have provided a dose of writer’s inspiration!
#1. Sweet little old lady Melissa Ann Shepard has been in the news recently. When they released the 80-year-old from prison, the Canadian authorities took the precaution of warning the public to beware. She’d served time for killing one husband, drugging another and stealing cash from a lover after spiking his ice cream.
#2. Drug smuggler Martin Newman didn’t mean to kill anyone when he tricked three friends into carrying bottles of rum laced with cocaine on a flight for him. Unfortunately, one of them gave the rum away when Newman didn’t turn up at Heathrow to collect it from him. In a further unhappy twist, a bottle was passed on to a kind cabbie as thanks for waiving his fare. He poured himself a drink at a party – with fatal consequences. The concentration of cocaine was so strong that a single teaspoon was enough to kill.
#3. Once serial killer Joanna Dennehy had stabbed one man to death, she decided she’d acquired a taste for it. Over ten days, she murdered two more acquaintances and then embarked on a road trip, stabbing two strangers. Thankfully, they survived.
#4. After murdering his stepmother as a child, the St Albans Poisoner, Graham Young, slipped rat poison into his colleagues’ tea at a photo lab. Dozens became ill, and two died. Young’s motive appears to have been scientific curiosity. (In my professional life, I occasionally speak to a recruiter called Graham Young – I never have trouble remembering his name!)
#5. John “Babbacombe” Lee was sentenced to death in 1885. He’d been found guilty of murder – although on such flimsy evidence that a conviction would be unlikely today. His executioner made three attempts to hang him in Exeter Prison. After failing for the third time, the law wouldn’t let him try again. Poor John Lee served 22 years in gaol instead. The story inspired a concept album by electric folksters Fairport Convention.
As a British crime thriller writer, I take inspiration from many sources! My latest book, The Bride’s Trail, began with this old news story. Read the first few chapters of crime thriller The Bride’s Trail on Amazon to find out how.