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‘Beast of Wombwell’ Peter Pickering dies days after he is convicted of raping teenager 45 years ago 

A notorious killer and paedophile has died aged 80 just days after being convicted of raping another teenager 45 years ago, South Yorkshire Police have announced. 

Peter Pickering nicknamed the ‘Beast of Wombwell’ was also being investigated for the death of 14-year-old Elsie Frost in Wakefield in 1965.

He has been in psychiatric hospitals since he admitted to the raping, abduction and manslaughter of 14-year-old Shirley Boldy in 1972.  

The 'Beast's' victim, 14-year-old Shirley Boldy

Peter Pickering, 80 (left), dubbed the ‘Beast of Wombwell’, has been locked up in psychiatric hospitals since he raped and killed 14-year-old Shirley Boldy (right) in 1972 

A West Yorkshire police statement said: ‘West Yorkshire Police has today been made aware of the death of Peter Pickering who was convicted last week of the rape and false imprisonment of a woman in South Yorkshire in 1972.

‘He died last night after being taken ill in psychiatric hospital in Berkshire where he was being held. His death is not being treated as suspicious.’  

While on trial, he was being held at Thornfield Park Hospital, a low to medium security psychiatric hospital in Thatcham, Berkshire. 

Detective Superintendent Nick Wallen, of West Yorkshire Police Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said: ‘We can now formally confirm that Peter Pickering was the man we arrested and interviewed over the last two years as part of the renewed investigation into the murder of 14-year-old schoolgirl Elsie Frost in Wakefield in 1965.

‘We strongly suspected that Peter Pickering was responsible for her murder. We had been liaising with the Crown Prosecution Service and it was our expectation that Pickering would be charged in due course.

‘His unexpected death clearly means that will no longer happen. We have informed all those involved in the case of this development and we will be liaising with the West Yorkshire Coroner as to what proceedings are now necessary in relation to Elsie Frost’s death.’     

Last week  a woman, who is now in her 60s, told a jury how she was raped by Pickering just a few weeks before Shirley’s killing. 

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.

The 'Beast' then handcuffed the then 18-year-old, raped her, burned her breasts with cigarettes and told her she was going to be killed

Pickering was caught when police were alerted by comments he made to doctors found in medical notes

The ‘Beast’ (left and right) handcuffed the then 18-year-old, raped her, burned her breasts with cigarettes and told her she was going to be killed

The ‘Beast’ then 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.

Newspaper clipping from 1965 reporting on Elsie Frost, who was attacked and killed in October 1965

Newspaper clipping from 1965 reporting on Elsie Frost, who was attacked and killed in October 1965

Pickering was caught when police were alerted by comments he made to doctors found in medical notes.  

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’.

Police discovered a pair of handcuffs at a garage in Sheffield which Pickering had used for storage

Police discovered a pair of handcuffs at a garage in Sheffield which Pickering had used for storage

Boxes piled high in the storage unit used by the ‘Beast of Wombwell’

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. 

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.’  

 



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