Peterborough ditch murders

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The Peterborough ditch murders were a series of serial murders which took place in Cambridgeshire, England, in March 2013. All of the victims were male and died from stab wounds. The bodies of all three men were discovered dumped in ditches outside Peterborough. The perpetrator was Joanna Dennehy, a local woman who was later sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole life order.

Court proceedings[edit]

In November 2013, Joanna Dennehy pleaded guilty to all three murders and two further attempted murders.[1][2] 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."[3] Dennehy has been held at HM Prison Bronzefield.[4] Assessing psychiatrists later diagnosed Dennehy with psychopathic, anti-social and borderline personality disorders.[5]

Two men, Gary Stretch (formerly known as Gary Richards), 47, and Leslie Layton, 36, stood trial charged with a range of crimes assisting Dennehy, 31. Neither agreed to enter the witness box, give sworn evidence or face cross-examination.[6] The jury began considering their verdict on 4 February 2014.[7][8] On 10 February, Richards was found guilty of attempted murder. Layton was found guilty of perverting the course of justice.[9][10] On 12 February, Layton and Richards were convicted of all other charges.[11][12][13]

On 28 February 2014, at the Old Bailey, Dennehy was sentenced to life imprisonment. The trial judge, Mr Justice Spencer, recommended 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.[14] Dennehy is believed to be one of just three women in the United Kingdom to be given life imprisonment without parole, after Myra Hindley and Rosemary West.[15]

Richards was also 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.[16][17][18]


Kevin Lee was a property developer, landlord and lover of Dennehy.[19][20] He was killed on 29 March 2013, and his body found the next day near Newborough.[21] Dennehy dressed Lee's body in a black sequined dress before dumping his corpse.[22] Lukasz Slaboszewski and John Chapman were both housemates of Dennehy.[19] Slaboszewski, a Polish national, was killed on 19 March, and Chapman on 29 March.[21] They were both found on 3 April near Thorney with stab wounds.[23]

After the killings, Dennehy and Richards drove to Hereford where she stabbed two men, both of whom survived.[24]

Victim selection and motives[edit]

Dennehy specifically targeted men during her killing spree, telling Lloyd[who?] 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. Dennehy hunted and 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."[25][20][26]

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 subsequently concluded that the staff dealing with her were insufficiently experienced.[27] [28]

Escape plot[edit]

While Dennehy was on remand before the trial, prison staff found an escape plot in her diary. This involved killing or seriously injuring a prison guard, cutting off one of the guard's fingers and using the amputated finger to fool the biometric system in the prison. Dennehy was placed in solitary confinement from September 2013 (before the court proceedings) to September 2015 (after the proceedings) because of the above plot. She claims isolation left her 'tearful and upset' and led to self harm.

The High Court 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". Joanna Dennehy is currently incarcerated in Bronzefield Prison, Surrey.[29][30][31][32][33][34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Peterborough ditch deaths: Joanna Dennehy pleads guilty". BBC News. 18 November 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  2. ^ 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 – Crime – UK". The Independent. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  3. ^ "Joanna Dennehy: what makes a female serial killer tick". Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  4. ^ Steven Morris (28 January 2014). "Murderer Joanna Dennehy diagnosed with paraphilia sadomasochism". Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  5. ^ "Peterborough murders: Joanna Dennehy was mentally ill". BBC News. 23 January 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  6. ^ "BBC News – Peterborough murders: Men 'enjoyed helping Joanna Dennehy'". BBC News. 30 January 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  7. ^ "Joanna Dennehy alleged accomplices 'must be cleared if they feared for lives'". BBC News. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  8. ^ "Joanna Dennehy alleged accomplices trial jury sent home". BBC News. 6 February 2014.
  9. ^ "Peterborough ditch murders: Pair guilty of aiding killer Joanna Dennehy". BBC News. 10 February 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  10. ^ "Joanna Dennehy: two men guilty of helping serial killer". The Guardian. London, England: guardian Media Group. 10 February 2014.
  11. ^ Thomas, Ed (12 February 2014). "Joanna Dennehy ditch murders: Peterborough helpers guilty". BBC News. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  12. ^ "Joanne Dennehy 'not sorry' for Cambridgeshire ditch murders". BBC News. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Peterborough murders: Defendants will not give evidence". BBC News. 28 January 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  14. ^ Joanna Dennehy: serial killer becomes first woman told by judge to die in jail
  15. ^ Vikram Dodd "Joanna Dennehy: serial killer becomes first woman told by judge to die in jail", The Guardian, 28 February 2014
  16. ^ Spree killer Joanne Dennehy 'had sadistic lust for blood'
  17. ^ "Peterborough murders: Gary Stretch was Dennehy's 'nodding dog'". BBC News. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  18. ^ The "Timeline of police Operation Darcy into murders of three Peterborough men from 2013" from the "Peterborough Telegraph" 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.
  19. ^ a b Philipson, Alice (19 November 2013). "Female serial killer admits murdering three men before dumping their bodies in ditches". The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  20. ^ a b Joanne Dennehy: what makes a female serial killer tick | News | The Week UK
  21. ^ a b "Woman admits murdering three men found stabbed to death in ditches". The Guardian. 18 November 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  22. ^ "Dennehy 'cast a spell on victims'". MSN News. 15 January 2014. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  23. ^ Dixon, Hayley (18 November 2013). "Female serial killer admits three murders". The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  24. ^ "Peterborough murders: Joanna Dennehy driven by a thirst 'for blood'". BBC News. 21 January 2014. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  25. ^ Cawley, Laurence (14 February 2014). "Joanne Dennehy: The woman who murdered men 'for fun'". BBC News. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  26. ^ Dodd, Vikram (28 February 2014). "Joanna Dennehy: serial killer becomes first woman told by judge to die in jail". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  27. ^ Joanna Dennehy was on probation at time of murders The Guardian
  28. ^ Serial killer Joanna Dennehy was being supervised by probation when she murdered three men Peterborough Telegraph
  29. ^ Serial killer Joanna Dennehy's escape plot to murder guard revealed as she loses high court compensation bid
  30. ^ Serial killer Joanna Dennehy loses High Court human rights damages fight
  31. ^ Serial killer Joanna Dennehy loses High Court human rights fight
  32. ^ Joanne Dennehy: Triple killer fails in bid for damages over prison trauma
  33. ^ Joanne Dennehy: Triple killer loses bid for damages
  34. ^ Serial killer Joanna Dennehy loses claim her human rights are being violated