Beast of Wombwell found guilty of raping woman weeks before he killed schoolgirl

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A pensioner dubbed the Beast of Wombwell  has been found guilty of raping an 18-year-old woman weeks before he raped and killed a 14-year-old girl more than 45 years ago.

Peter Pickering, 80, has been locked up in psychiatric hospitals since 1972, when he admitted the manslaughter of schoolgirl Shirley Boldy, in the Barnsley area of South Yorkshire.

Leeds Crown Court has heard how Shirley was 14 when she was abducted, raped and killed by Pickering.

Giving evidence last week, she described how she was picked up by the defendant who later took her to a secluded spot where Pickering cut off her underwear with a knife, handcuffed her, raped her, burned her breasts with cigarettes and told her she was going to be killed.

The woman told the jury: “I remain of the fervent belief that whether he has a mental illness or not the man is a monster and wherever he is now that’s the right place for him to be.”

Summing up the case for prosecution, Michelle Colborne QC, reminded the jury that the woman has “never told a soul”about what happened to her until the police rang her in 2016.

She said had not even told her husband.

Undated handout photo issued by West Yorkshire Police of Peter Pickering (Police/PA)
Undated handout photo issued by West Yorkshire Police of Peter Pickering (Police/PA)

They also found a garage in Sheffield which Pickering had used for storage which contained a pair of handcuffs, believed to have been used in the attack on the woman, and sick fantasies written in exercise books.

One of the messages found said: “Sex is predominant in my mind, eclipsing all else. Maybe I will be a sex maniac proper. Rape, torture, kill.”

Sasha Wass, defending, told the jury she did not doubt that what happened to the woman in that van “must have been terrifying” and that “she must have thought she was going to be killed”.

Ms Wass admitted: “Some of you may think Peter Pickering is a complete monster who deserves neither sympathy nor justice.”

She said the only question was her client’s mental state at the time of the incident and whether he believed the woman had consented as it was happening.

Pickering, who appeared in court via video link from Swindon Crown Court, in Wiltshire, denied rape and false imprisonment but was found guilty by the jury after two hours of deliberations.

He declined to give evidence in his defence during the trial.

The jury has been told that he was subjected to a hospital order without limit of time in 1972 for the manslaughter of Shirley Boldy by reason of diminished responsibility.

He has never been released and is currently being held at Thornford Park Hospital, in Berkshire.

The court heard he was also jailed between 1966 and early 1972 for a violent sexual assault.

On Tuesday, Pickering sat listening to the jury foreman wearing a beige raincoat and leaning forward on a walking stick.

The judge, Mr Justice Goss, told him he could not sentence him until he had new reports detailing his current mental condition.

He told him: “Be under no illusion.”

He adjourned the case to a date to be fixed.

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