Murder Casebook
 
The Orchid Murders 1969
 
Running Time - 2mins 20secs
 

On the 21st November 1969, friends of Gayle Merrick threw a Baby Shower party for her and her newly born daughter Linda. In attendance was Gayle, her husband, baby Linda, and seven (7) other women. As the evening wore on, four of the women had to leave, which was very fortunate for them as the remaining five adults did not survive the rest of the evening.

Gayle Merrick was a florist and horticulturist. She ran her own business, which was appropriately called “Gayle's Flower Shop.” Gayle's speciality was growing orchids, an expensive flower indeed but she was so good at growing them that she had won countless awards for them at various flower shows that she had entered. Because she was so good with orchids and the quality was exceptional, she had very little problem in selling them as well.

The video above was the Baby Shower party that was filmed on the evening of the 21st November 1969.

The following morning, a number of Gayle's regular customers arrived at her shop to find that it was closed. This was unheard of and some of the customers began to express their concerns. Ruth Fisher, a regular customer and friend of Gayle's, decided to go to her home to see what was up and make sure that everything was all right.

She found the front door open and walked in as a friend would. What she found caused her to run out of the house screaming hysterically.

The Police arrived to find the scene as Ruth had. It was a ghastly find. Gayle, her husband, and three of the women from the Baby Shower of the previous night were all neatly sat up on the sofa. With their wrists and ankles bound, they each had a pink orchid pinned to their foreheads. In addition to this, their mouths and throats were packed tightly with flower petals, which was the resulting cause of death, suffocation.

Baby Linda was nowhere to be found.

A murder inquiry was launched and fingerprints were recovered from the crime scene that did not belong to any of the victims, and nor did they belong to any of the four women who had left early the previous night. The Police went to Gayle's flower shop and found the place had been vandalised and that a number of expensive orchids had gone missing.

A week later the Police got the break they were waiting for. Margaret Upton, a friend of Gayle's was attending a flower show that was in progress some 20 miles away from the murder scene. Her eye was caught by a display of black orchids that had been entered by Gerald MacDonald and Hubert Kelly. MacDonald and Kelly were rival flower shop owners to Gayle Merrick and the displaying of orchids was nothing out of the ordinary for the two men. What caught Margaret Upton's attention was the fact that the black orchid's were standing in distinctive glass planters that were a mark of Gayle Merrick's flower shop. She immediately alerted the Police.

Fingerprints were taken off the planters. They matched to fingerprints that had been found at the murder scene and both men were arrested and eventually charged with the murders of all five victims.

MacDonald and Kelly's motive for murdering Gayle Merrick was because they had entered countless flower shows and had been beaten in all of them to the top prize by Gayle Merrick. They simply decided that she had to be killed.

When questioned about the bizarre fashion of the murders, MacDonald explained.....

“...to make it look like it was the same people who had killed Sharon Tate and her friends.”

He continued....

“Weird killings were becoming popular and we wanted to be part of the action.”

While MacDonald was happy to brag about his bloody work, when he was questioned about Baby Linda, he shut up, refusing to speak a single word about her or what had happened to her.

Gerald MacDonald and Hubert Kelly were sentenced to life in prison.

The whereabouts of Baby Linda Merrick was to remain a mystery for the next 36 years.

In July, 2005, Gretchen Barnes was dying. In the last moments of her life she made a death bed confession to her daughter Rachel. In 1969, the year that Rachel was born, a man who she knew as Gerald MacDonald had arrived on her doorstep carrying a new born baby. He had known for some time that Gretchen was desperate for a child of her own, and while he told her nothing of the murders he made it clear that if she didn't look after the child, all that would happen would be that she would go through a life time of care homes and fostering. Gretchen took the child and renamed her Rachel and raised her as her own.

Rachel Barnes was Linda Merrick.

It is certain beyond any doubt that Gretchen Barnes would have known all too well who the child was after the convictions of Gerald MacDonald and Hubert Kelly. Whatever motivated her emotionally, she decided to remain silent. No earthly power would have known anything about Rachel being Linda, but a higher power would know all about it, that was why she chose the time she did to confess everything to her daughter Rachel so she could go to her maker at peace.

Two hours later, Gretchen Barnes died.

 
 
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