‘He should die in prison’: Daughter of Fordingbridge murder victims speaks out

IN September 1986, Fordingbridge – and indeed the UK – were left shocked and horrified after the merciless killing of a family in the town.

George Stephenson, who had been sacked from his job as a handyman at Burgate House three weeks earlier, returned to the house for revenge.

Five people were murdered at Burgate House on September 1 in an incident labelled the Fordingbridge massacre.

Joseph and Hilda Cleaver, both 82, their son Thomas, 47, his wife Wendy, 46, and live-in nurse Margaret Murphy, 70, were all killed.

Stephenson, along with John Daly, were later found guilty of the murders and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Daly’s brother, George, was cleared of murder but sentenced to 22 years for rape, robbery and manslaughter.

Stephenson was jailed for life, with a minimum sentence of 25 years, in 1987. In 2001, then-Home Secretary Jack Straw increased his sentence to 35 years.

Now, the case is back in the headlines as a parole board is considering a bid for release by Stephenson – now 72.

George Stephenson was jailed for life in 1987

George Stephenson was jailed for life in 1987

But in her first ever interview, Melissa Cleaver, whose parents and grandparents were among Stephenson’s victims, said he should die behind bars.

“He should die in prison,” Melissa, now 55, told The Mirror. “He took my family’s lives in the most brutal way. His rights ended at that moment. He destroyed our family.

“I find it impossible to understand how somebody who has committed the crimes he was convicted of – and clearly masterminded – can ever have the chance to be free.

“It’s grossly unfair and unjust. The law has to be changed. Everything is stacked in favour of the prisoner, not the victims’ family.

“We should have a stronger voice in this. In 1987 he couldn’t get a full life tariff. Now that’s changed, but unfortunately it cannot be applied retrospectively.”

Wendy and Tom Cleaver with Jason and Melissa

Wendy and Tom Cleaver with Jason and Melissa

Melissa, who spent the night before the massacre at Burgate but had left for Surrey, is now married and lives near London.

She told The Mirror she now wears a diamond in a necklace that was worn by her beloved granny and mum, in a brooch and a ring.

Stephenson, and wife Nona, had both been employed by the Cleavers – and Melissa said his bid for parole had brought horrific memories back.

“I didn’t have counselling 37 years ago, people just didn’t,” she said. “I put my feelings and emotions in a box, not to be opened. But I’m being forced to relive the trauma because of the parole hearing.

“I really struggled earlier this year. I couldn’t leave the house for two weeks.”

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