A killer whose twisted gang tortured and murdered a teenage girl to a soundtrack inspired by the horror character Chucky has a parole hearing and could walk free.
Glyn Powell, now 58, was one of four people convicted of kidnapping, torturing and burning alive 16-year-old Suzanne Capper in Greater Manchester in December 1992.
Detectives who conducted the inquiry said that for ‘sheer mindless brutality’ the crime ranked alongside the torture inflicted on children by the Moors Murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.
The trial in November 1993 was overshadowed by the verdict of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, who were convicted on November 24 that year of abducting and murdering toddler James Bulger in Bootle, Merseyside.
As a result, the gruesome details of the prolonged assault on Suzanne received a much-reduced level of publicity, despite the murder being one of the most shocking in recent UK criminal history.
Suzanne Capper, 16, from Greater Manchester was brutally murdered in December 1992 – she was tortured for a week before burning burnt alive
Glyn Powell (above) now 58, was one of four people convicted of kidnapping, torturing and setting Suzanne Capper on fire. He could soon be released from prison, with a Parole Board hearing set for April
But the two murders did combine to cause national newspapers and leading politicians to comment on the state of the nation.
Tony Blair, who was shadow home secretary at the time, described the murders as ‘hammer blows against the sleeping conscience of the country’.
The trial was told how Suzanne believed her killers were friends because they all lived and associated together in Moston, on Manchester’s rundown east side.
Whatever the real motive – and each defendant gave conflicting accounts, such as claiming Suzanne had stolen a duffel coat – on December 7, 1992, she was lured to the house of Jean Powell, whose estranged husband Glyn and Anthony Dudson were waiting for her.
Suzanne, a pupil at Moston Brook High School, had spent time babysitting Powell’s three children at the terraced house.
She was grabbed as soon as she arrived and held down while Powell shaved her head and her eyebrows and then made her clean up the hair and place it in a bin.
Then he placed a plastic bag over her head and walked around her while hitting her on the head.
The next day, Suzanne was taken to the nearby house of Bernadette McNeilly, another so-called friend who had turned against her.
A room of horror: Suzanne Capper was held captive in this room and strapped to a bed where she was tortured and subjected to loud music by her killers
The prosecution revealed that the gang’s favourite track was ‘Hi, I’m Chucky (Wanna Play?)’ by 150 Volts, featuring samples from the movie Child’s Play – with one of her ruthless killers, Bernadette McNeilly, beginning each torture session with the phrase: ‘Chucky’s coming to play’. Pictured is an image of the slasher horror character, Chucky
Jon Venables, left, and Robert Thompson, right, brutally murdered James Bulger in February 1993. They were convicted in November of that year, with the result overshadowing the trial of Suzanne Capper’s killers the same month
James Bugler, pictured, was aged two when he was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by Venables and Thompson
During the 22-day trial, it emerged that she had then been tied to a bed, beaten and tortured for nearly a week.
Suzanne had also been injected with amphetamines and burned with cigarettes as rave music was played at maximum level to torment her and hide her screams.
The prosecution revealed that her killers’ favourite track was ‘Hi, I’m Chucky (Wanna Play?)’ by 150 Volts, featuring samples from the movie Child’s Play.
The 1988 American slasher film is the first in a franchise about a serial killer who transfers his soul into an evil doll.
McNeilly would commence each torture session with the phrase ‘Chucky’s coming to play.’
In the early hours of December 14, 1992, Suzanne was forced into a car and driven 15 miles to an isolated lane on the outskirts of Stockport.
She was pushed down into brambles and petrol was poured over her head. A number of the killers – including Glyn Powell – tried to set her alight.
The petrol finally ignited and as Suzanne burnt McNeilly began to sing ‘Burn baby burn! Burn baby burn!’ from The Trammps song Disco Inferno.
After her attackers left, Suzanne managed to scramble back up the embankment and stagger along the lane for approximately a quarter of a mile.
Gang members Jean Powell (now Gillespie) , left, and Jeffrey Leigh, were part of the group involved in murdering the teenage girl
Anthony Dudson (left) was 17 when he was convicted, receiving a minimum sentence of 18 years – reduced to 16 at appeal. He is pictured with fellow gang member Bernadette McNeilly
She was found by a driver on the way to work. Suzanne had suffered 80 per cent burns and died in hospital on December 18, 1992.
However, before she lost consciousness in hospital, Suzanne was able to give the names of six people involved in her abduction and torture.
The jury began their deliberations on December 16, 1993, and took nine hours and 52 minutes to reach their verdicts.
Mr Justice Potts said: ‘Each of you has been convicted on clear evidence of murder which was as appalling a murder as it is possible to imagine.’
Glyn Powell, who was 29 at the time of the murder, Jean Powell (now Gillespie), then 26, Bernadette McNeilly, 24, and Anthony Dudson, 17, were all found guilty of murder.
Gillespie, McNeilly, and Powell were sentenced to life with a minimum of 25 years.
Dudson was given a minimum term of 18 years – later reduced to 16.
Clifford Pook, Jean’s brother, and Jeffrey Leigh pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and were given 15 and 12-year sentences respectively.
McNeilly’s sentence was reduced by one year in 2013. Leigh’s sentence was reduced from 12 to nine years in November 1994.
Dudson’s minimum tariff was cut to 16 from 18 years in 2002. Leigh was freed in 1998 and Pook in May 2001.
McNeilly was paroled in 2015 after having her 25-year sentence cut by one year. Dudson was released in 2013. In 2017 Jean Gillespie, formerly Powell, was released.
John Capper, Suzanne’s step-father, is pictured leaving Manchester Crown Court after his step-daughter’s killers were sentenced
In 2013 Suzanne’s mother told of her ‘utter devastation’ after parole board bosses approved the release of Dudson after ruling he posed no risk to the public.
She told the Manchester Evening News: ‘I am utterly devastated by the news. I have been fighting and fighting and fighting, but it has got me nowhere.
‘He will be on a life licence but I hope that regular checks are made. We do not even know what he looks like. The only picture of him is when he was 16.’
A spokesman for the Parole Board said: ‘We can confirm the parole review of Glyn Powell has been referred to the Parole Board by the Secretary of State for Justice and is following standard processes. A hearing is expected to take place in April 2023.
‘Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.
‘A panel will carefully examine a huge range of evidence, including details of the original crime, and any evidence of behaviour change, as well as explore the harm done and impact the crime has had on the victims.
‘Members read and digest hundreds of pages of evidence and reports in the lead up to an oral hearing.
‘Evidence from witnesses such as probation officers, psychiatrists and psychologists, officials supervising the offender in prison as well as victim personal statements may be given at the hearing.
‘It is standard for the prisoner and witnesses to be questioned at length during the hearing which often lasts a full day or more. Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.’
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