Handyman jailed for life over massacre loses Parole bidDecember 21, 2023
Handyman jailed for life over rape and murder of elderly couple, their son and daughter-in-law at 1986 Fordingbridge ‘mansion massacre’ loses Parole Board bid to be freed from jail – as victim’s daughter tells of her relief
A woman whose parents and grandparents were murdered in a massacre at a country house dinner party in the 1980s has spoken of her relief that one of the killers has lost a Parole Board bid to be freed from jail.
George Stephenson was jailed for life in October 1987 aged 36 after being convicted alongside two others of murdering four people, raping a woman and robbery a year earlier in what became known as the Fordingbridge massacre.
The judge recommended a minimum term of 25 years but his tariff was later raised by the then home secretary to 35 years.
According to media reports of the case, Winchester Crown Court heard how handyman Stephenson killed husband and wife Joseph and Hilda Cleaver, their son Tom and family nurse Margaret Murphy at Burgate House in Hampshire.
He and accomplices, brothers John and George Daly, had went to the wealthy New Forest estate where he used to work to steal shotguns.
George Stephenson was jailed for life in October 1987 aged 36 after being convicted alongside two others of murdering four people
Stephenson killed retired publisher Joseph Cleaver and his wife Hilda (pictured together), both 82, and their son Tom, 47, and his wife Wendy, 46
The horrific murder at Burgate House, a secluded mansion in Fordingbridge, Hants, on the edge of the New Forest, took place on the evening of September 1, 1986
John Daly was also convicted of murdering Tom Cleaver’s 46-year-old wife Wendy, the court reports said.
READ MORE: Sacked handyman who was jailed for life after murdering elderly couple, their son and daughter-in-law at dinner party in 1986 ‘mansion massacre’ applies for parole after 33 years behind bars
In a statement on Thursday, Melissa Cleaver said: ‘We cannot express how relieved we are to learn that George Stephenson’s bid for parole has been refused.
‘My mother endured a sadistic, brutal gang rape and indescribable torture before finally being strangled to death.
‘My father, grandparents and Maggie were bound, gagged, doused in petrol and set alight, still alive and conscious.
‘They lived for several minutes.
‘My father, his charred flesh peeling from his body, had dragged himself into an adjacent bathroom in a vain attempt to escape.
‘Our beautiful dog was clubbed with a pickaxe so violently that she had to be put down.’
The Parole Board confirmed it has rejected a bid for killer George Stephenson to be freed from jail.
In a summary of its decision, published on Thursday, the body said: ‘After considering the circumstances of his offending, the progress made while in custody and the evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was not satisfied that release at this point would be safe for the protection of the public.
‘Nor did the panel recommend to the Secretary of State that Mr Stephenson should be transferred to an open prison.
‘He will be eligible for another parole review in due course.’
Sentencing Stephenson, the judge reportedly told him the murders were of ‘indescribable brutality, you showed no mercy and deserve none’
Sentencing Stephenson, the judge reportedly told him the murders were of ‘indescribable brutality, you showed no mercy and deserve none’.
By the time of the killings, he already had a string of convictions for violence, drugs, deception, burglaries and motoring offences after spending the previous 20 years committing around 70 crimes.
Now 71, Stephenson first became eligible for parole in 2021 and a hearing took place the following year.
Earlier this year, the Parole Board rejected a request for the rest of the proceedings to be heard in public.
Ms Cleaver previously called for Stephenson to be denied freedom, telling the Daily Mirror he should die in jail.
Describing him as ringleader in one of the most heinous crimes in history’ and branding him a ‘psychopath’, Ms Cleaver said in her statement that Stephenson ‘smirked remorselessly in the dock and his time in prison won’t have resulted in a changed man’.
‘If he is ever released we feel it inevitable that something or someone will eventually trigger the violence we’ve seen him capable of,’ she added.
Stephenson will be eligible to apply for parole again in another two years’ time, prompting Ms Cleaver to call for a ‘shake-up’ of the criminal justice system.
Offenders are ‘given greater consideration than victims’, she said, adding: ‘It shouldn’t be necessary for victims to keep re-visiting the horror of an offender’s crime by repeatedly arguing against parole.
‘Society as a whole should feel secure in the knowledge that, once convicted, they will never be released. That is the only way to guarantee that monsters like Stephenson never have the opportunity to hurt anyone else.’
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