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Child killer dubbed 'Beast of Wombwell' died from natural causes

Inquest into the death of Peter Pickering was held in Reading today (Monday)

John Herring

John Herring


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Inquest rules natural causes for death of child killer

CHILD killer Peter Pickering died of natural causes, an inquest has ruled.

Peter Pickering, 80, dubbed the ‘Beast of Wombwell’ for stabbing and strangling 14 year-old Shirley Boldy in 1972, died at Thornford Park Hospital in Crookham, in March – just days after he was convicted of raping another girl.

At the inquest, held at Reading Town Hall today, Berkshire coroner Peter Bedford said: "While there's an understandable level of scrutiny when someone in state detention dies, my experience with Thornford Park is that it tends to be populated by older patients who tend to pass away through natural causes."

Mr Bedford noted Pickering's age and that he had a history of medical problems, including a fairly recent significant heart attack.

The post mortem showed a large aneurysm which resulted from a large retroperitoneal haemorrhage.

The cause of death was listed as abdominal aortic aneurysm, a bulge or swelling in the the main blood vessel that runs from the heart down through the chest and stomach, which Pickering had not been diagnosed with. 

Having heard reports from the police, hospital authorities, and the evidence presented to him, Mr Bedford ruled that the cause of death was natural. 

Police reports said that there was nothing suspicious about the death. 

Pickering was arrested in West Berkshire in 2016 on suspicion of murdering another schoolgirl, Elsie Frost, in 1965. 

He was convicted in March of the rape and false imprisonment of another woman in South Yorkshire in 1972.

The inquest heard that Pickering had been "understandably anxious" about the court case but no concerns were raised about his health.

Joshua Muga, the nurse in charge of the shift at Thornford Park on the day of Pickering's death, said he had known Pickering well during his two years working at the Crookham-based hospital.

He said staff had increased his observations and support while the trial was running.  

Mr Muga said that at 9pm on March 24 Pickering had asked to see a doctor, complaining about pain in his back, stomach and legs.

Pickering was given paracetamol for the pain but insisted that he wanted to see a doctor, and the inquest heard that Dr Amit Chatterjee had advised taking a urine sample.

But when Mr Muga returned to Pickering's room he found the convicted killer lying on the floor up against the wall.

The inquest heard that Pickering was moaning and pointing to his back, and tried to remove an oxygen mask that had been placed on him.

Ambulance crews began cpr when Pickering went into cardiac arrest, but after no response following five rounds he was declared dead at 12.52am on Sunday, March 25. 

Pickering's family had been notified of the inquest but opted not to attend. 

Mr Bedford said that deaths of people in state detention usually require a jury inquest, except when it was suspected that the deceased had died from natural causes.

Pickering had been detained at Thornford Park, the psychiatric hospital which houses low-to-medium risk patients, since 2014.

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