|“||I know when I'm going to start a fire because my fingers tingle.||”|
Bruce George Peter Lee (born as Peter George Dinsdale) is a prolific British serial killer, family annihilator, mass murderer, and serial arsonist who is most infamous for starting the 12 Selby Street fire.
Lee was born as Peter George Dinsdale on July 31st, 1960 in Manchester, England. His mother, Doreen, was a prostitute who called him a "freak" because of his epileptic fits, his deformed right arm, and congenital spastic hemiplegia in his right limbs and sent him to live with his grandmother when he was only six months old. Lee never knew his father, who left Doreen when Peter was young. He lived there until he was three and spent the rest of his childhood in different children's homes and also went to a school for physically handicapped children until he was 16. Lee became a serial arsonist at a young age; when he was nine years old, he burned down a shopping precinct, causing £17,000 worth of property damage. People made fun of him his whole upbringing and when he was a teenager, he became known as "Daft Peter" and worked at a local speedway track and a pig market and also babysat sometimes. Over the years, Lee set a total of over thirty known fires which resulted in the deaths of a total of 26 people. Apart from his final fire, that on Selby Street in 1980, all of them were attributed to accidents and arson was not originally suspected.
One of Lee's worst fires took place on the night of January 5, 1977, when he was only sixteen years old. He set the Wensley Lodge, a retirement home, on fire using paraffin as an accelerant, disposing of the can in the River Humber. The fire claimed the lives of eleven people and injured six more and was not believed to be the result of arson but to have been caused by a plumber who had used a blowtorch while working. One of the residents previously had an altercation with Lee, who didn't find out about the fatalities until he read about them in the newspaper. In 1979, Doreen remarried and Peter changed his name to Bruce George Peter Lee, both after his stepfather's surname and as an homage to actor Bruce Lee.
On December 4, 1980, Lee set the fire for which he became most well-known, even though it wasn't his most fatal one. He set 12 Selby Street, the home of the Hastie family, on fire. While Mrs. Hastie survived with an injured ankle as well as her second-oldest son, Thomas, her other three sons perished. This time, it was determined that the fire was caused by arson. Because the Hastie boys were well-known local delinquents responsible for several cases of vandalism and petty robberies, there wasn't much sympathy from the local residents. The investigators went to the local gay scene, to which the Hastie boys had some connections, and brought in a number of boys, including Lee, for questioning. Lee did indeed confess to the fire, claiming it wasn't his intention to kill the Hasties. Lee kept confessing to all his prior fires, shocking the police, who had attributed them to accidents. In order to test him and make sure he wasn't lying, officers took him to the site of another arson case for which someone else had already been convicted. When he said he had never been in the area, they believed his confessions. On January 20, 1981, he pleaded not guilty to 26 counts of murders but pleaded guilty to 26 counts of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and 11 counts of arson. Today, he is currently institutionalized at the Rampton Secure Hospital in Nottinghamshire. It is unlikely that he will ever be released.
Lee’s accelerant of choice was paraffin, a flammable chemical that is used as fuel as well as for fire-breathing and fire-juggling. He would typically break a window of the house he targeted, pour the liquid over the floor, set it ablaze and then run out. Like many arsonists, he was known to revisit his crime scenes. Some of his fires were motivated by revenge, as in the Wensley Lodge fire.
On Criminal Minds
- Season One
- Season Four
- "House on Fire" - While not directly mentioned or referenced in this episode, Lee may have also provided some inspiration for Tommy Wheeler ("House on Fire") - Both were mentally ill serial arsonists, serial killers, and mass murderers who were raised by their grandparents, set fires out of revenge, killed over two dozen victims, and would (presumably in Wheeler's case) later be institutionalized due to their mental illnesses.