The Hastie Fire
As the Yorkshire Ripper trial commanded the world’s attention, another case proceeded little noticed outside the city affected, Hull , a deeply disturbing case on many levels. Bruce Lee (originally Peter Dinsdale) was eventually found guilty of 26 counts of manslaughter, though 11 of these were later quashed on appeal.
Lee, born in 1960, was of low IQ; his mother apparently took little care of Peter; subsequent care home stays drew him into the rent-boy scene. In spite of his low intelligence, however, Lee hid a secret part of his life for years: from the age of 12 until his arrest he was a serial fire-starter, seemingly setting more than 30. One of these killed a six-year-old schoolmate of his when Peter Dinsdale was just 12.
Suspicion about one of his attacks finally came after he left paraffin splashes and spent matches outside the house where a fire on December 4 1979 killed the three Hastie boys. Police were shocked at local indifference to the killings, generated by hatred for the problem family involved in petty crime and vandalism. First thought a criminal revenge attack; then a drug-gang torching the wrong house; it took a lengthy enquiry to discover the perpetrator, exposed by his own confession. To police astonishment Lee then revealed a horrific series of similar crimes previously thought to be accidental blazes.
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