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Dead in the Water

A story of one of the most brutal serial killers


2017 Oxford, England

I couldn’t sleep. It was gone midnight and lying in bed, my thoughts were 5,000 miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, in a side room in UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, California. A room, and a city, I had never visited, but in my mind’s eye was picture-perfect. I saw the two burly armed Marshals standing guard over the wizened seventy-six-year-old man, his grey beard recently shaved into a devilish goatee.

Lying prostrate in the bed in the clinical white-washed room, as a high-security prisoner, he was still shackled. Gasping for air as the death rattle began to lay claim to his body, he was compos mentis, remaining defiant, with a controlling, menacing glare until his very last breath.

I was one of only a handful of people permitted to know he was there.

I tossed and turned, my eyes glancing at the seconds, the minutes, the hours flashing by on my bedside alarm clock. I constantly checked my mobile for a text or an email. It was pointless, it was on loud and vibrate. Maybe I would ‘know’ via some subliminal sign without even looking?

How could I want someone so evil to live? But I did.

At 02.14 the email from Detective Constable Michaela Clinch of the Greater Manchester Police Cold Case Review Unit came in: ‘Sorry about the time Penny but I just got this from the US prosecution team and I know you are waiting: the U.S. Marshals Service reports that Silas Duane Boston died at 17:09 Pacific Daylight Time on 24th April 2017. Oh Penny… My heart goes out to you all, it really does. I’m devastated for you.’

That simple email represented crushing finality; an abrupt full stop to my family’s thirty-eight-year quest for truth and justice. I felt physically sick. It was like hitting the buffers at 100mph.

A lot of things died with Boston that afternoon.


This true story, involving a panoply of law enforcement agencies, is a tale of quite unbelievable twists and turns and the coming together, some 38 years after Chris and Peta’s murders, of a quite extraordinary set of events.

It is first and foremost, an account of the brutal, cold-blooded murder in 1978 of my brother, 25-year old British doctor, Christopher Farmer and his law graduate girlfriend, 24-year old Peta Frampton. Teenage sweethearts from the ages of 14 and newly graduated, they embarked on their long-held plan to see the world together. Some seven months later their dream came to a tragic end when their tortured bodies were found floating off the Guatemalan coast, bound with ropes, plastic bags over their heads and weighted down with motor engine parts, from which they had come loose. 

Who posted a letter that Peta had written some two weeks after they are known to have died?

Missing for ten months, my family and Peta’s embarked on a crusade to explore every single avenue open to them, leaving no stone unturned and desperate to find them and then, once their mutilated bodies were found, discover the truth. But the crime lay unsolved and quite astonishingly the trail went cold.

Proving that time can never heal the scars of my family’s loss, I used the internet and Facebook, some 37 years after their deaths, to unlock the solving of the crime. It led to the harrowing eye-witness accounts of the killer’s two sons describing Chris and Peta’s three-day ordeal and their sadistic murder aboard their father’s fishing boat. This in turn brought about the full disclosure of the misery and hell that Boston had wrought on so many people and their families, his own included, for fifty years.

Responsible for murdering Chris and Peta, he also cold-bloodedly killed the boys’ 23 year old mother, Mary Lou, in 1968 and during the investigation in 2016 he found himself prime suspect for the series of murders and rapes committed by California’s notorious Golden State Killer, until he was ruled out by DNA testing.

When the grotesque truth was laid bare it was worse than the script of any horror movie, and it culminated in the arrest of 76-year old Boston - one of America’s most psychopathic, prolific and cunning serial killers who had spent 48 years on the run.

Dead In The Water records a mother’s anguish, waiting half a lifetime to learn why her beloved humanitarian son met this most sickening of fates and the final closure, albeit pyrrhic, in seeing his murderer arrested and in custody.

It is a story that will resonate with every parent the world over who has anxiously seen their children depart on gap years and foreign adventures, wondering if they will return.

It is a story that illustrates the far-reaching power of the internet and social media.

Above all, it is a story of a family’s long, painful struggle for justice for the breath-taking, evil killing of one of their very innocent own.

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