Travel to Otterburn and the Evelyn Foster case with Diane Janes
Otterburn and the Evelyn Foster case with Diane Janes
Travel to Otterburn and the Evelyn Foster case with Diane Janes. Very excited to have the actual author of Death at Wolf’s Nick on The BookTrail. I have recently discovered this, become fascinated with the case and so contacted the author who has written a very fascinating account of her research into this book below.
I love researching my books, but being able to visit the locations involved in the Evelyn Foster case was a particular joy. The Northumberland countryside is one of England’s best kept secrets, beautiful and largely unspoiled, and though Otterburn, the village where Evelyn lived and died, has grown substantially larger, it is still recognisably the village she knew. It is relatively rare to be able to retrace the geography of a murder which occurred so many decades ago in such close detail, but so little has changed that I was easily able to drive and walk the routes involved in the awful events of 6 January 1931, testing out the vantage points enjoyed by various witnesses and this helped me to shed light on what actually happened – in particular calling into question the evidence of two supposedly key witnesses.
The main street in Otterburn
Whenever I stayed overnight in Otterburn I was struck by the night-time quiet. Even today there is relatively little winter traffic after dark. Engines can be heard and approaching headlights seen from long distances. I found the moonlit, north-country landscapes unthreatening. Just as in 1931, Otterburn and the surrounding countryside feels safe, the likelihood of being overtaken by bitter winter weather far greater than the likelihood of being attacked by a murderous stranger.
Elishaw Road Ends… where the incident occured:
The Foster murder involved a car journey along a substantial stretch of road, with witnesses drawn from widely scattered farms and hamlets, so there was plenty of exploring to do.
One or two locations required a bit of detective work to pin down. Some locations are not marked neither on contemporary or current day maps. So, I found it a challenge when I drove to the disused chapel in Kirkwhelpington . The narrow lane was a dead end which offered scant room to turn a car.
Locations are not just about the roads and fields and buildings, but also the people who live in them. True Northumbrians have an accent which is unlike any other. Local place names have distinctive (sometimes unexpected) pronunciations. However, local people are lovely. They don’t seem to mind when outsiders like me mangle place names. For example, when we imagine that Rochester north of Otterburn is said in the same way as Rochester in Kent. Many families have lived in the area for generations.
In 1931 the community rallied to defend one of their own against an unfounded smear campaign and in 2017 they packed the village hall in the hope of belated justice for her. ‘Belonging’ in a place like Otterburn still means something. The people I met and the voices which surrounded me all added to that special sense of place.
Northumberland is undoubtedly a source of inspiration, a place of abundant beauty and peace, attracting poets and painters alike… even so, a night-time drive along the A696 can transport you back to the grim events of one particular winter evening in a heartbeat.
Cresting the rise at Wolf’s Nick it is easy to understand the eeriness invoked by seeing flames on the moor. This was no place for a fire. Driving north towards Horsley, the lights of the Redesdale Inn still provide a welcome suggestion of warmth and company on an otherwise lonely road. And as for that traveller who waits alongside a car at lonely Elishaw Road Ends… would you have stopped for him?
Now there’s a question! Thank you so so much Diane for taking readers on this fascinating journey! Travel to Otterburn and the Evelyn Foster case with Diane Janes!
BookTrail Boarding Pass: Death at Wolf’s Nick