Book Review – “Injured Parties: Solving The Murder Of Dr Helen Davidson”

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Recently I was in touch with crime author Monica Weller after reading an article about her in the national press about the project she had undertaken, writing a book about a 50 year old still unsolved murder. The case itself is not widely known in the annals of unsolved British crimes, it is not a cause celebre such as the Wallace case of the 1930’s, or the Hammersmith Nudes murders of the 1960’s. It is a brutal murder of a middle aged and widely respected general practitioner, Dr Helen Davidson, in woodland near her Buckinghamshire home in late 1966. The article caught my eye as Dr Davidson was battered to death and mutilated whilst out walking her dog, and it is a case that I was aware of and had given consideration to (and ultimately discounted) as being possibly connected with the series of Dog walker killings covered in the articles featured on TTCE a few months back. Nevertheless, it caught my interest and as any book about a relatively unknown UK murder will do this, I contacted Monica via Twitter and asked if I could have a copy for reading and review purposes. I found her very approachable and she readily agreed to this, with a copy being sent to me extremely promptly.

“Injured Parties: Solving The Murder Of Dr Helen Davidson” tells the story of the brutal murder of General Practitioner Dr Helen Davidson, on 09 November 1966 whilst she was out walking her dog in Hodgemoor Woods, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire. It was a very brutal and seemingly motiveless crime, and one that as mentioned above remains unsolved to date. As it is an obscure historical case, and not readily a crime that comes to the front of an enthusiasts mind, I found it refreshing to pick up a book the subject of which piques your interest, yet tells a story the reader will ultimately be unfamiliar with. It is never the intention of TTCE to give away the entire plot points and structure of a book within the review; nor is it the intention to give anything but a fair and unbiased review. The former will not occur here, whilst the latter will.

Monica has, at what must be great personal monetary and time consuming expense, thoroughly researched all angles of what is an obscure case, and it shows in the wealth of detail featured in the book. I have to admit that I was very impressed with the amount of research that has gone into writing “Injured Parties”, and to me, I can think of only a handful of books that are equalled in the amount of detail concerning the subject (true crime books written by Gordon Burn spring to mind). This extends to two things that always impress me with a true crime book (and ensure them a permanent place in my extensive library); a varied range of photographs concerning aspects, places, and people mentioned in the book; and an excellent and assorted Appendix containing reproductions of press cuttings concerning aspects mentioned within, letters to and from the author to persons mentioned within the text, and what impressed me most, a reproduced pathologists report in full. I cannot fault any of this at all, it is an excellent addition.

If I had to pick anything negative concerning the book, it is that in the opinion of TTCE that this is a book that may reach its widest audience with a reader who lives in the locality of the places mentioned within. I know for myself reading about a subject set in a place that I can visualise and know personally will always hold great appeal, and I can imagine this occurring with “Injured Parties”, because of the obscurity of the subject. It is hard to imagine a crime reader who lives in Los Angeles, for example, savouring detail upon detail of a historical murder in rural Buckinghamshire. I can also imagine some readers finding parts of the book repetitive and long winded (for example the chapter concerning Helen Davidson’s early life), but equally can imagine those who savour detail -such as myself – commending this. Yet this is only TTCE’s opinion, and one that I would hope to see proved wrong by “Hidden Parties” becoming as much as a success as the hard work that has clearly been put into writing it deserves.

It is for the reader themselves to make up their own mind as to the validity of the theories presented within “Injured Parties: Solving The Murder Of Dr Helen Davidson” – I enjoyed it and respect and commend the research, although perhaps the natural investigative nature within me would still need more convincing to agree with what the title denotes. Nevertheless, as with everything opinions differ from reader to reader, and TTCE recommends the best way is to reserve judgement before reading this well- researched book. It will stay on my shelf for sure.

For further info:

WordPress – Monica Weller

Facebook – Injured Parties

 

The True Crime Enthusiast

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2 thoughts on “Book Review – “Injured Parties: Solving The Murder Of Dr Helen Davidson”

  1. HELEN DESERVES SOME JUSTICE….
    AN ABSORBING REVIEW OF A WHOLLY UNSATISFACTORY MURDER INVESTIGATION FINALLY YIELDING A PROBABLE RESULT

    An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE, Head of Chambers and Reviews Editor, “The Barrister”, and Elizabeth Robson Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

    One of the most fascinating aspects of criminological history is the sheer number of what are termed “unsolved” murders. This is one of them. The book is an excellent and detailed explanation of the shocking death of Doctor Helen Davidson.

    Written and researched by Monica Weller over seven years, “Injured Parties” is an important contribution to the growing “unsolved” file of homicides where the truth will now never be fully known because of “cover ups”. But, as with all homicides, we have a good idea of the person responsible without “conspiracy theory” syndrome, but just good careful detection fifty years later. And it is clear who probably committed the murder.

    What makes Helen’s story so fascinating for me is that I spent the first 20 years of my life in Amersham (Old and Top). I remember what happened quite vividly even now with all the rumours, the places, and the closeness of the local communities of that time quite fresh to me.

    Monica has produced a first class piece of legal research which reads as a mix of intelligence reports, witness statements and serious applied criminology “fit for purpose”. I found the conclusion particularly revealing for the saddest of reasons and feel now that Helen has some late justice as we know, on a balance of probabilities, who killed her and why. Read the chapter entitled “In the Frame” (I don’t do spoilers) for your answer when you weigh up the evidence Monica has produced.

    I know all the locations Monica refers to and remember the Wood vividly as it was, and the roads and all the gossip even now when all the leading players are dead. As a barrister, I never normally draw personal conclusions about individuals but I will make one exception here with the sadness I have for what happened to Helen, and the aftermath in what was such a different era from today.

    It was a particularly nasty homicide (there are no “nice” ones) but this was frenzied and exhibits all the hallmarks of a twisted sexual crime at a time of homosexual reform which took a further thirty five years to become even partly accepted in today’s society, now including transsexual persons who many would never accept or thought existed in 1966 when, in fact, they did.

    Such matters are, of course, raised in courts but there was tremendous reserve and little reporting at that time because of the subject-matter. And on 100th anniversary of Helen’s birth we have come a long way quite quickly on the issue of attitude.

    One area remaining in urgent need of reform is policing. Monica is even handed throughout her narrative and not critical (in the way others would be) about the way the investigation was carried out. The word “poor” features prominently for me with the phrase “cover up” apparent concerning the inquiry- both quite unacceptable approaches even for “the couldn’t care less” 1960s .

    If it could ever be of any comfort to Helen, we might (eventually) get something positive from what Monica has researched: “A Royal Commission on Modern Policing for 21st Century Requirements”.

    This, after 40 years’ of PACE, the creation of the CPS, DNA discoveries and profiling, repeated failures to discover unused/undisclosed material, and reform of decisions to close or seal files allegedly to protect living persons – a legal fiction if ever there was one when we, the public, pay and have a right to know. Alas it goes further with the negligent destruction of evidence, documentary or real, here which remains a grave action for which there appears to be no justification. And I bet the files have all now gone.

    “Injured Parties” is a meticulous account of all involved in what happened to the central figure: the failures; the many unpleasant people; class; a lack of intelligence by people and organisations; a sadness for the community who thought a maniac was on the loose when that was not the case; and the lack of humanity to the end for the victim. The story would make a great film… and the events actually happened.

    Thank you, Monica, for the seven years you gave for Helen. Please keep safe the names of those not named for the day that will come when we can be told and the perpetrator finally, formally unmasked: that is always the beauty of history!

    Like

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