Graham and Margaret Backhouse, Colyn Bedale-Taylor: The Blood Trail Forensic Files Case Study

Summary of The Blood Trail Forensic Files Case (How Graham Backhouse Caught?)

Date of IncidentApril 9, 1984 and April 30, 1984
Region and LocationWidden Hill Farm, Chipping Sodbury, Avon, England
Forensic Files CaseThe Blood Trail (Season 2, Episode 6)
Victims(i) Margaret Backhouse (40 years) (Maggie Backhouse)
(ii) Colyn Bedale-Taylor (63 years)
CulpritGraham Backhouse (44 years)
Type of CrimeHomicide and attempted killing
Forensic EvidenceThreatening letters, bloodstains, handwriting, and doodle indentations
Forensic Techniques UsedQuestioned document analysis, blood spatter analysis
Charged ForOne count of attempted murder, and one count of murder
PunishmentTwo life sentences
Conviction StatusGraham died at 53 years in June 1994
Summary of The Blood Trail Forensic Files Case and How Graham Backhouse Caught

On March 30, 1984, Graham Backhouse (44 years), a Cotswold farmer, at Widden Hill Farm, reported to the police that a threatening noted sign “YOU NEXT” and a severed lamb’s head impaled on his fence post

Within two weeks, on April 9, 1984, threats became violent. Margaret Backhouse (40 years), Graham’s wife, decided to take his husband’s Volvo car shopping, and as soon as she ignited the car engine, a pipe bomb under the driver seat exploded.

She was brought to the hospital. Luckily, she survived.

Graham also receives another letter. Police hand over all the letters to the forensic document examiner for handwriting analysis. 

Forensic examiners were able to find some deliberate grammar mistakes and a doodle-intended sign. 

doodle-intended sign was came from Graham Backhouse notebook

Now investigators were checking who might harm the Backhouse family. On asking about the suspects, Backhouse framed these letters to David Hodkinson whose wife had a relationship with him.

But Hodkinson had an alibi for that day. Now, investigators suspect that it may be the Backhouse’s neighbor, Colyn Bedale-Taylor (63 years).

Investigators also believed that Mr. Bedale-Taylor had nothing to do with the explosion.

There were no leads and the only thing that remained was giving 24 hours police protection.

On April 18, 1994, after a week, Graham requested to remove the 24 hrs protection. However, for the safety of the family, police do install a “Panic button.

After 2 weeks, dated April 30, 1984, the police alarm went off. When police arrived at the Backhouse, they found Colyn Bedale-Taylor lying dead with two gunshot wounds to the chest and Stanley’s knife clutched in his hand.

Stanley's knife clutched in Colyn Bedale-Taylor
Stanley Knife with the initials of Colyn Bedale-Taylor

Backhouse also had slash wounds on his face and chest. 

Graham Backhouse Story: Backhouse told investigators that Colyn admitted that he had planted the car explosive. And when Colyn attacked him with a Stanley knife, Graham shot him.

It was self-defense,” says Backhouse

However, forensic evidence and bloodstain analysis deduce a different story. There were inconsistencies in his story and blood evidence doesn’t imply what he told the police.

Other evidence such as a notebook with a doodle impression was found in his drawer of the house.

While he was held in prison, he also wrote another letter to a newspaper publication. On handwriting analysis, it was proven that Graham Backhouse wrote those and all threatening letters.

What was Graham Backhouse Punishment?

On February 19, 1985, he was charged with one count of attempted murder of his wife Margaret Backhouse, and one count of murder of his neighbor Colyn Bedale Taylor. He received two life sentences.

Where is Graham Backhouse Now?

Graham Backhouse passed away in June 1994 from a fatal heart attack while playing cricket at Grendon Underwood Prison in Aylesbury, England.

Soon after their death, there were two bizarre discoveries.

  • Graham was engaged to Rosemary Aberdour. She was a bunco artist who had served two years in prison. She was called to be an aristocrat
  • She was sentenced for stealing nearly £3 million from the National Hospital for Neurology development foundation.
  • There is no information on how Graham Backhouse met with Rosemary Aberdour. In a hunch, it must be in prison.

Why did Graham Try to Kill his Wife Margaret Backhouse?

who was Margaret Backhouse and Why did Graham Try to Kill his Wife

There are two main reasons why he attempted to kill his wife Margaret Backhouse:

A. Financial Desperation

Graham Backhouse had a couple of financial losses because of consecutive crop failures. He had a massive debt of £70,000 to a local bank.

It was huge in the 1980s. So, he was trying to find a way to escape his financial woes.

B. His Wife’s Life Insurance

He came up with a plan to claim his wife’s life insurance.

To maximize the potential payout, he doubled her policy to £100,000.

This sum not only clears all the financial debt but also saves for the future. He then planted a pipe bomb under the driver’s seat of his car, expecting his wife to drive it the next day.

Luckily, Margaret survived the explosion. 

Where is Margaret Backhouse Today?

Graham’s wife, Margaret Backhouse, passed away in her sleep in March 1995 at the age of 48. Now, the only members of the Backhouses are the two teenagers and their families.

How Graham Backhouse Killed Colyn Bedale Taylor?

To claim Margaret’s life insurance policy, Graham planted a pipe bomb under his car seat. 

Fearing police suspicion, Backhouse decided to set up a scapegoat, his neighbor Colyn Bedale-Taylor, who was involved in a land dispute with him.

Backhouse lured Bedale-Taylor to his house and shot him twice in the chest.

He then:

  • slashed his face and chest with a Stanley blade,
  • staged the crime scene to look like self-defense, and
  • called the police

Backhouse had also planted some parts of pipe on Bedale-Taylor’s property, similar to the one used in the car explosion.

However, forensic evidence and inconsistencies in Backhouse’s story led him to arrest.

[Table] Forensic Evidence and Their Significance to the Case

EvidenceForensic Significance
Circular blood dropsBackhouse was standstill when blood drops hit the ground. If it was struggling, the blood spatters should be elongated— pointing to the direction of the trail. This is all missing. It concluded that Backhouse is passively bleeding and was standstill at a place.
No blood trailAs per Backhouse’s story, he ran for his life from the kitchen to the hall for getting his gun with injuries to his face and chest. But no blood trails were found at the crime scene.
Absence of blood on the gunIf Backhouse had injuries that profusely bleed, why there was no blood on his shotgun that he fired on Bedale-Taylor after he attacked him?
Section of PipeA long pipe was recovered from grounds close to Colyn Bedale-Taylor’s home that matched a pipe used in the explosion. It was fabricated by Graham to implicate that the pipe bomb had been made by Bedale-Taylor.
Backhouse’s blood on Bedale-TaylorThere were circular blood drops on Bedale-Taylors’ chest, indicating they came from Backhouse when he tried to clamp the Starley knife to his right hand.
Doodle on Backhouse’s notepadA matched impression of the doodle was found on the Backhouse’s notepad. Examiners used oblique lighting to capture the doodle impressions.
Handwriting on threatening letterMatched Backhouse’s handwriting, proving he authored all the letters.
Unsigned letter in prisonAttempt to implicate Bedale-Taylor in pipe explosion incident involving Margaret, but matched Backhouse’s handwriting
Fiber in a threatening letterA forensic examiner discovered a fiber on one of the letters that microscopically matched Graham Backhouse’s brown cardigan sweater. This implied that he was the one who mailed the threatening letters.

Forensic Analysis Vs Backhouse’s Statements: What Seems Wrong?

Following are some of the statements that were proven false:

1. Circular blood drops

As per forensic blood pattern analysis, circular blood drops are an indication that the person was standing still.

But Backhouse told investigators that those bloodstains were made when he was struggling against the Bedale-Taylor attack. That was inconsistent with his version of events.

This is because when the blood spatter over a surface by a force, they made more eleptical design with the angle of fall. A ciruclar blood drop means a 90 degree fall to the ground. Here is the image represent various blood impacts with angle.

Angle of Impact of Bloodstain Patterns
Source: Bloodstain Pattern Analysis: Forensic Types and Classification

2. No blood trails when he was reaching for the gun

Backhouse told the police Bedale-Taylor inflicted injuries on his face and chest and then he managed to run over to pick up his shotgun. But investigators haven’t found any blood trails. from the kitchen to the hall.

3. Absence of Blood on Shotgun

As per Backhouse, Bedale Taylor attacked her resulting in bleeding from the face and chest and he ran for the gun and fired two shots.

But investigators haven’t found any blood over the shotgun, which means Backhouse might not be stating a real story.

4. Blood wets the hand of Bedale-Taylor

Forensic evidence contradicted Graham’s story; wounds were self-inflicted, and Bedale-Taylor wasn’t holding a knife when shot.

When Bedale Taylor’s body was discovered, he grabbed a blade in his right hand which was fully wet with blood. This means he was not holding the Stanely knife when he was shot.

If he holds the blade knife, there must be a void blood pattern, which was not the case. This further undermined Backhouse’s claim.

Read More: Michael Prozumenshikov & Zachary Persitz [Going for Broke] Forensic Files Case Study

5. Chest wound was Inconsistent

Backhouse’s self-inflicted chest wound was inconsistent with how he described the attack. This is due to the fact that the body will withdraw back in an attack.

Ideally, there will be a deep initial point that goes less on its travel. However, in this case, he got a consistent half-circumference length of the wound on the chest.

6. Doodle on notepad matches threatening note

A doodle on Backhouse’s notepad matched an impression on the threatening note, indicating that the threatening letters were written on notepad paper recovered from his own house.

7. Handwriting on threatening letter

The handwriting analysis matched Backhouse’s writing, proving that he authored the threatening letter and was involved in staging the threats.

There were deliberate grammar mistakes and all words in written in capitals. He wrote:

  • “Twice” as Tyce,
  • “Were” as “Wer”
Handwriting on threatening letter were made by Graham Backhouse
Deliberate grammar mistakes made by Graham

8. Unsigned letter from prison

Backhouse’s attempt to implicate Bedale-Taylor for the pipe explosion in the Volvo car.

For that, Backhouse wrote a letter from prison that was thwarted when his handwriting was matched with the threatening letters, further proving he authored all of those letters.

Read More: Rafael Garcia & Robert Huffman [Critical Maneuver] Forensic Files Case Study

How Graham Backhouse Planned Killing His Wife and Scapegoat Neighbor? (Real Story)

Following are the real events that occurred as per the plan of Graham Backhouse that backfires and leads to his arrest.

Planing by Backhouse

  • Graham Backhouse planned to kill his wife, Margaret, to collect her life insurance payout and escape his financial troubles. 
  • And to avoid any suspicion of her death, he sought to frame David Hodkinson, with who he had an affair with his wife, or his neighbor Colyn Bedale-Taylor.

How Graham Backhouse Executed His Plan?

1. Doubling the insurance policy: Backhouse doubled Margaret’s life insurance policy to £100,000, ensuring he had a substantial payout after her death.

2. Fabricating threats: To create the illusion that someone else was targeting him, Backhouse staged threatening phone calls, letters, and notes. He also impaled a severed lamb’s head on his fence post.

3. Planting the pipe bomb: Backhouse planted a pipe bomb beneath the driver’s seat of his car. He knows Margaret would drive the following day for shopping. However, because of the solid seat construction of the Volvo car, she survived the explosion.

4. Setting up the scapegoat: When police asked Backhouse who could be the suspect he first named David Hodkinson. He thinks David would be a perfect scapegoat because he was a quarry worker and specialized in wiring automobiles. However, David had an alibi for the incident day.

5. Framed His Neighbour: Backhouse targeted his neighbor, Colin Bedale-Taylor, who was involved in a land dispute with him. 

6. Luring and killing Bedale-Taylor: Backhouse lured Bedale-Taylor to his home under the pretext of discussing furniture that he was selling. Unaware of the trap, Bedale-Taylor was shot twice in the chest by him.

7. Staging self-defense: After killing Bedale-Taylor, Backhouse slashed his own face and chest with a knife blade bearing his neighbor’s initials to make it appear as self-defense. He also overturned kitchen chairs to simulate a struggle.

8. Calling the police: Once the crime scene was set, Backhouse contacted the police to report the incident, hoping they would believe his side of the story of what actually happened.

Read More: A Shot in the Dark Forensic Files: Martin and Earnestine Case Study

General FAQs

What did Graham tell the investigators that why Colyn Bedale Taylor visited his house?

There were two distinct Stories. One involved Bedale-Taylor had arrived and asked him about his wife’s condition and attacked him. Another version that he stated in the trial that Bedale-Taylor came to his house to repair some furniture. When told that there was no furniture to be repaired, he accused Backhouse of being responsible for his son’s death in a car accident in 1982.

How did Backhouse try to divert attention away from himself?

Backhouse planned it before putting explosives under the car seat. He fabricated a series of threats, including menacing phone calls and letters. He also impales a severed lamb’s head on his fence post to mislead the case implicating that someone else was targeting him.

Why did Backhouse send letter to local newspaper when he was in prison?

While in prison, Backhouse made an attempt to implicate Colyn Bedale-Taylor in the car bombing by sending an unsigned letter to a local newspaper. However, the letter was intercepted, and his handwriting was conclusively matched to the threatening letter delivered to the farm on the day of the explosion.

At what note did Backhouse lure Bedale-Taylor into his house?

Backhouse told Colyn Bedale Taylor that he was selling some furniture and invited him to have a look if he was interested in buying some of them.

How did Backhouse implement that he killed Colyn Bedale-Taylor in self-defense?

After killing Bedale-Taylor, Backhouse slashed his own face and chest with a Stanely knife bearing Colyn’s initials, in an attempt to make the murder appear as self-defense. He also staged the crime scene by overturning kitchen chairs to give the impression of a struggle.


  • Watch the full case on YouTube.
  • The Blood Trail | Forensic Files Wiki [link]
  • Beaten by a Hair [Forensic Files] Case Study: Hadden Clark And Laura Houghteling [link]

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