George Stephenson & John Daly
with George Daly

Mass Muder - George Stephenson
Kill Total5
Kill PlaceFordingbridge, Hampshire
Kill Date1 September 1986
M.O.Burned to death - Strangulation
VictimJoseph Cleaver - 82
Hilda Cleaver - 82
Thomas Cleaver - 47
Wendy Cleaver - 46
Margaret Murphy 70
CourtWinchester Crown Court
JudgeMr Justice Hobhouse
ProsceutionDavid Elfer
Case No:
George Stephenson had spent many years in jail for various crimes, including theft and burglary, violence and drugs, on one occasion he was sentenced for beating on a policeman after resisting arrest. He met Fiona in the autumn of 1985, it was a whirlwind romance, within 2-weeks the couple  were married.

July 1986, Life at Burgate House in Fordingbridge had become difficult for Joseph Cleaver, he needed extra help around the house, he had already hired a housekeeper and a gardener, and they had the assistance of a live-in nurse, but they needed a handyman and a cook. Joseph placed an ad in the local paper for the live-in position. George and Fiona Stephenson were appointed, living in a small cottage on the grounds of the 7-acre estate.

August 1986, Only weeks after starting their new jobs, Stephenson's wife left him, after he repeatedly beat her, the family, and in particular Joseph, did not approve of this behaviour, and they sacked him for the beating and for his repeated drunkenness.

Meanwhile Stephenson, and some friends, had planned to rob a wages office in Nuneaton, he knew the Cleaver's had guns and ammunition, and after being sacked decided he would steal the guns.

1st September 1986, Stephenson knew the family routine very well, he also knew that they would leave a front door key in the porch so as not to be disturbed at dinner time. Dinner was at 8pm sharp every evening.
The gang entered the house just after 8pm, went to the dinning room where the family were eating, they threatened them with a gun and a pickaxe, demanding that the ladies take off their jewelry, and forcing the two men to hand over their wallets,they then marched the family, Joseph and Hilda Cleaver, both aged 82, their son Thomas aged 47, his wife Wendy aged-46, and the aging family nurse, 70-year-old Margaret Murphy, who had worked for the family for over 50-years, upstairs, where they tied them all up and gagged them.
They then searched the house, they stole a TV & a video recorder and other small valuables, several guns and ammunition as well as a lot of alcohol from the cocktail cabinet.
During the robbery the gang ransacked the house looking for things to steal. They were obviously looking for a safe as all the pictures bar one were now at an angle, and had obviously been moved. There was in fact a safe in the room they set fire to, but they never found it. When the post-mortem of Joseph Cleaver was being carried out, they found £700 cash stashed away in his false leg, he allegedly kept it there in case of robbery.

After this they returned upstairs, taking Wendy to another room, they then took it in turns to rape Wendy Cleaver while the others watched. At the instruction of Stephenson, one of his accomplices, John Daly, then strangled her with a pair of tights.
The gang then returned to the room where the others were and doused the family in petrol, threw in a lit firelighter and left, leaving the family to burn to death.

2nd September 1986, at 10:30am, The gardener and housekeeper arrived for work the following morning to find smoke coming out of the bedroom window,they entered to find the dinning room still with unfinished food, the house a complete mess, and the family dog, a poodle whimpering and injured, having been hurt during the ruckas, unfortunately the dog was so badly injured it later had to be put down. The gardener, Edgar Stubbings, realised something was wrong and went for the telephone to call the police, but the line had been cut. They went upstairs where they could hear the families other dogs scratching at a door, they opennd the door and saw Wendy Cleaver, naked and dead, they looked to the master bedroom, smoke was coming from under the door, and there was a glow, the fire was still burning, after finding it too hot to enter, the couple ran from the house, they drove to the local police station to report the crime.

After the fire-brigade had calmed the flames, police started a search of the house. They found letters in the house from the Stephenson's applying for jobs at the house, they went to the property in Bournemouth where Stephenson had been staying and found the Cleavers TV and other items, but the Stephenson's themselves were no where to be found.
A huge national TV and press story followed with a national manhunt. Fiona called into the police once she saw it on TV explaining that she was in hiding from her husband, and that she believed he was responsible. 

2-days later Stephenson handed himself in, saying he had been in Coventry. Police checked records and found that the payment for a hire car had been paid by known criminal George Daly, George and his brother John were later arrested at their Coventry home.

6th October 1987, The three accused, George Francis Stephenson, George Daly and brother John Daly all denied murder at Winchester Crown Court. Stephenson and George Daly also denied rape and robbery, but John Daly admitted both.

28th October 1987, the jury deliberated for just three and a half hours 36-year-old George Stephenson was found guilty of murdering Mr and Mrs Cleaver, their son, Thomas, and Mrs Murphy. He was cleared of murdering Wendy Cleaver but, co-defendant, John Daly was convicted of the killing.

The judge, Mr Justice Hobhouse, ruled that Stephenson should serve 6 life sentences, with a recommendation he serve a minimum 25-years before being considered for parole.

21-year-old John Daly was given 7 life sentences after being convicted of the same offences. 
George Daly, aged-25, was cleared of murder but sentenced to 22 years for rape, robbery and manslaughter. 
During the trial, it was revealed that Stephenson had told George Daly the victims were already dead before they were lit on fire; because of this George Daly was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder. He served 22-years in prison before his release in 2010.

May 2001, Stephenson's sentence was increased to 35 years by then Home Secretary Jack Straw.

16th May 2008,  Stephenson appealed to have his sentence reduced by 10 years.
The high court denied Stephenson the right to appeal his sentence, and upheld the 2001 sentence. The ruling means that Stephenson can ask the Parole Board to free him in 2021.

Burgate House was put up for sale some time after the murders, but with no one wanting to buy it, it was eventually demolished.

16th March 2021, A parole review for George Francis Stephenson has been referred to the Parole Board.

March 2023, An application by the victims families to have the parole hearing as a public hearing has been declined. Read the full parole board report here >>.

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