HarperCollins Publishers and the London-based broadcasting network Wireless are partnering on a true crime podcast based on Murder in the Graveyard, a new book by British author and journalist Don Hale.
The book and podcast venture explores the Stephen Downing case, the longest miscarriage of justice in British legal history.
HarperNonFiction publishing strategy director Oli Malcolm acquired world rights for the Murder in the Graveyard book from Jeffrey Simmons at the Jeffrey Simmons Literary Agency. The book will be published on 13th June 2019, alongside the first episode of an eight-part accompanying podcast, released as part of Wireless’ new True Crime podcast series “The Reporter”.
Stephen Downing was convicted and indefinitely sentenced in September 1973 for the murder of Wendy Sewell, a legal secretary in the town of Bakewell in the Peak District. She was attacked in broad daylight in Bakewell Cemetery. Stephen Downing, the 17-year-old groundskeeper with learning difficulties and a reading age of 11, was the prime suspect.
“He was immediately arrested, questioned for nine hours without a solicitor present, and pressured into signing a confession full of words he did not understand,” HarperCollins said. “Twenty-one years later local newspaper editor Don Hale was thrust into the case. Determined to take it to appeal, as he investigated the details, he found himself inextricably linked to the narrative. In 2002, Stephen Downing was finally acquitted, having served 27 years in prison. Later that year Don published an account of his fight to clear Stephen’s name. Now, 17 years later, Don has written a fully updated and revised account, shedding fascinating light on his long, dedicated and often dangerous campaign to rescue a long-forgotten victim.”
"The Murder in the Graveyard" podcast will present a series of new interviews, through which listeners will be given “a unique insight” into Hale's fight for justice, with members of the Bakewell community coming forward for the first time to reflect upon a case that remains unsolved. The podcast will feature eight episodes which will be released weekly and available on all well-known podcast platforms.
Malcolm said: “Of all the recent true crime series, none are as resonant, nor as compelling, as Murder in the Graveyard – the true story of a brutal murder, a forced confession, and the longest miscarriage of justice in British legal history.”
Jimmy Buckland, m.d. of Wireless Studios, said: “Listeners will be enthralled by Don Hale’s quest to unravel the secrets behind the Murder in the Graveyard. The case remains unsolved, and seventeen years after Steven Downing’s release important questions remain unanswered. There could be no more fitting story with which to launch our new investigative podcast Reporter than with this account of one courageous journalist’s campaign to expose the truth.”
Hale says: “Murder in the Graveyard is a quintessential British murder mystery dating back to 1973, and reveals my challenging quest to discover fresh evidence to help quash the conviction of a young man jailed for over 27 years for a crime he did not commit. It highlights my difficult and at times, very dangerous journey to seek the truth, despite death threats, intimidation, violent attacks, and a determination by the authorities to keep a lid on the case.
"HarperCollins has allowed me to review my original notes, to tell my personal story, and to highlight the remarkable roller-coaster journey that made such an impact on UK and European Law."
He added that the podcast "introduces many varied characters involved with the campaign, and brings to life a mixed bag of opinions, facts and controversies that have haunted this fascinating case for nearly 50 years".