I’ve recently watched the gripping television adaptation based on the exciting crime novel by Kate Summerscale “The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – The Murder at Road Hill House”. It stars Paddy Considine as Inspector Jonathan Whicher and also stars Peter Capaldi & Alexandra Roach among others.
Inspector Jack Whicher was one of the eight original Scotland Yard detectives. He was 45 and had a string of successes behind him. The Metropolitan police detective branch had been in existence for 18 years, and Whicher, as a detective (rather than one of the uniformed “peelers”), worked undercover.. Two years before Road Hill House, he had apprehended a thief who had made off with a Leonardo da Vinci. He had also aided the hunt for some revolutionaries who had attempted the assassination of Napoleon III in Paris.
With these impressive credentials Whicher seemed like the ideal man for the job, so he was sent to investigate the murder of a small boy at Road Hill House, which shocked Britain and was a cause célèbre even further afield. Dickens was intrigued by it, Wilkie Collins and others borrowed from it, and the public (through newspapers) couldn’t get enough of it.
It all started On the morning of Saturday June 30 1860, when a young lad named Saville Kent, was found to be missing from his bed at Road Hill House, on the edge of the village of Road, on the border between Wiltshire and Somerset. Before long his body was discovered by servants, stuffed down a toilet in the grounds of the house, with His throat cut. The boy’s father, Samuel Kent, was not well liked because His task of enforcing the 1833 Factory Act, had made him unpopular with employers and employees alike. So he had erected fences to keep people out
What soon became clear, however, was that the killer knew the layout and sleeping arrangements in the house. There is little point erecting fences and warning notices if a murderer already lurks within…