I’m going to write about the case of Sandra Weddell, which, to me, was really interesting to investigate.
Sandra Weddell was a 44-year-old nurse from Bedforshire, England. She was a kind and very religious woman. She was married to the police inspector Garry Weddell. Garry was a respected inspector who had been more than 25 years in the force. They had three children together, and they appeared to be a happy family (Wright, 2008).
One day everything changed when, apparently, she committed suicide and left a letter for her husband that said:
I am typing this note, because I know that if I were to hand write it and leave it for you, then I know that you wouldn’t read it.
I am so sorry for all the hurt I have caused you garry. I never meant to hurt you or to cause you so much pain.
I made a stupid mistake and I betrayed your trust, and I betrayed my family at the same time. I don’t know what made me do what I did. I wish the whole thing had never happened. It all got out of hand. I have ended up with nothing.
You are kind to want to forgive me. I don’t deserve your forgiveness.
When you think of me, just try and think of the happier times.
Sandra Jane Weddell”
Do you see anything out of context when you read this letter? At first, everything seems normal. But thank’s to the linguist John Olsson, it was known that Sandra was not the one who really wrote this letter.
In 2006, Garry discovered that Sandra was having an affair and she wanted to divorce. Garry’s life fell apart, and he was really worried about losing his children, so he thought that the solution was committing the ‘perfect murder’ (Leafe, 2009).
In January 2007, Garry killed Sandra putting a cable tie around her neck, that is, strangling her. Later, he hung her body in the garage of their house, trying to make it look as if she had committed suicide. In addition, he tried to cover what he had done leaving a ‘suicide note’ nearby in a sheet of paper, as if Sandra had written it (Wright, 2008).
As he was a police inspector, he knew about all the possible mistakes he could make and he tried to cover everything that could make him look guilty. He even wore gloves to make sure he was not leaving evidence on the paper (Wright, 2008).
During the investigation, the police asked some neighbours and colleagues about the couple’s behaviour the day of the murder. Although at work Sandra was acting perfectly normal according to her colleages, that day there were some inconsistencies such as the fact that neither she nor her husband had picked the children up from school. Also, Garry asked his neighbour for help to find Sandra who, according to him, had been missing for 24 hours (Wright, 2008).
At first, police investigations pointed that it had been ‘probably suicide’ and Garry Weddell was not arrested. Some detectives disagreed with this and continued their investigation without him knowing. Some months later, Garry was suspended from his job and arrested as a suspect of murdering his wife. However, after trial, he was free on bail and killed his mother-in-law before killing himself.
As I previously said, John Olsson was the linguist who analyzed the letter and found three main relevant features in this letter that were odd:
- The full stop after the salutation.
- How she signed the letter with her full name and didn’t write only ‘Sandra’ but also the second name and surname. Also, it is centered and not left-sided.
- The use of very short sentences comparing to the other samples analyzed wrote by Sandra in which she used longer sentences.
His testimony about this case was: at first he couldn’t believe that a police inspector could have killed his wife and at first he though there wasno linguistic value in the letter that could be admitted in court. (Olsson, 2020, “Garry Weddell’s case”)
He used the following technique: memorizing the letter with punctuation and line breaks and transcribing the letter over and over again until something emerges. Then he compared the features found in the alleged suicide note with Sandra’s previous written texts, and then with Garry’s. (Olsson, 2020, “Garry Weddell’s case”)
If we focus on the vocabulary there is not really anything relevant to point out. We should mainly focus on the structure of the sentences and the use of punctuation. It is proved that Garry uses full stop after opening salutation, really short sentences and centered closing salutation.
Also, we can find some spelling mistakes and wrong use of the punctuation signs. This proves that he tried to write Sandra’s suicide note perfectly. However, he was not successful. All these characteristics pointed to an only suspect, Sandra’s husband.
The end of this case was really tragic as Garry was arrested but he was immediately released and he killed his mother-in-law and took his own life. Also, investigations proved that he was planning to kill more people.
Leafe, D. (2009, Jul 3). “Dear Garry. I’ve decided to end it all”: How a full stop trapped a killer. Mail Online. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1197187/Dear-Garry-Ive-decided-end-The-stop-trapped-killer.html
Olsson, J. (2003). Fakers and Forgers. Forensic Linguistics Institute. Forensic Linguistics First Certificate Course. https://www.thetext.co.uk/docs/course/Unit-2-FL-Course.pdf
Olsson, J. (2009). Wordcrime – Solving Crime Through Forensic Linguistics. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp 115-122.
Olsson, J. (2020). Garry Weddell’s Case. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSrJgE9hdFw