BBC Radio Drama of Colin Dexter’s ‘The Wench is Dead’.


A BBC Radio 4 play The Wench Is Dead dramatised by Guy Meredith was broadcast in 1992 starring John Shrapnel as Morse and Robert Glenister as Lewis, with Garard Green as Col. Deniston, Joanna Myers (I couldn’t find a picture for her) as Christine Greenaway, Peter Penry-Jones as Waggy Greenaway, and Kate Binchy as Sister MacLean. The play was directed by Ned Chaillet.


John Shrapnel as Morse (John played Dr. Julian Storrs in the Morse episode ‘Death Is Now My Neighbour’.


Robert Glenister as Lewis

Garard Green

Peter Penry-Jones

Kate Binchy

References to actual events – (From Wikipedia)
Colin Dexter based the novel on the 1839 murder of 37-year-old Christina Collins as she travelled the Trent and Mersey Canal at Rugeley, Staffordshire, on the Staffordshire Knot en route to London. Of the four crewmen, captain James Owen and boatman George Thomas were hanged for the murder by William Calcraft and assistant George Smith, while boatman William Ellis was transported for his involvement (following a last minute reprieve from his death sentence), and cabin boy William Muston was not charged. The evidence was largely circumstantial; the three accused were drunk at the time of the woman’s death, numerous witnesses attested to Collins being distressed as the men used sexually explicit language towards her, and all four men (including the cabin boy) were seen to have lied in court in an attempt to pin the blame on each other and to escape punishment. The three accused stated that Collins jumped into the canal of her own accord and drowned, despite the fact that the water at the particular section of the canal was less than four foot in depth. Alan Hayhurst, author of 2008 book Staffordshire Murders states that “this author does not agree with Mr Dexter’s conclusions!”

According to the dedication to the novel, it was Harry Judge, a “lover of canals”, who introduced Dexter to the small book The Murder of Christina Collins by John Godwin, a local historian and former headteacher in Rugeley. The booklet gives many details of Christina’s early life and the criminal trial that followed her murder.

Much of the research for the novel was carried out at the William Salt Library in Stafford. Dexter recalls that he spent “a good many fruitful hours in the library” consulting contemporary newspaper reports of Christina’s murder.

Author: Chris Sullivan

Up until a few years ago I was my mum's full time carer. She died in, 2020, of Covid. At the moment I am attempting to write a novel.

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