On the August Bank Holiday weekend of 1948 Joan Woodhouse, a demure, deeply religious London librarian, left her lodgings in London to visit the family home in Barnsley, Yorkshire. She never arrived. A week later her body was discovered in the grounds of the historic Arundel Castle in Sussex. Joan had been raped and strangled. Scotland Yard's elite murder squad were summoned and so began a two-year saga that captivated press and public alike. The Yard pursued a number of fruitless leads before alighting on the local labourer who had discovered the body. Despite strong circumstantial evidence they felt they were unable to charge the man.
They had not banked on the tenacity of the victim's down-to-earth family who would not let the matter rest and hired a private detective to gather more evidence. The Yard were pressured into launching a second investigation, despatching the legendary Inspector Spooner to take up the case. He too finally decided there was not enough evidence to lay charges against the Arundel man. The desperate family then chose a course of action that had only been employed once before - a private prosecution for murder. The Woodhouses found themselves in a David and Goliath battle against the might of the establishment.
Martin Knight has uncovered a catalogue of cover-ups, cock-ups, conspiracy theories and attempts to solve the question of whether an innocent suspect nearly faced the hangman or a wicked murderer avoided the gallows.