Newport man tells his tragic story behind Agatha Christie classic

TRAGIC TALE: Terence O'Neill

CHILDHOOD: Mr O'Neill, left, aged seven with his brother Dennis, centre

INSPIRATION: Agatha Christie

First published in News South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

A NEWPORT man whose shocking mistreatment at the hands of his foster parents inspired West End play "The Mousetrap" has published his remarkable life story at the age of 75.

Terence O'Neill was born in Pill in 1934, but taken into local authority care when he was four-years-old along with his older brother Dennis.

In July 1944 the two boys were sent to live with Esther and Reginald Gough in Shropshire, where they were starved and given daily beatings.

Within six months of the brothersí arrival, 12-year-old Dennis was dead - killed after a savage beating from Mr Gough.

The Goughs went on trial in February 1945, and 10-year-old Terence gave evidence.

Reginald Gough was convicted of manslaughter and sent to prison for six years, while Esther Gough was found guilty of neglect and imprisoned for six months.

The trial shocked the nation, and Agatha Christie wrote a radio play called "Three Blind Mice" based on the case. This was eventually developed into The Mousetrap - the longest running play in theatre.

But despite his story being told on stage for 58 years, Mr O'Neill has now written his own life story.

"Someone to Love Us" was published by HarperCollins earlier this year, and has already sold 30,000 copies.

Mr O'Neill, now a great grandfather who lives in Bettws, said it had taken 18 years to write the book about memories which are still painful for him.

He said: "It's been very upsetting, but I thought it was a story my children should know. When I had the book in my hands for the first time I couldn't believe it, and the reception has been fantastic."

He added that so many readers have come to visit Dennis' grave in St Woolos cemetery since the release of the book the family have now set up a book of remembrance there in his honour.

Mr O'Neill also went to see The Mousetrap for the first time last month, after only learning of his connection to the play four years ago when his nephew was studying the Goughs' case as part of a social care course.

He said: "It was a fantastic play. I was quite choked."

Mr O'Neill will be at WH Smith in Newport to sign copies of "Someone To Love Us" on October 23.

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