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Burned Alive: The Harrowing Murder Of Suzanne Capper

Before sunrise on December 14, 1996, Suzanne Capper was forced into the trunk of a stolen Fiat Panda car. She was driven to a remote woodland area near Stockport, England, where she was yanked out of the car and then shoved down an embankment. After rolling through dank leaves and brambles, the naked and terrified teen was doused in gasoline and set on fire.

Suzanne Capper was left for dead by her sadist attackers who laughed and chanted, "Burn, baby, burn!"

A 16-year-old girl from Greater Manchester, England, Suzanne Capper was abandoned by her mother and never knew her real father. She and her sister, Michelle, lived with their stepfather, John, after he and their mother, Elizabeth, split up. Known as a "high-spirited" and "well-mannered" girl, she helped her stepfather out around the house and was considered gentle and polite, yet easily influenced. 

A High-Spirited, Well-Mannered Girl

 Those who knew Suzanne said that all she wanted in life was to be loved. After her mother left, she began being truant from school and then started drifting from house to house, looking for affection from anyone who would offer it.

Suzanne ultimately met and started hanging out at the home of Jean Powell, a 26-year-old single woman whom she had babysat for when she was 10-years-old. Powell's dilapidated house at 97 Langworthy Road was a hotspot for parties, drug dealing, and sex. She was involved in a stolen motor vehicle operation out of the small Victorian terraced house where she used kitchen scales to weigh out amphetamines for customers.

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New Friends

In this ramshackle house, Suzanne fell in with the wrong crowd. 29-year-old Glyn Powell was Jean's ex-husband. He had convictions for theft, burglary, and public drunkenness, but he and Jean remained friendly, and he visited frequently.

Bernadette McNeilly was a 24-year-old drug-addicted mother of three. She and her three children had moved in with Jean and her three children. The two women shared a bed in the downstairs dining room because they said the bedrooms were "full of children."

17-year-old Anthony Dudson was Jean's on-again, off-again underage boyfriend. He was also having sex with McNeilly. Jeffrey Leigh, 26, had convictions for robbing his own 86-year-old disabled aunt. He was a regular visitor to the house as a purchaser of amphetamines and was sexually involved with Jean. 18-year-old Clifford Hayes was Jean's younger brother and Suzanne's ex-boyfriend. He hung around the place a lot.

John, Suzanne's stepfather, had a strange feeling about Jean Powell and those who frequented her home.  He tried to stop Suzanne from going there but said that she was very strong-willed.  He referred to Jean's place as a "house of evil" although he had no idea of the extent of what was going on behind closed doors.

Her Mother Turned Her Away

Almost everyone in the house bullied Suzanne and took advantage of her kind nature, but she continued to go there. She went to her mother's home in late 1992 after being brutally beaten up by Jean. Rather than offering her daughter support, Elizabeth cruelly turned Suzanne away. She said that her husband wouldn't allow it when Suzanne begged to be let into the house to stay overnight.

Before becoming involved with the group at Jean's house, Suzanne's only human companionship had come from her fragmented family. In the squalid house on Langworthy Road, she found a continual source of human contact. Suzanne found it difficult to break up the friendships despite the abuse.

According to Suzanne's sister, Michelle, it wasn't that Suzanne was scared of the people in that house, it was just that she would do anything for them and pampered their every whim. Michelle's fiancé, Paul Barlow, said that he believes that if Suzanne's mother had done something to help her daughter, things might be very different today. He admitted that as a parent himself, he would find Elizabeth's actions very hard to live with.

A Claim Of Theft

In early December 1992, the group at Jean's house claimed that Suzanne had stolen a pink duffel coat and infected them all with pubic lice. The accuser, Anthony Dudsen, was, at that time, sexually involved with Jean, Bernadette, and Suzanne. He said that he must have contracted the lice from Suzanne and thenceforth, spread it to the others. The allegations brought Suzanne into contempt which soon turned into hostility.

The hostility turned into terrorism. Suzanne's "friends" performed various sadistic acts on her as they held her hostage over a week's time.

Kidnaped & Tortured 

On December 7, 1992, Suzanne was lured away from her stepfather's home under the pretense that a guy she was interested in was waiting for her at Jean's house.

Once she was inside the house, she was grabbed and held down while Glyn Powell shaved her head and eyebrows. He placed a plastic bag over Suzanne's head and walked around her while hitting her on the head.

The gang took turns kicking her and hitting her with belt buckles and large wooden spoons while they laughed and shouted. They forced her to shave her own pubic hair as punishment for spreading lice and causing Dudsen and McNeilly to have to shave theirs.

The beating was so severe that it left Suzanne's arm dangling at her side. Then she was locked in a cupboard overnight. Fearing her screams would disturb Jean's and Bernadette's children, she was moved out of the house and a few doors down to Bernadette's abandoned home.

Suzanne was shackled spread eagle to an upright bed with chains and ropes. Socks were stuffed into her mouth to muffle any screams. She was forced to listen to a recording of the doll Chucky from the movie Child's Play Chucky from the movie Child's Playrepeat over and over again, "I'm Chucky. Wanna play?" Rave music blasted through headphones. 

Two of Suzanne's front teeth were extracted with pliers while another was snapped in half exposing the nerve. She received cigarette burns on her face and body and was injected with amphetamines repeatedly. She was left lying in her own excrement for days.

When the stench became unbearable, Suzanne was shoved into a bathtub filled with concentrated disinfectant. She was scrubbed with a yard brush until her skin peeled off.

She Somehow Survived

On December 14, after she was set on fire and left for dead, Suzanne somehow survived the brutal attack. She staggered up the embankment where she was found near a golf course by Mr. Barry Sutcliffe as he was driving to work.

She said she had been held for over a week in a flat somewhere, she wasn't sure where, and she had been injected with drugs and that she had been brought up here and dumped.

Naked and covered in blood, Suzanne had burns over 80% of her body. She kept thanking her rescuers for their kindness.

Four days later, Suzanne Capper, unfortunately, succumbed to her injuries at Withington Hospital. The widespread burns over her body led to severe internal complications and one of her lungs partially collapsed.

Before Suzanne died, however, she named all of her killers.

Police were met with a complete and utter mess when they arrived at the house at 97 Langworthy Road. The living room, where stolen car seats line the wall in lieu of sofas, was covered in rubbish. Suzanne's hair, discarded teeth, and a pair of bloody pliers were found in the trash bin.

The gang initially denied any involvement, but then Anthony, urged by his father, confessed. As the story began to unfold, the detectives working on the case couldn't believe how one human being could do this to another. Even the most seasoned among them were moved to tears. 

In an effort to distance themselves from the final act of horror of burning Suzanne, the gang turned on one another during the trial. Jean claimed she sat in the car while others actually did the deed. She said she loved Suzanne like a sister and that she had locked her up for her own safety.

Bernadette said that while she had held the canister of gasoline, it was Anthony who had grabbed it from her moments before Suzanne was set on fire. She said that she had injected Suzanne with amphetamines to protect her from being injected with heroin.

Anthony blamed Glyn for setting Suzanne on fire.

The Guilty Turn On Each Other  

Jeffrey Leigh was released from prison in 1998 and Clifford Hayes got out in 2001. After she showed remorse for her involvement in the case and helped to prevent an impending prison escape, Jean Powell's sentence was reduced by two years in 2012. Bernadette McNeilly was released in 2014.

The fact that two females were the sadist leaders in this crime led to a bit of moral panic. Economic imbalance was blamed by the public for the homelessness, poverty, street violence, and drug culture that resulted in such a scandal.

The rise in violent crime committed by young women illustrates the apparent explosion of the LA-style girl gang culture on the streets of Brooklyn.  Women jailed for offenses of violence are generally characterized by personal abuse, neglect, alcohol or drug abuse, and low self-esteem.  

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