Crime Profile: Joanna Dennehy

Crime Profile: Joanna Dennehy

During March 2013 the bodies of three men, all stabbed, were discovered in ditches around Peterborough in the UK. Soon after another two men were stabbed in Hereford but survived. They told police that a woman had leapt from a car without warning or provocation and attacked them with a knife before climbing back into the car and fleeing. The car appeared to have been driven by a man.

Police caught up with the pair a few days later. The woman was Joanna Dennehy and she was eventually charged with three counts of murder and two attempted murders. Her male accomplice and driver, Gary Richards, was also charged with attempted murder, and another friend, Leslie Layton, with perverting the course of justice after helping conceal her crimes.

After her arrest Dennehy told an interviewing psychiatrist that she had killed “just to see how it would feel, to see if I was as cold as I thought I was…then it just got more-ish”.

Joanna Dennehy was born in 1982 and together with her sister was brought up by two hard working middle-class parents in Hertfordshire – to all accounts a normal childhood. However significant behavioural problems emerged in the early teenage years, with her taking drugs and alcohol and engaging in sexual relationships with older men from the age of only 13.

She eventually had two children before the age of 21, but became increasingly violent towards her husband who left her in 2009, taking the children with him. Further random episodes of violence and indiscriminate sexual encounters were recorded, together with incidents of self-harm where she slashed her stomach with razor blades.

During her trial that began in November 2013, she pleaded guilty to all charges and was duly found guilty by the Court. The judge, Mr. Justice Spencer, branded her sadomasochistic and a ‘cruel, calculating, selfish and manipulative’ serial killer who lacked the normal range of human emotions. She was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that she should never be released.

Joanna Dennehy is one of only three women in the United Kingdom to have been sentenced to a ‘whole life’ tariff, together with Moors murderer Myra Hindley and serial killer Rose West.