Houseboat Fire in 1956

Tragic death of three year old twins.

Manchester Guardian October 18th 1956
Discovered by Eddy Dodwell who says "The article was found in an old drawer at a friends house."

In 1956 a tragic houseboat fire occurred in East Creek, Benfleet. In it twin three year old boys – Colin and Reginald Wright – died when the houseboat they lived on caught fire.

The death of children is always a tragedy, but this one was more so as their mother – Vici Wright – was charged with their murder. The case went to the Old Bailey, but her defense barrister – Rose Heilbron – managed to convince the jury that she was not guilty of murder.

Instead the jury brought back a verdict of manslaughter as Vici Wright had made no attempt to rescue the twins from the fire. She was given two separate sentences of three years each to run concurrently. With good behaviour she was released from jail after eighteen months.

Further Information

This story is covered on both The Canvey Community Archive and four separate stories in the Echo. Between them they give a lot of details about the events.

The Canvey Community Archive article was written by Robert Hallman and includes a number of comments from people who knew the people or events.

The first of the Echo articles was on Friday 11th July 2008 and was titled “Secrets still clinging to the mud” dealing with the boy’s father Reginald Wright and background history of the story.

The second article was published on Thursday 5th June 2008 and titled “What happened next?” deals with the exhumation of Reginald Wright’s body.

The third article was published on Thursday 18th September 2008 and titled “Mum’s hell after houseboat murders” giving a good overview of the history as told by the son of the other person charged with the murder, who was found innocent.

The fourth article was published on Thursday 18th October 2012 and titled “Secrets still clinging to the mud” is another overview of the history trying to find where Vicci Wright is.

Another source of information is a video on the site, which shows the police searching for clues.

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  • My great aunt, Gwendoline Rand, was a neighbour of the accused and bought the kerosene used in the crime. My great aunt had to give evidence at the trial. This left her feeling guilty for the rest of her life, even though she had just run an innocent errand for a neighbour.

    By Darren bridge (19/06/2016)
  • I was the Station Officer at Benfleet Police Station throughout this enquiry. I may be the only person alive that is aware of all the facts and would like to correct some points.

    Firstly the investigation was carried out by local Benfleet officers under the supervision of Det. Sgt. Ron Sewell. Southend Police and Scotland Yard were not involved. The Magistrates’ Court is located in Southend and Scotland Yard scientists examined exibits submitted to them. That was the limit of their involvement. 

    Secondly there is no mystery surrounding the exhumation of Reginald Wright. As with all matters of this kind they are, and will remain, confidential. The event would have passed unnoticed but for the timing and link to Viccy.

    By Arthur Norris (05/04/2011)

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