September 1, 1986
Fordingbridge, Hampshire, England
Four family members and a live-in nurse are murdered during a robbery
The Cleaver family — Joseph and Hilda, their son Thomas, and Thomas’ wife Wendy — were eating dinner with Hilda’s live-in nurse Margaret Murphy when George Stephenson, John Daly, and George Daly entered their home. The intruders threatened the family with a gun and the handle of a pickaxe, forcing them into an upstairs room. The victims were then bound and gagged while the Daly brothers and Stephenson rummaged through the home looking for cash and guns to steal. They were looking for a safe which they never found, which was in the same room where the family was restrained. The robbers also failed to find £700 hidden in Thomas’ prosthetic leg.
After grabbing what valuables they could find, the trio took turns raping Wendy before Stephenson ordered John Daly to strangle her, which he did. The remaining victims were doused in petrol before George Daly threw a firelighter into the room, burning the four victims alive.
It is suspected one of the motives behind choosing the Cleavers was revenge: Stephenson had previously worked for the family but had been dismissed after he beat his wife. Police had found information on Stephenson’s employment in the Cleavers’ home and followed the lead for additional information. They were able to link Stephenson, and, by extension, the Daly brothers after finding the Cleavers’ stolen TV and VCR in a home Stephenson had lived in before skipping town.
During trial, it was revealed that Stephenson had told George Daly the victims were already dead before they were lit on fire; because of this George Daly was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder. He served 22 years in prison before his release. Stephenson was given six life sentences for murder and rape while John Daly was given seven life sentences for murder, rape, and robbery.
Hilda and Joseph Cleaver
Horrific history from today:
1715: The Sun King Dies Easily (2017)
1939: Bullet exits gunman’s head, shatters glass held by waitress (2017)
1994: Child murdered by teens (2017)
Today in Horror History: September 1