NHS launches review after killer abused over 100 women’s corpses

‘We may never know how many bodies he defiled’: NHS launches massive security review after depraved double killer abused at least 100 dead women and girls in mortuaries while working as a hospital electrician

  • Major review launched after David Fuller sexually abused at least 100 corpses
  • Police said they will never know exactly how many women and girls he violated
  • Ministers and relatives of victims demand to know how he carried out offences
  • Fuller dramatically changed his plea to confess to murdering two young women 

By George Odling Crime Reporter For The Daily Mail

Published: 22:23, 4 November 2021 | Updated: 22:50, 4 November 2021

A major NHS security review has been launched after a double murderer sexually abused at least 100 corpses in hospitals where he worked.

Police say they will never know how many women and girls David Fuller violated – but admit it could be hundreds more.

Ministers and relatives of those Fuller abused demanded to know how the electrician was allowed to continue his sickening offences over decades of working for the NHS.

The horrifying scale of his depraved crimes can be revealed after he dramatically changed his pleas yesterday to confess to murdering two young women.

Police say they will never know how many women and girls David Fuller (pictured) violated – but admit it could be hundreds more

NHS launches review after killer abused over 100 women's corpses

Fuller, 67, admitted killing Wendy Knell, 25, (left) and Caroline Pierce, 20, (right) in 1987 in what became known as the ‘Bedsit Murders’ – one of Britain’s longest unsolved murder cases

Fuller, 67, admitted killing Wendy Knell, 25, and Caroline Pierce, 20, in 1987 in what became known as the ‘Bedsit Murders’ – one of Britain’s longest unsolved murder cases.

He was still working for the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust when revolutionary DNA profiling techniques led police investigating the historic murders to his home in Heathfield, East Sussex, on December 3 last year. 

Horrified detectives found a hidden cache of printed photos along with thousands of digital images and videos that exposed one of Britain’s biggest healthcare scandals.

Fuller had spent at least 12 years abusing corpses in the mortuaries of Kent and Sussex and Tunbridge Wells hospitals.

The hoarder kept detailed handwritten diaries of his abuse, along with thousands of videos and images of himself having sex with the corpses organised into folders.

Police have established he had sexual activity with at least 100 deceased women, 81 of whom have been identified, but say there may have been many more victims.

In other shocking developments:

  • Fuller’s oldest victim was 100 and his youngest was aged just nine;
  • A mother whose daughter’s body was defiled by Fuller in a hospital mortuary said: ‘This must never happen again’;
  • Sir Jonathan Michael, a fellow at the Royal College of Physicians, will lead an investigation into Fuller’s crimes and what could have been done to prevent them;
  • NHS England has written to trusts to ask them to urgently review mortuary security;
  • Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he was ‘profoundly shaken by the unspeakable nature of these offences’.

DCI Ian Beasley, who led Kent Police’s investigation into Fuller, said: ‘It quickly became clear that the extent and scale of offending was likely to be unprecedented in the UK. We have never seen anything like this.’

More than 150 family liaison officers informed the families of the dead women simultaneously after Fuller pleaded guilty to 51 charges, including 44 relating to the necrophilia, at a hearing on October 8.

Libby Clark, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: ‘No British court has ever seen abuse on this scale against the dead before and I have no doubt he would still be offending to this day had it not been for this painstaking investigation and prosecution.’

NHS launches review after killer abused over 100 women's corpses

Pictured: David Fuller’s NHS security badge

NHS launches review after killer abused over 100 women's corpses

Fuller had spent at least 12 years abusing corpses in the mortuaries of Kent and Sussex and Tunbridge Wells hospitals (stock image)

Fuller worked at the now-closed Kent and Sussex Hospital from 1989 until 2010, when he moved to Tunbridge Wells Hospital.

In his role as electrician, he had a swipe card that allowed him unsupervised access to all parts of the hospital. Mortuary staff usually finished for the day at 4pm, while Fuller’s shift was from 11am to 7pm, police said.

He would carry his bag of tools with him and ensured his abuse could not be picked up by CCTV, which covered only part of the mortuary.

Mr Beasley said: ‘We have evidence of him moving around the mortuary but no CCTV of him interacting with any of the bodies. All the evidence is from his own filming.’

Families of the victims were last night demanding answers from the NHS about how Fuller was able to access the dead bodies of their loved ones.

Azra Kemal’s body was abused by Fuller after the 24-year-old died following a fall from a bridge in July last year. Her mother, Nevres, told Sky News: ‘We have swipe cards and cameras for a reason.

No one checked. It was so simple. He would actually abuse women while porters were bringing in bodies.’

A mum’s grief and revulsion 

A woman whose daughter’s body was defiled by David Fuller pleaded yesterday: ‘This must never happen again.’

The warped hospital electrician sneaked into the mortuary at Tunbridge Wells Hospital in Kent three times to sexually abuse Azra Kemal, 24, who died after plunging from a bridge.

Horrifically, the first two attacks happened just hours before and after her grief-stricken mother, Nevres Kemal, had visited her daughter and stroked her hair to say farewell.

She said: ‘I had spent two hours in the mortuary sleeping with her.

And that gave me some sort of comfort. Little did I know that my daughter had been violated prior to that day and the evening of that day. So, while I’m stroking my daughter’s hair, sleeping on her hair, a man had… crawled all over her skin.

And there’s me kissing and cuddling and saying my last goodbyes.’

NHS launches review after killer abused over 100 women's corpses

Sickening: Azra Kemal was one of Fuller’s victims

Miss Kemal, who worked as a researcher for Sky News, was one of Fuller’s most recent victims. He carried out his sickening assaults in July last year.

Her mother – a London social worker – told Sky News: ‘Men and women up and down the country will be appalled by what they are reading.

‘And I remind them that if this was your loved one you would roar with rage – and I am silently roaring. We need to respect the dead and this must never happen again.’

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Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust chief executive Miles Scott last night apologised to the families of Fuller’s victims and said, while he was confident the mortuary was now safe, he was determined to learn if there were ways to improve.

Fuller evaded justice for 33 years after killing and sexually assaulting Miss Knell and Miss Pierce within months of each other, before decades-old DNA evidence linked him to the murders when a family member was arrested and added to the database.

When he was arrested, Fuller seemed surprised to see officers at his home, saying: ‘Oh blimey.’

Fuller had previously admitted responsibility for the deaths with ‘diminished responsibility’ at Maidstone Crown Court – but until yesterday he had denied murder.

Miss Knell’s bloodstained body was found in her flat on June 23, 1987, after Fuller – a convicted burglar – had climbed in through the window, before beating and strangling her to death.

Miss Pierce was abducted from outside her home on November 24 the same year.

Her body, naked apart from a pair of tights, was found in a water-filled dyke near Romney Marsh three weeks later. Miss Knell’s mother, Pam, whose husband Bill died in 2017 without seeing justice, said she hoped Fuller’s conviction would finally allow her family to grieve.

‘For 34 years, we as a family, the police and press have been focusing on what actually happened to Wendy, wanting to know who did it and how she spent her last moments alive,’ she said.

‘Sadly it’s much worse than we could have ever imagined.

‘Hopefully we can now start to grieve and move past the pain… although the timing has meant our dad is not here to share this moment as we lost him four years ago. It broke his heart he never found out before he died.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel said her heartfelt sympathies went out to all those affected by Fuller’s crimes.

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark has written to Mr Javid and Miss Patel calling for a public inquiry.

He said: ‘The families of Fuller’s victims deserve to know two things: How this could have happened; and that it can never, ever happen again.’ Fuller will be sentenced at a later date.

A special place in hell for one of Britain’s most hideous criminals

By Barbara Davies for the Daily Mail

After their daughter Wendy was murdered in 1987, Bill and Pamela Knell were given a bottle of champagne by a well-meaning friend to celebrate the moment when her killer was caught.

Within a few years, they had thrown it away in frustration.

‘We don’t want to die not knowing what happened and who did this,’ Pamela told a newspaper at the time.

Bill Knell died, broken-hearted, from cancer in 2017 without knowing who beat and strangled his 25-year-old daughter to death before sexually assaulting her body. But Pamela, now a frail woman in her eighties, was at Maidstone Crown Court yesterday to hear electrician David Fuller finally say he murdered Wendy and Caroline Pierce.

Like Wendy, 20-year-old Caroline was killed and sexually assaulted before Fuller dumped her body in a field he had passed on his bike just weeks before, along with other members of his cycling club. Both women lived alone in ground-floor flats just a mile apart in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

Their deaths were dubbed the ‘Bedsit Murders’ and became one of the UK’s longest double homicide cases.

NHS launches review after killer abused over 100 women's corpses

 Police, who have sifted through millions of images on Fuller’s computers and hard drives, have not yet been able to identify all of his victims.

Pictured: Fuller

Indeed, it is only now that 67-year-old Fuller’s murder trial has come to a dramatic halt with his guilty plea, that the full story of one of the most hideous killers in British history can begin to be told.

For having taken the lives of two young women in their prime, Fuller went on to commit further crimes of almost unimaginable evil – raping and sexually molesting the bodies of at least 100 women and girls in mortuaries to which he had access as a hospital electrician.

His oldest victim was 100, his youngest just nine. He filmed his perverted acts, and took photographs of his victims’ identity bracelets and mortuary log entries. He recorded their names and searched for information about them on social media.

With psychopathic precision, he kept files on those he violated in an upstairs office at his home in Heathfield, East Sussex, which the prolific hoarder guarded with CCTV.

Police, who have sifted through millions of images on Fuller’s computers and hard drives, have not yet been able to identify all of his victims.

Aside from the horror of all this – with the jury at Maidstone Crown Court being offered counselling – police believe Fuller’s crimes may go way beyond the 51 counts of necrophilia for which he pleaded guilty, stretching back to the pre-digital era before he was able to use digital cameras to record images of his crimes.

Hundreds of families who have lost loved ones at the former Kent and Sussex Hospital and Tunbridge Wells Hospital where Fuller worked, will be haunted by the thought that they might have been among his victims.

NHS launches review after killer abused over 100 women's corpses NHS launches review after killer abused over 100 women's corpses

Wendy Knell (left) and Caroline Pierce (right), whose deaths were dubbed the ‘Bedsit Murders’ and became one of the UK’s longest double homicide cases

Fuller got away with his crimes for nearly 35 years by maintaining a front of middle-class domesticity and respectability. To those who knew him, at least casually, he was a family man, a thrice-married father-of-four and a seemingly doting husband and father.

He was a keen birdwatcher and photographer, and to fellow members of the West Kent Cycle Touring Club, he was a good-humoured and keen cyclist before back problems put paid to his favourite hobby.

At the time he murdered Wendy and Caroline, he was living in staff accommodation at Broomhill Bank School in Tunbridge Wells, where his second wife, Sally, worked as a house parent.

Today we can reveal that beneath this veneer of respectability, Fuller’s offending can be traced back to the 1970s when he was living in Hampshire. In 1973, he pleaded guilty to three burglaries at Portsmouth Crown Court and asked for 23 similar offences to be taken into consideration.

By the time he killed Wendy, and then Caroline, he was living in Kent and married to his second wife.

As he staked out his potential victims, he used the same criminal techniques he had used as a burglar.

Both Wendy and Caroline lived in ground-floor bedsits in badly lit streets in Tunbridge Wells. At around the time of their killings, there were reports of a prowler looking into downstairs windows.

NHS launches review after killer abused over 100 women's corpses

The hoarder kept detailed handwritten diaries of his abuse, along with thousands of videos and images of himself having sex with the corpses organised into folders 

Wendy was store manager at Supasnaps in the town centre. On the evening she died – Monday, June 22 – she left work at 5.30pm and, after a visit to a laundrette, went to boyfriend Ian Plass’s house.

At around 11pm, he gave her a lift home on his motorbike and they said goodbye on the doorstep.

The next day, when she failed to arrive at work, staff phoned Ian, who went round to her flat. Wendy was lying on the bed, naked, bloodied and battered.

Detectives leading the investigation believed Wendy’s killer had been lying in wait for her. The killer had taken items from her room, including her diary and keys.

The items have never been recovered.

Ian Plass has since died, but in a witness statement he gave to police, which was read out in court this week, he described the horror of finding his girlfriend’s body.

‘I recall there was blood somewhere. 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.’

Caroline Pierce was killed on Tuesday, November 24, 1987.

She was manager at Buster Browns, a burger restaurant in Tunbridge.

NHS launches review after killer abused over 100 women's corpses

Fuller (pictured) eventually admitted killing both Wendy and Caroline but, claiming he was of ‘abnormal mind’ at the time, refused to plead guilty to murder – until yesterday 

On the night she died she went out with friends and took a taxi back to her bedsit in Grosvenor Road. The next day, when she failed to turn up for work, staff raised the alarm. Three weeks later, her body was found 40 miles away in a water-filled drainage ditch near Romney Marsh – naked apart from the black tights she’d been wearing.

Like Wendy, she had been battered and strangled and raped.

The jumper and skirt she had been wearing were never recovered. Nor were her keys, which were missing from her handbag.

Fuller might never have been caught, if it wasn’t for scientific advances. From the moment a Fuller family member was arrested and a DNA sample added to the national database, the clock was ticking.

During a cold-case review of Wendy and Caroline’s murders, the DNA was found to be a close match to that left the killer of both women.

After Fuller was arrested in December last year, he said he had no knowledge of the case but his DNA was an exact match.

Fuller eventually admitted killing both Wendy and Caroline but, claiming he was of ‘abnormal mind’ at the time, refused to plead guilty to murder – until yesterday.

He blamed his obsession with having sex with corpses on a trauma he had suffered aged four but there is plenty of evidence to suggest he was capable of normal relationships with women.

One former lover described him as a ‘normal, loving man’.

Fuller left school at 16 and became an apprentice electrician with the Ministry of Defence in Portsmouth. He married Gillian in 1972 and they had three children. He claimed in court that the relationship ended because she had an affair.

He then moved to Tonbridge in Kent and met Sally.

They married in 1982, and Fuller described their 17-year marriage as ‘long-lasting, in-depth and nice’. He said the marriage broke down when she left him for a member of his cycling club.

He met his latest wife, Mala, while working as an electrician at Kent and Sussex Hospital. They married in Barbados in 1999 and had a son together.

In police interviews, he claimed their relationship was ‘pretty perfect’.

His wife was seen sobbing in the public gallery during a hearing on October 8. It is believed she learned the extent of her husband’s crimes only that morning.

In custody, Fuller cut a pathetic figure, sitting with his head bowed as officers questioned him about his necrophilia crimes. When he answered, speaking in a quiet voice after lengthy pauses, it became clear he couldn’t bear to describe what he had done. ‘I am admitting the offences but I don’t really want to go into detail,’ he said.

For the families of Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce, justice has been a long time coming.

Caroline’s family are believed to have moved to Spain several years ago, but yesterday, on the steps of Maidstone Crown Court, Wendy’s family paid an emotional tribute to Kent Police’s cold cases team.

Fuller has yet to be sentenced.

Despite their heinous nature, the offences he committed in hospital mortuaries carry a maximum sentence of only two years.

And the most terrifying possibility is that the true extent of his evil is yet to be uncovered.

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