Date: 27 Mar 2004
Richard Lancelyn Green was garrotted in his home. An open verdict was returned.
He was found dead on his bed with a shoelace round his neck that had been tighten with a wooden spoon. He was surrounded by stuffed toys and a bottle of gin in a room that was locked from the inside.
Richard Green was a Sherlock Holmes fan and had written a number of books about the fictional detective. It was thought that his life was not turning out as he had wanted it and that he might have committed suicide but done so in a way to create a mystery and implicate a rival Sherlock Holmes fan. It was said that he had wanted to write the ultimate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle biography and that the auction would have dashed that ambition.
However, other people said that he had been murdered to stop him from testifying over ownership of some of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle papers that were being auctioned. It was noted that he had had wine at a meal he had had with a friend earlier on on the day that he died but that when he was found he had had a bottle of gin with him, and it was said that you wouldn't mix wine with gin and that Richard Green wouldn't have been expected to have done that. It was also noted that Richard Green had been wearing slip on shoes with no shoelaces.
At the time, there had been an auction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's papers which was made up mostly of items that his daughter, he had said, had originally left as a bequest to the British Library that he had been trying to block the auction. It was said that he was tormented by the idea that the collection was to be dispersed across America and not gone to the British Library. Richard Green had said that there had been a mix up in which documents should have gone to the British Library and which were said to have been available for auction. He had contacted the auction house, Christie's, to try and block the sale but was unable to provide proof that the documents should have gone to the British Library. Further, the auction house said that they contacted the executors of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's daughter's will and determined the provenance of the material.
Before his death he had called friends saying that an American was pursuing him and that he was fearing for his life. It was said that the American that he was referring to was another author of books about Sherlock Holmes. Richard Green and the American had previously collaborated on a number of articles but had later fallen out in the 1990's over Richard Green's close relationship Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's daughter who he had said had left the items being auctioned at the time of her death to the British Library. It was said that the American had played on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's daughter's sensitivities about her father's reputation and twisted some of Richard Green's more candid work which had resulted in a wedge being driven between them. It was said that Richard Green had blamed the American for ruining his relationship with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's daughter.
When he died the American had been in the UK for the auction and it was said that Richard Green had been behaving erratically throughout that period. However, the main suspect, who worked in the Pentagon in the United States said that at the time of his murder he had been on a Jack the Ripper tour in London with some other people.
Shortly before he died Richard Green had given his sister a piece of paper with the names of three people and their telephone numbers and told her to keep them safe. It was later found that the names and numbers were unimportant. When she later rang him she found that his answer machine message had been replaced with the voice of an American and when she went to see him she found him dead.
It was later found that the American voice on the answer machine was the default message which had taken effect when Richard Green had erased his own message.
It was said that his death reflected the plot of one of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, The Problem of Thor Bridge, in which a woman was found lying dead on a bridge having been shot and in which all the evidence pointed to a woman with whom her husband had been flirting with, as the murderer. However, in the story Sherlock Holmes determines that the woman had faked her own murder in order to frame her rival.
It was thought that Richard Green had been so enraged about the loss of the document archive to the public auction that he had tried to frame the American.
However, other Conan Doyle scholar's said that Richard Green had been murdered because he had transferred a number of the papers being auctioned to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's daughter's solicitor's office at her request and that he could testify that she had wanted the library to have them. He said that when the documents then came up for auction Richard Green had suspected foul play and he and others had tried to stop it.
The auction took place on 19 May 2004, about two months after Richard Green's death. It was later heard that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's daughter had changed her will at the last-minute to split the archives between herself and three other heirs. It was said, however, that the split had still ensured that the most important documents had gone to the library with about 3000 others going to the heirs which were then auctioned for around £1m. The auction was dominated by American buyers and was said to have included drafts for books and correspondence with people like Winston Churchill, PG Wodehouse, Theodore Roosevelt and Oscar Wilde. It was heard that ironically, Richard Green would still have had access to the information that he would have needed to have written his biography.
Richard Green was a millionaire and a bachelor and had a large collection of books and artefacts. He was also gay. He left his collection of books to Portsmouth Library.
He had had a younger lover who he had been seeing more lately as a plutonic friend and who was the last person to have seen him alive. They had met eight years earlier. The man said that they had gone out for a meal during which Richard Green had drunk most of a bottle of wine and that they had afterwards gone back to Richard Green's house for coffee. The man however, said that Richard Green had insisted that they speak in the garden because he had claimed that his house was bugged. The man denied that he had spoken to Richard Green about strangulation or deviant sexual behaviour which was suggested as one of the reasons for his death.
In the week before his death Richard Green had spoken to his sister. She said 'I spoke to him several times during the week before he died. He was clearly very stressed about these papers. He made clear to me he felt some papers going on sale at Christie's should be in the British Library. He became delusional. He said he felt the world was 'Kafkaesque'. Certain people were doing what he wouldn't expect, certain people were not doing what he'd expect and so on. He said he hadn't slept for several nights. At one point he said he wasn't sure I was me. It was because I was very concerned about his state of mind that I went to see him on the Saturday.'.
Prior to his death he had contacted a national newspaper and warned them that something might happen to him.
The Coroner said that suicide was the most likely explanation but that murder could not be ruled out. He said that garrotting one-self was unusual and painful and that there was no note. It was also noted by a forensic expert at the British Academy of Forensic Sciences that in 31 years of experience he had only ever come across one similar case of suicide by garrotting.
It was also noted that he could have been a victim of 'the curse of Conan Doyle', which was said to affect people that connected with him, making them vulnerable to death or mental breakdown. It was noted that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes books was a committed spiritualist. Other people that had died included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's two sons who had inherited a lot of money when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had died but had squandered it and died early.
Richard Green was the former chairman of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.
Books that he had written included: