The Mysterious Death of Richard Lancelyn Green
Richard Lancelyn Green was the foremost expert on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—but no one expected to have his murder become a Sherlock Holmes-esque mystery, too.
How far would you go to show your love for your favorite fandom? Would you spend money on merchandise? Become a scholar on the subject? Go to conventions based on the topic?
Would you write books for new fans to enjoy? Would you put yourself in harm's way to make sure that your favorite media remains visible to the rest of the world?
For Richard Lancelyn Green, the answer was "All of the Above." Green was, at one time, the world's foremost Sir Arthur Conan Doyle scholar, and likely one of the mystery writer's biggest fans in existence.
Unfortunately, it seems that Green's adoration of classical literature led to his death—and sparked a mystery that would have likely baffled Sherlock himself.
Who was Richard Lancelyn Green?
If you thought that your daily log onto your favorite classical literature forum made you the world's biggest Sherlock Holmes fan, you'd be wrong. Most people would call Green a superfan, and truthfully, it was the best way to describe him.
While most fans of the famous mystery author would be content with just reading a Sherlock Holmes novel once in a blue moon, Green became known as the world's biggest expert on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And, unlike other literature scholars, his pursuit went beyond just publishing essays on Doyle.
You see, Richard Green was the type of man who turned his love of literature into a show. He would regularly act as a 19th century-style master of ceremonies for classical music shows, while wearing costumes. He'd also cosplay to go to locations that held significant meaning in Doyle's life.
Plain and simple, he was an otaku for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—and just about anything related to the writer's works. If he would have been alive for Sherlock's tapings, the crew probably would have hired him as an expert for the show's writing team.
One would think that an obsession on something this innocent and bookish wouldn't be dangerous. However, things weren't quite as they seemed in the world of classical literature.
The Unfinished Manuscript
If you couldn't guess, not many people knew as much about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as Richard Lancelyn Green did. Green avidly published anthologies of Doyle's work, including one book that was filled with non-canonical stories about Sherlock Holmes.
Unsurprisingly, Green eventually set out to write what was supposed to be one of the most complete biographies on Doyle ever written. And, wouldn't luck have it? A recently unearthed set of Doyle's writings were discovered during the time of his writing.
The "Cursed" Letters
The writings belonged to the late Dame Jean Conan Doyle—one of the famous author's only two children. They also happened to be a rich collection of private journals and papers yet unseen by the rest of the world.
The writings in question were sent to Christie's for auction, despite Jean's insistence that they go to the British Library. Upon hearing about the auction, Green became incredibly distraught. How could the author's inner works become something used for sheer profit, when it was clear that it would be better to leave it for others like him to study?
Richard Lancelyn Green tried to put a stop to the multimillion-dollar auction, citing both the Doyle family's wishes as well as the historical importance of the documents.
But, there was more to the story than just desiring access to some documents. Richard had every reason to be upset about the papers, especially since he was a close friend of Dame Jean Conan Doyle. So, it was also a matter of seeing his friend's last wishes being ignored.
The Conan Doyle Curse
Like many geniuses, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's success also led to inner strife in his family. His must-read mystery novels and short stories were so well-loved that the rights to them became instantly priceless. Unfortunately for the Doyle family, they couldn't figure out how to share.
It's said that people who were deeply tied to the famous writer tended to be much more vulnerable to bouts of insanity or an early, mysterious demise. Over the years, many people have fallen victim to the Conan Doyle Curse—almost all of the victims finding their ruin after dealing with the Doyle family inheritance.
As the weeks leading up to the auction came and went, people in Richard's immediate circle began to get worried about the scholar's behavior. Richard told both friends and members of the press that he was receiving extremely threatening calls, and that he was followed by an unnamed American.
Considering that Richard was making a ruckus about the papers, many people believed that there may be a more insidious reason for the calls. More specifically, they believed that someone may have wanted to silence him for profits' sake.
Many people who spoke to Green believe that the unnamed "American" that he was worried about could be Jon Lellenberg—United States defense secretary and Holmes author.
The two had worked together years before, but had a major falling out over Green's closeness to Dame Jean. According to Lellenberg, Green had a falling out with the Dame after publishing words about Doyle that didn't fit her vision.
Others, however, have varying stories. Many believe Lellenberg may have warped Jean's view of Green in an effort to get closer to her and gain access to documents left by her father.
According to police, Lellenberg visited the United Kingdom during the week that Green's behavior started to spiral out of control. Could it be that Lellenberg had a personal stake others didn't know about?
Shortly before Green died, he handed his sister a trio of phone numbers and asked her to keep them safe. Shortly after, his British voicemail stopped working—and was replaced by an American voice that just said he was not available.
It was the voicemail swap that made his relatives sound an alarm. What police found during the inquest was nothing short of shocking.
If producers ever make a version of Sherlock set in the modern day, the way Richard Lancelyn Green's body was found would probably kick off a very good episode. In what would turn out to be a bizarre murder case nobody can explain, Richard was found garroted to death.
Garroting, for those who don't know, is a murder technique that involves strangling someone using rope or a rag. Behind his neck was a wooden spoon that was twisted around, a clear tool used to kill him.
According to authorities, death by garroting is so rare, British authorities only had only seen it once in the 30 years prior to Green's death. Oddly enough, Green's death was ruled a suicide.
The Case for Suicide
Though it may sound insane, there was a good set of reasons why Richard Lancelyn Green's death was considered to be a suicide. Green himself was showing signs of serious mental instability, and many of his friends claimed that his fandom was more of a sick obsession than anything else.
Green's bickering with Lellenberg turned extremely bitter after Lellenberg became close with Dame Doyle. Friends and family also noted that Green himself seemed very depressed and disillusioned with the way his life had turned out.
At 50 years old, he hadn't dated anyone in years. He was very alone—and the only thing he really had going for him was his love of Arthur Conan Doyle. When he lost his ability to read the papers and finished his manuscript, it's very likely that he flew into a rage.
His death oddly mimics one of the last Sherlock Holmes stories ever written. In The Problem of Thor Bridge, a woman planted evidence prior to her death in order to frame her rival. Holmes unravels the plot, proving the woman's innocence.
If anyone were to snap and choose to kill himself in a way that would mimic his favorite books, it would undoubtedly be Richard Lancelyn Green.
A man known as Mr. Gibson, one of the last people to speak to him, and when he heard about the spoon that was used to tighten the shoelace around his neck, he seemed skeptical of the murder:
"He had to have used [the wooden spoon] to tighten the cord. If someone else had garroted him, why would he need the spoon? The killer could simply use his hands." —Mr. Gibson
"All we were clear about was that there was a scam and that, clearly, someone was robbing stuff that should go to the British Library. This was not a hypothesis—it was quite certain in our own minds." —Owen Dudley Edwards
Though the case for suicide seems realistic, it does seem improbable. While it isn't impossible, it's very difficult to die from self-garroting. And, it's not like people didn't have a good reason to want to kill him, either.
Dame Jean actually went out of her way to ask Richard to help with her bequest to the library. This means that Richard had access to documents that others didn't, and that he knew about Doyle's family wealth in ways that others didn't.
The sale itself was being done by three other members of the Doyle family, and all of them wanted the millions that these papers could give them. Owen Dudley Edwards, who worked with Green at the time, noted that Green suspected that foul play was involved in Dame Jean's death.
In the eyes of Edwards, Green remained the biggest obstacle to the sale of the papers. If the sale were to continue, he would have to be silenced or otherwise dealt with.
The scene of the crime also laid out a couple of curious clues. Green, a man who was infamous for his note taking, left no suicide note for people to find. It just doesn't seem quite like a man of Green's mentality to do, does it?
Moreover, there was a bottle of half-finished whiskey on the nightstand near his body. Green was a notorious wine lover and was last seen the night before he died, drinking wine. A sophisticated oenophile like Green would never finish off his wine night with whiskey.
So, someone was probably in his apartment. But who? And did they kill him?
A Mystery That Was Never Solved
In the fictional world portrayed by Sherlock and the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, there's always a solution that's presented at the end of the mystery. It's such a shame that real life doesn't work out that way, isn't it?
Though we may never really know what was going on in the life of Richard Lancelyn Green, we do know that his life was cut unreasonably short—either by his hand or someone else's. And, we also know that he died in a very unusual way.
Was it the last outburst of a troubled, obsessed fan? Or, was it the work of an unknown killer who wanted to ensure that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's papers ended up making a profit? The world may never know.