Year
1984

A husband attempts murder for money in England

Margaret Backhouse turns the ignition of her husband’s car, setting off a pipe bomb filled with nitroglycerine and shotgun pellets in the small farming community of Horton, England. Hundreds of pellets lacerated her body and practically tore away her legs, but she was relatively lucky in that most of the bomb’s force was deflected away from her. Passersby found Backhouse and brought her to a local hospital, where she was treated and later recovered.

The explosion of the car bomb came only days after a worker at the Backhouse’s Widden Hall Farm had found a sheep’s head impaled on a fence with a note attached that read, “You Next.” Graham Backhouse had complained to police that he had been receiving threats for some time. The police had ignored the complaints until the bombing incident.

After the explosion, authorities closely examined the note previously found with the sheep’s head. At a forensics lab, investigators found the impression of a doodle on the back of the threat note. The police also interviewed Graham Backhouse extensively to see who might be responsible. He told them that he had been feuding with Colyn Bedale-Taylor, a neighbor who was known to have been acting irrationally after the sudden death of his son.

While Margaret was recovering in the hospital, Graham refused police protection. Then, on April 30, police were called to Widden Hall Farm to find an appallingly bloody scene: Graham Backhouse slashed several times across the face and chest, and Bedale-Taylor dead from two shots in the chest. Backhouse told the police that Bedale-Taylor had come over and admitted planting the bomb before slashing him with a Stanley knife. He said that he then ran and got his shotgun, which he used to kill Bedale-Taylor.

Although the police found evidence at Bedale-Taylor’s house linking him to the bomb, they also found evidence suggesting that he did not own the Stanley knife found in his hand. In addition, physical evidence at the crime scene did not correspond with Backhouse’s description of events. This led police to search the Backhouse home. A notebook in Graham’s drawer showed a doodle that perfectly matched the impression on the “You Next” threat note.

Investigators then pieced together the whole plot: Backhouse had increased his wife’s life insurance, created the false threats, set the car bomb, and then, to avoid detection, framed and killed Bedale-Taylor. In 1985, Backhouse was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Germany invades Norway

During World War II, Nazi Germany invades neutral Norway, surprising the Norwegian and British defenders of the country and capturing several strategic points along the Norwegian coast. During the invasion’s preliminary phase, Norwegian Fascists under Vidkun Quisling acted as a ...read more

First astronauts introduced

On April 9, 1959, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) introduces America’s first astronauts to the press: Scott Carpenter, L. Gordon Cooper Jr., John H. Glenn Jr., Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Walter Schirra Jr., Alan Shepard Jr., and Donald Slayton. The seven men, ...read more

Robert E. Lee surrenders

At Appomattox, Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders his 28,000 troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. Forced to abandon the Confederate capital of Richmond, blocked from joining the surviving Confederate force in ...read more

“Chicago Eight” plead not guilty

The Chicago Eight, indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, plead not guilty. The trial for the eight antiwar activists had begun in Chicago on March 20. The defendants included David Dellinger of the National ...read more

Gervin beats Thompson in NBA scoring title duel

On April 9, 1978, the San Antonio Spurs’ George Gervin scores 63 points in his final game of the regular season to edge out the Denver Nuggets’ David Thompson in one of the tightest contests for the NBA scoring crown in basketball history. Gervin went on to become the league’s ...read more

Billy the Kid convicted of murder

After a one-day trial, Billy the Kid is found guilty of murdering the Lincoln County, New Mexico, sheriff and is sentenced to hang. There is no doubt that Billy the Kid did indeed shoot the sheriff, though he had done so in the context of the bloody Lincoln County War, a battle ...read more

Tornado reduces Oklahoma town to rubble

The town of Woodward, Oklahoma, is nearly wiped off the map by a powerful tornado on this day in 1947. More than 100 people died in Woodward, and 80 more lost their lives elsewhere in the series of twisters that hit the U.S. heartland that day. The storm occurred when a cold ...read more

George Shultz condemns Soviet spying

Just days before he is to travel to Moscow for talks on arms control and other issues, U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz states that he is “damned angry” about possible Soviet spy activity in the American embassy in the Soviet Union. Soviet officials indignantly replied that ...read more

Confederate General Lee surrenders

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. For more than a week, Lee had tried to outrun Grant to the west of Richmond and Petersburg in Virginia. After a ten-month siege of the two cities, the ...read more

Honda wins World Green Car award

On this day in 2009, the Honda FCX Clarity, a four-door sedan billed as the planet’s first hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle intended for mass production, wins the World Green Car award at the New York Auto Show. The first FCX Clarity cars came off the assembly line at a Honda ...read more

U.S. surrenders in Bataan

On this day in 1942, Major General Edward P. King Jr. surrenders at Bataan, Philippines–against General Douglas MacArthur’s orders–and 78,000 troops (66,000 Filipinos and 12,000 Americans), the largest contingent of U.S. soldiers ever to surrender, are taken captive by the ...read more