“The Wind in the Willows,” first published in 1908, is a lovely tale by Kenneth Grahame of camaraderie, friendship and overcoming greed and excess.
The beloved children’s novel features four anthropomorphized animals — a mole, water vole, badger and toad — who become close friends as the toad overcomes his selfish, greedy behavior that previously led him to do things such as steal.
For more than a century, the story’s message has been clear to the children who read it. It’s the message of countless children’s stories: Be kind to your fellow man.
Adrian Greenwood, of Oxford, owned a rare first-edition copy of the book, valued at $64,000.
Michael Danaher tortured him and stabbed him more than 30 times, killing him in order to steal the book, the very one preaching kindness, police say.
What’s more, Danaher took a selfie of his blood-splattered beard and had plans to rob and kidnap actress Kate Moss, TV personality Simon Cowell and author Jeffrey Archer, among others, police say.
Danaher, who doesn’t deny killing Greenwood but claims to have done so in self-defense (though he hasn’t yet publicly explained how), is currently on trial at the Oxford Crown Court.
On April 7, 2016, Greenwood’s body was found in the hallway of his Oxford home on Iffley Road by a cleaning person, the Oxford Mail reported.
His head, neck and chest were covered in more than 30 stab wounds, prosecutor Oliver Saxby told a jury on Tuesday.
One gaping wound on his back suggested that the 42-year-old had been attacked from behind. His skin was also covered in puncture wounds and dark bruises, which suggested that he had been tortured, potentially as a means of persuading him to tell Danaher where the book was being kept in the house.
Finally, deep gashes on his hands led police to believe that, at one point during the attack, Greenwood wrapped his bare hands around the sharp steel of the knife blade, which then broke off, the Guardian reported.
News of what the Thames Valley police called a “vicious and sustained attack” quickly broke across Britain — as Greenwood was a noted historian known for dealing rare first edition copies of modern books, like the Harry Potter series.
Initially, an unnamed 26-year-old was arrested and released three days later without charge, Cherwell reported.
Eventually, though, the 50-year-old unemployed Danaher, father of two, was arrested and charged with Greenwood’s murder. His fingerprints were found on a pint glass in Greenwood’s home, a prosecutor told the jury, according to the Oxford Mail.
After the attack, Saxby said, “cool as you like, he helped himself to that first edition of ‘The Wind in the Willows,’ and Adrian Greenwood’s phone, and his laptop and his wallet.”
He also stopped to snap a selfie of his bloodied beard.
While searching through the contents of Danaher’s laptop, police found a spreadsheet listing “people of means” whom he allegedly either planned to rob or kidnap.
The list, which Saxby said was “considered in its own way, and efficient, and really quite brutal,” included several well-known names, such as Moss and Cowell, along with a method of attack and the item he seemed to expect to gain from each encounter.
Next to Greenwood’s name, for example, was written “Modus: Any!! Expected take: Rare books.”
Also on the list, the BBC noted, were “venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft, TV pawnbroker Adam Hatfield, property developer Howard Grossman, and financial investor Guy Hands.”
In fact, police said on March 22, Danaher had attempted to force entry into Beecroft’s home by posing as a delivery man, but Beecroft’s wife grew suspicious and screamed for help, causing him to flee.
Alongside many of the names, the phrase “scum Tory” was written. Tory is short for a member of Britain’s Conservative party.
Also listed were methods, such as “stun gun,” “sister” or “daughter.” The latter two, the Guardian reported, were accompanied by the word “ransom.”
Saxby told the jury the list “exudes a sense of resentment.”
“It is almost as if these are people who because of their wealth, and his lack of it, deserve to be subjected to what he has planned. And there is a callousness, we suggest, about the list,” Saxby told the jury, according to the Oxford Mail.
Danaher’s search history also proved revealing.
In the past several months, Danaher had reportedly searched for “Adrian Greenwood,” “rare books Oxford” and “Wind in the Willows,” the BBC reported.
On Dec. 16, according to bank records, Danaher purchased a stun gun that was built to look like a cellphone.
The night before the slaying, police say Danaher searched for various topics including “how to buy a handgun with a silencer” and “how to hide a gun in a car.” He had also opened a document conspicuously titled “Getting away with murder — Britain’s most notorious crimes.”
Police found on the laptop several other eBooks with similarly conspicuous titles, including “Hacking for Profit,” “Opening Locks Without Keys” and “The Technique of Silent Killing.”
Saxby said Danaher deleted Greenwood from his list hours after his death, posted the rare book for sale online and searched the Web for news of the body’s discovery, according to the Oxford Mail.
“It takes a certain person to have done what the defendant did to Adrian Greenwood,” Saxby said, according to the Guardian, and “to use his brutality to scare someone he had already terrified … Cool, calculated, controlled. Before, during and after. And underpinning it all? Greed. It was money he was after.”
The trial is ongoing.