The visitors knew immediately something was amiss. Arriving for an informal dinner party the night of Jan. 21 at the spacious, two-story home on a Hopkinton, Mass., cul-de-sac, they saw no sign of their hosts, Neil and Rachel Entwistle, or their baby daughter Lillian. Even their car, a white BMW SUV, was gone. Rachel’s mother, Priscilla Matterazzo, of Carver, Mass., already concerned that she hadn’t been able to reach her daughter all day, alerted police, who searched the house and found nothing suspicious. “The bed was in disarray, with several layers of thick bedding and pillows,” Middlesex County District Attorney Martha Coakley said later. “However, it only appeared to police that the bed had not been made that day.”
They took a closer look the next night, after relatives spent a frantic and fruitless day searching the area. Returning, police immediately detected a foul odor, says Coakley, “indicating that there may be deceased individuals in the home.” Under the pile of blankets on the Entwistles’ bed, they discovered a heartrending sight: Rachel, 27, and Lillian, 9 months, curled up together—and dead. Police suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, and it was only later that inspectors noticed the fatal wounds from two small-caliber bullets: one in the mother’s head, another that pierced the baby’s torso and Rachel’s abdomen. There was no sign of forced entry, and Neil Entwistle, 27, was nowhere to be found.
That discovery set off a mystery that has perplexed neighbors in Hopkinton—an idyllic town that hadn’t seen a murder in a decade—and friends of the couple, who by all appearances were just settling into a quiet domestic life. Though Coakley made it clear that Neil Entwistle was a “person of interest” and not an official suspect, it raised questions when authorities discovered the BMW at Boston’s Logan airport. It was later revealed that the British native had flown to England the morning of Jan. 21, according to the Boston Globe, just hours before police searched his home.
And evidence shows that the unemployed computer technician may have run into financial problems. The family moved into the home, renting for some $2,500 monthly, in early January, just before a barrage of angry complaints from more than a dozen customers on eBay, where a business under Entwistle’s name peddled suspect software and get-rich-quick schemes. He also had a Web business that revolved around pornography. Rachel’s relatives declined to be interviewed but made clear their opinion when they paid for newspaper obituaries of Rachel and Lillian that didn’t even mention Entwistle. Holed up at his parents’ home in Worksop, England—150 miles north of London—he was not expected to attend the Feb. 1 funeral for the pair in Plymouth, Mass.
With all of the questions, there were few answers. “There did not seem to be any history of domestic violence,” says Melissa Sherman, spokesman for Coakley. In fact a Web site set up by the couple seems to show a loving and tight-knit duo coddling their daughter in her early months. One shot shows Lillian dressed as a skunk for Halloween. On a family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, mother and daughter grin for the camera. “She’s enjoying three meals a day of her Mummy’s home-cooked food and is already eating a variety of finger foods,” a note says of Lillian, with the signature, “Love, the happy family.”
That picture of wholesome domesticity is seemingly undercut by the unsavory businesses Entwistle promoted on the Internet. Among his sites—mostly now defunct but preserved by a service called archive.org—was Millionmaker.co.uk, which promised customers would earn as much as $6,000 monthly by using their Web sites to promote others, including one with hard-core pornography purportedly showing teenagers. Another, srpublications.co.uk, registered in his name in the U.K., offered the Big Penis Manual, which it said would help men enlarge their penises without “drugs, pumps or expensive surgery.” Doing business on eBay under the name srpublications, he recently offered software worth up to $1,000 for just $53. But it appears the seller failed to deliver. “Not able to contact seller. DO NOT TRUST,” says one of the 14 complaints posted since early January. Could the deaths be related to a deal gone awry? “The business dealings are one of many things that are being looked into,” says Sherman.
Rachel Entwistle grew up south of Boston in suburban Kingston. (Her father died when she was young and her mother later remarried Joseph Matterazzo.) “She had a generous spirit and a good sense of humor,” says Richard Swanson, her history teacher at Silver Lake Regional High School, where she was an honor student and ran track. Enrolling at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., she spent her junior year in England at the University of York, where she joined the rowing club. That was where she met Neil Entwistle, who was studying electrical engineering and business management. In his hometown of Worksop, he was also known as the son of Clifford Entwistle, a local politician. (His mother, Yvonne, was a school cook.) “He was gifted academically and socially, the ideal student,” says Brian Rossiter, head teacher at Valley Comprehensive School in Worksop. In the summer of 2003, Entwistle wrote of his excitement on a Web site called Friendsreunited: “Getting married to the most amazing woman in the world this summer: Rachel. ”
They wed in Plymouth, Mass., in August of that year and settled back in Droitwich, England, not far from Malvern, where Entwistle got work as a computer specialist for a defense and security company called QinetiQ. Meanwhile, Rachel—who had earned a teaching certificate at the University of York—joined the faculty at St. Augustine’s Catholic High School in Redditch, teaching English and drama and earning admirers on the faculty for her upbeat nature. “There was a real energy and enthusiasm,” says Father Michael Dolman, the school’s chaplain. “There was always a sense of joy.”
Even more so, say colleagues, after she gave birth to her daughter in April of 2005. “Her joy on the birth of Lillian was infectious,” the head teacher, Yvonne Brennan, said in a statement. The couple soon moved back to Massachusetts, living with Rachel’s parents until early January, when they moved to the quiet street surrounded by woods in Hopkinton, about 30 miles west of Boston. (Neighbors, fearing for their safety, asked to remain anonymous.) The deaths left neighbors stunned. “Nothing like this ever happens here,” says one. Adds another: “We didn’t get to know them.”
Meanwhile, in England, Neil Entwistle returned to his parents’ Worksop home, where he was besieged by U.S. and U.K. press and has reportedly rebuffed authorities’ attempts to question him. On Jan. 31 he left in a car with his parents. A police officer, Chief Inspector Matthew McFarlane, who spoke briefly to the family, told reporters “they’re not going to be here for a couple of days.”
Nor was he expected to make it to the Feb. 1 funeral in Plymouth. A family spokesman, Joe Flaherty, asked the public to let the family “grieve quietly and out of the spotlight.” Meanwhile, on the quiet street where Rachel and Lillian died, neighbors say investigators seemed to be making progress. “The police went around and said they don’t have a concern for our safety,” says one neighbor. “I think they’ll tell us if that changes.”