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Gay News issue 177, 18 – 31 October 1979

Wells Jury Hears Of Secret Sex Punishment Book

CROYDON: The secret sex life of Peter Wells, the man who was tasking the UK Government to the European courts for infringement of his human rights, was revealed during the Old Bailey trial of his killer.

Mr Wells (31) died at his Croydon flat in February after William Henderson (26) emptied two barrels of a shotgun into his chest at close range.

At the Old Bailey Mr Henderson was acquitted of murder but convicted of manslaughter because of diminished responsibility. He was sentenced to seven years.

The court was told that Mr Henderson, a married man living apart from his wife, had met Mr Wells at Kings Cross and stayed with him from February 2 until the night of the killing, February 7.

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


Det Supt Thelma Wagstaff said the flat contained a whipping frame and a large number of whips. Mr Wells had kept a “punishment book” covering frequent beatings over a period of 18 months. It was Mr Wells’s own record of beatings given and received.

She told the jury that Mr Henderson maintained he did not have a homosexual relationship with Mr Wells, but inquiries suggested he was a “compulsive homosexual” and had had affairs with a number of men.

Mr Henderson, who had returned to his wife on the night of the killing, told police that he had stayed in on the night of the shooting, watching television and answering the phone for Mr Wells, who was at work.

Two of the phone calls were from Mr Wells, he told police. “The first call was friendly, but in the second, Wells had changed completely.

“He was hostile and complained I was just using him. He told me: ‘When I get back tonight, you will pay’.”


Mr Henderson told the jury that he took Mr Wells’s shotgun to frighten him on his return.

“All I intended was to frighten him and I don’t know why I loaded it.” He said he was provoked by Mr Wells.

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

“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.”

The prosecution alleged that Mr Henderson had become terrified of Mr Wells, whose moods changed rapidly from kindness to violence. After he had been beaten up, Mr Henderson was said to have been “seething with revenge”.

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


“I take into account that you have been found to be suffering from diminished responsibility, but it doesn’t mean that your responsibility was extinguished.”

Mr Wells, a member of Croydon CHE and of the Liberal Party, was taking action independently against the Government. He was a wealthy man who could finance the private case out of his own pocket.

He had served a two-and-a-half-year sentence for buggery imposed in 1974. His case alleged that the laws on male homosexuality in England and Wales infringed his human rights of privacy and freedom of expression.
'Wells Jury Hears Of Secret Sex Punishment Book',Gay News 177, 18-31 October 1979

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