'Beast of Wombwell' Peter Pickering dies days after new conviction

Police reveal they had hoped to charge 80-year-old with murder in a third historical case

A notorious killer found guilty last week of raping a teenager weeks before he took the life of another has died.

Announcing the death of Peter Pickering, police said they had hoped to charge him with the murder of a third teenage girl.

Pickering, who was nicknamed the Beast of Wombwell after he admitted the manslaughter of 14-year-old Shirley Boldy in 1972, died on Saturday night after being taken ill in secure psychiatric accommodation in Berkshire, police said. He was 80 and his death is not being treated as suspicious.

Last week he was found guilty of the rape and false imprisonment of an 18-year-old woman in South Yorkshire three or four weeks before he killed Shirley.

On Sunday, West Yorkshire police said they “strongly suspected” Pickering was also responsible for the killing of Elsie Frost, 14, who was stabbed to death in a tunnel beneath a railway line in Wakefield in 1965.

Officers had interviewed him recently about the crime and expected he would soon be charged with her murder, the force said.

It was while reinvestigating Frost’s killing that police found a secure lockup facility in Sheffield that Pickering had kept since he was incarcerated in 1972.

Police believe he had somehow been paying rent on the storage unit over the decades, preserving exercise books, documents, letters and diaries, as well as a pair of handcuffs. The material suggested he had a long-held desire to commit violent offences against young girls.

One letter, written by Pickering to his mother, suggested he had raped an 18-year-old woman weeks before killing Boldy in 1972.

Detectives went to interview the victim, now a woman in her 60s. She told them she had thought she was going to be killed when she was violently raped by Pickering in his minivan near Stocksbridge, a town north of Sheffield on the edge of the Peak District.

West Yorkshire police said of the Elsie Frost case: “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.”

Interest in the case was reignited in 2015 when Radio 4 ran a series, Who Killed Elsie Frost?, prompted by a plea by Elsie’s older sister, Ann Cleave, for the crime to be solved.


Helen Pidd North of England editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
'Beast of Wombwell' Peter Pickering guilty of 1972 rape
Pickering, who admitted raping and killing 14-year-old girl in 1972, is convicted of another rape a few weeks earlier

Helen Pidd North of England editor

20, Mar, 2018 @1:38 PM

Article image
Libby Squire's family still in dark about how she died after murder conviction
Pawel Relowicz disclosed no details during trial and pathologist was unable to determine cause of death

Sasha Mistlin

11, Feb, 2021 @7:16 PM

Article image
Police offer 'heartfelt apology' to families of Peter Sutcliffe victims
West Yorkshire chief constable apologises for failings in serial killer investigation

Alexandra Topping and Helen Pidd

13, Nov, 2020 @4:36 PM

Article image
Claudia Lawrence’s mother appeals for help 13 years after disappearance
Joan Lawrence will ‘never give up on hope’ that mystery of 35-year-old going missing in 2009 can be solved

Josh Halliday North of England correspondent

18, Mar, 2022 @11:12 AM

Article image
Peter Sutcliffe, Yorkshire Ripper, dies aged 74
Serial killer was serving 20 life terms for murder of 13 women across north of England in late 1970s

Alexandra Topping

13, Nov, 2020 @4:42 PM

Article image
UK police chiefs: coronavirus could bring out worst in humanity
Warning after crimes including theft of oxygen canisters and puncturing of ambulance tyres

Amy Walker and Steven Morris

24, Mar, 2020 @11:59 PM

Article image
Vandals smash graves of war heroes before D-day commemoration
Police investigate ‘callous’ destruction at cemetery in Shipley, West Yorkshire

Josh Halliday North of England correspondent

07, Jun, 2019 @10:16 AM

Article image
Woman found dead in Yorkshire Dales identified as Thai mother
Police have identified woman found in 2004 as Lamduan Armitage née Seekanya

Frances Perraudin

19, Mar, 2019 @6:23 PM

Article image
Harrogate man jailed over cache of 2.2m indecent images
Police investigating whether Geoffrey Crossland was ever directly involved in abuse

Josh Halliday North of England correspondent, and agencies

11, Mar, 2019 @3:57 PM

Article image
Boys given 10 and 12 years for Columbine-style plot in Yorkshire
Custodial sentences given to Alex Bolland and Thomas Wyllie who planned school attack

Nazia Parveen and Josh Halliday

20, Jul, 2018 @4:53 PM