​7 of Bristol’s most shocking crimes

Victims and perpetrators of some of Bristol’s most shocking crimes on record.

1. Amelia Dyer: The most prolific female serial killer of all time?

Thought to be one of the most prolific female serial killers in recorded history, Amelia Dyer seemed to be taking in and caring for many of Bristol’s unwanted babies.

But she had a dark secret: she was killing them.

Dyer systematically starved and drugged the babies to death and the true number of her victims will never be known.

She trained as a nurse and midwife and from homes around Totterdown and Brislington she took in – for a fee – expectant mums or unwanted children.

Amelia Dyer, who confessed to murdering babies over 40 years, before being hanged.

Many were pregnant or unmarried and Dyer, who was raised in the hamlet of Pyle Marsh, now part of St George, would take care of the women until they gave birth.

During the 1860s, 70s and 80s, Dyer would make between £5 and £80 for each child she claimed to be looking after and, on the outside, she looked like a maternal figure with a house full of children.

But an eagle-eyed doctor became suspicious of the number of death certificates he was issuing to babies supposedly being looked after by her.

After years, Dyer was eventually jailed – not for killing the children, but for neglect – and was given six months’ hard labour.

But on her release from prison she started again, abandoning attempts to make the children’s deaths look natural.

She began by suffocating them with tape and dumping their bodies in the river Avon.

Caversham Lock in 1890 where the bodies of two babies were discovered and Amelia Dyer was eventually caught

To escape arrest, she started to move around the country, changed her name and even feigned a mental illness to get into an asylum.

The final death toll from her activities is unknown but she is understood to have taken in babies from across the whole of the South of England.

She was finally caught in 1896, aged 58, when she dropped two bodies in Caversham Lock on the Thames at Reading – but did not weigh the boxes down enough.

As police searched the river, she told them: “You’ll know all mine by the tape around their necks.”

It took a jury just four-and-a-half minutes of deliberation to find her guilty.

After writing a lengthy confession on the gallows, relating 40 years of murders – mostly in Bristol – she was hanged.

2. The obsession of Kevin Weaver, the copycat killer

Jilted Kevin Weaver spent two years brooding over a break-up with his former financee before going on a killing spree which ended with the slaughter of four women – including his mother and sister.

The 24-year-old loner started by bludgeoning his mother and sister to death before, armed with three shotguns and 500 cartridges, he killed two office workers.

The murders were carried out just days after the Hungerford massacre of August 1987, where loner Michael Ryan killed 16 people. Psychopathic Weaver recorded the television coverage.

Weaver was a former accounts clerk who lived in St George and had a deadly interest in firearms, even keeping his own body armour at his Roseberry Park home.

He had broken up with his former finance, 21-year-old Alison Woodman, two years earlier and decided to kill her.

Jilted Kevin Weaver killed his mother, sister and two innocent officer workers

Banned from driving, Weaver thought his 27-year-old sister Linda would not lend him her car to drive to Patchway, where Ms Woodman worked, so he went into her room and hit her around the head 30 times with a hammer.

Such was the savagery of the attack that he snapped the wooden shaft of the tool.

Weaver then waited for his mother to return to the family home from the Hippodrome, where she worked as a box office attendant, and hid.

As she returned home with pies for lunch he bludgeoned her to death, before putting both bodies in the bath, then washing and drying his clothes.

He then turned all the gas on in the home and planted a detonator mine under a coffee table as a trap for police.

Putting his weapons – one bought by mail order while he was a member of an East Dundry clay pigeon shooting club – into a golf bag he headed to Alexandra Workwear in Patchway, where Alison worked.

He walked up to Alison’s desk, grabbed her and said: “Come on Alison, we’re going” before she screamed and ran from him.

He fired nine shots, killing former policeman turned data manager David Pursall, aged 29, a father of newborn twins, and accountant John Peterson, aged 48.

Weaver walked up to Alison, then hiding under her desk, raised his gun, looked at her hiding and told her: “This is your lucky day.”

He later told police he could not go through with killing Alison as he still loved her.

He was later jailed for life and sent to Broadmoor secure hospital.

3. The homeless drifter who watched a vicar die.

When Stephen Farrow was ten he set fire to a church altar and watched as it burned. He was expelled on his first day of school, in a childhood which included bullying, fighting, using weapons, setting fires and robbery.

He went on to claim he had been abused as a child by the priests at his boarding school, but was found by psychiatrists to be a pathological liar, with a “grandiose sense of self-worth”.

With a background of loathing for religion throughout his life, he murdered the Rev John Suddards at his vicarage in Thornbury.

Rev John Suddards killed in his Thornbury vicarage

The homeless drifter carried out the horrific attack on the vicar of St Mary the Virgin church six weeks after murdering 77-year-old retired teacher Betty Yates in Worcestershire, bludgeoning her with a walking stick before stabbing her four times.

Farrow made his way to South Gloucestershire, breaking into the home of a family who were on holiday and leaving a note pinned with two knives to the kitchen table, which spoke of ‘Christian scum’ and how he ‘hated God’.

On February 13, 2012 Farrow went to the vicarage and 59-year-old Mr Suddards let him in.

As they stood in the hallway Farrow, then 48, attacked Mr Suddards with a knife and when the vicar tried to get up off the floor he was kicked.

Stephen Farrow killed Thornbury Reverend John Subbards

Farrow then watched his victim die, before ransacking the house. He later admitted that he had originally planned to crucify the Rev Suddards.

Several assessments found that Farrow suffered from Severe Dangerous Personality Disorder.

He was arrogant, opinionated, showed no respect for the views of others and was deemed “dangerous”, “very dark” and “fraudulent”.

4: The body found on Christmas Day

For eight days a landscape architect had been missing from her Clifton home. It was completely out of character for Joanna Yeates to have disappeared.

But then on Christmas Day 2010, the news the whole country had been dreading was confirmed.

Her body was discovered covered in snow by a dog walker in Failand. The 25-year-old had been strangled to death.

A murder enquiry was launched and rewards of up to £60,000 were offered to help find the killer.

Joanna Yeates who was strangled and then her body found on Christmas Day

Police soon focused on Jo’s landlord Christoper Jefferies, who lived in the same block of flats, but the retired Clifton College teacher had nothing to do with her disappearance.

But someone else who lived in the same flats on Canynge Road did.

Dutch engineer Vincent Tabak, 32, took advantage of the fact Jo’s boyfriend, Greg Reardon, was away for the weekend to attack her and kill her after she resisted his sexual advances.

Vincent Tabak murdered his neighbour Jo Yeates as her boyfriend was away for the weekend

When her body was discovered, DNA was found linking Tabak, described as an introverted loner, to the murder.

In the months leading up to her murder, Tabak had been researching escort agencies and viewing violent internet porn.

Tabak had tried to claim that he had not tried to kill Jo for sexual motives, but had gone to silence her after she screamed when he tried to kiss her.

But the jury did not believe him and he was jailed for life for her murder.

5: Behind closed doors lay some big secrets

It was Bristol in 1946 and in the sleepy suburb of Henleaze lived a respectable couple, Cecil and Ann Cornock.

But they led a secret life of sadomasochism, which was to be revealed after a murder that has never been solved.

At 1am on Sunday, December 8 an ambulance was called to Wellington Hill as Cecil had died – reportedly drowned in the bath.

But he had marks on his wrists, head injuries and there had been a two hour delay in Ann calling the ambulance.

And that was not the only part of the killing which intrigued post-War Britain, as details of Cecil’s unusual fetishes began to emerge.

It turned out that Ann had discovered her husband, a cost inspector with the Aircraft Ministry, had a penchant for dressing in women’s clothes but also a liking for pain and spanking.

Ann Cornock acquitted of killing her husband Cecil (middle) while her friend Gilbert Bedford (right) was there

There were also suggestions Ann, who was two months pregnant, had been having an affair with a young disabled man she had befriended called Gilbert Bedford.

Ann, who was in her 30s, often asked him to spy on her husband and it emerged Gilbert had been at the couple’s house on the day of Cecil’s death.

When the ambulance arrived, Ann explained the pair had dragged Cecil out on to the bedroom floor, but to no avail.

Asked by the police why it had taken her so long to call an ambulance, Ann explained she and Gilbert had felt so tired they had to have a cup of tea.

Ann did not shy away from telling police about her husband’s unusual sexual habits and brought out a broken bamboo cane which she said he had liked to be spanked with.

When a pathologist came to the conclusion Mr Cornock’s wrists had been tied up with rope and he had been struck over the head with a blunt instrument, Ann produced a peg bag containing three pieces of wet rope, while Gilbert admitted they had cut the cord away on finding the body.

Police had little hesitation in arresting Ann and on December 10 charged her with the murder of her husband. Because of his disability, no charges whatsoever were laid against Bedford.

The trial gripped the nation – but it took the jury just over an hour to find Ann not guilty – to a shocked response from the rest of the court.

Ann then walked out of the court room as coolly as she had walked in.

The next day, Gilbert Bedford went to the city’s register office to arrange his marriage to the pregnant Ann. She immediately withdrew from it, claiming that she had no interest in Bedford whatsoever.

6: Never any justice for the babes in the woods

There was a heatwave in June 1957 when siblings June and Royston Sheasby – aged just seven and five – disappeared after going to look at some horses near their Stapleton home.

For nearly two weeks Bristol people took to the streets to search for the youngsters before a shocking discovery was made by a police officer on July 1.

PC Jefferson Brough saw a small hand coming from the undergrowth near the river at Snuff Mills. It was Royston’s, and hidden underneath his body was that of his elder sister June.

The pair’s head injuries showed they had been brutally bludgeoned – thought to be with a blunt instrument – leaving them with skull fractures.

June and Royston Sheasby, whose murders have never been solved

The murders became the subject of one of the biggest police investigations the country had seen, with attention focused on nearby Stoke Park Hospital, which treated psychiatric patients.

More than 60 years later it remains unsolved.

The children had lived on Brockworth Crescent with mum Barbara and dad Jesse when they hand in hand went to see the horse at a nearby field.

Distracted by decorating, she realised her children had not come home at 7pm and immediately contacted the police.

It was days after they disappeared that the Bristol Evening Post received an intriguing letter saying the children were alive and a £200 ransom demanded.

It read that his brother would collect the money “but if he should be detained I shall kill the children after two hours from the time he leaves here”.

Head of Bristol’s CID M. Phillips described the letter as a “wicked and cruel hoax” and the search for the missing children continued.

Once the body had been discovered the murder enquiry soon focused on a person known as “the man in the blue suit” who was spotted at the riverside.

Despite 25,000 people having been questioned and more than 2,000 statements taken by police he was never identified.

Another focus of the police attention was some of the 5,000 patients based at Stoke Park Hospital.

Numerous false confessions came from the nearby mental institutes, but it wasn’t until 1964 that a real breakthrough in the case was thought to have come.

Home Office psychiatrist Dr Hyatt William, said a man jailed for a minor offence confessed he had killed two children. But he refused to name the children or prisoner – who had since died – citing confidentiality.

Afterwards reporters were told the victims were a boy and girl, with the Sheasbys being the only unsolved murder of the type.

7: Becky Watts – The schoolgirl whose death shocked the city and the nation

When Becky Watts vanished from her home in St George last year it left Bristol baffled.

The 16-year-old had seemingly just disappeared on February 19, leaving behind almost all of her belongings.

Schoolgirl Becky Watts murdered by her stepbrother Nathan Matthews

But there was an even darker twist when the schoolgirl’s mutilated body was eventually discovered hidden in the shed of a Barton Hill home.

The arrest of her stepbrother Nathan Matthews and his girlfriend Shauna Hoare led to a trial at which horrific details of Becky’s death and dismemberment were revealed – but the unconvincing stories told by the pair mean that the whole truth about the murder will probably never be known.

What detectives did prove beyond doubt was that Becky had never even left her home and was the victim of a “sexually motivated kidnap plot” by the pair.

After she was murdered by Matthews her body was put into the boot of their car, then driven to their home at Cotton Mill Lane, Barton Hill.

Becky Watts’ killers Nathan Matthews and Shauna Hoare

It was there that they spent days dismembering her body with a knife and a circular saw bought especially for the job by Matthews.

They carefully packaged her body parts into bags and boxes and when they knew the police were closing in, they organised for it to be unwittingly stored in a neighbour’s shed.

In November 2015 after a trial at Bristol Crown Court, Matthews was found guilty of murder and Hoare guilty of manslaughter.

Watch via link below: Becky Watts memorial lamp lit in Bristol park by friends and family of murdered teenager

http://m.bristolpost.co.uk/8203-7-of-bristol-s-most-shocking-crimes/story-29977399-detail/story.html

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