My argument was that child abuse was not a recent discovery, as theorists often claim. One of the arguments I used in support of my position was to point out that the country had been scandalised by the death of a child in 1945.
I wrote in the original paper:
How then to account for the opening words of the book A Place Called Hope, by Tom O'Neill ... who, when it was published in 1981, had just retired from his career as a residential social worker with Kent County Council?
The book begins:
On 9 January 1945 my brother, Dennis O'Neill was beaten to death by his foster-father in a lonely farmhouse in Shropshire. Twenty-eight years later, on 6 January 1973, Maria Colwell was beaten to death by her step-father in a council house in Brighton, Both deaths resulted in a public outcry about the standards of official supervision of the children.
Studying The Times from 1945 one finds that the trial of Dennis O'Neill's foster-father for manslaughter received prominent coverage – so prominent that it took precedence over reports of the progress of the War. Not only that: on a strangely contemporary note, there was an outcry about lenient sentencing when Dennis O'Neill's foster-father was convicted. And, following the trial there was an inquiry, presided over by Sir Walter Monckton who was a senior figure in official circles and must have been taken away from important war work to conduct it.
In short, there is nothing in these two cases to say that people were any less concerned about child abuse in 1945 than they were in 1973. The evidence for a step-change in awareness some time in the 1960s is simply not there.
Wikipedia reports that, according to Christie's official biographer Janet Morgan, the play was inspired by the O'Neill case. The encyclopedia goes on to say that Christie went on to rework the material from Three Blind Mice into, first, a short story and then a full-length play for the theatre.