A Brief History
On June 23, 1973, British serial arsonist and murderer, Bruce George Peter Lee started a fire that killed a 6 year old boy, his first known victim. The fire, like the next 10 that followed was ruled accidental after investigations, and was not found to be arson and murder until Lee confessed after being caught for an 11th fire.
Born Peter Dinsdale in 1960, he had changed his name to Lee in honor of martial arts actor Bruce Lee. The son of a prostitute, Lee was born with a birth defect that left him lame on the right side and with a non-functional right arm, as well as spastic and epileptic. He was brought up in a series of children’s homes and was known as “daft Peter” to his neighbors and co-workers.
In 1979 Lee started the fire that killed his last 2 victims (2 fifteen year old boys). When police investigating the incident found antipathy toward the family that lived in the burned house and toward the boys who died, they questioned local teens to discover what enemies the victim family may have had. Lee was questioned among others and admitted setting the fire. He told police the victims had extorted money from him by threatening to tell police they had sexual contact with the 19 year old Lee. Additionally, Lee had taken a liking to the victims’ sister and had been rebuffed in his advances, as well as ridiculed by the rest of the family.
Lee then stunned police with confessions to the other 10 fires, which had killed 24 other people in addition to the 2 teenagers killed in the 1979 fire. Lee plead not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter for the 26 arson-murders, claiming diminished capacity. Among his victims were a 6 month old baby and 11 elderly men. Many more people suffered burns and injury from smoke inhalation.
Lee was shipped off to Rampton Secure Hospital, and the 11 convictions for the elderly men were later overturned when that fire was ruled accidental. Although Lee was accused of the most murders by a British serial killer at the time, the trial of the “Yorkshire Ripper,” Peter Sutcliffe, going on at the same time took most of the publicity from Lees’s trial.
The Sunday Times newspaper reported that Lee’s confession had not been voluntary, causing the detective that handled the case to sue for libel, which was settled out of court in the detective’s favor in 1987.
Once more we tell the tale of someone that obviously could have benefited from proper emotional and psychiatric care that did not get such care, with catastrophic consequences due to the lack of action by mental health authorities. Question for students (and subscribers): As always, we ask you your opinion of how such people could be given the help they need to avoid such tragedies. Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information on British murderers, please see…
Malocco, David. Sexual Psychopaths: British Serial Killers. 2014.
The featured image in this article, a map by Nilfanion, created using Ordnance Survey data, of the East Riding of Yorkshire, UK, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.