The threat of ‘a lot of angry people’ did not deter Arundel bookshop owner Sarah Meadham from holding a book signing on Saturday.
Controversy is flaring in the town over author Martin Knight’s book, Justice for Joan, The Arundel Murder.
The well-researched volume reveals many previously unpublished facts about the murder of Joan Woodhouse, a deeply-religious librarian, whose body was discovered in the grounds of Arundel Castle in 1948.
She had been raped and strangled and although the police had a prime suspect, a local man, and a wealth of circumstantial evidence, as well as Scotland Yard’s elite murder squad being brought in to investigate, no-one was ever convicted.
In his book, Martin Knight has delved deep into the case, gaining access through the Freedom of Information Act to previously unreleased material. His findings point, at best, to police incompetence and, at worst, to conspiracy theories reaching right up to the highest echelons of society, suggesting a cover-up by the Establishment.
The suspect remained in Arundel for the rest of his life.
When news spread about the author coming to The Book Ferret for a signing on Saturday, just days beforehand shopowner Sarah had a visit from a middle-aged man who was enraged that interest in the case was being revived after so long.
The man did not identify himself but warned her that if the signing did go ahead, she could expect ‘a lot of angry people’ to turn up at the shop.
“I thought it was highly unlikely that there would be trouble, but it isn’t up to a bookseller to make judgements on whether or not a book should be published,” said Sarah.
“I don’t have an opinion one way or another but Justice for Joan is of great local interest and because the author was prepared to come and answer questions about it, that gave members of the public the chance to come along and discuss it with him.”
No problems arose on Saturday and there was a constant stream of local people coming in to buy the book and chat to Martin.
“It was a very interesting day,” he said.
“One of the people I talked to told me she was only 14 at the time of the murder and that she knew the suspect.
“The case was very strange and I had to really press to be allowed access to the police files.
“But some files are going to remain closed until 2033 which is very unusual, 85 years after the date of the murder. There are not many cases where some details are not being released until so long after the event.”
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