Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bruce George Peter Lee

The Young Firestarter

Lee took detectives to a large, partly demolished house to the west of the city, which had been Wensley Lodge retirement home. It was gutted by fire on the night of 5th January 1977, a date which Lee noted himself was only three days after the West Dock Avenue fire. He told of how he had "just come along here to do a big house, just ride along, any house." He cycled the three miles from his home to the house, painstakingly holding the can of paraffin on the handle bar of his bike.

He said he picked the house because it was 'nice and quiet'. He kicked a window through and poured paraffin on the floor of one of the rooms, before cycling away and throwing his can of paraffin in the nearby River Humber. It was only when he read of the fire in the newspapers that he realized he had killed 11 men in an "old blokes home." Once again, however, arson was never suspected. Instead, the fire was blamed on a plumber who had been working with a blow torch on a pipe in the boiler room beneath the seat of the fire earlier that afternoon. It was concluded that material had caught fire and smoldered for some seven hours before building into a deadly conflagration around 9.30pm.

If Lee's account was to be believed, he had committed one of Britain's worst mass murders at the age of only 16.

Yet only moments after providing corroboration to that claim, he directed Sagar to another house, on Askew Avenue, Hull, where he claimed to have committed his first murder, at the age of only 12.

Lee had seen 6-year-old Richard Ellerington regularly, as he attended the same school for handicapped children, and Lee would often be on the school bus when it picked up Richard from outside his house.

On the night of June 23, 1973, Samuel Ellerington and his wife Catherine were out for the evening and a babysitter, Carol Dennett, had put their six children and her own baby to bed before the parents returned, and the three adults finally retired to bed at around 2.30am. It was a warm evening, and the window was left open. The front door was also left unlocked.

Shortly before 7am the Elleringtons were awoken by smoke, and raised the alarm, but by this time much of the house was ablaze. They managed to rescue five of their children, but were prevented by smoke and flames from reaching Richard, whose body was eventually found by firemen.

Another row house fire
Another row house fire

"When we stopped in bus next morning," Lee told Sagar, "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."

When asked why he had singled out this house to set on fire, Lee could only say "No real reason." Whatever his motives or lack of them, though, by the time of this first murder, he was already addicted to starting fires.


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