Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bruce George Peter Lee

"Four killed...even more."

When asked for details of the baby he had killed, Bruce Lee told Sagar of a fire in West Dock Avenue, Hull, "a couple of years back."

"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."

On further investigation, it was found that just such a fire had occurred three years previously, on January 2, 1977. Six-month-old Katrina Thacker perished. But was never suspected.

The day was a Sunday, and Karen Fraser had just been visited by her ex-husband Pete Thacker when the alarm was raised. She and Pete managed to rescue Fraser's two older daughters, aged two and three, from the blaze with the help of firemen, but not baby Katrina.

An inquest later concluded that a spark from the open fire must have started the fire. The fact that the then 16-year-old Lee had been among the onlookers as the fire was being put out was not noted at the time. Nor was the fact that the fire had clearly spread very quickly, indicating an accelerant such as paraffin, and that the seat of the fire, around the furniture, suggested a spark from the fire could not have cause the blaze so quickly.

It later emerged that Lee had been a frequent visitor to Pete Thacker's pigeon loft, often outstaying his welcome or walking into their house uninvited, leading to Thacker giving Lee a 'clip round the ear' on one occasion only days before the fatal fire.

After confessing to the West Dock Avenue fire, Lee soon went further. "I've done more," Sagar reports him admitting in his book Hull, Hell and Fire. "Four killed, even more...the three Hasties was my last one, but there's four other fires with one dead in each one."

When Sagar visited Lee again in Leeds, where he was in prison on remand, he told them of yet more fatal fires.

"There was a boy who went to (my) school," said Lee. "I killed him in a fire in his house a few years ago. That were a good while ago." Even more sensationally, he claimed responsibility for a blaze at an old people's home in 1977 which killed eleven elderly men.

Scarcely able to believe what he was hearing, Sagar decided to test the veracity of Lee's confessions by putting him in a police car, driving him around the city of Hull, and challenging him to point out where these supposed arson attacks had taken place. If he was lying, his lack of knowledge about the fires would surely be telling.

 

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