Filming The Suspicions of Mr Whicher «

    Filming The Suspicions of Mr Whicher

    The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, the forthcoming TV murder mystery starring Peter Capaldi and Paddy Considine, is based on the bestselling book by Kate Summerscale that tells the true story of a gruesome Victorian country house murder. Three-year-old Saville Kent was snatched from his cot, taken outside and brutally killed. A narrow village street is packed with extras who have gathered around the small stone Temperance Hall straining to hear the verdict on who committed the horrific crime. The camera pushes through the crowd to see what is going on inside. The raggedy villagers are in muddy boots and dusty clothes. Suddenly, from inside, there is a massive cheer and the sound of wild applause. The rustle of excitement spreads through the street. But the camera refuses to join in the fun. It sneaks aside and follows Detective Inspector Jonathan Whicher (Considine), who has emerged from the courtroom stony-faced. The judgment, it is clear, has not gone his way and he is being rattled by the mob. ‘Mr Whicher! Mr Whicher! Have you anything to say?’ He pushes past silently, climbs into a waiting trap and shouts, ‘Onwards!’ It is less of a command, more of a battle cry. On June 30 1860 Saville Kent, the youngest son of the well-to-do family who lived in Road Hill House, a three-storey Georgian house in the village of Road, Wiltshire, was discovered in the privy, a large cesspool about 10ft deep and 7ft square, with his throat cut. It soon became apparent that someone sleeping in the house must have committed the crime because all the windows and doors were bolted from the inside. The local police failed to make a convincing arrest in the first few weeks and there was an outcry in the national press. A detective was dispatched from Scotland Yard to investigate. Whicher’s probing uncovered the secrets of Road Hill House, and what he found reeked. Samuel Kent’s first wife was said to be insane. She had 10 children, of whom five died at birth or in infancy, and she lived more or less confined to a wing of the house while Samuel took up with the governess, Mary Pratt. When the first Mrs Kent died in her early forties, he married Mary, who went on to have Saville, the murdered boy, and two other children. Adultery was only part of the deception. Samuel Kent appeared to be a wholly plausible country gent, but was in fact living well beyond his means. He was a civil servant – an inspector of factories – and his country house was rented. The villagers disliked him because he prosecuted them for trespassing on his land and poaching from his rivers. And the children from his first family resented him (especially William and Constance) because he clearly favoured the children from his second family, who included the murdered boy. The case became a classic tabloid tale. Murderers, after all, were supposed to be found on the desperate streets of London, not in the bedrooms of grand country houses. England was outraged (and riveted). There were questions in the House of Commons, and people turned detective, writing to newspapers, to the home secretary and to Scotland Yard with their tips.

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