|“||When the sea goes down, there will come from the mainland boats and men. And they will find ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Indian Island.||„|
|~ Lawrence Wargrave's last message at the end of his final letter.|
|“||I had the power to condemn men and women to death for their crimes. With great power comes great responsibility. I believe that to look away as that power is exercised is both irresponsible and cowardly.||„|
|~ Lawrence Wargrave in 2015 miniseries.|
Justice Lawrence John Wargrave is the main antagonist in Agatha Christie's mystery novel And Then There Were None.
Wargrave is a retired judge, whom since he was a small child has been fascinated with death. As a result of the actions during his long career, Wargrave has developed the reputation as a hanging judge. However, he also possesses a strong sense of justice, and all of his sentences are portrayed throughout the story as being accurate.
In the aftermath of a terminal diagnosis, the judge decided to fulfill his long held ambition to commit a murder. He did so under the alias of U.N. Owen, with himself as the last victim of his sadistic plan.
In the 1945 film adaptation, Wargrave was portrayed by the late Barry Fitzgerald . In the 2015, BBC miniseries adaptation he was played by Sir Charles Dance, who also portrayed the Master Vampire in Dracula Untold and Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones.
Lawrence Wargrave was born at some point in the mid to late 1800's. Intelligent and perceptive, from an early age Lawrence recognized that he had an unnatural passion for causing death. In his final confession letter, he made note to experimenting on wasps and garden pests, both of which are signs of a psychopath. He was also fascinated with detective stories.
However, at the same time, Wargrave also possessed a strong sense of justice. He vehemently believed that no innocent creature (human or otherwise) should be made to suffer. This opinion, influenced his choice of career and he rose through the judicial system to become a judge.
As a result of this, Lawrence Wargrave was able to satisfy most of his carnal desires. From within the court setting, he could use the evidence provided by both the police and the prosecution to lawfully condemn criminals to their deaths. Owing to his unique perspective on criminal psychology, Wargrave was able to make accurate assessments of a persons guilt. Within his confession, he does mention that there were a couple of occasions where he realised that the accused was innocent, and as such made sure that the jury acquitted them. Also, in both the novel and 2015 TV series, Wargrave admits to watching the guilty hang, including Edward Setton.
Despite his successful career, however, his job could not completely satisfy all of Wargrave's cravings. Deep within his heart, the sadistic Judge secretly yearned to commit a murder, a theatrical one, on a grant scale. As had been the case throughout his life though, he was restrained by his sense of justice. Additionally, as is the case of many people in the story, Wargrave's personal life is rarely touched upon. He never provides any indication as to having a wife or family.
"Ten Little Soldier Boys"
Wargrave eventually retired from the judicial system, following a distinguished career. The reason for his retirement is unspecified, but was possibly due to a combination of old age and health issues. Shortly after retiring, the former Judge underwent an operation to remove a massive growth from his body, implied to be some form of cancer. The operation, however, was not successful and Wargrave was given a terminal diagnosis. With nothing to do now but wait the inevitable, Lawrence Wargrave believed that he would die with his ambitions unfulfilled.
Then whilst, undergoing a routine checkup, Wargrave's doctor unwittingly set into motion a chain of events that would lead to the carnage on Soldier Island. Fascinated by Lawrence's career, this unnamed GP made a simple innocent comment, that for every criminal convicted there was always one that managed to escape from justice through various means. He provided an example from his personal experience, which in turn provided Wargrave with his first two victims, Thomas and Ethel Rogers.
This innocent conversation set off a spark in Wargrave's mind. Here at last, was an opportunity for him to achieve his ultimate ambition. The former judge would create a murder mystery that would be impossible to solve (as mentioned in the book's epilogue), whilst also adhering to his strong sense of justice. He also remembered a nursery rhyme from his childhood "The Tale of the Ten Little Soldier Boys", which he would use as the basis for his killings. The poem goes thus:
Ten little Soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Soldier boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Soldier boys traveling in Devon;
One said he'd stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Soldier boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Soldier boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Soldier boys going in for law;
One got into Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Soldier boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two Little Soldier boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Soldier boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.
Over the next few years, Wargrave began searching for and collecting the names of potential victims. After carefully analyzing each case, Wargrave carefully selected nine people, one to represent each of the ten Soldier boys, to join him on Soldier Island. Lawrence Wargrave intended for this to be his last spectacle, for once all was said and done, he would be just as guilty as any of his victims, and must face the consequences. Since he was dying anyway, the crafty and wily Wargrave intended to set things up, so that he could have a quick relatively painless death, instead of a long protracted one.
Using his vast resources, Wargrave purchased on a Soldier Island under a false name of U.N. Owen (a pun of the word "Unknown") through a third party, Issac Morris. Once that was done, he then invited all ten victims, including himself to the Island, under various false pretenses. His plan worked, and for various reason, eight of the guests (including himself) arrive at the Devon Coast, before travelling on the boat to the island. The group was then greeted by the servant and maid, Mr and Mrs. Rogers who arrived months earlier under an employment offer by Wargrave. Each of the guest has the nursery rhyme hanging on the wall in their room. At a large dinner, they notice ten china Indian figures on the table. Later, during dinner, a gramophone record plays, accusing each guest there (including Wargrave) of murder.
The Ten Soldier Boys
- Anthony James Marston, a man with a well-proportioned body, crisp hair, tanned face and blue eyes. He was born to a wealthy family, he ran over and killed two youths, feeling no remorse for the incident as he lacks any kind of moral responsibility. He represented the first Indian as he felt no remorse so could not be broken down like the other guests.
- Mrs. Ethel Rogers, the maid and Mr. Rogers' wife. She is described as a pale-faced, ghostlike woman with shifty light eyes, who is scared easily. Despite her respectability and efficiency, she helped her domineering husband, Thomas, kill an elderly employer by withholding her medicine, so they could inherit her money. She represented the second Indian.
- General John Gordon Macarthur, a retired World War I hero, who sent his wife's lover, Arthur Richmond, to his death. Macarthur sent Richmond on a "mission" resulting in the death of Richmond. He was chosen to be the third Indian.
- Mr. Thomas Rogers, the butler and Mrs. Rogers' husband. One of the first people to come to the island, he is a very hard and good worker even in his old age. However he killed an elderly employer with the help of his wife by withholding restorative drugs from her, in order to inherit her money. He was the fourth Indian.
- Emily Caroline Brent, despite appearing to be an average elderly woman, she’s of unyielding principles who uses the Christian Bible to justify her inability to show compassion or understanding for others. She dismissed her pregnant maid, Beatrice Taylor, who later committed suicide by throwing herself into a river and drowned. Despite this, she felt no sense of remorse for the death Beatrice. For this she was chosen to be the fifth Indian.
- Justice Lawrence Wargrave (himself), a retired judge, well known for handing out the death penalty. He is accused of murder due to the judicial hanging of criminal Edward Seton, even though there were some doubts about his guilt at the time of the trial. He chose himself to be the sixth Indian in order to give himself enough time to convince Armstrong to assist him in faking his death.
- Dr. Edward George Armstrong, a Harley Street surgeon, blamed for the death of patient while operating under the influence of alcohol. After the deaths several of the guests, Armstrong was easily convinced by Wargrave to help him fake his death, however unbeknownst to Armstrong, Wargrave actually was the killer so when he help him faked his death, Armstrong unknowingly gave him another advantage over the remaining guests. Armstrong was chosen to be the seventh Indian.
- William Henry Blore, a retired police inspector and now private investigator, is accused of having had an innocent man, James Landor, sentenced to lifetime imprisonment as a scapegoat after being bribed. The man later died in the prison. For this action, Blore was to be the eighth Indian.
- Philip Lombard, a soldier of fortune. Literally down to his last square meal, he comes to the island with a loaded revolver due being told to do so by the letter Wargrave sent him. Though he is reputed to be a good man in a tight spot, Lombard is accused of causing the deaths of 21 members of an native African tribe. It is said that he stole food from the tribe, thus causing starvation and death. For the 21 deaths, he was chosen to be the ninth Indian.
- Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, a young teacher, secretary, and ex-governess, who takes mostly secretarial jobs since her last job as a governess ended in the death of her charge. She let Cyril Hamilton swim out to sea and drown so that his uncle, Hugo Hamilton, could inherit his money and marry her; however, the plan backfired, as Hugo abandoned her when he realized what she had done and shortly afterwards Hugo went insane by Cyril’s death. Vera was chosen to be the tenth and last Indian.
- Isaac Morris, a shady man, accused of peddling drugs to a young woman which drove her to suicide. He goes to the island because he is hired by the murderer to make arrangements for the island. Apparently, he overdoses on sleeping pills thus killing himself, but the police suspect it was a murder. Before the events of the book, Isaac was approached by Wargrave who convinced him to help him with his plot by purchasing Indian Island and recording the accusations. Shortly after doing this, Wargrave killed him which maked him chronologically the first one to be killed.
Just after the gramophone record plays, each of the guests there acknowledge their awareness and association with the persons mentioned in the recording. However, most of them deny any wrongdoing or fault in the death of the alleged victims, including Wargrave. Only Philip Lombard and Anthony Marston admit that they are guilty, whilst also making it clear that they feel no remorse for what they have done. In the aftermath, Justice Wargrave seems to take automatic control, leading the group with his thoughts. Secretly, however, he has watched the reactions of each of his "co-accused", and from his long experience in the law, knows for certain that they are all guilty.
With this clarification in mind, the Judge begins to enact his plan. He has already organized the order of his victims deaths. In keeping with the lyrics of the poem, each of the guest's would die in accordance with what Wargrave believed to be their level of guilt. Those who were of lesser guilt in their crimes died earlier, while the more cold-blooded killers were saved for last, in order to put them through greater mental agony.
First to die is Anthony Marston, whose drink is poisoned with cyanide (one choked his little self). That night, Thomas Rogers notices that one soldier figurine is missing from the dining table. The next morning, Mrs. Rogers fails to wake up, and is assumed to have received a fatal overdose of sleeping draught (one overslept himself). At lunchtime, General MacArthur, who had predicted that he and the others would never leave the island alive, is found dead from a blow to the back of his head when Dr. Armstrong calls him to lunch (one said he'd stay there). In growing panic, the survivors search the island for the murderer or possible hiding places, but find no one. Justice Wargrave establishes himself as a decisive leader of the group. To make the atmosphere even more tense, he chances upon an unsettling discovery. He asserts that U.N. Owen is an alias, and that one of them must be the murderer, who is playing a sadistic game with the others.
The next morning, Mr. Rogers is missing, and the guests notice one of the little soldier figurines is missing as well. Rogers is soon found, dead in the woodshed, having been struck in the head with a large axe (one chopped himself in halves). Later that day, while the others are in the drawing room, Emily Brent stays in the dining room and she dies from an injection of potassium cyanide—the injection mark on her neck is an allusion to a bee sting (a bumblebee stung one). The hypodermic needle is found outside, thrown from the window along with a smashed china soldier figurine.
The five survivors—Dr. Armstrong, Justice Wargrave, Philip Lombard, Vera Claythorne, and Ex-Inspector Blore—become increasingly frightened. Wargrave announces that anything on the island that could be used as a weapon should be locked up, including Wargrave's sleeping pills and Armstrong's medical equipment. It is then that Lombard admits to bringing a revolver to the island, but more importantly it has gone missing.
They decide to sit in the drawing room, with only one leaving at any one time—theoretically, they should all be safe that way. Vera goes up to her room and discovers a strand of seaweed planted there; her screams attract the attention of Blore, Lombard, and Armstrong, who rush to her aid. When they return to the drawing room, they find Wargrave, dressed up in a judge's wig and gown, slumped against a chair with a gunshot wound in his forehead (one got into Chancery). Armstrong confirms his death. As was revealed in the books epilogue, however, this was a ruse planned by Wargrave. The Judge faked his death in order to move freely, creating the allusion of a fifth unknown person on the island, and so that he could move around without arousing suspicion.
That night, Blore hears someone sneaking out of the house. He and Lombard search the remaining rooms and discover Armstrong missing from his room—so they think he must be the killer. After failing to find Armstrong, Vera, Blore, and Lombard, whose revolver has since been returned to him, decide it best to go outside when morning arrives. They plan to stick together, so that the murderer cannot target them.
Unfortunately, when Blore's hunger gets the best of him, he goes back into the house and does not return. When Vera and Phillip search for him, they discover his body on the front lawn, his head crushed by Vera's marble, bear-shaped clock (a big bear hugged one). The pair assume that Armstrong has committed the murder and leave to walk along the shore. There they find Armstrong's drowned body along the cliffs (a red herring swallowed one) and realize that they are the only two left on the island. Though neither could possibly have killed the Inspector, their mutual suspicion has driven them to the breaking point and each of them assumes the other to be the murderer.
As such, when they lift Armstrong's body out of reach of the water, Vera swipes Lombard's revolver, and kills him on the beach (out in the sun). Victorious, and thinking she is safe, Vera returns to her room, momentarily thinking the last rhyme of the poem was 'Got married and then there was none' because of her need for Hugo. Ironically, this interpretation is the last line in alternate version of the poem, but not the one hanging throughout the house. Upon entering her room, however, Claythorne discovers a noose hanging from the ceiling and a chair underneath it. Having been driven mad (or "hypnotically suggestible") by the experience, Vera hangs herself, kicking the chair out from under her, fulfilling the final verse of the rhyme (hanged himself and then there were none).
Confession and Epilogue
The epilogue of the book consists of a conversation between Inspector Maine, in charge of the unsolved case, and the Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard. The man who made all the arrangements for U.N. Owen's purchase of the island was Isaac Morris, a shady dealer known to efficiently cover his tracks when doing business. However, he cannot tell the police anything; he died of a drug overdose the day the party set sail. During the period when the killings took place and immediately after, no one could have got on or off the island due to poor weather, ruling out the possibility that "Mr. Owen" was some unidentified person who committed the murders while evading detection from the guests.
The police have concluded from the forensic evidence and various characters' diaries that Blore, Armstrong, Lombard, and Vera were definitely the last to die. Blore could not have died last, as the clock was dropped onto him from above, and he could not have set it up in such a way for it to fall on him. Armstrong could not have been last since his body was dragged above the high-tide mark by someone else. For a similar reason, nor could it have been Lombard, since he was shot on the beach but the revolver was found upstairs in the hallway, outside the door of Wargrave's room. This leaves Vera, whose fingerprints are on the pistol, and from whose window the clock was dropped onto Blore. Yet, the chair which she kicked away with the noose around her neck was found pushed against the wall, out of reach from where she would have had to stand on it.
In the end, although one of the guests must have been the killer, none of them could have been, leaving the two inspectors baffled. Oddly no notice is taken of the rhyming clue which is in each guest's bedroom
Days later, a fishing trawler, the Emma Jane, finds a letter in a bottle floating just off the Devon coast, and sends it to Scotland Yard, who recognize it as a confession by the late Justice Wargrave. In this narrative, Wargrave gives a long detailed account about his own sociopathy, why he became a judge and of the joy he felt in condemning guilty people through the death penalty. He then explains how he set up the events on Soldier Island and how through careful study, and by watching the reaction of his victims, he knew that all of them had caused the deaths of others but that they had escaped justice. He tells of how he killed them one by one, reveling in the mental torture each survivor experienced as their own fate approached.
After disposing of the first five guests, Wargrave persuaded Armstrong to help him fake Wargrave's own murder, under the pretext that it would rattle the "real murderer." Later, upon meeting Armstrong on the cliff in the middle of night, Wargrave pushed the doctor into the sea, enabling him to orchestrate the rest of the killings without suspicion. The final victim, Vera, hanged herself whilst Wargrave secretly watched on from the bedroom closet. Afterwards, Wargrave replaced the chair, before writing out his confession. Once it was complete, Wargrave placed the letter in a bottle and cast it into the sea, leaving it up to chance whether or not it would be discovered.
Wargrave finishes his letter by stating that he plans to shoot himself, but that he craves posthumous recognition of his brilliant scheme. He argues that even if his letter is not found, there are a few clues that should help point to him as the killer:
- Wargrave was the only guest who did not wrongfully cause the death of anyone before coming to the island. The police will know that Edward Seton (the man Wargrave was 'accused' of killing by giving the jury a biased summation in his case) was guilty of the crime he was accused of. Therefore, paradoxically Wargrave is the unknown killer.
- The "red herring" line in the poem suggests that Armstrong was tricked into his death. Logically, the respectable Justice Wargrave is the only one of the remaining house guests in whom Armstrong would have been likely to confide.
- After he shoots himself, the bullet will leave a red mark in Wargrave's forehead similar to the mark of Cain, the first murderer described in the Biblical Old Testament.
- Once Vera had hanged herself, Wargrave put the chair she used back up. This means that someone else was alive after her death.
Wargrave then describes how he plans to shoot himself. He will loop an elastic cord through the gun and tie one end of the cord to his eyeglasses. The other end he will loop around the doorknob of his open bedroom door. Wargrave, once again dressed up as a judge, will then sit on the bed so that, after shooting himself, his body will seem as if he had been lying there all along. To prevent himself from giving the hame away, he will pull the trigger with a handkerchief wrapped round the gun to avoid leaving any fingerprints. Once this is done, the recoil will snap the gun towards the doorknob. The gun will strike the doorknob, detaching the elastic, which will snap back (closing the door in the process) and lie dangling innocuously from his eyeglasses. The gun will be found in the corridor outside the closed door, and a dead body on the bed.
Thus the police will find ten dead bodies and an unsolvable mystery on Soldier Island.
The 1945 Film
In the film version, titled 'And Then There Were None,' Wargrave is changed considerably. He is renamed Francis J. Quincannon, an Irish judge, and played by Irish actor Barry Fitzgerald. Instead of tricking Vera Claythorne into hanging herself, he reveals that he is alive to her at the end, and urges her to do it rather than be accused of the other murders, as he is about to take cyanide and kill himself. Unknown to him, Claythorne and Lombard have guessed his involvement, and Lombard has faked his death. Lombard walks in to join Claythorne as he finishes his confession. The Judge dies a moment later muttering 'Never trust a woman.'.
The mini-series, is arguably Wargraves most accurate portrayal to date. His role across the three episodes is largely unchanged when compared to his novel counterpart. There are only a key deviations from the original source material:
- Greater emphasis is put upon the death of Edward Seton. This was done so that when Wargrave reveals himself to be U.N. Owen, he simultaneously reveals that Seton had figured out that the Judge was, to uses Wargraves own words, "a kindred spirit".
- This version of Wargrave seems to be more interested in creating an unsolvable mystery, rather than being remembered as the killer. Shortly before his death, he gloatingly refers to himself as "the unimpeachable judge".
- Following on from the previous comment, Wargrave does not write a confession letter. Instead he has a final conversation with Vera Claythorne, in which he admits to his guilt.
The only major deviation was the manner of Wargrave's death and the lead up to it. As mentioned previously, in the book, Wargrave watched Vera die from her bedroom cupboard. Only after she was dead, did he replace the chair, write out his confession, before going to careful lengths to insure that his death matched the descriptions found in his victims diaries.
In the mini-series, just as Vera is about to hang herself, Wargrave enters the room, revealing himself to be the killer. The shock causes Claythorne to lose her balance, making the chair to fall to the side. Wargrave casually ignores Vera's predicament, and the two killers have a short conversation. In it, Wargrave reveals how he faked his death (using liver and kidney's), that he is dying and is a secret psychopath, though when prompted by a comment Vera, he does say that he is still passing judgement on the guilty. He then gloatingly informs her that soon they will both be dead, and the police will arrive to find an unsolvable mystery.
Vera spots an apparent chink in Wargrave's armor though, telling him that there’s no bullets left in the gun, which she emptied when she killed Lombard. She then attempts to plead with him, saying that they can cover up the crime and blame it all on Philip Lombard. Wargrave lets her think that she has him beaten, but at the last second swipes the chair out from under her, which causes Vera to slowly choke to death. On the way out of the door, Wargrave reveals to Vera (in her last few living seconds) that he took a bullet out of the gun, and that she had forgotten about the bullet that was supposedly used to kill him.
Picking up the gun, which Vera had dropped on the stairwell, Wargrave, in contrast to the book, does not return to his bedroom. Instead, he goes down to the dining room where he sets up an elaborate but much more simpler form of suicide. The victorious, evil judge pours two glasses of wine, one for himself, the other somebody else. He also closes the door to the room and opens the window. This will make look as if Wargrave had survived the original attempt on his life, but was subsequently taken hostage by Mr. Owen, who ordered him to pour the drink, close the doors and open the window at gunpoint, later escaping through the latter.
Once everything is set, rather than using an elastic cord and his glasses, Wargrave simply uses a napkin to wipe his fingerprints off of the gun. Following a final drink and a triumphant look at the statues of the soldier boys, Wargrave shoots himself through the chin, instead of through the center of his forehead. In the aftermath, Wargrave uses his death throw to fling the pistol across the table to the other side. Thus to the authorities, it will look as if Wargrave had a final conversation and drink, with U.N. Owen, who then marched over to him, shot the judge at close range, before depositing the gun and making their escape.
- The poem featured in the novel was originally titied as "Ten Little N*****s" which served as the previous title for And Then There Were None. However, it was changed to Ten Little Indians due to including racial slurs. In spite of this, some modern publications tends to refer the poem as Ten Little Soldier Boys instead.
- Through murder, manipulation and even suicide, Justice Lawrence Wargrave holds the largest onscreen body count (direct or indirect) amongst any of the murderers in Agatha Christie's novels: eleven people in total, including himself.
(Non-Poirot & Non-Marple)
And Then There Were None
Other Mystery Stories