Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bruce George Peter Lee

"A fire in his head"

A now all too familiar story unfolded after the West Dock Avenue and Wensley Lodge fires of January 1977 (see chapters seven and eight), and after the 11 deaths at Wensley Lodge, the rate at which Lee was claiming innocent lives seemed to increase considerably.

On April 27, 1977, Peter Jordan was woken at around 3am while sleeping in the living room at the house of some friends, the Gold family. He heard a couple of bangs and saw a figure moving about. He then realized the room was on fire. Scrambling towards the stairs, he alerted his kids, who were sleeping upstairs with the Golds' two children, along with parents Albert and Gwendoline Gold in the front bedroom. The fire swept through the house rapidly, and although despite the brave efforts of Albert Gold, sustaining severe burns while trying to rescue the kids, 13-year-old Deborah Jordan and 7 year-old Mark Gold were trapped in the fire and died at the scene.

The blame was eventually put on Peter Jordan for leaving a lit cigarette in the ashtray, which added horrendous feelings of guilt to his trauma at losing a son. The prospect of arson was never discussed, but when Lee admitted to entering the house by breaking a window and dousing the living room with petrol, Jordan would later admit that he couldn't understand how a window near the door had been broken.

More young lives would be claimed by Lee the following year, in Reynoldson Street, Hull. On the morning of Friday, January 6, mother of four, Christine Dickson, had gone to the house of her next door neighbor and close friend Mrs. Kathleen Hartley, leaving her kids in the front room. She returned to find the front windows black with smoke, and ran in and pulled out her Baby, Bryan, who was covered in black soot. She went back into the house for her other children, Mark, 4, Steven, 3, and Michael, 17 months. Then Mrs. Hartley was horrified to see a four foot 'ring of fire' coming up from the living room carpet, as if the result of someone setting it alight. Then she heard Mrs. Dickson scream as an explosion enveloped her. She and her three sons didn't make it out alive, and the inquest put the blame on the children playing with lighter fluid that was on a shelf in the front room.

Lee would tell a different story. The then 17-year-old youth lived nearby and said he was walking around that day with a washing up liquid bottle filled with paraffin hidden under his jacket. He described feeling a tingling in his fingers and a "fire in his head." Choosing the Dicksons' house at random, he squirted the paraffin through the letterbox leading straight into to the front room, and threw lighted paper onto it, before quickly making his getaway.

Incredibly, though, it would need a tenth fatal fire, making Lee Britain's most prolific serial killer, before he was suspected of setting fire to anything more serious than a cigarette.


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