December 18, 1992
16-year-old Suzanne Capper dies after days of torture and being burned alive
Capper had been spending much of her time in the home of Jean Powell (26), a woman for whom she had babysat in the past. Also living in the home (or visiting frequently) were Powell’s estranged husband Glyn Powell (29), the Powells’ three children, neighbor Bernadette McNeilly (24) and her three children, McNeilly’s boyfriend Anthony Dudson (16), Jean’s brother Clifford Pook (17), and Jean’s sexual partner Jeffrey Leigh (27).
The conspiracy against Capper came after McNeilly and Dudson were infected with pubic lice, which they assumed came from Capper after she slept on McNeilly’s bed. Other grievances against her involved an allegedly stolen coat and a “sexual insult.”
The first attack against Capper was punishment for supposedly giving McNeilly and Dudson pubic lice. The group attacked Capper, cutting her hair and shaving her eyebrows. They also forced her to shave her pubic hair. Over the next six days, Capper was beaten with belts and a “metre-long wooden fork,” was burned with cigarettes, had her two front teeth pulled out with pliers though one tooth snapped leaving an exposed nerve, was tied to a upturned bed, and was caged in cabinets. She was not permitted to use the restroom and was forced to sit in her own feces and urine. When the group became sickened by the smell, they put Capper in a bathtub, poured concentrated disinfectant over her, and scrubbed her with brushes and a broom. At one point she was moved from the Powell house to McNeilly’s because the group was afraid Capper’s crying would disturb the six children living in the home.
On December 14, Capper was blindfolded and put in a car trunk dressed only in leggings, underwear, and a raincoat. She was driven to a wooded area, stripped of her raincoat, and pushed into brambles before being doused with gasoline and set on fire. The group left her for dead.
Capper managed to walk, naked, 250 yards to find help. The three men who spotted her gave her a dressing gown and called emergency services. They later recalled Capper’s skin hung from her fingers, “her hands appeared like ash,” and “her legs from her thighs down were like raw meat.” She was burned over 80% of her body.
Capper was taken to the hospital but lapsed into a coma and eventually succumbed to multiple-organ failure. Her burns were so extensive her mother and step-father were unable to identify her. Instead, Capper was identified by a fragment of a fingerprint. Before she slipped into the coma, however, she was able to give police the address of her murderers.
Though the group initially denied the murder, Dudson confessed on the advice of his father. Jean and Glyn Powell and McNeilly were sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum tariff of 25 years. Dudson was sentenced to be detained indefinitely (similar to a life sentence for underaged offenders), with a minimum tariff of 18 years. Leigh and Pook were not at the scene of the murder and were acquitted of murder charges. Leigh convicted of false imprisonment and sentenced to 12 years in prison while Pook was convicted of false imprisonment and conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm and sentenced to 15 years.
- “Six jailed over girl’s brutal kidnap, torture and murder.” The Age [Melbourne, Victoria, Australia]. December 19, 1993
- “Sadistic death went beyond belief.” The Guardian [London, England]. December 18, 1993
- Ward, David. “Trivial gripes ‘led to torture death’.” The Guardian. November 17, 1993