An 80-year-old rapist and child killer, known as “the Beast of Wombwell”, was the chief suspect in a schoolgirl’s 1965 murder, police have announced after his death.
Peter Pickering died on Saturday evening “after being taken ill in secure psychiatric accommodation”, police said, five days after he was convicted last week of the rape and false imprisonment of a woman in 1972.
Announcing his death, West Yorkshire Police confirmed Pickering was arrested and interviewed over the past two years for the murder of 14-year-old Elsie Frost.
She was found stabbed to death on the banks of the River Calder in Wakefield in 1965.
Elsie was attacked from behind and stabbed in the back and head as she walked through a railway tunnel just off a canal towpath.
A major inquiry was launched after her body was found at the bottom of a flight of steps by a dog walker.
In 2015, police launched a fresh appeal to find her killer.
In the wake of the appeal Elsie’s brother, Colin Frost, spoke out about her family’s pain, saying that their parents, Edith and Arthur, had died “with a huge amount of guilt”.
Police said on Sunday they “strongly suspected” Pickering killed her and were expecting him to be charged “in due course”.
His most recent conviction over the 1972 attack was the result of police’s investigation into Elsie Frost’s death, they added.
Detective Superintendent Nick Wallen, from West Yorkshire Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said: “We can now formally confirm that Peter Pickering was the man we arrested and interviewed over the last two years as part of the renewed investigation into the murder of 14-year-old schoolgirl Elsie Frost in Wakefield in 1965.
“We strongly suspected that Peter Pickering was responsible for her murder. We had been liaising with the Crown Prosecution Service and it was our expectation that Pickering would be charged in due course.
“His unexpected death clearly means that will no longer happen.
“We have informed all those involved in the case of this development and we will be liaising with the West Yorkshire Coroner as to what proceedings are now necessary in relation to Elsie Frost’s death.”
Pickering’s death is not being treated as suspicious.
He had been detained under a hospital order since 1972, when he was found guilty of killing Shirley Boldy, 14, in Wombwell, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire.
He was convicted of her manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.
On Tuesday, a jury took two hours to convict Pickering of the rape and false imprisonment of an 18-year-old woman in 1972, just weeks before Shirley Boldy’s death.
A woman, who is now in her sixties, told the jury how she was picked up by the defendant who took her to a secluded spot and cut off her underwear with a knife, handcuffed her, raped her, burned her breasts with cigarettes and told her she was going to be killed.
She told the jury: “I remain of the fervent belief that whether he has a mental illness or not the man is a monster and wherever he is now that’s the right place for him to be.”