Petty grudges settled by torture spree then murder: Suzanne Capper's short life ended in horror at the hands of 'friends' who lived an equally bleak existence

Jonathan Foster,David Connett
Saturday 18 December 1993 00:02 GMT

THEY were petty grudges, the troubles over the Arab, the lice and the duffle coat. But they cost Suzanne Capper her life, a pathetic life which, in only 16 years, had amounted to a rootless, loveless existence on Manchester's east side.

She was captured by two vengeful, damaged women who beat her and shaved her head. They locked her in a cupboard. They bound her to a bed, gagged her, tortured her, left her to lie amid her excrement until logic demanded she could no longer be held in the squalid little house.

Suzanne was loaded into a car boot on 14 December last year, driven to scrubland on the outskirts of Stockport and doused with petrol. Her killers last saw her within a sheath of flame, but she did not die as they intended, quickly and anonymously. She survived for four days, long enough to tell police who she was and who had done these things to her.

As Suzanne Capper slipped into a coma, the police arrived at 97 Langworthy Road, Moston. They found five of the six people convicted yesterday. Outside in the wheelie-bin was Suzanne's hair. Indoors, on a shelf near the Christmas tree, were the pliers used to pull two of her teeth.

On 18 December, Suzanne died from 'multi-organ failure' caused by burns to 80 per cent of her body.

Suzanne, who had lived with her stepfather half a mile from Langworthy Road, had started to drift around Moston when she became friendly with Clifford Pook, the brother of Jean Powell, 26, who was estranged from Glyn, 28 (they divorced while on remand).

Jean Powell and her three children lived at No 97; McNeilly, 24, a neighbour who had virtually become resident there, was sleeping with Anthony Dudson, then 16. Jeffrey Leigh, 26, a former prison inmate, was a frequent visitor, often to get amphetamines. The group, the best Suzanne could do for friends, were big drug users.

In late November, Suzanne and Jean Powell met Mohammed Yussif, a friend of a friend, in Sale. Jean Powell was encouraged to have sex with the self-styled 'sheikh'; she refused, and later told police she gave Suzanne 'a good hiding for trying to make me go with an Arab'. Mr Yussif denied this.

McNeilly and Dudson were angry because they had become infected by pubic lice, which they concluded had been caught from Suzanne, who regularly slept in a bed they used at No 97. One of the first punishments they were to administer was to make Suzanne shave her pubic hair. McNeilly also thought Suzanne had stolen a pink duffle coat worth pounds 50.

McNeilly and Powell found Suzanne at her stepfather's home on 7 December. They managed to lure her to Langworthy Road, telling her that a lad she fancied was there. He was not.

Suzanne was beaten, stripped and hit with a 3ft wooden fork. Her hair was hacked off and her head shaved. Locked overnight in a cupboard, she was moved to No 91, McNeilly's former house, where she was tied to a bed base with cord, rope, electric flex, belts and a chain.

She spent a further six days and nights in captivity, her back blistering, socks stuffed in her mouth to prevent her from crying out.

David Hill, who lived alone at No 91, heard a female voice crying for help. He refused, as he was too scared. Taken by Leigh in to the room where Suzanne was held, he saw her tied to the bed. 'She had no hair and did not say anything.' They bathed her in undiluted disinfectant, scrubbing her so vigorously with a yard brush the marks were visible days later.

Forensic experts told the jury Suzanne had suffered a deep burn between the eyes, probably caused by a cigarette. Two front teeth had been 'struck and extracted' shortly before death. The teeth were pulled to make identification of Suzanne difficult; the decision had already been taken to kill her.

Suzanne was driven to Werneth Low, 13 miles from Langworthy Road, in the boot of a stolen car driven by Glyn Powell, accompanied by his wife, Dudson and McNeilly. She was pushed by Glyn Powell and Dudson through brambles and down a steep slope. McNeilly carried a cannister of petrol, and doused her with it as she lay on the grass.

One of the three set her on fire. On the drive back to Moston, they sang 'Burn, baby, burn'.

The six sentenced

Jean Powell, 26, Glyn Powell, 29, and Bernadette McNeilly, 24, were jailed for life for murder. Each received concurrent 20-year terms for conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm, as did Glyn Powell for false imprisonment.

Anthony Dudson, 17, also found guilty of murder, was ordered to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure. He received concurrent 15-year terms for conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm and false imprisonment.

Jeffrey Leigh, 27, was jailed for 12 years for false imprisonment. Clifford Pook, 18, was sentenced to 15 years' detention for conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm and seven years, concurrent, for false imprisonment.

(Photographs omitted)

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