Firebug Kills 26


On December 4, 1979 a fire ripped through the Hastie family’s house on Selby Street in Hull, England. The fire spread with the speed that can only come from an arson, and killed 3 of the Hastie children. Fire investigators found paraffin and matches outside the residence.

Hull City Police Detectives, under the supervision of legendary Detective Superintendent Rod Sagar, immediately opened a homicide investigation. They searched for evidence and created a temporary headquarters to interview everyone in the area. One of the cooperative interviewees was Bruce Peter Lee. Lee was a troubled youth by from a broken home. He had issues with several members of the Hastie family, who also lived on the margins of criminality. When he was interviewed, he surprisingly confessed with very little prodding.

Lee admitted that he had issues with the Hastie family and that is why he started the fire. He said he didn’t intend on killing anyone. He then said the other fatal fires that he started were not intended to kill anyone either, and those fires were started at random. He just liked fire, stating, “I like fires, fire is my master. I’m devoted to fire and despise people.” The police had no idea what he was talking about. Most of the 9 other fatal fires that he confessed to were not identified at arson. Detectives were suspicious of his baseless confession. They took Lee to the scene of all the fires and sure enough, Lee knew specifics of each fire including the point of origin and the initial spread. They even went as far as to take Lee to a fire that was known to be started by another perp. He immediately denied starting that fire. Detectives were sure that they had their firebug. In all, they believed Lee had killed 26 people.

On January 20, 1981 Lee plead guilty to 26 counts of manslaughter. Lee was placed into a criminal mental health facility where he remains to this day.

Christopher Flanagan


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