Adrian Mole author Sue Townsend watched as Irish labourer strangled schoolgirl to death when she was 8
Sue Townsend, the late author of the Adrian Mole series, witnessed a schoolgirl being strangled by an Irishman when she was just eight-years-old, a new documentary has revealed.
The author, who died in 2014, hid in a tree with friends as 12-year-old Janet Warner was strangled to death with her school tie in Leicester by Joseph Reynolds, a labourer from Dublin.
"My memory was that he was dragging her by the throat and he strangled her," Townsend says in a documentary to air on BBC2 next week.
Unable to help, Townsend hid in a tree until the murderer had fled before jumping “down over her body” to seek help. However, Townsend said the local sweetshop owner did not believe their version of events. "But he disbelieved us and told us to get out."
Days later, the children’s version of events was confirmed by police who discovered Warner’s body and charged Reynolds with her murder. The Dublin-born labourer admitted to the crime and was hanged five months later.
The exclusive snippet from the upcoming documentary The Secret Life of Sue Townsend was published in The Sunday Times.
"My memory is of me at eight being an adult — being grown-up, and coping in a grown-up way with things that little children shouldn't have to cope with. It is also astonishing how many writers have suffered similar things. It turns you in on yourself.
“You become very aware of atmosphere. You notice things."
Speaking in the documentary, Townsend’s widower said his wife was particularly distraught that the shopkeeper didn’t believe her.
"Sue would tell me what really upset her was that she was not believed by that shopkeeper. She felt this was probably because she came from the wrong side of the tracks,” he said.
Townsend rose to fame during the 1982 when her first instalment of Adrian Mole’s adventures were published and so followed years of sequels, stage and film adaptations.