Serial arsonist 'Bruce Lee' loses appeal over 1970s fatal fire spree in Hull

'Bruce Lee' was born Peter Dinsdale, but has since changed his name again to Peter Tredget

A serial arsonist who carried out a string of fatal fires in Hull in the 1970s has failed in a bid to clear his name.

Peter Tredget, who was born Peter Dinsdale and later became best known by his adopted name 'Bruce Lee', originally admitted responsibility for blazes in a number of properties between 1973 and 1979.

He pleaded guilty to 11 counts of arson and 26 counts of manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility.

Tredget has been detained in a secure mental hospital since 1981.

But his lawyers argued that his "psychological vulnerability" at the time of his 1980 confessions meant they had no "credence".

The Court of Appeal was asked to review 10 of the arson convictions and 15 of the manslaughter counts following a referral from the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

In a ruling today judges quashed two arson convictions and three of manslaughter, but concluded that his remaining convictions were "safe" and ruled they should not be overturned.

Tredget initially admitted a fire at Wensley Lodge in 1977 Credit: PA

Who is Peter Tredget – aka 'Bruce Lee' – and what were his crimes?

Born 'Peter Dinsdale' in Manchester, Peter Tredget was brought up in children's homes and later changed his name to Bruce Lee.

On 4 December 1979, a fire broke out at the front of a house on Selby Street, Hull.

Inside were Edith Hastie and her sons Thomas and Charles, both 15, Paul, 12, and Peter, eight.

Charles rescued his mother by pushing her out of an upstairs window. But he died along with Paul and Peter. Thomas survived.

Lee was one of many teenagers who volunteered to be questioned about the fire.

Six months later, he confessed to pouring paraffin through the letterbox and setting it alight, but said he hadn't meant to kill the occupants.

Then, during further questioning – and to the surprise of police – he went on to confess to starting nine more fatal fires in Hull over the previous seven years, which killed 26 people including a six-month-old, a young mother and her three small sons and 11 elderly men in a residential home.

Lee claimed that most of the fires were started at random because he loved fire.

On 20 January 1981, Lee pleaded not guilty at Leeds Crown Court to 26 counts of murder, but guilty to 26 counts of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and to 11 counts of arson.

He was initially taken to Park Lane Special Hospital in Liverpool and was later transferred to Rampton Secure Hospital.

In 2021, lawyers acting for Lee – by then known as Peter Tredget – argued that due to his physical disabilities he could not have committed the crimes and falsely confessed.

Tredget, who has denied responsibility for all the fires for the last 35 years, was previously assessed as "semi-paralysed down the right side", with a "withered" arm and a limp, the court was told.

His barrister, Tim Barnes QC, told a Court of Appeal hearing in October: "The degree of physical dexterity required to access some of these properties, carrying a container of paraffin and setting the fires in the way the prosecution allege, would have been extremely difficult if not impossible for someone with such physical disabilities."

At the hearing on Tuesday Lord Justice Fulford, sitting with Mr Justice Hilliard and Lord Hughes, said Tredget's appeals had been allowed in relation to fires at Gorthorpe in June 1976 and 4 Belgrave Terrace in April 1977.

But the appeal on the other counts were rejected.

Speaking after the judgement, Tredget's solicitors Cartwright King said: "Having worked so hard over the last 12 years to secure justice for Mr Tredget, following what we genuinely believe to be a serious miscarriage of justice, we are naturally disappointed with the outcome of the hearing in the Court of Appeal.

"We are studying the court’s judgment with care and will consider whether there are any further avenues we might wish to pursue with Mr Tredget."