April 02, 2022
In 1987, 25-year-old Wendy Knell moved into a bedsit in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK, following a failed marriage to start her life over again. Although Wendy had always been independent, she had dreams of being a wife and mother. She worked as a manager at a local photography shop where her boyfriend would usually pick her up and drive her home after her shift. The evening of June 22, 1987 was no exception. Wendy's boyfriend picked her up that balmy summer evening and drove her home on Guildford Road, dropping her off safely outside the building she lived in. Unknowingly, it would be the last night he ever saw her.
The next day after Wendy failed to show up to work, she was discovered dead in her own bed, naked and covered with blood. Autopsy revealed that she had been beaten, raped, and strangled to death. The victim’s neighbors did not hear any sign of a struggle or anything out of the ordinary and there was no sign of forced entry. Her keys, key chains and diary were missing from her home, suggesting her killer had taken a souvenir of the crime.
The killer left behind a footprint on one of the victim's blouses that had fallen on the floor. Police determined it was a sports shoe from the Clarks store, an uncommon shoe at the time. The killer also left behind DNA on assorted items in the room as well as on the victim’s body. They also found a bloody fingerprint on a shopping bag, which they carefully preserved.
Police canvassed the area and were informed by several eyewitnesses that a male had been prowling the area and looking into windows on the night Wendy was brutally murdered in her own home.
A neighbor, Victoria Fisher, said she saw a male lurking outside her premises after midnight on the same night the victim was killed.
Despite multiple reports and descriptions of the man, Wendy Knell’s killer went unidentified for over three decades.
The unsolved homicide drew similarities to another murder of young woman in her twenties living alone in a bedsit in the Tunbridge Wells area- the murder of 20-year-old Caroline Pierce. Caroline lived alone in a basement bedsit in an area with various sightings of a male prowler looking through resident’s windows during the night. A former boyfriend of Caroline recalled the young woman fearing a peeping Tom in the area and having locks fitted to the windows several weeks before she too was brutally slain. She even reported the prowler to police in October 1987.
Caroline Pierce was discovered dead three weeks later, forty miles from her home near a dyke on remote farmland on Romney Marsh. She was dressed only in her stockings and had been battered and strangled to death. Her keys and distinct key chains were also missing, indicating the killer had taken them as a souvenir of the crime. Caroline worked as a manager at Buster Brown's Restaurant. A key chain advertising her place of work hung from the keychain her killer took after fleeing the crime scene. The body was discovered by a farm worker who was out working the fields on a plough that day and quickly called it in to police who assembled a response force of fifty officers to comb the surrounding land for clues.
It was later determined that she had been dropped off at her bedsit by a taxi at around midnight on November 24 when she was attacked by an unknown assailant. Those in the area reported hearing screams from outside the victim’s home. She had gone out for a drink earlier with a chef from Buster Brown’s that night before leaving alone.
In both cases the victims were female with brown hair, were in their twenties, worked in town on Camden Road, and lived alone in basement bedsits in the Tunbridge Wells area. Both had been sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled to death and both were missing keys or personal items.
The unsolved slayings came to be known as "The bedsit murders" in the U.K.
The DNA was entered into the national database in 1999, however, turned up no results. Whoever the killer was, he had been keeping his nose clean.
In 2019, the DNA collected from Caroline Pierce's tights was tested against genetic genealogy databases and narrowed down to a scale of possible relatives they could work with in order to track the unknown killer. With a workable list of possibles in hand, police then worked to figure out who on the list had lived in the area around the time of the murders and soon found themselves looking at the profile of the killer’s brother.
They finally had the killers name- David Fuller. Fuller, now 69-years-of age, initially denied any involvement in the bedsit murders. He is currently awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to the murders of Caroline Pierce and Wendy Knell. He was arrested 3 December 2020.
Fuller, who trained to be an electrician in Portsmouth while working in a shipyard had been getting into trouble his entire life. He started off early committing acts of arson and theft while in school and began committing burglaries in his teens and early twenties. He married multiple times before settling down with his third wife in West Sussex, around 14 miles from Tunbridge wells. Despite living less than a half hour drive from Tunbridge Wells he claimed he was not familiar with the place.
As if the rape and murder of two young women in the mid-eighties was not already enough, Fuller’s arrest led to a horrific discovery- that he had been abusing the corpses of females in the mortuary at the hospital where he once worked as an electrician for years, totalling more than one hundred victims between the ages of nine and one hundred years old.
Police made the disturbing discovery while searching Fuller’s house and office for evidence to further link him to the murders of Pierce and Knell. Fuller had kept and documented almost everything he had done his entire life in the form of work invoices, photographs, videos, and other forms of documentation.
Invoices showed he had worked in the Tunbridge wells and had once lived on the same street as one of his victims. An old photograph of Fuller showed him wearing a pair of Clarks running shoes that matched the shoeprint left behind on Knell’s blouse. Diaries exposed that he had been to the Buster Brown’s restaurant, where Piece worked, multiple times.
Evidence that he was once part of a cycling group showed that he had even cycled past the marsh where he callously dumped Pierce’s body in 1987. Police soon discovered an obsessive amount of extreme pornography, including child pornography, stored on various generations of storage devices all over the house.
Then, in a closet, screwed to the back of a bedside table, police found a box containing four hard drives with footage of David Fuller abusing the bodies of female decedents in hospital mortuaries. He had worked as a maintenance manager at several hospitals around Kent and Sussex between 2008 - 2020 and took advantage of the all area access card to fuel his sick escapades.
Fuller evaded CCTV cameras in the morgue by abusing the bodies behind the fridges, which open from both the front and back. The back of the fridges was a blind spot to surveillance cameras. As with everything else, Fuller kept meticulous records of his crimes, including the names of every body he abused in a small pocketbook with his name on the front. The police were also able to see the information tags on the bodies in the footage which they used to identify the victims. Fuller went back to abuse the women and girls’ bodies multiple times.
Police are now looking over missing people’s cases from 1987 - 2020 under the suspicion that Fuller may have other victims they do not yet know about.
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