Family and friends of mass murder victims say 'let killer rot in jail'

It was a mass murder that sent shockwaves through communities in Shropshire and Cornwall more than 20 years ago.

Lee Ford. Photo: Devon and Cornwall Police
Lee Ford. Photo: Devon and Cornwall Police

In the summer of 2000 Lee Ford went on a killing spree in the Cornish hilltop village of Carnkie, strangling his four Shropshire stepchildren from behind with a rope and bludgeoning his wife to death with her daughter's rounders bat.

Ford, aged 33, tried to cover up his crimes by inventing a story that 36-year-old Lesley had left him, taking the four children she had with fellow Telford-raised resident Michael Tranter away with her. It took a month for their bodies to be discovered.

Lesley and her boys Craig Tranter, 13, and Steven, 14, were found in the garden shed of her Cornish home. The two girls, Anne-Marie Tranter, 16, and Sarah-Jane Tranter 17, were found in a shallow grave in a nearby field.

Ford had asked a neighbour if he could store some Christmas presents at his home so the children would not find them. He also telephoned the school in Helston where three of the children studied to tell them they had left the area.

He continued to live at their bungalow with his and Lesley's own children, who were spared.

Ford has never publicly said why he killed five of the people he was closest to.

Craig Tranter, 13, Anne-Marie Tranter, 16, Sarah-Jane Tranter,17 and Steven Tranter with their mother, Lesley Ford, 36, were all killed by Lee Ford

But at the time police speculated that fears over the discovery of his relationship with his 17-year-old stepdaughter Sarah-Jane may have played a part.

Lesley had approached social services over fears her husband and daughter were in a relationship. But Sarah Jane was never interviewed, reports from the time revealed.

Lesley's former partner Michael Tranter has never got over the events of all those years ago, especially as there is a possibility that Ford could one day be released. Petitioners believe that could only be a few years away.

Ford was given five life sentences in 2001 and told he would serve a minimum of 35 years before being considered for parole. The 35 years was later appealed to 27.

Since the tragedy the courts have been given the power to hand down whole life sentences.

“Things still get difficult on certain days,” said Mr Tranter, who works as a live-in carer for children in Stoke.

“Even though it happened 21 years ago it put me into a shell, I have never been myself since.

“I do go out and about but not as often as I used to.

“I work in care to give something back to children.

“I can help them to grow in a way that I can’t with my own children.”

Mr Tranter said: “I hear of other murderers getting whole life sentences and [Ford] should get the same.”

A petition has been launched to urge lawmakers to prevent Ford from ever being released.

It has been started by Nicki Budden, whose ex-husband was Lesley’s brother.

In the change.org petition she writes: “We have to live with what he did for the rest of our lives and feel that he should never be released.

“The effect their deaths had on anyone that knew them was catastrophic. From family to all their school friends.”

Michael Tranter with the headstone to his children

She adds: “He has never given a reason as to why he did what he did or when he actually committed the murders, we don’t even have a day that we can commemorate. He also shows no remorse.

“We feel if he were released he would still be a danger to the public. In the eyes of the law familial crime is not judged the same as stranger killing. In my opinion it’s worse as the person who you loved and trusted the most commits the ultimate betrayal.

“I hope you will all sign this petition to ensure that Lee Ford stays in prison for the rest of his natural life, as someone that planned and executed the murder of five people and then covered it up is beyond words.”

Friends of the children have spoken of the impact on them of the murders in Cornwall.

Carley Hamilton wrote: “Craig was my friend and to have him cruelly taken away by that monster was horrifying. I still remember that assembly at school and honestly, it was one of the worst days of my life. Sending my love to all of their family still fighting this and pray he doesn’t get released. He doesn’t deserve to live his life free. Death would be too good for him, let him rot in prison!”

And Donna Hopkins wrote: “Anne-Marie was my best friend and I miss them all every day. Time isn’t a healer you just get used to the pain.”

Petition backer Gemma Eden, who is a proud stepdaughter of Mr Tranter, added: “We want justice for them - Mike needs justice.”

When the petition hits 15,000 the campaigners hope to get it debated in Parliament. It is currently on 10,800.

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