A character in BBC One drama, Sherlock, Dr John Watson writes about the case of the Aluminium Crutch

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02 September

The Aluminium Crutch

This one you'll have read about in the papers. The murder of actor Matthew Michael live on stage. I wasn't actually there as I was on a date (went well, thanks for asking) but Sherlock was and he left a number of messages on my voicemail, telling me what happened. A couple of people have asked me what he's really like so I've transcribed them.

"John, I've just been to see Terror By Night at some terrible little theatre on the Strand. The play itself was mediocre but there was a murder! Live on stage! I haven't got time to tell the police what happened so when you've finished having dinner or whatever it is you're doing with... Sarah? I need you to take this message to ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓. Don't worry, it's all quite simple.

Detective Sidney Paget, played by the actor Matthew Michael, summoned the other characters to the drawing room so he could reveal whodunnit. As I'd worked out from Scene One, Lady Margaret Chaplette, had been killed by her son Albert, played by the actor William Howells. William, playing Albert, then had to, in a fit of rage, hit Sidney, played by Matthew, with his aluminium crutch. The aluminium crutch was meant to be made of rubber so that Matthew wouldn't be injured but during the interval, someone had replaced the rubber aluminium crutch with a real aluminium crutch. William playing Albert struck Matthew playing Sidney across the head with the real aluminium crutch and killed him.

Now, the only person who could have replaced the rubber aluminium crutch with the real aluminium crutch was someone who'd had access to William's dressing room during the interval. William revealed who had been in there during the interval - the director Deborah Challis, Matthew Michael who played Detective Sidney Paget, Sarah Groenewegen who played Sissy Hastings, Jonathan Morris who played Cedric Hastings and Karen Baldwin who played the maid, Jade. As could be seen in his performance, William clearly liked a drink. At one point, during a tennis court scene that I actually thought would never end, he referred to Sarah instead of Sissy, the character she played and there were bruises on Matthew's arms where, as Sidney, he'd been struck by the character Albert Chaplette in earlier performances, but where the actor William had missed the padding stitched into the coat. I hope you're getting all this down? So the killer could have been Deborah Challis, the director or one of those four actors, five including William himself. It had to be someone who could smuggle a real crutch in and replace it without William noticing although, obviously, the bottle of gin he was knocking back would have helped.

Deborah Challis, the director, was wearing tight jeans and a top that was far too pink and far too small so she wouldn't have been able to smuggle in anything larger than a peanut. Which would have been fine if she wanted to kill someone with a nut allergy but she didn't. After some gentle questioning from me, she broke down and admitted that she was in love with William but that he wasn't interested. At last, an explanation for why the old drunk had been cast in the play!

Sarah Groenwegen who played Sissy Hastings was clearly having an affair with William (in real life, I mean, not in the play) so had he broke things off with her? Was she pregnant and he didn't want to know? And if so, was she trying to get revenge by getting William arrested for the murder of Matthew? It seemed... improbable but not impossible.

Jonathan who played Cedric admitted that he didn't like William and that they'd had a fight during the interval. It turned out that Jonathan was in love with Sarah (who played his sister Sissy) and he hadn't liked the way William treated her. But again, why go to the trouble of having him arrested? Why not just kill William himself?

Karen who played the maid Jade admitted that she'd been having an affair with the victim Matthew who played the detective Sidney but there was no way she could have hidden a crutch in her maid's costume.

So we had two suspects, Deborah the director and Karen who played Jade, who couldn't have smuggled the crutch in. Two suspects, Sarah who played Sissy and Jonathan who played Cedric, who could have smuggled the crutch in but who didn't appear to have a motive. And then William and Matthew themselves. If William had wanted to kill Matthew then there were easier ways to have gone about it. Which leaves the victim Matthew himself.

As Sidney, Matthew wore a long overcoat (not dissimilar to mine) so he could have done it but there are easier ways of committing suicide - even if you do want to do so dramatically live on stage. The thing is aluminium is actually quite light. There's no guarantee that a strike from an aluminium crutch would actually kill someone. But think about it, John. The bruises on Matthew's arm. William's unprofessional behaviour, the drinking, the affairs. Matthew had already complained to Deborah, the director, about William, but, because she was in love with William, she hadn't done anything about it. And that was it.

Matthew had decided to get William sacked himself. He'd gone into William's dressing room with the real aluminium crutch hidden under his overcoat. The drunk William, busy either fooling around with Sarah or fighting with Jonathan, wouldn't have noticed Matthew swapping the crutch. Matthew's plan was for William, as usual, to hit him with the crutch, not knowing that the rubber aluminium crutch was now a real aluminium crutch. He presumably hoped it would break his arm or cause enough damage that he could sue the theatre or Deborah and ensure that William was sacked. But William, perhaps because of the fight with Jonathan, was even more drunk than usual and swung the crutch too high, striking Matthew across the head and accidentally killing him.

So, just to make sure you've got it: The murder victim Sidney Paget (who played the detective Matthew Michael) was also the killer as he himself swapped the fake murder weapon, the rubber aluminium crutch, for the real murder weapon, a real aluminium crutch, in an attempt to get William Howells (who played the killer Albert Chaplette) fired. The plan itself backfired and he caused his own death."



Mike Stamford 03 September 09:24

I think my brain just exploded

Bill Murray 03 September 10:12


Jacob Sowersby 03 September 10:14


Sally Donovan 03 September 11:43

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