A hospital electrician has suddenly pleaded guilty to the murders of Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce in 1987 – and sex assaults on 80 dead bodies at his work’s morgue.
David Fuller, 67, stood stock still in the dock, pulling down his mask to finally admit murdering Miss Knell, 25, on or about June 22, 1987, and Miss Pierce, 20, on or about November 24, 1987.
Sentencing for the two murders and the sexual offences that occurred in two hospital mortuaries, which Fuller admitted at an earlier court hearing last month, will take place on an as yet unidentified date.
He had previously admitted killing them – but insisted it was not murder because he had been mentally ill.
But today he suddenly changed his plea, meaning his appalling history of deviancy with female corpses could be disclosed in full.
DNA evidence mentioned this morning irrefutably linked him to the heinous crimes.
The jury had heard how police investigating Fuller – who previously accepted he killed them but was not guilty of murder – had found a cache of hard drives and pictures showing he carried out ‘acts of sexual penetration of female corpses’ .
But in fact he had admitted assaulting nearly 80 dead bodies, many of which he filmed.
Detectives think there could have been hundreds more victims in his 30-year career. The youngest dead person he defiled was just nine and the oldest 100.
Maidstone Crown Court in Kent heard the agony of now-deceased bus driver Ian Plass this week who had discovered his intended fiancée Ms Knell dead in her bloodstained bed.
The harrowing written testimony came as it was heard a prowling voyeur had been operating in the Grosvenor Park area in the weeks leading up to her death.
Mr Plass had been alerted by Ms Knell’s mother when she failed to arrive for work on June 23, 1987.
Having received no answer from banging on her door and shouting her name, Mr Plass went to the rear of the ground-floor bedsit in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and climbed through an insecure window.
Mr Plass then made a discovery described by the prosecution as ‘the stuff of nightmares’.
David Fuller is accused of murdering both Wendy Knell, 25, and 20-year-old Caroline Pierce
Bus driver Ian Plass who had discovered his intended fiancée Ms Knell dead in her bed
In a statement read out at Maidstone Crown Court, Kent, Mr Plass told police he had shouted at his girlfriend to ‘wake up’ when he first spotted her in bed.
“There was no movement from inside the flat. I then climbed in through one of the fan light windows….I was driven by adrenalin and concern for Wendy,” he said.
“Once in, I just stood there. I recall there was blood somewhere, I can’t say where. I could see Wendy’s head sticking out from the top of the duvet. The rest of her body was covered by the duvet.
“I moved closer and stroked her head first. I pulled the duvet just back to her shoulders. She was laying on her left side and facing the wall.
“I lifted her right arm up and pulled one of her eyelids. She didn’t move. I couldn’t believe she had gone.”
Mr Plass, who has since died, had to climb back out of the window as Miss Knell’s flat keys were missing to raise the alarm at a nearby fire station.
“I rushed in, I sat down, I cried my eyes out,” he added.
Fuller, of Heathfield, East Sussex, is alleged to have beaten Miss Knell with a heavy object, asphyxiated and then sexually assaulted her in her home after she had been dropped off by Mr Plass at about 11pm the previous evening.
Ms Pierce (pictured was killed five months later outside her home in Grosvenor Park on November 24 of the same year
Miss Knell, a manager at SupaSnaps, and Mr Plass, who lived with his mother in nearby Rusthall, had been dating since 1985.
The court heard she had previously been married but she and Mr Plass planned to get engaged during a forthcoming trip to Paris.
He told police after dropping off his girlfriend outside her flat in the cul-de-sac of Guildford Road, and kissing goodnight, that he tooted his horn as Miss Knell waved from the porch, with the front door open.
“Not a day goes by when I don’t feel guilty about her death,” he added. “Had I stayed with her that night she would be alive today.”
The court heard a colleague of Miss Knell’s had first been sent to her flat at about 11.15am when she failed to arrive for work at SupaSnaps in the town.
She rang the bell two or three times but there was no answer.
Another colleague then contacted Miss Knell’s mother, Pamela, who raised the alarm with Mr Plass and her husband Bill Knell, both employed by the Maidstone and District Bus Company.
In a statement from Miss Knell’s mother Pamela, who has been in court, she told how she last saw her daughter two days before she was discovered dead.
They had been celebrating Mrs Knell’s granddaughter’s birthday at a family birthday party.
Mother of three Mrs Knell said her daughter was ‘happy in herself’ and they had ‘a very enjoyable day’.
“She seemed in good spirits and was laughing and joking,” she added.
Miss Knell’s father died in 2017 but in his police statement read out in court he described his daughter as ‘very affectionate and extremely happy’.
Fuller is also accused of beating, asphyxiating and sexually assaulting Miss Pierce in November that same year.
Miss Knell and Miss Pierce’s deaths – dubbed the ‘Bedsit Murders’ at the time – became one of the UK’s longest unsolved double homicide cases.
The two women lived just a mile apart and worked on Camden Road but did not know each other.
Miss Pierce, manager at the popular Buster Browns restaurant in the town, was killed on November 24 1987, although it was not until three weeks later that her body – naked apart from a pair of tights – was found in a water-filled dyke of a remote field on Romney Marsh in Kent.
The grim discovery was made by a farm worker near St Mary in the Marsh – some 38 miles away from her home – on December 15.
It is believed she was attacked at the door of her bedsit in Grosvenor Park after being dropped off by a taxi after a night-out.
Neighbours later recalled hearing two high-pitched ‘screams of terror’ from a female.
At the time of their killings, there had been numerous reports of prowlers and peeping toms targeting women, including previous occupants of Miss Pierce’s flat, the court heard.
Fuller denies two charges of murder, claiming that at the time he was suffering from an abnormality of mind and his responsibility was ‘substantially diminished’.
At the start of his trial yesterday, prosecutor Duncan Atkinson QC said as well as being beaten to the head and killed with pressure applied to their necks, such as by an armlock, they were sexually abused at the time of death or afterwards.
It was following the hospital electrician’s arrest in December last year that officers found in a loft at his home what was described in court as ‘a library of unimaginable sexual depravity’.
His collection of ‘carefully concealed and stored’ hard drives and hard copy images revealed he had, over an extended period of time, carried out ‘acts of sexual penetration of female corpses’, said Mr Atkinson, in mortuaries at the Kent and Sussex Hospital and the Tunbridge Wells Hospital where he worked.
“The defendant’s clear sexual interest in such bizarre and grossly repellant activity provides a unique and terrible link between him and the treatment of the bodies of those who were killed, and thus with Wendy and Caroline’s deaths,” he told the court.
“The prosecution case is that when all the relevant evidence, including all the relevant history, is taken into account, there is a clear explanation for the defendant’s behaviour, given his personality characteristics and the circumstances at the time, namely that his desire for sexual gratification through the observation and identification of vulnerable women, gaining control of them, and then indulging his depraved sexual predilections in relation to them, all provides the explanation in relation to each of his victims for their murder.
“It follows that he is entirely responsible for his actions in killing these two women and in sexually abusing their bodies after their deaths. His assertion otherwise, we say, is a continuation of his attempts to avoid the consequence of his actions, by any and all means.”
At the time of their killings, there had been numerous reports of prowlers and Peeping toms targeting women in the area, the court heard.
Just hours before Miss Knell’s body was found, a neighbour had seen a man standing on a windowsill of a nearby property and peering through the window.
The court heard the prowler had been seen at least three times a week over the previous three weeks.
Miss Pierce herself reported similar activity shortly after she moved in to her bedsit in Grosvenor Park on October 18 1987 and had window locks fitted.
The previous occupants had been burgled four times in the late summer of 1987, resulting in police installing a pressure-activated alarm mat.
The two female residents were also aware of objects being moved and drawers left open when they were not at home. The mat, placed by a bedside cabinet, was also activated while they were at work.
The court heard on one occasion they had been disturbed by a prowler looking through the slats of a Venetian blind as they watched a video.
The prosecutor previously told the trial that the man seen on the night Miss Knell was allegedly murdered, was of a ‘similar appearance’ to Fuller.
The jury also heard he has previous convictions for burglary dating back to the 1970s, and a history of voyeurism.
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