Women are not safe. It doesn’t matter how many times you say it, the message still doesn’t get through.
Lately women are being told that their fear of men is largely in their minds, that their experience of male violence doesn’t count for anything, as if the very threat they face from cradle to grave is not real, as if there is no reason to clutch keys between their fingers as they walk home at night.
Today marked the first day of a court case at Maidstone Crown Court. I started my career in journalism as a court reporter, and yet this has to be the most shocking case I have ever heard. Sixty-seven-year-old David Fuller has been charged with the murder of two young women back in 1987. In Tunbridge Wells — the town where I live — these are known as the bedsit murders and they have gone unsolved, until now.
Three decades ago, two women were savagely beaten and murdered, today we found out the killer also had sex with their dead bodies.
Wendy Knell, 25, was found dead in her flat, and five months later, the body of Caroline Pierce, 20, was found dumped in Romney Marsh. Two young women’s lives savagely taken.
But the full story is far worse even than this.
Police arrested Fuller in December 2020. He had been working as an electrician at our local hospital in Pembury. He was arrested thanks to a DNA match that linked him to the case, but police could not possibly be prepared for what they found on the hard drive of his computer. Fuller had been having penetrative sex with female bodies in the hospital morgue where he worked for years. Worse still, he had captured himself committing these heinous crimes.
I have known about this case for a few weeks now because my friend’s relative was one of those who was abused in the morgue, but it is only today that the reporting restrictions have been lifted and it has been made public.
“I just wish I’d never known,” my friend told me, quite understandably.
The decision to tell the families — thought possibly to be in their hundreds and identified by the sickening films Fuller created — was made by a panel. The chief executive of the hospital has written to these families assuring them of transparency in his investigations into how this happened and has assured them that better security measures have been made at the hospital’s morgue. My friend doesn’t blame the hospital, despite the fact that this man got away with violating the bodies that were in their care for at least 10 years.
To make things worse for the families of the girls, Fuller denies murder and admits only manslaughter with diminished responsibility. Though he admits necrophilia.
What struck me when I heard about this, apart from the utter devastation of my friend, was the fact that women cannot even rest in peace. They are not safe from men like Fuller even in death. And yet, every day our fears and concerns and life experience is ignored, minimalised and shouted over.
Men kill women and yet, even then, they are not finished with our bodies. Something is so wrong with society, and nobody in power is doing a thing about it.
The case continues.