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UPDATED with sentence: DAVID FULLER: Hospital electrician convicted of cold-case double murder and 51 sexual offences

|News, Violent crime , Sexual offences

UPDATE: Fuller has been given a whole life jail term for murdering Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce.

He has also received 12 years for mortuary offences. He was sentenced on 15 December 2021.

Originally published on 05 November 2021

WARNING: This story contains details of sexual offending some readers may find distressing

A hospital electrician has been convicted of murdering two women in the 1980s, as well multiple necrophilia offences against female bodies in mortuaries he accessed at work.

David Fuller struck, strangled and sexually assaulted Wendy Knell, 25, and Caroline Pierce, 20, after breaking into their homes in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, months apart in 1987.

Fuller, 67, evaded responsibility for the killings for 33 years until he was arrested by Kent Police following a DNA breakthrough in December 2020.

David Fuller cycling in the 1980s, the ditch where he left Caroline Pierce's body and the scenes of the murders
David Fuller cycling in the 1980s, the ditch where he left Caroline Pierce's body and the scenes of the murders

Searches of Fuller’s home following his arrest uncovered hard drives concealed in a hide in his home, revealing evidence of prolific sexual offending of a kind no British court has seen before.

Between 2008 and 2020, Fuller had filmed and photographed himself sexually abusing the bodies of dozens of women and girls at two Tunbridge Wells hospital mortuaries he was able to access through his job as the maintenance supervisor.

Today at Maidstone Crown Court, Fuller admitted two counts of murder four days into his trial. He had previously admitted 51 further sexual offences, including 44 counts relating to the 78 identifiable mortuary victims.

Libby Clark, of the CPS, said: “David Fuller’s deeply distressing crimes are unlike any other I have encountered in my career and unprecedented in British legal history.

“This highly dangerous man has inflicted unimaginable suffering on countless families and he has only admitted his long-held secrets when confronted with overwhelming evidence.

“Fuller, with his uncontrolled sense of sexual entitlement, treated Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce with extreme depravity. Both women were simply at home or returning from work when he ambushed them.

“Their families never gave up on achieving justice even when all hope seemed lost. My thoughts are with them today and all the families of women and girls whose lives have been cut short by senseless violence.

“Fuller’s appalling crimes did not end with these killings and he went on to abuse his position of trust as a hospital electrician in the most grotesque manner imaginable.

“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.”

Building the case

The murders

Fuller was charged on 4 December last year after DNA he left at the scenes of the murders was matched to him from a database, following huge developments in the science since 1987. He had never been linked to the killings before and denied any knowledge of them when arrested.

Shop manager Ms Knell was found dead in her home on 23 June 1987 after failing to show up for work. Five months later, waitress Ms Pierce was attacked and killed outside her home a mile away in Grosvenor Park on 24 November. Her body was found 40 miles away in a ditch in Romney Marsh.

Samples Fuller left on Ms Knell’s duvet made Fuller one billion times more likely to be the killer, while cells on Ms Pierce’s tights made him 160,000 times closer a match than any other person.

Fuller had also kept evidence of himself visiting the Buster Browns restaurant where Ms Pierce worked and photos in SupaSnaps sleeves – the company Ms Knell was employed at when she was killed.

Detectives uncovered further evidence of convicted burglar Fuller’s links to Romney Marsh through his history of cycling, bird-watching and holidaying in the area.

Ms Clark said: “The issue that left this case unsolved for so long was identification of the killer. Thanks to huge advances in DNA science, as well as other evidence uncovered from Fuller’s home, we were able to put together such a compelling case as to be unanswerable – even after the passage of three decades.”

The mortuary offences

Police searches of Fuller’s home in Sussex to gather evidence in the murder investigation uncovered four million images of sexual abuse.

While most of these were downloaded from the internet, they revealed Fuller had also recorded himself abusing bodies over the course of his employment at the old Kent and Sussex Hospital and the Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury which replaced it.

Fuller, who had worked in the hospitals since 1989, would wait for the mortuary staff to finish their shifts before accessing fridges containing the women’s bodies.

The victims, some of whom Fuller violated on multiple occasions, ranged in age between over 85 and three who were under 18 at the time of death. All 44 charged offences – including 33 counts of sexual penetration of a corpse – took place between 31 December 2007 and December 2020.

He was further charged with seven counts unconnected to the mortuary, reflecting his possession of indecent images of children and an offence of voyeurism related to footage recorded in his home.

Mrs Clark added: “As Fuller had provided us with his own evidence, with the recordings the challenge was not so much proving the charges as reflecting the scale of his offending without overloading the indictment.

“This remains a live investigation and the CPS will continue to advise police on any matters they bring to us."

Notes to editors

David Fuller (DOB: 04/09/1954) pleaded guilty at Maidstone Crown Court to:

  • Two counts of murder
  • 32 counts of sexual penetration of a corpse in respect of 32 individual victims
  • One count of sexual penetration of a corpse as a group charge in respect of 27 victims
  • Eight counts of taking indecent photographs of a child
  • Three counts of possessing an extreme pornographic image
  • Three counts of making indecent images of children
  • One count of possession of an indecent photograph of a child
  • One count of possession of prohibited images of children
  • One count of voyeurism
  • One count of possessing an extreme pornographic image

Further reading

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