Story Behind The Mousetrap

Behind every murder mystery, like it or not, there is a murder, often fictional, sometimes real.  After reading my review of the Berlin Kriminaltheater performance of Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” Jessica Best, of CardiffRead, reporter for the South Wales Argus, a newspaper in my home country,  sent me an article she wrote recently about the actual murder behind Christie’s well-known play.  This is not the murder that is shown on stage, but one that occurred in 1944 and gave Christie the idea for the plot.  Jessica Best has given me permission to post her article here. Background to the play, foregrounded here is a seventy-five-year-old man who remembers the reality, and has written a book about it, Someone to love us.  As Jessica tells us, he saw the play for the first time last year.

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Newport man tells his tragic story behind Agatha Christie classic

8:30am Thursday 14th October 2010

By Jessica Best

A NEWPORT man whose shocking mistreatment at the hands of his foster parents inspired West End play “The Mousetrap” has published his remarkable life story at the age of 75.

Terence O’Neill was born in Pill in 1934, but taken into local authority care when he was four-years-old along with his older brother Dennis.

In July 1944 the two boys were sent to live with Esther and Reginald Gough in Shropshire, where they were starved and given daily beatings.

Within six months of the brothersí arrival, 12-year-old Dennis was dead – killed after a savage beating from Mr Gough.

The Goughs went on trial in February 1945, and 10-year-old Terence gave evidence.

Reginald Gough was convicted of manslaughter and sent to prison for six years, while Esther Gough was found guilty of neglect and imprisoned for six months.

The trial shocked the nation, and Agatha Christie wrote a radio play called “Three Blind Mice” based on the case. This was eventually developed into The Mousetrap – the longest running play in theatre.

But despite his story being told on stage for 58 years, Mr O’Neill has now written his own life story.

“Someone to Love Us” was published by HarperCollins earlier this year, and has already sold 30,000 copies.

Mr O’Neill, now a great grandfather who lives in Bettws, said it had taken 18 years to write the book about memories which are still painful for him.

He said: “It’s been very upsetting, but I thought it was a story my children should know. When I had the book in my hands for the first time I couldn’t believe it, and the reception has been fantastic.”

He added that so many readers have come to visit Dennis’ grave in St Woolos cemetery since the release of the book the family have now set up a book of remembrance there in his honour.

Mr O’Neill also went to see The Mousetrap for the first time last month, after only learning of his connection to the play four years ago when his nephew was studying the Goughs’ case as part of a social care course.

He said: “It was a fantastic play. I was quite choked.”


Copyright South Wales Argus.  Hyperlink

About dorothyjames

Welsh-American writer, German scholar, translator, traveller.
This entry was posted in Berlin theater, murder mystery, mystery play and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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