In the novel And Then There Were None, Mr. Justice Lawrence John Wargrave was a retired judge. He had sentenced Edward Seton to death after a dubious trial. He was described as a man with a "frog-like face, a tortoise-like neck, and a couple of pale little shrewd eyes".
Despite always looking asleep, the judge was shrewd when it came to trials; he was believed to be a hanging judge, who had a huge power on the jury making them believe whatever he wanted.
He is a friend of Lady Culmington.
Plot (spoilers ahead)
He received a letter from his acquaintance Lady Culmington, who invited him to Soldier Island to meet the Owens. Upon arriving he met several other guests. Among those was Dr Edward Armstrong, whom he had met by sight before.
Apparently, Wargrave ended up being shot in the forehead.
Posthumous confession and solution
In his posthumous confession he admits to two dormant character traits: a sadistic one to see and cause death and a desire for Justice; becoming a Judge satisfied both of them-pleasure at seeing the guilty person's fear as they realize they are going to be sentenced to execution while the other was satisfied when an innocent person was tried and released. Shortly after he retired he realized several things about himself: namely a desire to commit extra ordinary murder himself [although not on a innocent person]; and that despite an operation he was slowly dying from a terminal Illness. Hearing a chance remark from his physician about how there are persons who get away with murder and yet are unpunished, he became U. N. Owen; judge, Jury and executioner all at once. A nursey rhyme about 10 little soldiers became the catalyst for the number of victims.
Wargrave's method to choose the victims
The first victim was Isaac Morris whom Wargrave knew to be a criminal and killer; Thomas Rogers and Ethel Rogers were next after Wargrave heard his physician's suspicions about their guilt; Marston was chosen by Wargrave due to his amoral and pagan lack of responsibility; Dr. Armstrong's criminal negligence was exposed in a lecture about the evils of drink by a fanatic non-alcoholic nursing sister to Wargrave while he was in a nursing home after his operation.
For the next five victims Wargrave would use a certain line of conversation about how persons would get away with murder and to his surprise it worked: MacArthur's crime was exposed by two old Army gossips at Wargrave Club; Emily Brent's actions were exposed by a indignant woman Wargrave talked to; Blore was exposed when Wargrave tricked several of his fellow Judges to talk of the Landor case; a man returning from abroad exposed the activities of Philip Lombard in South Africa. In regarding to Vera Claythorne, Wargrave was in an ocean liner and came upon a drunken, unhappy and guilt-ridden Hugo Hamilton who admitted that he had loved Vera yet could never see her again when he realized she had killed his nephew to benefit them both.
Wargrave used poisonous substances to kill Morris, Marston, Mrs. Rogers, and Miss Brent; blows to the head killed MacArthur, Rogers and Blore. Armstrong, who had committed his crime under the influence of alcohol, was drowned; Wargrave manipulated the last two guests so they would perish although not at his own hands; Lombard was killed with his own gun by Vera Claythorne who in turn in a mixture of guilt and relief hanged herself. At the end of his confession Wargrave admits he wanted to commit an unsolvable crime yet he admits he also wants someone to realize just how clever he had been. He puts his confession in a bottle and throws it into the sea, and then goes inside to shoot himself.
- 1945 - In the 1945 film Judge Francis J. Quinncannon was portrayed by Barry Fitzgerald.
- 1965 - In the 1965 film Judge Arthur Cannon was portrayed by Wilfrid Hyde-White.
- 1969 - In the 1969 German television adaptation Sir Lawrence Wargrave was portrayed by Alfred Schieske.
- 1974 - In the 1974 film Judge Arthur Cannon was portrayed by Richard Attenborough.
- 1989 - In the 1989 film Mr. Justice Wargrave was portrayed by Donald Pleasence.
- 2010 - In the 2010 BBC Radio adaptation Justice Wargrave was portrayed by Geoffrey Whitehead.
- 2015 - In the 2015 BBC miniseries Justice Lawrence John Wargrave was portrayed by Charles Dance.