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Britain has had no shortage of sadistic murderers but there is one who has managed to evade national attention.
Most people will have never heard of one of the country’s most prolific serial killers: Bruce George Peter Lee.
Born Peter Tredget, he became Britain's most prolific serial killer at the age of just 19, but most people won’t have heard of him.
While you may think of the Kung Fu legend with the same name, people in the north of England will remember the name Bruce Lee due to the fact the killer burnt 15 victims to death in a wave of shocking arson attacks in the 1970s.
He currently remains locked up in a secure psychiatric unit but what is the story behind the sick serial killer? And how did he manage to avoid receiving national attention?
Bruce grew up in a broken home. He never knew his father and his mother abandoned him after he was born by moving to Manchester before returning six months later.
Young Bruce, who had changed his name in homage to the martial arts icon, went to live with his grandmother but he was moved back and forth between relatives before he and his sister were put into care.
The killer was also born with epilepsy and congenital spastic hemiplegia – a condition which left him with a limp in his right leg. He also had learning difficulties.
He became known to many as ‘Daft Peter’ – an innocuous nickname given to a seemingly harmless teen.
Little did they know, he had committed his first arson attack in 1973 when he was only 13 – and it wasn’t until 1979 that the extent of his crimes were discovered.
On 4 December 1979, a woman named Edith Hastie and her sons were awoken by their house being on fire after someone poured paraffin through their letterbox and set it alight.
Her son Charles – aged just 15 – pushed her out of an upstairs window which led to Edith’s survival.
Charles himself stayed inside to try and save two of his younger brothers but sadly all three of them died from their injuries.
Unfortunately, the local community wasn’t sympathetic about their deaths as the family were often blamed for rowdy and anti-social behaviour.
The astounding amount of people that disliked the Hasties family meant that almost anyone in the area could have been a suspect.
Surprisingly, 19-year-old Bruce casually admitted to the police that he was the arsonist due to a personal grudge he had against them.
Bruce claimed he’d been sexually involved with Charles Hastie, who’d then blackmailed him for money.
To add fuel to the fire, Bruce had also allegedly been mocked by the family for developing a crush on one of the female siblings.
The police didn’t yet know that this was only the tip of the iceberg.
Just when they thought they had closed the case, Bruce revealed the fire at the Hastie home was the latest of many arson attacks he’d conducted over the years.
When he was only 13 he set the home of fellow schoolboy Richard Ellington ablaze in the dead of the night. Richard died in the fire but the rest of the family managed to survive.
Only weeks later he struck again, this time setting alight the home of a man called David Brewer who eventually died.
According to Bruce’s testimony, he set houses on fire for years, with each incident having been dismissed as an accident by authorities.
He said at the time that he felt like the urge for arson was almost beyond his control and he knew it was time for another attack when his fingers started tingling.
His victims included one-year-old Andrew Edwards in 1976 and six-year-old Richard Ellerington in June 1973.
At a Crown Court trial in 1981, Bruce pleaded guilty to 11 counts of arson and 23 counts of manslaughter as he was sent to a secure hospital.
However, in 1983 and in February 2022, a number of his convictions were overturned and he is now considered responsible for the deaths of 12 people.
So how did Bruce manage to escape national attention? Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, was active in the north at the same time.
Peter took up all of the publicity of the time thanks to his heinous crimes.
It is thought that Bruce’s modus operandi didn’t capture the imagination of the tabloids enough.
The fact that he seemed to be motivated more by a compulsion to ignite flames, rather than an urge to kill, didn’t excite them enough.
Bruce has since shown some remorse for his crimes.
In an interview with The Mail from Ashworth Top Security Hospital in 1992, he said: "I had an IQ of 65 and I was very immature when they locked me up. And when they arrested me, I was drunk as a newt.
“I didn't really have a state of mind at that time. I was confused and drunk and I didn't really know what I was letting myself in for. All I wanted to do was get out."
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