Bruce George Peter Lee, the UK’s most prolific serial killer part 2

Bruce Lee seemingly couldn’t stop talking once he had admitted his shocking claim, and what he had to say was almost unbelieveable. To admit to such an amount of damage and a love of fire would be shocking enough. But worse, Bruce Lee admitted that nine of his previous fires over the years had caused fatalities. 26 fatalities in total when the victims from each were tallied. Unfazed by what he was recounting. Lee began to set out his accounts of the many fires and deaths he had caused. Apart from the Hastie fire, none of the other fires that Lee confessed to setting had been classed as arson at the time. They were all thought to have been accidental.

Bruce George Peter Lee part 1

Bruce George Peter Lee and the house he started a fire in

Bruce George Peter Lee’s first fire

The first fire set by Bruce Lee that was to lead to a fatality was on the 23rd June 1973. When six year old Richard Ellington was suffocated after being overcome by smoke inhalation after Lee had set fire to his family home on Askew Avenue, Hull. Lee knew the boy, he attended the same school as Lee and they would often be on the same school bus. The cause at the time was thought to have been a faulty gas meter. Bruce Lee was to say of this murder:

“When we stopped in bus next morning, they said he’s died in a fire during night. I just sat on bus quiet looking out a window and said nowt…I’ve kept it secret from everybody for years.”

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Fire number two

72 year old Bernard Smythe was the next to die. Dying in his armchair at home on Glasgow Street on 12th October 1973. A recluse who suffered from gangrene in both legs, Mr Smythe was thought to have knocked over a paraffin heater in his sleep, but in reality Lee squirted paraffin throughout his front room and ignited it. Lee had been walking the streets all night and when he felt the familiar tingling in his fingers, he entered Mr Smythe’s house through a broken window. He then set the fire and left through the front door, leaving Mr Smythe to burn to death agonisingly.

Bruce Lee’s third

Just over two weeks later on 27th October 1973, 34 year old David Brewer was burned alive. Bruce Lee set fire to his house on Madeley Street. Again it was thought to have been a paraffin heater knocked over, but Lee was to confess his guilt by giving an example that showed his malicious streak. He had rowed with Brewer some days previously over some pigeons, with Brewer threatening to give Lee “a clout”.

Seething about this, Lee broke into his home late at night and finding Brewer asleep in his armchair, poured paraffin on him and around the room then ignited it. Brewer caught fire and rushed outside screaming, but despite the efforts of neighbours who came to his aid. Brewer died in agony nine days later in hospital.

“He clipped my ear, and he shouldn’t have done that” claimed Bruce Lee. Some days later, Lee returned to the house and wrung the necks of every one of Brewer’s pigeons.

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Over a year later, another fire.

It was more than a year later when one of Lee’s fires caused its next fatality. A frail partially blind 82 year old woman, Elizabeth Rokahr. She died in a house fire on Rosamund Street, the cause of which was thought to have been her falling asleep whilst smoking in bed. Bruce Lee’s different view on life shone through when he said the following.

“I did see someone lying in a bed, but I didn’t know if it was a man or a woman. I didn’t wake ’em up to ask, did I?”

He admitted that he had entered Mrs Rokahr’s house through the unlocked backdoor. Which she kept open for her cat to come and go.

The fifth fire

The next death was on 3rd June 1976, when 1 year old Andrew Edwards died from smoke inhalation. On this occasion Bruce Lee had set fire to his home on Orchard Park. Andrew’s great grandmother, who was looking after the children that evening managed to get Andrew’s two siblings to safety. But was unable to save Andrew. The elder sibling was later blamed for starting the fire accidentally.

Sixth fire

Lee followed this death by claiming another child as a victim. Setting a fire in the home of the Thacker family on West Dock Avenue on 2nd January 1977. Six month old Katrina Thacker was asleep in her cot in the living room of the family home and her mother and siblings were upstairs. Lee entered the home (it transpired later that he knew the family and had again rowed with them some weeks previously). and started a fire, again using paraffin, in the front room. The cause was thought to have been “shedded sparks” from unburnt fuel in the open fireplace. Three years later, Lee was to prove this theory wrong.

“I just went in through a window one evening. I sprinkled paraffin on some carpet and the couch. The living room, I think it was, and up it went. The little baby died in it and I killed her.”

Jeffrey dahmers life and death – the life and death of a necrophile, cannibal and serial killer

Mass murder arsonist 

Lee’s worst fire followed just three days later, on 5th January 1977. Wensley Lodge Residential Home was a council run premises that accommodated elderly men of various ages and of various physical and mental ability. Lee claimed that he had cycled the three miles to the area to.

” just come along here to do a big house. Just ride along, any house”

He had painstakingly held a can of paraffin on the handlebars of his bicycle as he pedalled. He then claimed he had chosen the big house as it was “nice and quiet”. Bruce Lee then kicked a window in and started a fire in the bedroom of one of the residents. Lee then left and went to watch the fire from outside. An orderly noticed smoke coming from a first floor corridor and raised the alarm. But the fire spread through the first and second floors, trapping many. The people killed in the fire were as follows.

The victims

Harold Akester, 95; Victor Consitt, 83; Benjamin Phillips, 83; Arthur Ellwood, 82; William Hoult, 82; William Carter, 80; Percy Sanderson, 77; John Riby, 75; William Beales, 73; Leonard Dennett, 73; Arthur Hardy, 65

Strangely, the cause for this fire was blamed on a blowtorch. That a plumber had been using earlier that day in a bedroom directly underneath the room where the fire was found to have started. Experts found no faults with any of the plumber’s equipment and the plumber himself denied any negligence. Yet was still blamed.

It was only when Lee confessed three years later was the possibility of arson raised. Again, whilst confesing to this fire Lee showed his indifference to human life:

“I could hear like old blokes shouting. Don’t ask me how I know’d they was old blokes. but they was not women and babies. I heard a man’s voice shouting ‘God help me’. It was bloody terrible. I knew that the fire was killing people. I knew as I walked along blokes was dying in the fire. I’d killed people before in my fires so I wasn’t that bothered like.”

Another tragic fire

TedTed bundys early years, was Ted Bundy a result of incest

Bruce Lee next killed two people in a fire on 27th April 1977. a 7 year old boy named Mark Jordan and a 13 year old disabled girl called Deborah Harper. He squirted paraffin through the letterbox of the house on Belgrave Terrace, igniting a blaze in the living room. Out of 7 people in the house that evening, three adults and four children. Five of them managed to make it out to safety.

Brave Mark had gone back in, in an attempt to help Deborah escape, but both had tragically been overcome by smoke fumes and died. Mark was later recommended for a posthumous bravery award. The cause of this fire was thought to have been one of the adults smoking and falling asleep. But again there was little evidence to support this theory.

Bruce Lee and another fire he had start

Brentwood Hills fire

Brentwood Villas, Reynoldson Street was the next scene of horror, on 6th January 1978. 24 year old Christine Dixon was talking to a neighbour outside when she noticed smoke and flames coming from an upstairs window. Inside were her ill husband and four sons. Christine instinctively ran in to save her family.

10 Most Deranged Serial Killers – 5 lesser known Serial killers

But only Christine’s husband managed to escape, along with their baby son. Christine was killed in the fire, along with her sons Mark, 5; Steven,4; and Michael, 16 months. The inquest later was to suspect that the elder boys had started the fire themselves with matches and lighter fluid, but this was strongly denied by Mr Dixon. In his favoured method, Lee had squirted paraffin through the letter box and then set matches to ignite it. He was to claim:

“I had to go to the Bible after that one”

Christine was awarded a posthumous award for bravery, and the baby she had saved was raised by her mother. Bruce Lee had wiped out an entire family for the simple reason that he had.

“Tingling in me fingers and a fire in me head”

Testing Bruce Lee 

Alternative fashion and giftware

Following this, Lee’s next fatal fire was his last. which claimed the life of the Hastie children.

Sagar and his team decided to test Lee’s claims. They considered the possibility that Lee may have been a fantasist. But although Lee could not be specific in many dates and times of his fires, he knew exactly where each one had been. A check of his story revealed that there had indeed been fires in the locations he had described.

They decided to take him around Hull in a police car. Asking him to take them to the locations that he described without any prompting. He could do this each time, and to test how much truth Bruce Lee was telling. They took him to a location where there had been a fire but someone else had already confessed to and been convicted of it.

Bruce Lee vehemously denied ever setting a fire at the location. Sagar and his team knew then that Lee was indeed telling the truth, and in October 1980 he was charged with twenty six counts of murder. Various counts of arson, and two counts of grievous bodily harm in the case of the Fenton fire. Lee was reportedly happy with this, and even when a solicitor advised him to recant his confessions, Lee refused to do so, instead dictating a statement where he again accepted all responsibility for the fires.

The trial

After psychiatrists had examined Lee and determined that although he was a pyromaniac. He was fit to plead and he stood trial in Leeds Crown Court in January 1981. Lee pleaded not guilty to 26 charges of murder, but pleaded guilty to 26 counts of manslaughter. 11 counts of arson and the counts of GBH that he was charged with.

This was accepted by the crown, with Mr Justice Tudor Evans stating that Lee was. “a psychopath and an immediate danger to the public”, and he was ordered to be detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act. He was taken first to Liverpool’s Park Lane Special Hospital, but was then later transferred to Rampton Secure Hospital. He remains incarcerated to this day.

Bruce George Peter Lee the UK's most prolific serial killer

Following Lee’s conviction, articles in the Sunday Times newspaper raised questions about the validity of some of his claims. Even though he had fully admitted his culpability in a convincing manner. It was suggested that police had used Lee’s low intelligence against him. So, coerced him into confessing to crimes that, because of his disabilities. He could not have had the mobility to have committed.

Media involvement

It was also suggested that police had falsified witness statements. Something that Ronald Sagar strongly denied and actually successfully sued the Sunday Times newspaper for libel for. The Wensley Lodge fire, in which eleven people had died, was however. Concluded to have been accidental following a public enquiry in 1983. Lee’s 11 convictions for manslaughter in this case were quashed as a result. Yet he has never ceased to accept his responsibility for the fire.

Following the result of this public enquiry, the question was raised. How much reliance could be given to Lee’s confessions? Apart from the forensic evidence that supported his confession to the Hastie fire, there was little physical evidence. Apart from Lee’s confessions in each remaining case, and although he was convincing in his accounts of the fires, there were no witnesses who could place him at the scene at the time.

There was also the fact that although Lee had used paraffin in all of his fires. Only the Hastie fire was suspected from the start as arson. Bruce Lee was not a sophisticated arsonist. He would just simply squirt paraffin around and light it. Would experienced fire investigators have missed evidence of arson in each case, it was argued?

Yet this may be harsh criticism. The areas in which Lee set his fires were poor areas, where open fires were still commonplace in houses. Smoke alarms were nowhere as commonplace as they are nowadays. Even the furniture in said households was often made from cheap, highly flammable material. As a result, house fires were quite common, and it is easy to see how Lee was able to hide his crimes. Albeit with some luck also.

It was not in doubt that Lee was a pyromaniac, indeed, he told Ronald Sagar. Initially just how devoted he was. He loved fires and if there was a fire burning somewhere, Lee would inevitably be there as an onlooker. It is therefore possible that Lee could have learned the dates and locations of the fires he confessed to (which he was indeed vague about the date and chronology of) and elaborated an account of how he caused them.

Was it all attention seeking, and Lee did not necessarily set the fires that he confessed to? Yet, even when his defence team appealed against his convictions. Bruce Lee remained adamant that he had been the cause of every fire he confessed to. Claims which he adheres to, to this day.

There has always been a lack of publicity concerning this case. Perhaps because the convictions were for manslaughter rather than murder, perhaps because of Bruce Lee’s relative youth and mental health at the time of his conviction. Or maybe perhaps, that not only was his trial short due to his guilty plea. But because it was overshadowed by the arrest of the Yorkshire Ripper in the same month. Perhaps because of this, Lee is often overlooked in a list of Britain’s most prolific killers.

Why did Bruce Lee do this

What then, were Lee’s motives? It can be argued that they were mixed. On one hand, Lee set fires purely because of his love and fascination for them, and the fact that anyone died in the fires was immaterial. Bruce Lee wouldn’t have cared if anyone was in the buildings or not.

Yet on the other hand, the victims who died in the fires were all unable to flee. Either because they were asleep, infirm or disabled, or physically unable to due to age. Lee had also had clashes with a number of the victims. Were they perhaps targeted as a result of a grudge, and had Bruce Lee targeted people who he classed as victims like himself?

Lee was to admit to Ronald Sagar that he hated people and that “fire is my master”. He especially hated people who had a home. Solely because he claimed he had never really had one. Speculation aside, it remains that for whatever reason. Bruce Lee confessed to many fires and was almost proud of his handiwork.

Evolution as an arsonist

He evolved as an offender and is a rarity amongst most serial arsonists. In that he would actually enter the structure he was setting fire to, to set the fire. From carrying a can of petrol around, he evolved and refined his favoured choice of accelerant to paraffin.

Making sure he was able to carry it around in a container that was easily concealable. While being safer, to himself, to use as an accelerant. His favoured method was to create a pool of paraffin, then leave a trail leading away from it and to then make a smaller pool. Giving himself time to light it, then get to safety and to be able to observe his handiwork.

He was able to avoid detection and suspicion in each case, and although he was considered by people as being an odd loner. Tragically he was never considered by anyone as being potentially dangerous. Ronald Sagar was to write a critically acclaimed book about the case upon his retirement. Hull, Hell and Fire, and echoed this.

“He wasn’t seen, because he was a pathetic, insignificant man. It was a dreadful state of affairs. I didn’t show him sympathy, but I feel sorry for him as a human being. Sorry that in this day and age you could have a youngster who no-one cared for. Who could be in such a terrible state.”

Bruce Lee gets married

Bruce George Peter Lee, is a name that rarely appears in the press, only appearing twice of note in the years since his incarceration. In 2005 it was reported that he had been allowed to marry another patient in Rampton Hospital, named Anne-Marie Davis.

He had met her at a disco organised for the residents and from there, they developed a relationship of sorts. This news caused uproar amongst the families of Lee’s victims. But they were somewhat appeased when authorities swiftly pointed out that inmates, whilst allowed to marry, are not allowed to consummate their union.

Bruce Lee on day releasr

2016 day release

What caused arguably more uproar was the report in local and UK national press in July 2016. Bruce Lee had been allowed out on day release, albeit supervised. Into the community surrounding the lower security facility in the Home Counties that he had been moved to in 1996.

The Sunday Mirror newspaper reported that Lee had been seen repeatedly out in the community on day release. Laughing and joking with staff. His face was pixellated to retain his anonymity, and the picture is reproduced above.

Ronald Sagar, who died a few years ago now. Was to say of Lee that he wished one day that he may be freed and allowed to rejoin society. To make good on the pre-trial promise that Lee made him of

“I’ll never set fire to another house as long as i live”

Released for good? 

But it is unlikely Lee will ever be released  to put this to the test. He is now in his 36th year of incarceration. Having spent nearly his entire adult life in a secure institution. He is arguably institutionalized now. There is also the small matter of the magnitude of his monstrous crimes and the feeling that they still provoke to this day.

The areas in which Lee started his fires were poor areas of Hull. But strong community spirited areas, people have never forgotten the horrors that Lee inflicted, unnoticed, during his years of terror. Rosamund Fenton, who was severely injured and suffered a miscarriage in one of Lee’s fires, summed up the feeling when discussing Lee potentially being released.

“I still suffer flashbacks of that night, he ruined me, ruined me for my daughter. She couldn’t even look at me and wouldn’t let me touch her, claiming “You’re not my mummy, where’s my mummy” because i looked so badly burnt. ‘The police always said we’d be kept informed of what was happening with him at every stage. But we’ve heard nothing about this. He’s a danger to society. The thought of him walking about near kids sickens me. He should never be allowed out”

It remains to be seen whether Lee will, or will not, ever be considered safe to be released.

For more on Bruce Lee you can read his Wikipedia page here.

Follow me on twitter here for more updates.

The UK’s worst serial killer: still alive in prison

The name of Peter Sutcliffe will almost be a household name amongst those with an interest in crime and the macabre. And there will be a few who don’t  know about the terror that  the “Yorkshire Ripper” brought to the North of England during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. When he was finally caught, just two days into the new -year in January 1981. His arrest brought an end to one of the most high profile, horrific and prolific killing sprees in British criminal history. Coverage of Sutcliffe’s arrest, and revelations about his life and confessions dominated the British press at the time.  And because they so dominated, another killer who was put away for his crimes just 18 days after Sutcliffe’s arrest went largely un-noticed. It is a worthy case to recount, for the person in question is one of the most unique figures in British criminal history. He is arguably the UK’s worst serial killer, and he too, struck in Yorkshire.

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The UK’s worst serial killer that you’ve never heard of. 


The above message was a warning scrawled on a piece of cardboard taken from a Cornflakes packet. It summed up how by 1979, the name “Hastie” was infamous to the residents of Selby Street, in Hull, East Yorkshire.

The Hastie family lived at no 12 Selby Street, and consisted of parents Tommy and Edith Hastie, and their seven children. Four sons and three daughters. Tommy Hastie was a habitual criminal with a long criminal record, and the entire Hastie family seemed destined to follow in his footsteps.

Being involved in vandalism and theft and having many run ins with the neighbours throughout the 1970’s. They were commonly known as a “problem family” throughout the local area and were feared and detested in equal measure. As is evident by the anonymous message that was received by the family in late November 1979.

By the beginning of December 1979, Tommy Hastie was in the midst of serving his latest prison sentence, for burglary of a local sports club. So Edith and the rest of the Hastie’s were home alone.

Ted bundys early years, was Ted Bundy a result of incest.

Selby Street fire

On the night of 04 December 1979 all of the Hastie daughters were staying with nearby relatives, leaving just Edith and the four boys. Charlie aged 15, Paul aged 12, Thomas aged 9, and Peter aged 8. It was just approaching midnight and the entire Hastie family were asleep. Someone crept up to the house, poured paraffin over the porch and through the letterbox, and set it alight.

The house was soon an inferno, and although Edith and Thomas Hastie managed to get out to safety, the fire was ultimately to claim the lives of Charlie, Paul and Peter Hastie. All three suffered horrific burns over 75-80 percent of their bodies in the fire.

The boys all died over the following few days, in the burns unit of Wakefield’s Pinderfields Hospital. Police were summoned when fire service investigators at the scene were able to determine almost instantly that the fire had not been an accident. There were used matches found on the porch, and an overwhelming smell of paraffin. As well as a pool of paraffin nearby where someone had set a can down.

But the resulting murder investigation, led by Detective Superintendent Ronald Sagar. Faced an uphill battle from the start. The Hastie family were hated and feared by all in the area. So there seemed to be no shortage of suspects as to who could have wished them harm. Sagar was to comment at the time.

“Never before have I encountered such hatred and dislike for a family”

12 Selby Street home of the Hastie fore
The home of the Hastie fire

Devils island

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Police focused at first upon the theory that the author of the “devil’s island” note had made good on their threat against the family. As a result handwriting samples were taken from hundreds of people living in the area.

A match was quickly found, but the author was ultimately ruled out. It transpired that the author was a frail old lady who had been constantly terrorised and had property damaged by the Hastie boys. She was a churchgoer, and thought that writing a letter filled with swear words “would be the only type of language they would understand”. She had used cardboard from a Cornflakes packet to save on the cost of a stamp.

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The funeral of the Hastie children took place on 4th January 1980. With a procession led down Selby Street. There were many onlookers to the procession, but a distinct lack of mourners and a very apparent lack of sympathy. Believing that however extreme, the family had only got what had been deserved. Local television cameras were there to capture the moment when a hysterical Edith Hastie was to shout to the crowd.

“Which one of you fucking murdering bastards did this? It was one of you!”

No one had been arrested

Serial killer 3/4 sleeve raglan shirt

Six months later, police enquiries had drawn a blank. Almost every different theory and line of enquiry possible had been explored and ruled out. Including the theory that Edith or one of the Hastie daughters themselves had started the fire. And the possibility that the real target of the fire was the next door house, which was a known drug den.

Ron Sagar and his team were under pressure, the enquiry was going nowhere, and with manpower needed to be redirected. After six months the enquiry team were left with just one unexplored line of enquiry. Enquiries about the Hastie boys had revealed rumours that the eldest boy, Charlie, was involved in the local “rent boy” scene. Charlie was said to behave indecently with local homosexual men for money. Perhaps the reason behind the horrific fire stemmed from this?

Charlie Hastie killed by Bruce George Peter lee
Charlie hastie

One last route to check. 

Zozo the Ouija board Demon

Local homosexuals were questioned in an attempt to establish the truth of these rumours. And in June 1980, a local 19 year old labourer who was questioned named Bruce Lee confirmed that not only did he know Charlie Hastie. But he had indeed been involved in “indecent sexual behaviour” with him.

When pressed as to what this meant, Lee retorted “you know, mucking about, wanking and that”. Lee was suprisingly not charged with any offence stemming from these revelations, and was released. After learning that the rumours about Charlie Hastie were true and he was indeed involved in the “rent boy” scene. Sagar decided to adopt a different tactic.

Sagar decided to bring in known homosexuals for questioning, and accuse each in turn of setting the Selby Street fire. Hoping that the real killer would break down and confess. This was a desperate strategy, but it was all that Sagar had left that he could do.

Bruce George Peter lee
Bruce George Peter lee

The nineteenth such of these interviewees that police questioned was Bruce Lee, and Sagar said to him.

“Bruce, I’ll be quite blunt with you. I think that you started that fire at the Hastie family’s house, and that indecency with Charlie is probably the cause of it all somehow”

To Sagar’s surprise, Lee replied.

“I didn’t mean to kill them”

Raven and skulls incense holder 25cm

It transpired that Lee knew the Hastie family well, and he claimed that the fire was set “to teach Charlie a lesson”. Charlie, Lee claimed, had been threatening him and extorting money from him after the pair had indulged in mutual masturbation.

With Charlie threatening to go to the police because he was after all a minor. Lee also claimed he felt a grudge against the family because he had constantly asked 16 year old Angie Hastie to be his girlfriend – and had been mocked and refused each time. In fact, he was constantly mocked and ridiculed by the Hastie family as a favourite target for bullying.

Confession to the fire.

On 04 December 1979, Lee claimed he had gone to the Hastie house late at night. Watching first from the shadows created by the opposite motorway flyover “for a good time until it went real quiet”.

He described in detail approaching the door and pouring paraffin through the letterbox. Then struggling to light the fire with matches. On the third attempt, he managed to ignite a newspaper and pushed it through the letterbox. Then retreated back to the shadows he had been watching from to watch his handiwork. Lee was able to give investigators such correct intimate detail of the scene of the fire, and how it had been ignited, that there was little doubt he was responsible for the fire. Only the arsonist and the investigators themselves knew the exact forensics.

Jeffrey Dahmers second murder University and the army.

Bruce George Peter Lee

What kind of person, and what must occur in a life to set a person on the road to committing such heinous actions? It suggests a disturbed mind, unhappiness, anger and bitterness at the world. And someone with a very poor and sad life in general. Bruce Lee had all of these.

He was born Peter George Dinsdale in Manchester on 31st July 1960. The unwanted child of a prostitute named Doreen and a father that the child never met. Doreen had little if no love for the child, cruelly referring to him as “the freak”. Because young Peter had been born with epilepsy, a deformed right arm and congenital spastic hemiplegia in his right limbs.

Between the ages of six months old and three years old, young Peter was cared for by his maternal grandmother, as his mother didn’t want him around. Even his grandmother tired of him by this time, and the boy spent the rest of his childhood living periodically in various care homes. Occasionally back with his mother and her common law husband.

Who Dinsdale got on reasonably well with. He attended a special school until he was 16, but suffered with what are now classed as learning difficulties and left school with no qualifications and an IQ measuring just 68.

Lee was sporadically employed after leaving school, working such menial roles as labouring, assisting at the local Speedway track and at the gate for Hull Kingston Rovers on match days, and at a local pig farm. Co workers at the establishments Lee was employed at remember him as being a sad character. Quiet and unassuming and often mocked by those who knew him. Yet he never used to stand up for himself, he would just say nothing.

Peter dins
Peter dinsdale in his teens

Daft Peter 

As a result of such a chaotic and sad life. Dinsdale was often penniless, poorly clothed, and had few friends. It was whilst living in the various care homes that he was introduced to homosexuality. Which he would partake in, and became involved in the local rent boy scene.

Where he eventually met Charlie Hastie, amongst others. He would often have to resort to sleeping with men just to earn money to eat, but it is possible that this was also as a need for affection in whatever form he could get it. Perhaps what sums up what a tragic figure Lee had become due to his haphazard life was the fact that he was known by all who knew him as “Daft Peter”.

He was considered by all who knew him as an odd loner. Odd, but not dangerous. Perhaps in what was an attempt to overcome this and to transform himself, by age 19 he changed his name legally by deed poll, to Bruce George Peter Lee. In adoration of the kung-fu star that he idolized.

But this was after all, just a name change. He was still the same mocked and ridiculed youth. Even with a “tough guy” name change the impression he gave to people didn’t change. Ronald Sagar was to describe his first impressions of Lee as follows:

“He was…..not a normal young man, he was deformed, his right arm and right leg were deformed, he had a limp, he had a habit of holding his right arm across his chest. He was poorly dressed, he was clearly undernourished, and on first impressions one had to feel sorry for him”

Not just one. 

Lee admitted to the detective that he had started hundreds of fires over the years. He explained that his first fire had been in 1969 when he was aged just 9. On that occasion Lee burnt a shopping centre down to the ground. Causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Lee enjoyed the thrill of setting fires, and explained that he favoured paraffin as an accelerant. He would break into premises, or sometimes just squirt paraffin through any gaps or letterboxes he could find.  Then he would strike a match and retreat to watch his handiwork.

Lee claimed that he would travel around, either on foot or by pushbike. Always armed with a washing up liquid bottle of paraffin, and would set fires “when I began to feel a tingling in my fingers”. Lee was able to hide in plain sight amongst the confusion of his fires, and enjoyed being in the crowds of onlookers. Watching the emergency services dealing with the destruction he had caused. He admitted to Sagar.

“I like fires I do. I like fires. Fire is my master. I am devoted to fire and despise people”

Thats the same guy.

Following his confession to being responsible for the Hastie fire. Lee was charged with three counts of murder and one count of arson. He was remanded to Hull prison awaiting trial. That may have been the end of the investigation, but when the local papers reported that a person had been arrested for the Hastie fire murders, and a picture of Bruce Lee published, it opened a new chapter – and the floodgates.

On the night of 21st June 1979, nearly six months before the Hastie fire. Rosabell Fenton was preparing for bed when she saw a figure of a man stood by her front door. The figure moved away when he became aware that he had been seen.

She was convinced it was “Daft Peter”. Who she knew and had shouted at earlier that day as he was loitering on her porch acting suspiciously. Thinking no more about it, Rosabell went to bed but was awakened shortly later by neighbours shouting “FIRE”, as her house was ablaze.

Rosabell immediately went to the bedroom of her 7 year old daughter to try to get her out to safety. But the fire was too fierce and both mother and daughter had to take shelter in the corner of the sitting room. They were eventually rescued in time, but both Rosabell and her daughter were badly injured in this fire.

Rosabell was heavily pregnant at the time, and sadly suffered a miscarriage. She also had to spend eleven months recovering in hospital and had to have plastic surgery. The cause of the fire at the time was blamed on a discarded cigarette dropped by a neighbour who had left the house shortly before Rosabell had gone to bed.

But Rosabell remained convinced that this was wrong and that the fire had been deliberately set. More so, she was convinced that it had been set by “Daft Peter”. It was only a year later when a picture of “Bruce Lee” appeared in the local press following developments in the Selby Street fire did she recognise both him and “Daft Peter” as being the same person, and voiced her suspicions to the police.


Detective Sagar visited Lee whilst he was on remand to question him about this fire. When this was put to Lee, he readily confessed to breaking into the house and setting this fire, saying.

“I just did it. Someone I knew didn’t like her and, well, I just did it”

Knowing that he was already dealing with a self confessed pyromaniac, Sagar pressed Lee further. He asked Lee if there was a possibility that any of the other fires that he had started in the past may have caused injury, or worse, even death.

Sagar wasn’t expecting any confessions, but what Lee had to say chilled Sagar to the bone. It was the start of a tale so shocking that it was to eventually lead to the name Bruce George Peter Lee being ranked in the Guinness Book of Records. As one of Britain’s worst ever multiple killers. Pausing for a long time, Lee replied.

“Yes, you are right. I killed a little baby once”

To be continued.

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