Farmer, Graham Backhouse, is jailed for 18.2.85 life
at Bristol Crown Court for trying to kill his wife with TX a car bomb in
order to claim her life insurance. He is given a second life sentence
for killing a neighbour, Colyn Bedale-Taylor, with a shotgun, in an
attempt to cover up the crime.
Margaret Backhouse climbed into the driver's seat of
her Volvo on the 9th April 1984. When Margaret, who lived at Widdenhill
Farm, near Chipping Sodbury, with her 44-year-old farmer husband, turned
the ignition key, the car exploded. She was left with severe injuries to
her buttocks and legs.
The police suspected that the intended victim was
husband Graham. He told officers that he was the victim of a hate
campaign and that a sheep's head had been stuck on a fence at the farm
along with a note that read 'You next.' Backhouse was given 24-hour
On 18th April Backhouse requested that the 24-hour
guard be removed following the fitting of a 'panic button'. This alarm
system was connected to the local police station and, on 30th April, it
When the police attended, in the form of PC Richard
Yeadon, it was to find the body of Colyn Bedale-Taylor. Bedale-Taylor,
63-years-old and a neighbour of Backhouse, had died from a shotgun blast
to the chest. Clutched in his hand was a Stanley knife. A weeping
Backhouse was found lying in the lounge drenched in blood from knife
wounds to the face and chest.
His story was that Bedale-Taylor had
arrived and told him that he had come to repair some furniture. When
being told that there was no furniture to repair he had accused
Backhouse of being responsible for the death of his son in a car crash
He then told Backhouse that he, Bedale-Taylor, was responsible
for planting the car bomb and attacked Backhouse with the Stanley knife.
Backhouse had run back into the house and grabbed a gun. When Bedale-Taylor
had refused to back off, he had shot him.
This story was at odds with the forensic evidence and
Backhouse appeared at Bristol Crown Court in February 1985 charged with
murder and attempted murder. The forensic investigation had shown that
Backhouse's wounds had been self-inflicted and that Bedale-Taylor could
not have been holding the knife when he died. His right palm was covered
with his own blood, which could only have happened after he was shot and
when he was not holding the knife.
The prosecution showed that Backhouse
had debts of £70,000. Until March 1984 his wife had life insurance cover
of £50,000 but this was increased by a similar amount. It was alleged
that Backhouse had tried to kill his wife for the insurance money and,
when that failed, had faked the attack by Bedale-Taylor to shift police
investigations away from himself.
The jury preferred the prosecution version and, on
Monday 19th February 1985, after nearly six hours deliberation, found
Backhouse guilty of both charges. He was given two life sentences.
Murder on the farm 1984
Derek Robinson, well-known author, broadcaster and
later Evening Post columnist told the Evening Post not many weeks before
that Horton was one of those places where nothing had happened for the
past thousand years and nothing would happen for the next thousand years.
The Bristol-born top thriller and war story writer who had made his home
in the hamlet near Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, couldn't have been
more wrong. On the morning of April 9th farmer's wife Maggie Backhouse,
aged 40, climbed into the family Volvo estate at Widden Hill Farm in
Horton to set out for supplies from a local vet. The car exploded!!.
The Post reported: 'A village vendetta led to
farmer's wife Mrs Maggie Backhouse being injured in a car bomb explosion
at her home in Horton, near Bristol, today. 'She was taken to Frenchay
Hospital where she was undergoing surgery this afternoon. 'Mrs Backhouse
managed to stagger from the car. She was seen by passers-by at 8.20 this
The farm was immediately cordoned off and sniffer
dogs were used to scour the area. 'Detective Superintendent Tom Evans,
leading the inquiry, said the family had been receiving threatening
anonymous telephone calls. ' 'There has been a recent history of
anonymous phone calls to the home threatening the husband and the family.
The police are investigating' he said. ''A lamb's
head was found with a message which gives us reason to connect it with
the telephone calls'. 'Mrs Backhouse and her husband Graham, aged 44,
are well liked, villagers said today. 'Local author and neighbour Mr
Derek Robinson said: 'Hearing of a car bomb in Horton takes my breath
away. I can't believe it has happened to Maggie—she is a typical
farmer's wife.'' The Post was back in Horton three weeks later on the
morning of May 1st. This time someone had been killed.
'Police called on villager Mr Colyn Bedale-Taylor
only hours before he was found shot dead at the home of hate-campaign
victim Mr Graham Backhouse in Horton last night. 'Today Det. Chief Supt.
Alan Elliott said the police visit was a pure coincidence although
former Army officer Mr Bedale-Taylor, aged 63, had been interviewed more
than once over the bombing. 'Last night police called to Widden Hill
Farm found Mr Bedale-Taylor dead with gunshot wounds and Mr Backhouse
with stab wounds to his face and body.
'Mr Backhouse had been guarded by police after the
bombing incident. It was called off at Mr Backhouse's request on April
19th. 'Both Mr and Mrs Backhouse are now under police guard at Frenchay
Hospital.' Later Graham Backhouse was arrested after police pieced
together the full story of how he had fallen into debt, attempted to
collect £100,000 by murdering his wife with a bomb and then shot dead
his neighbour Colyn Bedale-Taylor hoping to make him the scapegoat.
The sheep's head, the telephone threats and the rest
of the 'vendetta' had been a deception. The deception, like the bizarre
insurance fraud, failed fatally. Backhouse was sentenced to life
“You are a devious and wicked man,” the judge said in
sentencing Backhouse. “The enormity of the crime that you have committed
is very grave.”
In June 1994, while playing cricket at Grendon
Underwood Prison near Aylesbury, England, Graham Backhouse suffered a
fatal heart attack. He was 53 years old.
Shortly after his death it was revealed that he was
engaged to marry Rosemary Aberdour, a bunco artist who served two years
in prison for stealing nearly £3 million from the National Hospital for
Neurology development foundation while posing as a titled aristocrat.
Margaret Backhouse died in her sleep in March 1995.
She was 48. The Backhouses left two teen children behind.
BRISTOL ARCHIVE NEWS STORIES
1932 - 1992 - 60 years of Bristol News Stories.
Reign of terror:
Murder of Colyn Bedale-Taylor,
Backhouse's 63 year old neighbour on 30th April, and the attempted
murder of Margaret Backhouse, his wife.
Backhouse attempted to
kill his wife with a bomb that was planted in his car prior to her
driving it. The bomb consisted two sections of metal pipe, threaded with
a detonator. The powder of 12 shotgun shells had been used as the
explosive and it had been packed with about 4,000 lead pellets. It had
been aimed upward through the driving seat.
Bedale-Taylor was shot
at point-blank range with a shotgun in Backhouse's farmhouse in Horton,
near Chipping Sodbury.
Backhouse was found
guilty of the murder of Bedale-Taylor and the attempted murder of his
wife. He received two life sentences.
staged threats to himself and his family in the form of letters, and a
decapitated head of a sheep with the sign "YOU NEXT" attached. The
police had been informed and investigated the alleged threats. After his
wife had been injured from the car bomb, Backhouse suggested it was a
friend of his. The police questioned this man but let him go. Then he
said it was Bedale-Taylor, who was also questioned and let go.
On the night of Bedale-Taylor's
death, Backhouse claimed that the man ad entered the house and that they
had had an argument. He claimed that Bedale-Taylor had attacked him with
a Stanley knife and in the struggle Backhouse had grabbed his shotgun
and shot his assailant. What really took place was a different story -
Backhouse needed to continue is implication of Bedale-Taylor into the
attempted murder of Mrs Backhouse, so he shot him in the chest at
point-blank range. Then, to cover up his intent, he inflicted deep cuts
to his face - from ear to chin - which later needed 80 stitches. He
splattered blood around the house to make it look like there had been a
Much forensic evidence
was used to prove Backhouse's guilt:
Examining pathologist Dr William Kennard, stated that if Backhouse's
chest wound had been inflicted by someone else, he would have had to
stand still, without resisting or protecting himself.
The knife had been left in Bedale-Taylor's hand - yet his own blood was
all over his hand and not the knife, which would not have been the case
if he had inflicted the wound before being shot.
The blood splatters all over the floor were of the wrong shape. If there
had been a struggle, the blood would have fallen in a distinctive
exclamation mark shape. however they were round splashes, suggesting
that Backhouse had been standing still when the blood had dripped.
Some furniture had been knocked onto the floor, apparently during the
struggle. But some of it had landed on top of the blood splatters. Also
there was blood smeared on the top of one of these fallen chairs,
apparently from Backhouse's hand, but there was no blood on the gun.