A Greek Tragedy in a Cambridgeshire Village


Not so very long ago, in the 1970s, a tragedy reminiscent of the dramas written by the ancient Greek poets Euripides and Sophocles was acted out in the peaceful farming settlement of Caldecote.

As with so many dramas it was a family affair, and at the heart of the tragedy was a dispute over money, Greek money.

Many years earlier an elderly man of Greek extraction had bequeathed to his family a cache of Greek coins. At the time that the sequence of tragic events was about to unfold the coins were said to have been worth £40,000. In today’s terms £40,000 could be multiplied ten times to give a present day value of up to £400,000. The stakes, then, were high.

In the late nineteen-sixties or early nineteen-seventies a bungalow called “Westwinds” on Highfields (now Highfields Road) was purchased by Mr and Mrs Empedocles. The couple had plans to renovate the property and to create a butterfly habitat in the garden. But before the work could be completed Mr Empedocles died suddenly. Eventually his bereaved widow, Margaret, moved into the property. Of the couple’s three sons, the youngest had been killed in a road accident, the eldest, Philip, was a professor of chemistry and an educational film producer in the United States of America where he lived with his wife and children, and only the middle son, Anthony, then in his mid-twenties, remained with his mother.

Within the bungalow was a safe, and it was here that the cache of Greek coins had been deposited for safe keeping. At sometime over the next few years it is probable that Anthony removed some or all of the coins, possibly intending to sell them. By 1975 Anthony had become fixated with the idea that his brother, Philip, was going to kidnap him as a punishment for taking the coins. The matter must have been the subject of some transatlantic correspondence because on the evening of 8th December 1975, during a business trip to England, it was arranged that Philip would visit his mother’s home to meet Anthony and to discuss the ownership of the coins. Chillingly, Anthony prepared for the visit by purchasing two crossbows, which he loaded with deadly bolts and concealed in a roll top desk in the family home.


The two brothers argued through the evening and into the night. At about 2am on 9th December Anthony took one of the crossbows from the desk and shot Philip with it, fatally wounding him through the heart. In a statement that he made to the police while in custody Anthony was to say of Philip that “I shot him. He went berserk for two seconds, shouted and then he fell unconscious. I reloaded and shot him twice more”. It was Anthony who calmly telephoned a doctor and the police and told them what he had done. He was immediately arrested. A contemporary press photograph shows a small, slim man in a checked shirt, his face concealed by a jacket, being led away by two police officers. On 10th December 1975 Anthony Michael Empedocles, aged 28, was charged with the murder of his brother, Philip Basil Empedocles, aged 36.

At Norwich Crown Court on 1st April 1976 Anthony Empedocles pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his brother, Philip. His plea was accepted after the court heard evidence that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. The judge, Mr Justice Mars-Jones, decreed that Anthony should be detained in Broadmoor for an indefinite period.

There is one more victim of this Greek tragedy who has been silent throughout this terrible sequence of events. Margaret Empedocles first lost one of her sons to a road accident, and then she lost her husband just as they were planning to settle into retirement in the home of their dreams. Finally, she was to have one of her remaining sons brutally taken from her by the other. Having endured so much pain, and having seen her family destroyed, Margaret Empedocles died on 2nd September 1978, alone and without immediate heirs. On 24th May 1979 Margaret’s solicitor advertised in the London Gazette for claimants to her estate. If anyone came forward it is not recorded. The ancestral wealth of the Empedocles family was to destroy them and that, in the end, is their tragedy.

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