Court of Appeal to reconsider case of prolific serial killer

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Court of Appeal to reconsider case of prolific serial killer

One of the country’s most prolific serial killers – an arsonist who pleaded guilty to more than 20 counts of manslaughter – is to have his case heard by the Court of Appeal following a referral by the miscarriage of justice watchdog. Peter Tredget pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court to 11 counts of arson and 23 related counts of manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility.

The prosecution case was that between June 1973 and December 1979 Tredget set fire to 11 houses in and around Hull killing some 26 people. The prosecution relied mainly on Tredget’s own confessions made in the wake of a fire at Selby Street in which three brothers died (see here).

Tredget, who changed his name to Bruce Lee in homage to the martial arts star, went on to confess to starting ten other fires that caused death and serious injury. He also confessed to starting a further 14 non-fatal fires at a range of premises including shops, warehouses and lodging houses but was not  prosecuted for those.

The case has been one of the CCRC’s longest running cases. He applied to the CCRC in 2011. It  has referred on the basis of new evidence undermining the credibility of the confessions including expert evidence from a psychologist and forensic linguist as well as a specialist document examiner relating to his written confessions. Other grounds for referrals include that the interviews were not in accordance with the Judges’ Rules (the guidance for police use of confession evidence since replaced by the 1984 ‘PACE’ legislation).

According to the CCRC, their work involved ‘obtaining and analysing of tens of thousands of pages of casework information’ as well as deploying ‘section 19’ power to appoint and external police force to reinvestigate the case.

His solicitor Steve Gelsthorpe, director at Cartwright King, said that he was delighted that the CCRC, after an eight year review, had agreed to refer the case. ‘We are confident that a serious miscarriage of justice which we believe has been occasioned to Mr Tredget for almost 40 years will be revealed to the court and that the blame ascribed to him for the tragic deaths of all the victims of those fires should no longer be paid at his door.’

Tredget pleaded guilty and in 1981 was sentenced to detention without limit of time in a secure mental hospital. He appealed. The Court of Appeal quashed his conviction on one count of arson and 11 counts of manslaughter relating to a fire at an old people’s home