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Peterborough ditch murders

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The Peterborough ditch murders were a series of murders which took place in Cambridgeshire, England, in March 2013. All three victims were male and died from stab wounds. Their bodies were discovered dumped in ditches outside Peterborough. In Hereford, two other men were stabbed but survived. The perpetrator was Joanna Christine Dennehy,[1] a Cambridgeshire woman, who was later sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole life order.

Victims[edit]

Kevin Lee was a property developer, landlord and lover of Dennehy.[2][3] Lukasz Slaboszewski, a Polish national, met Dennehy through a shared interest in drink and drugs, and John Chapman was a housemate of Dennehy. Slaboszewski was killed at some point between 19 and 29 March 2013.[4] Both Lee and Chapman were killed on 29 March.[4] Lee's body was found the next day near Newborough;[4] Dennehy had dressed his body in a black sequined dress before dumping the corpse.[5][2] The bodies of Slaboszewski and Chapman were found on 3 April near Thorney with stab wounds.[6]

After the killings, Dennehy was driven by her friend Gary Stretch (formerly known as Gary Richards)[7][8] to Hereford where she stabbed two men, chosen separately and at random, both of whom survived.[9] Both men were dog walkers; she stole the second man's dog.[8] Another man, travelling in the car unwillingly, was later cleared of criminal involvement in the attacks.[8]

Victim selection and motives[edit]

Dennehy, born August 1982 in St Albans, Hertfordshire, grew up in nearby Harpenden,[10] and was an absent mother of two young children at the time of the killings. She specifically targeted men during her killing spree, telling her acquaintance Lloyd that she did not wish to kill a woman and especially not a woman with children. Lloyd stated Dennehy had wanted to kill nine men in total, seeking to be like Bonnie and Clyde.[11] Dennehy stabbed men for the purpose of "entertainment", telling Stretch, "I want my fun. I need you to get my fun." She later told a psychiatrist that she had found murder to be "moreish" and that after the first killing she "got a taste for it."[3][12]

Court proceedings[edit]

In November 2013, Dennehy pleaded guilty to all three murders and two further attempted murders.[13][14] Her sister Maria was unsurprised by the guilty plea and said, "I think she did that to control the situation. She likes people to know she's the boss."[15] Dennehy was held on remand at HM Prison Bronzefield.[16] Assessing psychiatrists later diagnosed Dennehy with psychopathic, anti-social and borderline personality disorders.[17] The trial began at the Old Bailey in London where Dennehy could be seen laughing during proceedings, stating, "I have pleaded guilty, and that's that" when questioned about her decision. At one point during her trial, Dennehy stood up and told presiding Mr. Justice Spencer "I don't wanna be controlled by anybody. I don't want to be controlled by my lawyers, by the police, by anybody.".[18]

On 28 February 2014, Mr. Justice Spencer called Dennehy a "cruel, calculating, selfish and manipulative serial killer" [19] and sentenced her to life imprisonment with an additional order that she should never be released due to the premeditation of each murder. Spencer said further that Dennehy was sadomasochistic and lacked the normal range of human emotions.[20] Dennehy was the third woman in the UK to be given a whole life tariff, after Myra Hindley and Rosemary West.[21]

Two men, Richards, 47, and Leslie Layton, 36, stood trial charged with a range of crimes relating to assisting Dennehy. Both decided not to give evidence in their defence.[22] The jury began deliberation on 4 February 2014.[23][24] On 10 February, Richards was found guilty of attempted murder, and Layton was found guilty of perverting the course of justice.[25][26] On 12 February, Layton and Richards were convicted of all other charges.[27][28][29]

Richards was sentenced at the Old Bailey alongside Dennehy to life imprisonment, with a recommended minimum term of 19 years. Layton was sentenced to a total of 14 years, and Robert Moore, 55, who admitted to assisting an offender, received a three-year prison sentence.[30][7][31]

After the trial[edit]

After the trial it emerged that the Probation Service was supervising Dennehy at the time of the murders as she had been convicted of assault and owning a dangerous dog. It was later concluded that the staff dealing with her were inexperienced.[32][33]

Escape plot[edit]

Whilst she was on remand before the trial, Dennehy was housed in segregation at HM Prison Bronzefield, a Category A prison in Surrey. Prison staff found an escape plot in her diary which involved killing or seriously injuring a prison officer, cutting off one of the officer's fingers and using the amputated finger to fool the biometric system in the prison. Because of the plot, Dennehy was placed in solitary confinement from September 2013 (before the court proceedings) to September 2015 (after the proceedings). She claims isolation left her "tearful and upset" and led to self harm.

The High Court of Justice rejected Dennehy's claim that her human rights had been violated. Government lawyers argued isolation was necessary due to the nature of Dennehy's offences and the risk she could pose to the public if she were to escape. Mr Justice Singh found solitary confinement was "in accordance with law (...) at all material times it has been necessary and proportionate".[34][35][36]

Imprisonment[edit]

After her trial, Dennehy was returned to HMP Bronzefield. In 2018, she requested permission to marry her cellmate Hayley Palmer,[37] to the dismay of Palmer's family, who feared Dennehy might endanger her.[38] In 2018 both Dennehy and Palmer tried to kill themselves during a suicide pact.[39] In June 2020 Dennehy was reported to be in a relationship with another prisoner, Emma Aitken, a 25-year-old serving a twelve-year sentence for her part in the murder of a man whose body was dumped outside a social club.[40] In May 2021 it was again reported that Dennehy and Palmer, the latter since released from a sixteen-year robbery sentence, intended to marry.[41]

In 2019, Dennehy was moved to Low Newton Prison in County Durham. Upon her arrival she allegedly threatened to kill Rosemary West, who was moved to another prison.[42] The government denied this claim.[43]

In popular culture[edit]

Dennehy's story was featured in The Murderer & Me: Joanna Dennehy, a documentary that aired on Sky Crime in the UK and Ireland on 21 February 2021.[44] Her former boyfriend and father to her children told his story in an episode of documentary series The Killer in My Family which aired on Discovery owned channel Quest Red in the UK.[45]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wansell, Geoffrey (9 June 2016). Lifers: Inside the Minds of Britain's Most Notorious Criminals. Penguin UK. p. 82. ISBN 978-1-4059-1955-5.
  2. ^ a b Philipson, Alice (19 November 2013). "Female serial killer admits murdering three men before dumping their bodies in ditches". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 19 November 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Joanne Dennehy: what makes a female serial killer tick". The Week. Archived from the original on 23 March 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2014.
  4. ^ a b c "Woman admits murdering three men found stabbed to death in ditches". The Guardian. 18 November 2013. Archived from the original on 19 November 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Dennehy 'cast a spell on victims'". MSN News. 15 January 2014. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  6. ^ Dixon, Hayley (18 November 2013). "Female serial killer admits three murders". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 19 November 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Peterborough murders: Gary Stretch was Dennehy's 'nodding dog'". BBC News. 31 January 2014. Archived from the original on 6 February 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  8. ^ a b c "Joanne Dennehy: Serial Killer - Thursday 18 Apr 9pm - ITV Hub". 12 May 2019. Archived from the original on 12 May 2019. Retrieved 11 November 2022.
  9. ^ "Peterborough murders: Joanna Dennehy driven by a thirst 'for blood'". BBC News. 21 January 2014. Archived from the original on 21 January 2014. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  10. ^ Morris, Steven (12 February 2014). "From netball team to psychopath: the strange descent of Joanna Dennehy". The Guardian. London, England. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  11. ^ Cawley, Laurence (14 February 2014). "Joanne Dennehy: The woman who murdered men 'for fun'". BBC News. Archived from the original on 15 March 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  12. ^ Dodd, Vikram (28 February 2014). "Joanna Dennehy: serial killer becomes first woman told by judge to die in jail". The Guardian. London, England. Archived from the original on 10 October 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Peterborough ditch deaths: Joanna Dennehy pleads guilty". BBC News. 18 November 2013. Archived from the original on 7 February 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  14. ^ Rob Williams (18 November 2013). "Joanna Dennehy trial: Serial killer stuns Old Bailey by pleading guilty to murdering three men and dumping bodies in ditches". The Independent. Archived from the original on 8 February 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  15. ^ "Joanna Dennehy: what makes a female serial killer tick". Theweek.co.uk. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  16. ^ Steven Morris (28 January 2014). "Murderer Joanna Dennehy diagnosed with paraphilia sadomasochism". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  17. ^ "Peterborough murders: Joanna Dennehy was mentally ill". BBC News. 23 January 2014. Archived from the original on 26 January 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  18. ^ "Most Evil Killers".
  19. ^ Dodd, Vikram (28 February 2014). "Joanna Dennehy: serial killer becomes first woman told by judge to die in jail". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
  20. ^ "Joanna Dennehy: serial killer becomes first woman told by judge to die in jail". Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
  21. ^ Vikram Dodd "Joanna Dennehy: serial killer becomes first woman told by judge to die in jail" Archived 20 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine, The Guardian, 28 February 2014
  22. ^ "Peterborough murders: Men 'enjoyed helping Joanna Dennehy'". BBC News. 30 January 2014. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  23. ^ "Joanna Dennehy alleged accomplices 'must be cleared if they feared for lives'". BBC News. 3 February 2014. Archived from the original on 6 February 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  24. ^ "Joanna Dennehy alleged accomplices trial jury sent home". BBC News. 6 February 2014. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  25. ^ "Peterborough ditch murders: Pair guilty of aiding killer Joanna Dennehy". BBC News. 10 February 2014. Archived from the original on 4 March 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  26. ^ "Joanna Dennehy: two men guilty of helping serial killer". The Guardian. London, England. 10 February 2014. Archived from the original on 5 August 2017. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
  27. ^ Thomas, Ed (12 February 2014). "Joanna Dennehy ditch murders: Peterborough helpers guilty". BBC News. Archived from the original on 12 February 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  28. ^ "Joanne Dennehy 'not sorry' for Cambridgeshire ditch murders". BBC News. 14 February 2014. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  29. ^ "Peterborough murders: Defendants will not give evidence". BBC News. 28 January 2014. Archived from the original on 31 January 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  30. ^ "Spree killer Joanne Dennehy 'had sadistic lust for blood'". Archived from the original on 16 October 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  31. ^ The "Timeline of police Operation Darcy into murders of three Peterborough men from 2013" Archived 17 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine from the "Peterborough Telegraph" Archived 19 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine newspaper lists a timeline of dates, locations and events between March 2013 until February 2014 tracing the murders of Kevin Lee, Lucasz Slaboszewski, and John Chapman in Peterborough and the subsequent court case.
  32. ^ Joanna Dennehy was on probation at time of murders Archived 15 September 2016 at the Wayback Machine The Guardian
  33. ^ Serial killer Joanna Dennehy was being supervised by probation when she murdered three men Archived 1 July 2016 at the Wayback Machine Peterborough Telegraph
  34. ^ "Serial killer Joanna Dennehy's escape plot to murder guard revealed as she loses high court compensation bid". Archived from the original on 13 July 2017. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  35. ^ "Joanne Dennehy: Triple killer fails in bid for damages over prison trauma". Archived from the original on 11 September 2016. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  36. ^ "Joanne Dennehy: Triple killer loses bid for damages". Archived from the original on 7 September 2016. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  37. ^ "Serial killer Joanna Dennehy launches legal bid to marry lesbian lover". NZ Herald. 14 October 2018. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  38. ^ Moriarty, Richard (10 January 2019). "Family warns 'there will be blood' if serial killer marries lesbian lover in jail". New York Post. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  39. ^ Forsyth, Laura; Savva, Anna (17 August 2018). "Serial killer Joanna Dennehy in failed prison suicide attempt". CambridgeshireLive. Retrieved 25 August 2020.
  40. ^ Lynne, Freddie (29 June 2020). "Notorious Cambs triple murderer 'is dating another killer in prison'". CambridgeshireLive. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  41. ^ Wakefield, Lily (14 May 2021). "Serial killer to marry prison fiancée who gave her a 'no more murders' ultimatum". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
  42. ^ Jones, Samuel; Warburton, Dan (21 July 2019). "Serial killer Rose West 'moved prisons' after alleged murder threat". gazettelive. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  43. ^ Mills, Jen (21 July 2019). "Rose West moved to new prison after 'serial killer threatened to murder her'". Metro.
  44. ^ Byrne, John (21 February 2021). "What's On? 10 Top Telly Tips for Sunday". RTE. Archived from the original on 18 May 2024. Retrieved 17 May 2024.
  45. ^ "The Killer in My Family: Joanna Dennehy". Imdb. Retrieved 29 July 2023.