David Fuller

The Morgue Monster

David Fuller

"Necrophilia, that's it."

In 2020, police in Kent match the DNA sample of an unidentified killer was matched to hospital maintenance worker David Fuller. The crimes, the murder of two women just months apart in 1987, that had gone unsolved for decades. Once these crimes were connected to a single offender, police finally apprehended a long dormant killer.

The murders committed by Fuller were just the start of his crimes. It was soon discovered that in his capacity as a hospital worker, he had recorded himself abusing the bodies of over 100 female corpses in different hospitals. Sentenced to a whole life term, Fuller will never leave prison, and will die in his cell for the heinous crimes he committed against the living and the dead.

David Fuller and the Bedsit Murders

On Tuesday, June 23, 1987, 25-year-old Wendy Knell failed to turn up for work. This raised concerns with her employer, who in turn contacted her boyfriend Ian the following day. Upon turning up at her home in Guildford Road in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, the boyfriend found Knell naked in her bed. She had been strangled and sexually assaulted by an intruder.

Knell had moved into the ground-floor bedsit at number fourteen Guildford Road after the collapse of her marriage. Her friend at the time, Julie Monks, said she believes the break-up came as a blow, and went on to describe Wendy as independent and hardworking. Monks added that Knell was determined to begin a family, have children and make a home for them.

The bedsit was reportedly rundown, and Wendy disliked how small her home was, and never allowed anyone to visit, spending as little time she possible there. When she left the bedsit at after 18:00pm, she left the rear window open. She had been unable to close it, because the latch had been painted over. This allowed easy access, and her ground-floor flat backed out on to a poorly lit alleyway.

At the time of her death, Knell was working as the manager at the photo shop SupaSnaps, and on the night of the Monday, June 22nd, her boyfriend had dropped her off at home around 11:15pm. Her neighbours later said they heard nothing out of the ordinary through the thin walls of the bedsits. Unbeknownst to anyone, Wendy Knell had been battered by an intruder, sexually assaulted and strangled. When she was found the next morning, her blood covered the bed on which she lay.

It was believed that several items were missing from her flat, including her diary, and a set of keys. The key fob had been a souvenir brought back from a recent visit to Austria, and was considered unique, along with a brass “Woman of the Year” tag that was attached to the key fob. Neither of these items were found, and police suspected the killer had taken them.

An image of Wendy Knell, who was murdered in her home in June 1987.
Wendy Knell, who was murdered in her home in June 1987.

Several months later, on November 24, 1987, a young woman disappeared from her home. On the night 20-year-old Caroline Pierce vanished, there were reports of screaming from her doorstep. It would be three weeks before her body was discovered, 40 miles away, dumped, naked apart from her tights, in an overgrown drainage ditch on farmland in Romney Marsh on the south coast.

It was only by chance that her body was spotted by a tractor driver owing to his position high up in his vehicle’s cab. Pierce, from Grosvenor Park, worked at Buster Brown’s, a popular Tunbridge Wells restaurant. It was reported her injuries were similar to those carried out against Wendy Knell, and despite little evidence at the time, detectives suspected these two murders were somehow linked.

David Fuller and the Police Investigation

The press referred to the two crimes as the “Bedsit Murders,” police launched a comprehensive investigation. In Tunbridge Wells several prowlers had been seen in the area, however none of these incident had been reported to police. 24 hours before Wendy Knell was murdered, a strange incident had been reported less than fifty yards away from her home.

On June 21st, a 19-year-old was alone in her flat when she heard her door bell ring. When she answered it, an unfamiliar man was standing at her door. He told her, “you shouldn’t leave your window open, especially in the bedroom,” before walking away. The witness later gave police a detailed description of the strange man she encountered at her door.

At that time, during the 1980’s, there was no CCTV for police to track the whereabouts of the two women in the days leading up to their murders, or the suspicious man who was seen on the previous Sunday. Neither was there any mobile phones, that might help offer an insight into who the women were acquainted with, and any potential leads or suspects.

The police photofit of the man see on June 21st.
The police photofit of the man see on June 21st, in the area several days before Wendy Knell was murdered

Coupled with the fact that DNA analysis was still in its infancy, police were facing an uphill struggle to solve what were two extremely complex murder investigations. It had only been eight years previous that offender profiles had been created with the national database. Detectives knew that the killer or killers might not even be present in the database.

At about 10:30pm, on the evening Wendy Knell was murdered, a neighbour who lived in the same building as Wendy, saw a suspicious man in the alleyway behind Guildford Road. The witness said the man was trying to peep into the house directly opposite. The prowler reportedly watched inside for some minutes before he was disturbed. The police were not called.

Later that same evening at approximately 12:30am, local residents reported that a peeping tom was seen out a property on nearby Grovehill Road. Then at 01:10am, on Guildford Road, neighbours recalled a car, possibly a Blue Talbot Horizon, having difficulty starting while parked outside Wendy’s house.

Two days after Wendy’s death, a new witness, a local shop keeper came forward and provided information that opened up a whole new line on enquiry. Bits and Pieces, a second-hand goods shop that specializes in collectors items, and the owner believed that Wendy was a regular customer.

Over a period of nine months, Wendy had visited the shop around once a fortnight, and always to look at or buy model trains. Assuming that the customer was Wendy, none of the trains she bought have ever been found. They were not kept by herself, and so detectives wondered to whom she might have given them.

There was forensic evidence left behind by the perpetrator. A bloody fingerprint had been found on a shopping bag, and a bloodied footprint could be seen on the cuff of a white blouse from Wendy’s flat. A sperm sample was found on Caroline’s tights, and saliva samples and other DNA were found on Ms Knell’s bedding, towel and intimate samples. These items were carefully stored by police, until such a time when they could be tested for a DNA profile and, hopefully, matched with an offender.

The bloodied footprint found on the cuff of a blouse belonging to Wendy Knell.

With advances in forensic technology, detectives tested the DNA sample in 1999, but were disappointed when it failed to match anyone on the new database. It was believed that unless the killer had been arrested for some other offence, had his DNA taken as a result, then his profile would not have been entered into the database.

As such, the DNA samples taken from the murder scenes would remain unidentified. Despite two BBC Crimewatch appeals, one in October 1987 about the murder of Wendy Knell, which featured a detailed reconstruction, the trail went cold. Speaking in 2007, veteran detective Dave Stevens, who investigated the case, told the BBC: “We’ve scaled down the inquiry but one thing we’ve never done is close the inquiry.”

Crimewatch October 1987 – The relevant section covering the Wendy Knell murder commences at the 3:28 mark.

David Fuller and the Cold Case Review

There no further developments in the case of the “Bedsit Murders,” which essentially became a cold case until 2007, when a significant new lead was made during a cold case review. The samples were tested again, and this time there appeared to be a match, officially linking the murders of Wedny Knell and Caroline Pierce to the same unidentified perpetrator.

By 2019, new techniques had been developed by forensics experts for collecting DNA from a damaged sperm sample like the one found on Caroline’s tights. Another relatively new technique, known as “familial DNA”, was then applied which allows scientists to identify whether someone is related to a person whose DNA is discovered at a crime scene.

Noel McHugh, a former Metropolitan Police detective who advised the Kent investigators and now works for the National Crime Agency said this technique was “was absolutely crucial”, in the apprehension of murder suspects. If it were not for the familial DNA testing, the DNA samples taken from the crimes scenes would never have been linked to a suspect.

Caroline Pierce, who was kidnapped from her home and murdered on November 24, 1987.

“But familial DNA allowed the investigators to bring down the 6.5m profiles on the national DNA database to a workable number which would eventually identify the killer,” said Mr McHugh. Suspecting their killer was local, and with a list of people who lived in the nearby area of the murders, as well as the right age group, detectives narrow their list.

“We came up with a long list of people, in order of which was the closest possibility of being the right relation of our offender,” said senior investigating officer, Det Supt Ivan Beasley. After a lengthy search, police eventually hit a match. The closest partial DNA match was from a man whose surname was Fuller.

David Fuller: Solving a Cold Case

Police then studied the family tree and honed in on one relative, 63-year-old David Fuller. Investigators then began looking at this suspect, and his criminal history. Unsurprisingly, Fuller had little in the way of a criminal past, at least nothing that was known to police. At school he was in trouble with police for stealing bikes and damaging property in fires, but nothing that caused him to come to police attention.

Born on September 4, 1954, Fuller had trained as an electrician and maintenance man while working in the navy shipyards of Portsmouth. He was married three times and was interested in birdwatching, cycling and photography. He became an unofficial photographer for London rock band Cutting Crew, and in 1985 accompanied them on tour with his second wife Sally.

In late November 2020, a match was made between his DNA and the samples from the case. On December 3, 2020, police arrived at David Fuller’s quiet estate and knocked on the door of the family’s small semi-detached home, which was noticeably well-equipped with CCTV cameras. He was arrested on suspicion of the double murders. The case, however, would prove to be much more complicated than detectives first believed.

An image of David Fuller, the suspected "Bedsit Murders" suspect under questioning.
David Fuller, the suspected "Bedsit Murders" suspect under questioning.

Under questioning, Fuller claimed he was not familiar with Tunbridge Wells, despite it being the next significant town. When asked, he denied ever visiting SupaSnaps shop or Buster Brown’s, and categorically denied knowing or being responsible for the murders of Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce. “That was a lie,” said Det Supt Beasley, and he and his detectives would prove it.

From the search of his home, it became apparent to detectives that David Fuller had obsessively recorded his life. He kept diaries detailing nights out at restaurants and photos that showed his rides with a cycling club, along with the invoices he had issued as a maintenance man and electrician. This provided a wealth of information for officers to search through.

Among the man invoices, police found some were for work around Tunbridge Wells, the area from where both women who had been murdered lived and a place David Fuller denied ever visiting. From the pages of his diary entries, it was learned that he had been a regular customer at Buster Brown’s, where victim Caroline Pierce worked.

Fuller had actually lived on the same road as Wendy in the 1970s and 80s, before she moved in. Police contacted the cycling club and spoke with members in an effort to see if they remembered the routes taken during that time, which it turned out included through Romney Marsh where Caroline was discovered. One of the photographs found at Fuller’s home shows him lying on his stomach on a sunny day in the 1980s, his feet upturned, the soles of his Clarks shoes exposed.

There, in the image, police could see that the pattern matched the print found in Wendy’s flat. When his fingerprints were taken, they were found to be a match to the bloody print on the shopping bag. However, the most damning evidence against David Fuller was that his DNA matched the semen sample taken decades before from Caroline’s tights. After 33 years, detectives had finally caught their killer.

David Fuller: The Morgue Monster

As the investigation continued, no-one could have imaged it would take an even darker turn when shocking new evidence emerged. Further crimes were committed before the two Tunbridge Wells murders, and these included a series of what police called “creeper burglaries” he committed in the 1970’s. But there were far more insidious crimes that David Fuller had committed, crimes which were revealed during the extensive searches of his home.

Since the 1980’s, Fuller had hoarded computer hardware, including hundreds of hard drives. Forensic experts found the number staggering, with memory cards and obsolete storage discs numbering in the thousands. There were 30 mobile phones and sim cards alone, and other assorted devices. When examining a cupboard, they came across more.

Inside the cupboard, Fuller had positioned a cabinet, and once pulled away from the wall, it revealed a holder screwed to the back. Described as a “concealed hide,” it was found to contain a further four hard drives. The contained some of the most disturbing evidence. On the hard drives were videos, apparently filmed by Fuller inside a hospital mortuary.

An image of the hard drive found by police hidden behind a cabinet in David Fuller's home.
The hard drive found by police hidden behind a cabinet in David Fuller's home.

From the contents of these video, it soon became apparent to detectives that David Fuller had been sexually abusing the bodies of dead people. Noel McHugh recalls the day he first opened the report that detailed this latest lurid detail in the investigation. “I could not comprehend it,” he said.

“My thoughts were very much for Wendy Knell’s family and Caroline Pierce’s 33 years without justice. But now families are finding out that their loved one, when they should have been safe and afforded dignity in death, suffered at the hands of David Fuller.” It was learned that during his time working at various hospitals, Fuller was provided with an “access all areas” swipe card.

This also provided him with access to the mortuary, an area he regularly visited. At one of the newer hospitals, the fridges used to store the bodies of deceased patients have doors at each end, one of which is covered by CCTV cameras. However, the other, where post mortem examinations take place, naturally has none.

Fuller knew this, because police found no footage from the hospital of what he was doing. Instead, they relied heavily on his own videos, filmed on a small camera, which showed him interfering with as many as 100 female corpses. The evidence was damning. Investigators were able to pause the footage, to read details on patients’ wristbands.

By cross-referencing the metadata on the videos, which showed when they had been filmed, with the names of patients in the mortuary at the time, forensic experts were able to confirm the dates of Fuller’s offending. He even kept a little black book, into which he recorded the many names of his deceased victims.

The little black book used by Fuller to record the names of his deceased victims.

Libby Clark, a Senior Crown Prosecutor said “He wouldn’t leave them alone, he went back to them on different occasions. This is the most disturbing and challenging case I have ever been involved with.” Fuller’s offending within hospitals is believed to have involved as many as 100 victims, whose ages range from under 18, to over 85, and taken place between the years of 2008 and 2020.

Equally as disturbing was the discovery in David Fuller’s house of what police described as one of the biggest stashes of child sexual abuse images ever discovered, which included millions of images and videos. “The psychopathology at work here is very definitely sado-masochism,” says Dr Richard Badcock, a consultant forensic psychiatrist whose work for the police includes assessing Harold Shipman.

Dr Badcock believes Fuller’s crimes followed a distinctive pattern, “In essence, not being able to deal with your own issues except by manipulative behaviour.” David Fuller was living a deceptive and double life. His NHS sources say colleagues saw him as helpful, the guy who would change a light bulb or fix a fuse with a smile. While behind closed doors, he was committing the most appalling crimes.

Dr Badcock believes the progression of Fuller’s crimes began with voyeurism, as seen in the “creeper burglaries” Fuller committed in the 1970s, before gradually escalating his behaviour into murder and abuse. “Although you are doing extreme things, you might only feel alive in the moment of the offence.”

Fuller had worked in electrical maintenance at hospitals since 1989 and was at the Kent and Sussex Hospital, until it closed in September 2011. He was then transferred to the Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury, where he committed further offences against the deceased until his arrest.

The direct link between the “sexual homicides” of Wendy and Caroline, and the later offences in the mortuary, are what Dr Badcock regards as psychologically more extreme than murder. “Necrophilia, that’s it. There’s nowhere else to go after that.” It is a crime that, ironically, carries a maximum two-year sentence, compared to life for murder.

The Trial of David Fuller

On January 21, 2021, David Fuller entered a plea of not guilty for the murders of Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce. He was remanded in custody to await his trial, which was expected to begin on October 25th. On October 8th, Fuller admitted to killing the two women. Duncan Atkinson QC, prosecuting, told Maidstone Crown Court that David Fuller accepted he killed the two women “subject to the issue of diminished responsibility”

His trial was then set for November 1st. On the fourth day of the trial at Maidstone Crown Court, Fuller changed his plea to guilty. He had also previously admitted sexually abusing bodies in two Kent hospital morgues over 12 years. Ahead of the trial he had pleaded guilty to 51 offences.

These including 44 charges relating to 78 identified victims in the two mortuaries where he worked as an electrician. After he was rearraigned, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb directed the jury to find him guilty on both counts of murder. During the proceedings, the court heard from the relatives of Fuller’s victims.

A victim impact statement was read to the court by the mother of the nine-year-old girl. Wearing a grey sweatshirt and black mask due to covid regulations, Fuller looked down for most of the hearing, but raised his eyes when the mother addressed him. “You raped my baby. She couldn’t say no to a dirty, 66-year-old man who was abusing her body,” she said.

“She couldn’t say no, but she would have. There’s no closure. How can I make this up to her? How can I nurse that little, broken body that’s been ruined and disrespected by that vile man? I will never be able to get over this,” she said. Another woman spoke before the court, talking about her mother.

She told the court Fuller’s actions were “despicable, sick and twisted”, and that it was hard to comprehend something “so immoral”. “She was dead, vulnerable and not able to fend you off, but you preyed on her, on the day she died,” she said. Owing to Fuller’s crimes at the mortuaries, police suspect that Wendy Knell had been raped after her death.

In 2007, Wendy Knell’s father Bill told the media; “One day someone’s going to ring that door and say: ‘We’ve caught him’, and there will be a celebration, by God there will be, especially if he goes down for a very, very long time.” Sadly, Bill Knell never lived to see David Fuller sentenced for the murder of his daughter.

Investigators said Fuller would always go into the morgues only when other staff had left, often “visiting the same bodies repeatedly”. Duncan Atkinson QC, a prosecutor in the case said Fuller “systematically and repeatedly sexually abused” the bodies of at least 102 dead women and girls. The victims included a nine-year-old girl, two 16-year-olds and a woman aged 100.

In a statement read to the court by a prosecutor, Katrina Frost, mother of Caroline Pierce, said the murder of her daughter was “truly horrific,” and a nightmare which “continues to this day”. It said that David Fuller was “an animal” who “returned to a normal life with his family” after the murder, while for them life was “never the same” again.

“I can never forget having to identify the badly-damaged body of my own daughter,” Ms Frost said. “The images of seeing my daughter in that way, repeat over and over in my mind. She must have been absolutely terrified.” In a victim impact statement read to the court, Wendy Knell’s was described mother Pamela as a “thoughtful person who would do anything for anyone”.

She wanted children, but did not get to have any, said Mrs Knell, adding: “We’ve had to live with her loss with no other comfort for the rest of our lives.” The families of the victims told Maidstone Crown Court that Fuller was “an animal”, and “despicable, sick and twisted”.

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb told Fuller during sentencing, “There is so much sorrow in this community because of what you have done. Your actions go against everything that is right and humane. They are incomprehensible. You had no regard for the dignity of the dead.” She sentenced David Fuller Fuller to two whole-life sentences for the murders with a concurrent 12-year term for his other crimes.

A court artists sketch of David Fuller at his sentencing.
A court artists sketch of David Fuller at his sentencing.

The investigation into the identification and apprehension of David Fuller was a huge police operation costing £2.5m. It was however, a success, linking Fuller to the double killings, dubbed “the Bedsit Murders” and helped uncover the later crimes committed at the Kent and Sussex Hospital, also in Tunbridge Wells, and the Tunbridge Wells Hospital in nearby Pembury which replaced it.

David Fuller was handed a whole life order on December 15, 2021, meaning he will never be released from prison. In the months and years after his sentencing, he admitted to further cases of mortuary sexual abuse, including 12 counts of sexual penetration of a corpse and four counts of possession of extreme pornography between 2007 and 2020.

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb sentenced Fuller at the Old Bailey on December 7, 2022, to a further four years, telling him his victims’ relatives had had their memories “sullied and stolen,” and that “They have been left in a dark place. They have expressed the outrage and revulsion that the women you abused would have felt at your objectivisation of them.”

Addressing Fuller directly, the daughter of one of his victims said: “David, I want you to know how much damage you have caused, how your sick and twisted behaviour has damaged families like mine. I’m pleased you are now being held accountable for what you did only seven hours after she died.”

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb went on to highlight the victims’ achievements in life, saying one had been a talented skier, others had worked as teachers or in the NHS, and one had worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War One of the prosecutors, Libby Clark said: “Fuller’s actions were depraved, disgusting and dehumanising, on a scale that has never been encountered before in legal history.”

Det Supt Ivan Beasley from Kent Police said of the latest sentencing, “Today’s sentencing will mean little to this abhorrent individual, who throughout our investigation has demonstrated no remorse and only a capacity for self-pity.” As a result of the unmasking of David Fuller, the government announced an independent inquiry into how he went undetected until his capture.

The case of David Fuller one of abhorrent crimes committed against both the living and the dead. His mortuary crimes against the deceased are known to have taken place between 2008 and 2020, however, there remains a glaring hole in his record, with no known offending between 1987 and 2008. Kent Police are now examining the records of missing people, and questions are being asked if he could have killed or abused others.

Written by Nucleus

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