David Fuller: double murderer who abused dozens of corpses in mortuaries given whole life sentence

The mum of David Fuller’s youngest victim told the court the abuse of her nine-year-old daughter’s body will “haunt me forever and the rest of my life”

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A double murderer who sexually assaulted more than 100 bodies in hospital mortuaries has been given a whole life sentence.

David Fuller, 67, beat and strangled Wendy Knell, 25, and Caroline Pierce, 20, to death before sexually assaulting them in two separate attacks in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in 1987.

He was caught 33 years later after a DNA breakthrough and a search of his home revealed he had recorded himself abusing bodies in the mortuaries of hospitals over more than a decade.

Fuller pleaded guilty to murdering Ms Knell and Ms Pierce days into his Maidstone Crown Court trial.

David Fuller murdered Caroline Pierce and Wendy Knell in 1987, he also abused dozens of corpses decades later.David Fuller murdered Caroline Pierce and Wendy Knell in 1987, he also abused dozens of corpses decades later.
David Fuller murdered Caroline Pierce and Wendy Knell in 1987, he also abused dozens of corpses decades later.

He also pleaded guilty to 51 other offences, including 44 charges relating to 78 identified victims, including three children, in mortuaries between 2008 and November 2020.

They include the sexual penetration of a corpse, possessing an extreme pornographic image involving sexual interference with a corpse and taking indecent images of children.

Fuller filmed himself carrying out the attacks inside the now-closed Kent and Sussex Hospital and the Tunbridge Wells Hospital, in Pembury, where he worked in electrical maintenance roles since 1989.

He was handed a whole life sentence for the murders with a concurrent 12-year term for his other crimes.

What was said at the sentencing hearing?

He abused more than 100 bodies of women and girls aged nine to 100 years old.

“David Fuller systematically and repeatedly sexually abused the bodies of dead women and girls,” said prosecutor Duncan Atkinson QC.

“It is estimated over the course of his offending he abused at least 102 women.”

He said they included a nine-year-old girl, two 16-year-olds and a woman aged 100.

Police know the names of 82 of the victims but a further 20 have not been identified and may never be, said Mr Atkinson.

Wearing a grey prison-issue tracksuit, Fuller sat with his head bowed as relatives’ victim impact statements were read.

Caroline Pierce (left) and Wendy Knell (right) were murdered by Fuller.Caroline Pierce (left) and Wendy Knell (right) were murdered by Fuller.
Caroline Pierce (left) and Wendy Knell (right) were murdered by Fuller.

What have the victims families said?

Some, including the mother of the nine-year-old girl, attended court to face Fuller.

She said: “My pain – the guilt that I feel because I left her in that hospital, the one that’s meant to be a safe place.

“I have nothing, no way of closure, how will I make it up to her? How will I stand by her side now, and how will I nurse that little body that has been ruined and disrespected by that vile man?

“I am standing up for her now in front of him.

“It will haunt me forever and the rest of my life.”

She added: “I will go home tonight, like every night, and see the abuse that man has done to my baby.

“That man has taken everything from me.”

The father of an 18-year-old victim said: “The only bit of comfort we held on to was how peaceful she looked when we said our goodbyes.

“This was destroyed when we got a knock on the door by the police to say she had been violated by a man my wife had grown up in fear of.

“Fuller has taken our little girl’s innocence and destroyed our souls. I am consumed with anger.”

The widower of another woman told him: “David, when you are serving your time behind bars, think carefully about what you have done and thank your lucky stars that I’m not sharing a cell with you.”

What did the judge say?

Beginning her sentencing remarks, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb QC said: “These were premeditated killings, carefully planned and executed.”

She described David Fuller as a “prowler” and murder victim Wendy Knell as “successful, happy and independent”.

Fellow murder victim Caroline Pierce, the judge said, was “a lively young woman” when she was killed.

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb said the family members of some victims abused in mortuaries by Fuller “wished they had never been told” of his depravity.

She said: “The shock of what you did caused a kind of white noise which is inescapable.”

Before sentencing him to a whole life tariff, she said that he had spent 45 years living “an outwardly mild and ordinary life”.

“You were described as a man who was good under pressure, while in seclusion you committed acts of the deepest darkness,” the judge said.

“Having killed two young women who were full of the promise of life you became a vulture, picking your victims from among the dead, within the hidden world of hospital mortuaries which you were left free to inhabit, simply because you had a swipe card.

“The depravity of what you did reveals that your conscience is seared; calloused over.

“The sentence I am about to pass means you will spend every day of the rest of your life in prison.”

Independent inquiry announced

The Government has announced an independent inquiry into how Fuller went undetected and promised to look at the maximum sentence for necrophilia, which is currently two years in jail.

Ms Knell was found dead in her apartment in Guildford Road on June 23, 1987, while Ms Pierce was snatched five months later outside her home in Grosvenor Park, on November 24.

Her naked body was discovered in a water-filled dyke at St Mary-in-the-Marsh on December 15.

Fuller was arrested for what have been dubbed the “Bedsit Murders” on December 3 last year following new analysis of decades-old DNA evidence, which linked him to the killings.

Images of him attacking corpses were discovered when officers searched his three-bedroom semi-detached home in the town of Heathfield, East Sussex, where he lived with his family.

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