Fell told police that he had killed the two women because they had
laughed at him and one of them reminded him of his mother whom he hated.
He was tried at Winchester Crown Court and found guilty. In July 1984 he was sentenced to life imprisonment on each of the two
counts of murder
victims were Mrs Margaret Johnson who was 66 years old and Mrs Ann Lee
who were both out for a walk when they were unfortunate enough to fall
prey to Peter Fell on 10 May 1982.
He attacked them both with a knife
and stabbed Mrs Ann Lee who was forty five years old five times, and Mrs
Margaret Johnson was stabbed eleven times.
Peter Fell was
sentenced to two life terms in 1984 after being found guilty by a 10-2
majority verdict of a double murder which had occurred in 1982. He was
convicted on the strength of his own 'confession' and his supposed
resemblance to a photo-fit picture of the killer. In December 2000 he
was released on bail pending an appeal court hearing in March 2001 when
his convictions were quashed.
Fantasy that became
Cloud over police as
court quashes conviction of attention seeker jailed for killing two
women out walking dogs
By Nick Hopkins, crime correspondent
March 6, 2001
Peter Fell was drunk, depressed
and alone when he made a phone call that he would regret for the rest of
his life. A fantasist and inveterate attention seeker, he dialled 999
and "confessed" to murdering two women who were walking their dogs on
Hungry Hill, just outside Aldershot, Hampshire.
He gave the wrong date for the
killings, burped and was mostly incoherent during a conversation that
was hard for the police operator to take seriously.
Yet despite repeatedly
insisting to detectives that he made up the whole story because he
wanted "to be somebody", it was only yesterday - after 17 years in
jail for double murder - that Mr Fell proved he was innocent.
He was freed by Lord Justice
Waller at the court of appeal, who quashed his conviction, saying it
The decision left Mr Fell,
now 40, relieved that his nightmare was finally over and Hampshire
police stung by allegations that officers had put pressure on him to
It also meant that the
mystery of who stabbed Ann Lee and Margaret "Peggy" Johnson in mid-afternoon
on May 10, 1982, has yet to be solved.
Their deaths horrified the
country and led to a huge police investigation involving 100
Mrs Lee, 44, left her home
in Highfield Gardens, Aldershot, with her labrador, Monty, to meet
Mrs Johnson, 66, who lived in a nearby bungalow and owned a red
setter called Tara.
The two women were about
halfway round their regular walk on the common when they were
attacked and stabbed repeatedly with a double-edged knife.
Mrs Lee, a mother of two,
was discovered lying on the path at the top of a small hillock.
Monty was pining by her side.
Mrs Johnson, a grandmother
who had been married for 47 years, was 20 yards away slumped by a
five-bar gate where she had run to escape. The lower rungs were
covered in blood.
Although the murders had
been committed in daylight and the bodies found close to an army
base, there were no witnesses. Robbery and rape were ruled out as
potential motives and no weapon was found.
There were two suspicious
sightings on the day; a man wearing a camouflage jacket and a lorry
driver - crying, with his head in his hands - seen close to the
murder scene. The police dismissed both.
Mr Fell, however, had
already tried to implicate himself. On the evening of the murder, he
staggered out of a pub in Aldershot and called the police.
He told an officer he had
met a man who had told him he was the killer. Mr Fell said the man
lived at 10 York Road - his own address.
The police did nothing, so
Mr Fell rang again the next day and offered the same information.
It was another two weeks
before he was questioned and then he was ruled out as a suspect.
Detectives concluded he could not have been on the common at the
time of the murder, and in any event, there was no motive.
A year later, the police
were no nearer to catching the killer and Mr Fell, a hospital
porter, had moved to Bournemouth.
After another night of heavy
drinking, he called the local police and said: "I know who did
Bournemouth ... Aldershot double, double murderer on May 10, '78."
He gave his own name.
Several days later he was
interviewed by the police for nearly 10 hours in seven sessions
without a solicitor. To begin with, Mr Fell denied involvement.
"I have not murdered anyone,"
he told them. "Never have and never will, there's not a lot else I
can say ... I know the phone calls and all that ... that's only
because I wanted to be someone. I'm nobody."
During subsequent interviews,
Mr Fell made a partial confession which he immediately retracted.
He'd said he'd met the two
women and had struck one of them with a stick because she looked
like his mother.
In the book Trial and Error,
author David Jessell describes how officers were taped saying to Mr
Fell "the sooner you see clear, my sunshine, the better", and "from
the day you started to walk you lied."
Still protesting his
innocence, Mr Fell was convicted of both murders in August, 1984, at
the end of a 19-day trial at Winchester crown court.
Mr Fell's tendency to make
things up was well-known to the police.
During a spell in the army
as a cook, he twice lied about being attacked by civilians. He also
claimed he was an army boxing champion - another fantasy.
He even tried to incriminate
himself in the Yorkshire Ripper murders by phoning the police and
giving them his name.
His disturbed childhood also
made him prone to attention seeking. His parents split up when he
was three, and two sets of foster parents had given him up, leaving
him in the care of a children's home.
After considering his
background and details of the confession, the criminal cases review
commission referred the case back to the court of appeal in
During the hearing, Patrick
O'Connor, QC, accused the police of putting Mr Fell under pressure
when he was in a particularly vulnerable state.
He also pointed to
psychiatric evidence that showed Mr Fell was emotionally vulnerable
and had a "suggestible" personality.
A psychologist, Gisli
Gudjonsson, testified that he had had doubts about the reliability
of Mr Fell's confession since 1988.
Following the quashing of
the conviction, Mr Fell said he wanted to start afresh.
"If I dwell on it, it will
just do me more harm, so I don't want to dwell on it. I'll just take
one day at a time. I have always believed that one day I would be
proved innocent," he said.
Asked why he confessed to
the murders, he replied: "I used to say a lot of silly things but
did not realise they would be used against me at the trial."
Mr Fell will probably be due
a substantial sum in compensation. Hampshire police said yesterday
it would review the murder case.
"We never give up on murders,"
said Detective Superintendent Des Thomas. "If any further evidence
is forthcoming, we will take the appropriate action. The families of
the victims will be informed of developments."
Jim Nicholl, Mr Fell's
lawyer, said of his client: "He might be a crackpot, he might be
crazy, he might be all those things, or probably was in 1982. But a
murderer he was not and never has been. He is completely and totally
Man cleared of killings
after 17 years in jail
By Ian Burrell, Home Affairs
March 6, 2001
A former hospital porter who has
spent nearly all his adult life behind bars after confessing to the
murders of two women was cleared by the Court of Appeal yesterday.
Peter Fell, 39, was described as
a "serial confessor" who had been the victim of "oppressive" police
The court cleared him of
killing Ann Lee, 44, the wife of a retired Army major, and Margaret
"Peggy" Johnson, 65, the wife of a banking director, who were
repeatedly stabbed on Aldershot Common, Hampshire, while walking
their dogs on a May afternoon in 1982. Mr Fell's solicitor, Jim
Nichol, said: "He may be a crackpot, he may be crazy, he may be all
these things – and probably was in 1982 – but a murderer he was not
and never has been."
As he left court after the
conviction was quashed, Mr Fell said: "I'm very happy and now just
taking one step at a time. I don't want to dwell on it, but just to
move on." Asked about the time he had spent in prison, he said: "I
have just got to put it behind me and start afresh. If I dwell on it,
it will just do me more harm."
Mr Fell, who was originally
from Lancashire but had taken a job in a Bournemouth hospital, was
jailed for life at Winchester Crown Court in August 1984 after a 19-day
At the Court of Appeal
hearing, Lord Justice Waller, Mr Justice Garland and Mr Justice
Sachs were told Fell was seen five times by police in the months
after the murders because he had brought suspicion on himself in a
series of telephone calls. On the anniversary of the killings,
renewed media publicity triggered further phone calls from Mr Fell
while he was drunk and depressed.
A month later he was
arrested and detained for three days without access to a lawyer.
Eventually he admitted hitting the women with his fists. Police
conceded that his account lacked any detail and did not tally with
the known facts.
His confessions came
immediately after officers had discussed with him the likely
outcomes of his pleading guilty to murder or manslaughter.
Mr Fell spoke of "going
crazy" and of being laughed at by the women – and even by the trees.
Patrick O'Connor QC, for Mr Fell, said this bore the hallmarks of a
vulnerable young man confessing to the police as a "compromise". The
confession was obtained by "oppression, trick and inducement", he
The Crown conceded that his
confessions were unreliable and that, on that basis alone, his
convictions could not be upheld.
Mr Fell was released from
prison on bail in December pending the outcome of the appeal. He is
now waiting to hear the court's reasons for overturning the
conviction, and said the question of a possible compensation claim
was in the hands of his solicitors.
Mr Nichol, who has
represented clients in other miscarriage of justice cases, including
the men wrongly jailed for the murder of Carl Bridgwater, a
newspaper delivery boy, at Yew Tree Farm near Stourbridge in 1978,
said Mr Fell was "completely and totally innocent".
Peter Fell: My fate
in God's hands
December 2, 2000
Convicted killer Peter Fell
spent his first day of freedom preparing for the final battle to
clear his name and insisted: "My fate is in God's hands."
And the former soldier and
photographic salesman from Great Harwood called on the Government to
re-open the murder case which resulted in him spending 17 years
behind bars so the real killer can be brought to justice.
Fell, whose mother Maureen
is from Accrington, was just 23 when he was convicted of murdering
Ann Lee, 44, the wife of a retired Army major, and Margaret "Peggy"
Johnson, 65, the wife of a banking director on Aldershot Common.
He was given two life
sentences at Winchester Crown Court on August 9 1984 but was
yesterday freed on bail by the Court of Appeal in London after
prosecution lawyers admitted the conviction was unsafe.
He is now preparing for a
full appeal hearing in January.
Speaking from his bail
hostel in London, Fell said: "I became a Christian while I was in
prison. I am in the Lord's hands and it is up to Him what happens,
where I go next and what I do, I am just going to take one day at a
"I am just grateful for the
freedom, although it will take some time to adjust to normal life
because I have been in prison for so long.
"I think the Government
should re-open the investigation. A lot of the evidence in the case
was medical, but I have got an alibi for the time of the offence, I
was in the bank cashing a cheque. "This isn't the end of the road
because there is still a way to go yet. But I have been released on
bail which is good news because it gives me a real boost in
confidence for the appeal hearing. All I have to do now is wait for
a court date from the Appeal Court in London."
Fell has always maintained
his innocence and his supporters have pointed to evidence of his
attention-seeking behaviour as a reason for his involvement in the
Hyndburn MP Greg Pope is
calling on Home Secretary Jack Straw to order a Police Complaints
Authority investigation into the way the case was investigated.
Fell has been ordered to
stay at the bail hostel in London until after the outcome of the
appeal hearing and he said he is unsure whether he will return to
Lancashire in the long term.
His brother Paul, of Great
Harwood today revealed that Fell was told of his impending release
out of the blue.
He said: "They called him
into a room, asked him to sit down and offered him a cup of coffee,
then they said 'you are going to be going out next week.'
"I can't believe they would
do something like this if he wasn't going to win the appeal."
Peter Fell: My only crime
was being foolish
The crime for which Peter Fell
was convicted shocked the nation. On a cold spring afternoon in May
1982, two housewives Anne Lee, 44, and Margaret Johnson, 66, were
savagely murdered as they walked their dogs on Hungry Hill, Aldershot.
They were both stabbed several times but the killings appeared
Peter Fell now says his only
crime was being foolish - he rang the police after the murders were
publicised to say the murderer was called Pete and lived in York
Road, Aldershot - his own address. He was interviewed and gave an
account of his movements on that day, but was released without
A year later with the
murders still unsolved, the police received more calls from Fell -
identifying himself as the killer. He was arrested and taken to
Farnborough Police Station. He confessed after 72 hours questioning
without a solicitor and his supporters claim the facts in it did not
match with the actual events. The confession was later retracted.
His trial had lasted 19 days,
and the jury of six men and six women deliberated for 25 hours and
30 minutes before reaching 10-2 majority verdicts of guilty for each
murder. The court heard that Fell, who pleaded not guilty, had made
13 anonymous phone calls to police naming himself as the killer.
The defence had not called
him to give evidence, but during the trial, the jury was told that
he had made a partial confession to police admitting he had killed
the women, although he denied remembering anything about stabbing
them. Fell, who has also claimed that he tried to incriminate
himself for the Yorkshire Ripper murders, and his supporters say
these are many aspects of his case that make the conviction unsafe:
There was no forensic
No murder weapon was found
He was not picked out at
an identity parade
The police released him on
bail for three months on the same day he made the confession
Detectives came close to
charging a second man with the murders
His alibi that he was in a
bank at the the time of the killings stands up
A woman who was attacked
in a similar fashion a year before the two murders says the
photofit of the double killer was the same man who attacked her.
Fell was serving in Germany at the time she was attacked.
A second woman has come
forward since the publicity given to Fell's case to say she saw a
"crazy-looking" man near the murder scene just an hour before the
killings who was definitely not Fell.
Fell has been described by
psychiatrists as being a classic case attention seeker, who would
lie and exaggerate to be noticed.
freed on bail
December 1, 2000
A 39-year-old who has spent
nearly 18 years in jail for a double murder has been freed on bail
after doubts emerged about his conviction.
Judges at the Appeal Court
in London were told by Peter Fell's lawyer that fresh evidence about
his vulnerability would show his confessions to the crimes were
false and his conviction unsafe.
believe Fell is a fantasist whose confession to the murders cannot
be trusted. His solicitor James Nichol has also said new evidence
proves Fell could not have been at the murder scene.
Fell was convicted of
murdering Ann Lee, 44, the wife of a retired Army major, and her
friend Margaret "Peggy" Johnson, 66, the wife of a banking director,
while they were exercising their red setter and Labrador dogs on
Aldershot Common on 10 May 1982.
Fell said: "I am very
relieved and naturally happy. I have always believed that one day I
would be proved innocent. I used to say a lot of silly things but
did not realise that they would be used against me at the trial."
Fell, from Accrington,
Lancashire, made 13 anonymous phone calls to police naming himself
as the killer - the first came the day after the murders.
At first he was not believed,
and shortly after the killings he moved to Bournemouth became a
school groundsman and married his fiancée Ann. The couple had a baby,
Sara, in 1983.
But a year later Fell
contacted police again and was arrested. He was sentenced to two
terms of life imprisonment at Winchester Crown Court on 9 August
Fell, who pleaded not guilty,
was not called by the defence to give evidence. During the trial, the
jury was told that he had made a partial confession to police admitting
the murders but saying he could not remember anything about stabbing the
The 19-day trial ended when
a jury reached a 10 to two majority verdict of guilty for each
murder. Mr Justice Nolan told the former soldier that he had been
convicted of "dreadful crimes".
While in prison Fell has
become a practising Christian. He said his faith in God had helped
him to cope with the ordeal of being wrongly imprisoned.
Mr Nichol has now said his
client's partial confession was extracted after Fell had been held
in solitary confinement for 72 hours, denied access to a solicitor,
despite repeated requests, and refused food.
He added that the full
extent of Fell's psychological condition had not been fully
understood at the time of his conviction
Fell, who came from an
exceptionally deprived family background, was known to police as a
fantasist and had even confessed to being the Yorkshire Ripper, said Mr
Five psychiatrists and
psychologists from both the defence and prosecution have now
established that Fell was so vulnerable that no reliance whatsoever
can be placed upon his admission to the police, his solicitor added.
"He has been in prison for
17 years too long. He is innocent and will be shown to be innocent
because he could not have been at the crime scene at the time of the
A full appeal is due to be
held next month.
Convicted killer wins
leave to appeal
September 30, 1999
A convicted killer
imprisoned since 1984 for the murder of two women stabbed to death
as they walked their dogs had his case referred to the Court of
Peter Fell, 38, was jailed
for life for the murders of Ann Lee, 44, and Margaret Johnson, 65,
at Winchester Crown Court.
The court was told how Fell,
a hotel porter from Bournemouth, Dorset, had carried out the
killings on Aldershot Common because one of the women looked like
The former soldier had made
13 anonymous telephone calls to police naming himself as the
murderer after the killings on May 10, 1982 and confessed to police
after his arrest.
Despite a complete lack of
forensic evidence and no murder weapon, detectives built a strong
case against Fell and he was imprisoned for life by Mr Justice Nolan.
Fell later withdrew his
confessions and applied for leave to appeal against conviction, but
this was refused by the Court of Appeal in 1985.
A further application was
made to the Home Office in October 1991 and Fell's case was taken up
by Justice, a legal human rights organisation.
Justice brought the case to
the attention of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, an
independent body who review possible miscarriages of criminal
The commission has now
referred the case to the Court of Appeal and a hearing is expected
to take place in the spring of next year.
The grounds of the appeal
were understood to be related to unreliable confessions from Fell
and non-disclosure of information at the trial.
"We are really delighted
that this case has been referred back to the Court of Appeal," said
Justice spokeswoman Lib Peck.
Peter Fell (first
right) with other victims of miscarriages of justice in 2004. (From
left) Paddy Hill, Terry Pinfold, Robert Brown, Michael
O'Brien and Peter Fell.
(Photograph: Graham Turner)