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True crime anniversaries in December

December True Crime Anniversaries
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It’s the final month of our exploration of the most notorious and memorable crimes in recent history. Let’s explore some significant crimes that took place in previous Decembers.

8th December: The murder of headmaster Philip Lawrence (1995)

Philip Lawrence was an Irish headteacher at St George’s School in London. He was murdered by one of his own pupils after stepping in to help when another pupil was being attacked. Philip was stabbed outside the school gates by 15-year-old Learco Chindamo, who was part of a gang.

Chindamo arrived outside the school with 11 fellow gang members to ‘punish’ William Njoh, a St. George’s pupil. Philip witnessed the gang attacking William with an iron bar and went to help. Chindamo first punched Lawrence then stabbed him in the chest. Chindamo was convicted of Philip Lawrence’s murder in October 1996.

18th December: 16-year-old Suzanne Capper was tortured to death (1992)

In a horrifying experience of torture and abuse, Suzanne Capper died on 18th December 1992 after being deliberately set alight. Suzanne was able to tell police she had been kidnapped and kept prisoner in a house in Moston, Manchester where she was tortured and abused.

Six people were tried and convicted of involvement in her murder, with many trivial reasons, including the loss of a pink duffel coat, listed as reasons for their barbaric actions. Suzanne was beaten, tortured and then driven into the countryside where petrol was poured all over her and she was set alight. She survived for several days before succumbing to her injuries.

19th December: Celine Figard murdered on a visit to the UK (1995)

Celine Figard was a French woman who went missing and was murdered while visiting the UK. On 19th December 1995, Celine accepted a lift from a lorry driver at services on the M4 in Chieveley, Berkshire. Her body was discovered on 29th December and the post-mortem determined she died due to bludgeoning and strangulation.

The case was high-profile and received extensive news coverage. It included the UK’s first national DNA screening programme in the hunt for the suspect and over 5,000 people were screened. Stuart Morgan, a lorry driver from Dorset was arrested in February 1996. A colleague recognised Morgan from the photofit and he was handed a life sentence.

20th December: Colin Ireland convicted (1993)

Colin Ireland, widely described as the ‘Gay Slayer’ in the mainstream and tabloid media, was handed a life sentence for some of his crimes on 20th December 1993. Ireland was a serial killer who killed homosexual men. He was convicted of the murders of Andrew Collier and Emanuel Spiteri. Since his conviction, he was found to be responsible for at least three more murders.

21st December: The Lockerbie Bombing causes 270 deaths (1988)

The Lockerbie Bombing is one of the most infamous terrorist attacks that took place over the British Isles. On 21st December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 blew up mid-flight due to a hidden bomb on the plane. The explosion caused the death of 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 people who lived in the town of Lockerbie.

Operations between the local Scottish police force and the FBI are ongoing, with the terrorists responsible still being sought and charged. Many have been imprisoned but the investigation is ongoing.

21st December: The Crossbow Cannibal convicted (2010)

The Crossbow Cannibal, Stephen Griffiths, was responsible for the serial murders of three women in Bradford between 2009 and 2010. Stephen Griffiths murdered sex workers Susan Rushworth, Shelley Armitage and Suzanne Blamires and gave his name as ‘the Crossbow Cannibal’ when he initially appeared in court in May 2010.

Griffiths was convicted of the murders on 21st December 2010 and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole life order imposed.

29th December: Valerie Graves murdered in her own home (2013)

Valerie Graves was murdered in her own home in December 2013. By November 2014, the police had a partial DNA profile for the suspect and in January 2015, the local police began a voluntary mass DNA screening programme in Bosham where Valerie lived.

The suspect, Cristian Sabău, was arrested in July 2019 in Romania with Sussex Police seeking his extradition. He claimed he had entered the home with burglary in mind, not knowing Valerie was in and violently attacked her with a hammer in the spur of the moment. He was jailed for life with a minimum term of 23 years and 272 days.

30th December: Margaret Fleming killed by her carers (1999)

In a sad story of neglect and abuse, Margaret Fleming was a vulnerable adult murdered by her nominated carers in Inverkip, Scotland. Margaret had learning difficulties and had care provided by Edward Cairney and Avril Jones.

The couple killed Margaret in December 1999 but concealed her death so they could continue to claim her benefits. Their crime was only uncovered in 2016 when the authorities discovered Margaret was missing. No trace of Margaret has ever been found but both Cairney and Jones were convicted of her murder in 2019.