January 5, 1977
Hull, East Yorkshire, England
A fire overtakes a nursing home, killing 11 and injuring 19

The fire at the Wensley Lodge claimed the lives of 11, the victims’ ages ranged from 65-95 years old with the majority being over 80. Initially, the fire was ruled accidental, though it was later revealed to be one of several fires started by Bruce George Peter Lee (pictured).

Lee was born Peter George Dinsdale though he changed his name to Bruce Lee in honor of the martial artist and actor. Lee’s first fatal arson attack occurred when he was 12 in 1973, in which a 6-year-old victim died. Several more mysterious fires occurred in Hull between 1973 and 1979, though the Wensley fire took the most lives at once. Each fire was written off as accidental.

On December 4, 1979, a fire broke out at the Hastie family home, later determined to have started when an accelerant-soaked rag was ignited and pushed through the letterbox during the night. The three Hastie daughters and their father had been away, but the family matriarch Edith and four sons were home. Edith and one of her sons were able to escape, though three of the boys were trapped. While they were rescued, they each died of their burns at the hospital.

The Hastie family was reportedly not well liked among the community and it took investigators some time to narrow down their suspect pool. When Lee was questioned, however, he readily confessed to the Hasties’ arson attack, then surprised authorities by confessing to several more. In total, Lee confessed to starting fires which led to the deaths of 26, as well as 14 non-fatal fires. The victims had at some point angered Lee in various infractions which motivated him to commit arson.

Lee pleaded not guilty to 26 counts of murder and was found not guilty by reason of mental illness. He has been sentenced to an indefinite term in a mental health facility and has since changed his name to Peter Tredget.

Sources:
“Bruce Lee appeal over 26 arson deaths in Hull.” BBC. October 28, 2019. Accessed: January 5, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-humber-50207291
Keller, Robert. British Monsters, Volume 1: 15 Terrifying Tales of Britain’s Most Horrific Serial Killers. 2013
Odell, Robin. The Mammoth Book of Bizarre Crimes. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2010
“Lee arson file omits vital inquiry details.” The Guardian. March 29, 1982
“The ‘twisted kid’ who became mass arson killer.” The Guardian. January 21, 1981
Nally, Michael. “The feud that killed three boys.” The Observer [London, England]. January 20, 2020
“Court outburst by mother whose children died in fire.” The Guardian [London, England]. January 18, 1980
“Fire Kills 10 In England.” The Salem News. January 6, 1977

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