March 2018

Child killer dies

The child killer and paedophile Peter Pickering, dubbed the ‘Beast of Wombwell’, has DIED at the age of 80 – days after he was found guilty of raping another victim.

The notorious killer has been banged up in psychiatric hospitals since 1972 when he admitted abducting, raping then killing Shirley Boldy, 14, in Barnsley.

He snatched the schoolgirl as she made her way home from school and raped and tortured her for seven hours before hacking her to death with a kitchen knife.

When he was arrested he confessed and declared to officers: “My mother is to blame for all this. She has possessed me.”

The killing came just five months after Pickering had been released from jail for violent sexual attacks against two teenage girls.

Pickering, aged 80, died on Saturday night after being taken ill in secure psychiatric accommodation in Berkshire where he was being held.

Pickering called himself a Buddhist and had a tattoo on his right arm reading Fear God and Honour the Queen.

He passed himself off as a theatrical agent, using his “status” to approach schoolgirls and was later diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.

While serving time in Thornford Park, near Newbury, Berks — a unit run by The Priory – Pickering was arrested and questioned last September by police investigating the 1965 murder of Elsie.

The teenager had been walking home from an afternoon at a sailing club with pals but got seperated when she took a different route so she would ruin her new shoes.

As she walked through a railway underpass, she was stabbed five times – her butchered body later discovered by a dad walking with his two children.

West Yorkshire Police have now confirmed it appeared likely Pickering would have been charged over her murder after liasing with the Crown Prosecution Service.

Pickering was this week convicted of raping an 18-year-old girl just weeks before killing Shirley Boldy.

In harrowing evidence, the vicitm, now aged in her 60s, was picked up by the fiend and taken to a secluded spot.

He then cut off her underwear with a knife, handcuffed her, raped her, burned her breasts with cigarettes and told her she was going to be killed.

After she told police what had happened, they discovered a garage in Sheffield Pickering had used for storage containing chilling notes he had written divulging his lurid fantasies.

One of the messages said: “Sex is predominant in my mind, eclipsing all else. Maybe I will be a sex maniac proper. Rape, torture, kill.”

December 2010

Child sex killer Peter Pickering could be set for release

A child sex killer jailed indefinitely for his vile crimes has been secretly moved to a low security hospital ready for his release.

Evil Peter Pickering, 73, could be freed within six months after he was transferred from a top security hospital to a softer unit run by The Priory group.

Pickering, dubbed the Beast of Wombwell, snatched 14-year-old Shirley Ann Boldy on her way home from school in 1972.

He bound, raped and hacked her to death with a kitchen knife in a seven-hour orgy of violence in the South Yorkshire town.

The frenzied attack came just five months after Pickering was released from a nine year jail sentence for sexual assaults on two girls.

Pickering, who had been locked up before for similar attacks, was originally sent to Broadmoor Hospital, Berks, before being moved to Ashworth hospital in Liverpool in 1976. He constantly tried to win his release, only to be blocked by successive Home Secretaries.

A hospital insider said Pickering was moved out last week to Thornford Park in Berkshire, a unit run by the Priory, famous for treating celebs with addictions.

The source said: “You could be talking six months or less before Pickering is walking the streets again. Initially, he will go out under supervision but he will gradually be allowed short trips and then longer trips out alone. It’s terrifying, this man is evil.”

In 1996, then Tory Minister David Mellor expressed outrage when Pickering was moved to a lower security unit. He said: “I spent five and a half years at the Home Office and a good deal of that time I spent making sure Pickering stayed inside.

“I’m appalled anyone should contemplate letting this man out. Of all the hundreds of files on murders I have seen, this one stands out as the worst.”

January 2008

The nightmare just goes on and on

A new book recounting grisly details of a South Yorkshire schoolgirl’s brutal killing 35 years ago has outraged her heartbroken pensioner father. The Star’s assistant news editor Sarah Crabtree spoke to Norman Boldy.

THIS year would have been special for Shirley Ann Boldy.

In April she would have been raising a glass to her 50th birthday, sharing a toast with her dad Norman, her older brother Steven and his wife, and probably with a husband and children of her own.

But Shirley Boldy never got to reach any of life’s adult milestones. Instead her young life was snuffed out 35 years ago, when she was just 14, by South Yorkshire sex fiend Peter Pickering.

Time has not been the great healer it is meant to be for her father Norman, now a widower of 80 whose life has been blighted by the tragedy.

The three-and-a-half decades since his daughter was killed have not helped ease the “hell” he has endured, and the day of her death is still as fresh as if it were yesterday.

Remembering Thursday July 13, 1972, he said: “I came home from work at half past five and the first thing my wife said to me was, ‘Shirley hasn’t come from school yet’.

“My heart sank. I knew there was something wrong.”

Norman, a local government officer, and his wife Edna got back into Norman’s car and drove from their home in Hemingfield Road, Wombwell, to Wombwell High School where Shirley was a pupil. She was due to break up for the long summer holidays the next day.

“Some girls were playing hockey and my wife saw a girl from Shirley’s class,” he said. “She asked her, ‘Have you seen anything of Shirley?’, and the girl said Shirley had not come back to school after lunch.

“We went to the police straight away. It turned out they were waiting for someone to report their daughter missing. They already knew what Peter Pickering had done – they just didn’t have a victim or a body.”

While Norman had been at work, and Edna busy at home, their daughter was being bundled into a van and abducted as she made her way back to school from lunch across the “hilly fields” in Wombwell.

Sex offender Peter Joseph Wilson Pickering, then 34, was well-known to Barnsley police.

He was their prime suspect every time a child was hurt, and had been out of jail only five months following a nine-year sentence for indecently assaulting girl.

The jobless bearded “oddball” had previously served a six-year term for rape, attempted rape and indecent assault.

When he struck again, it was to abduct and rape Shirley before driving her in his mother’s van to an old quarry at Barnburgh Cliffs.

Norman, now of Wood Walk, Wombwell, said: “Some chaps were standing on the top of the cliffs looking down, and they could see into the back of this Mini van.

Apparently they ran down to the basin of the quarry and hammered on the van and tried to smash the windows, but Pickering drove away.

“The men managed to take down the registration number and Pickering was later arrested – but he wouldn’t tell the police what he had done.”

After a 12-hour search by 100 police and tracker dogs Shirley’s body was found in woods, and Pickering confessed to police.

In the terrible weeks and months that followed Norman, Edna and Steven, a Cambridge graduate then aged 22, waited for Pickering to go on trial.

Norman says they were offered no support by the police of the time. Detectives did not share with them any of their knowledge of Pickering’s past or fill them in on the progress of the case. Family liaison officers, bereavement counselling, and victim impact statements were still many years in the future.

Pickering appeared at Sheffield Crown Court in December 1972.

“My son and I went, and we were not shown any friendliness by the police at all,” Norman said. “We were just told that things might be said in court that would be terrible to hear, and we were not to say anything or shout out or cause any disturbance.

“In the end Pickering pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility so there was no trial.

“We got up and walked out of court, and that was it. Nobody from the police or any of the authorities ever contacted us again.”

Norman says the years since have been a “never-ending nightmare”.

“For my wife and me life was hell. When the whole thing happened my wife wouldn’t have the television on, she wouldn’t have newspapers or listen to the radio. She put the shutters down.

“I shut down myself – I couldn’t talk to anybody. Even Edna and I didn’t discuss it.

“The years ground on and always I was wondering where Pickering was. He had been sent to Broadmoor for an indefinite period, but we didn’t know if had been allowed out and I couldn’t find out.

“He knew where we lived but we didn’t know where he was. For all we knew he could have been walking past our house, and the police wouldn’t tell us anything.”

Edna died aged 75 on Christmas Day 2001, having never got over her daughter’s death. She was buried in the same plot as her daughter and, Norman says, it is fortunate she did not live to see the newly-published Foul Deeds book containing details of Shirley’s killing.

“I have spent years trying to forget,” said Norman. “Then suddenly this book appeared, just in time for the anniversary of my wife’s death, full of all the gory details. As for the photograph in the book, of my wife and Shirley’s grave, I suppose they thought it added something extra to the macabre story.

“No-one can possibly imagine the pain, grief and hell I have gone through.“

After 35 years of solitary grief, Norman has at last found help through the Sheffield branch of support group SAMM – Support After Murder and Manslaughter.

“I went to my first meeting in November and my second in December, and I felt I could talk to someone at last,” he said. “I found other people who were in the same predicament. It would have been wonderful if my wife could have found help like it too, or if something like it had existed for us in 1972, but obviously it didn’t.”

Like Shirley, Pickering will also mark a milestone birthday in 2008 – he will be 70.

The 1980s saw repeated public calls for him never to be freed, although in 1989 six psychiatrists decided he was sane enough to be moved from a top-security hospital – a recommendation which caused outrage.

When it was suggested in 2001 that Pickering might one day be freed completely, 10,000 people signed a petition demanding he remain locked up for life.