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Croydon Advertiser 14 September 1979

Man Shot Homosexual Because He Feared A Beating

A practising homosexual with sado-masochistic preferences was killed in his flat by two shots from the double-barrelled shotgun which he owned, claimed Mr Michael Combe, prosecuting, at the Old Bailey on Monday.

Peter Vernon Wells was killed on February 7 by a man who had been staying with him at his home in Glossop road, South Croydon, said Mr Combe.

William George, Burton Henderson [sic], 26, unemployed, of no fixed address, pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Wells. His plea of guilty to manslaughter was not accepted by the court.

Mr Combe said Mr Wells, who indulged in sadism and masochism, kept a double-barrelled shotgun at his flat.

It was with this gun that Henderson shot him as he returned home one night after work.


Mr Combe said the prosecution suggested Henderson was also a homosexual although he had been married. At the time he was separated from his wife, but went back to her on the night of the killing.

“Certainly he had homosexual inclinations, and some considerable time before February 7 had been subjected to a beating by the dead man,” said Mr Combe.

Henderson was arrested at an address at the Waldrons, Croydon.

In a statement to police, Henderson said he had been staying at Wells’ flat since February 2. On February 7, he stayed in, watching TV and also answered phone calls for Wells, who was at work.

He said he had also twice spoken to Wells on the phone.

Henderson was alleged to have told police: “The first call was friendly, but in the second, Wells changed completely. He was hostile and claimed ‘I was just using him.’ He told me: ‘When I get back tonight you will pay’.”

Mr Combe said Henderson told police how he loaded the shotgun and waited for Wells in the back room of the flat with the lights off.

Det Supt Thelma Wagstaff, said in evidence Henderson told her he had shot Wells because he feared Wells would beat him on his return from work.

Asked about a “punishment book” found in the flat, Det-supt Wagstaff said it was Wells’ own record of him beating, and being beaten by, other people. It covered 18 months and the beatings occurred frequently.


She said in the bathroom of the flat, police found a whipping frame and a large number of whips.

Wells had been jailed two-and-a-half hears[sic] for buggery in September 1974, she said.

Det-supt Wagstaff said Henderson maintained he did not have a homosexual relationship with Wells, but inquiries suggested that he was a compulsive homosexual and had had affairs with a number of men.

Henderson told the jury on Tuesday that he took hold of Wells’ shotgun so that he could frighten him.

“All I intended was to frighten him, and I don’t know why I loaded it. I didn’t intend to use it. I took the gun down out of reflex and loaded it,” he said.

He said that he was provoked by Wells.

“I said to Peter, ‘Let me go, let me get out.’ But he was not prepared to let me go.

“I didn’t make it plain the gun was loaded. I was not levelling it at him. I was holding the gun downwards. I raised it when he lunged towards me. I didn’t want to fire it but I did fire it. I don’t remember the second shot.”

On Wednesday Henderson was found not guilty by the jury of murdering Wells but guilty of manslaughter because of diminished responsibility. He was jailed for seven years.

Mr Justice Griffiths told Henderson: “This was a very grave crime. The jury in my judgment quite rightly rejected the defence of provocation. I think you deliberately waited there and killed the man as he came in.

“I think this is a very bad case of manslaughter.”

croydon advertiser 14 sept 1979

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