Shropshire Star

Family of mum Lesley Ford and four kids killed by husband recall devastation in documentary

The horrific murder of a Shropshire woman and her four children by their stepfather 21 years ago is featured in a new TV documentary.

Michael Tranter contributor portrait.

Lesley Ford and the four children she had with her former Shropshire partner Michael Tranter were murdered in the year 2000 by her husband Lee Ford, who left his two biological offspring unharmed.

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

Lesley’s brother Peter Wyatt and Michael Tranter have both spoken out in a new series of Deadliest Mums & Dads.

Peter has tearfully revealed the devastation he still feels about Lee Ford’s cold-blooded killing spree that took the lives of his sister and her children.

Lee 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

When drifter Ford was questioned by police he claimed they had simply left him and their two other children without a trace. But police were immediately suspicious of his story, and what started as a missing persons’ inquiry quickly turned into a harrowing investigation.

Peter gives his first in-depth interview on the tragic death of his sister and four nieces and nephews, telling of the crippling guilt and deep regret he still feels after 20 years.

In the documentary, Peter said: “I think even if you tried your hardest, you still feel guilty that you haven’t tried hard enough” and that he believes, “If I carried on talking to Lesley, she might be alive”

Lesley Ford's family believe she was in a trapped, controlling and coercive relationship with her husband

The Senior Investigating Officer on the case, Chris Boarland recalled the horrific scene his team were faced with when discovering the bodies.

In 1998, Lesley and Ford moved Carnkie, where they lived in a small bungalow with their six children, two they had had together and four from Lesley’s first marriage.

Despite living in a tight knit community, the family kept themselves to themselves, although it was known to many that Lesley was trapped in a controlling, coercive relationship with Ford that over time escalated to physical abuse.

16-year-old Anne-Marie Tranter

Lesley kept in regular contact with her brother during this time and would visit him in Hampshire, but only on Lee’s unreasonable and manipulative terms.

Peter remembers: “When Lesley used to come up and see me, she wasn’t allowed to bring the kids, not even one. The kids always had to stay with Lee. Looking back now I think it was control, so she would have to go back.”

Then in early summer 2000 Lesley told him made a shocking revelation to Peter about her two eldest daughters.

Craig Tranter was the youngest to die, aged 13

He said: “I had a phone call from Lesley saying that she suspected Lee was abusing the two eldest girls sexually. She said she had caught him coming out of the bedroom and she needed to be away from there.

Sickened by his sister’s confession, Peter immediately travelled down to Carnkie, but by the time he arrived at her home, Ford had convinced Lesley to change her mind and the family vehemently denied anything was going on.

Frustrated by his sister’s refusal to leave her lowlife husband, Peter broke off contact with her. Unaware that Ford’s controlling and jealous behaviour would have devastating consequences for his family, it was the last time he’d see them alive.

Sarah-Jane Tranter was 17 when she died

A few weeks later, following a terrible row between the couple, Ford bludgeoned his wife with a baseball bat and then strangled her to death with a rope.

In the 24 hours that followed, he then went on to garrotte each of her four children, murdering them one by one in a cold-blooded killing spree. It took almost a month before anyone reported them missing, but once the police were involved the operation rapidly escalated to the most senior levels of command.

When questioned, Ford insisted his wife had upped and left him, but weeks later he revealed the gruesome truth about what had happened in a shock confession.

Steven Tranter was 14

The police search team quickly discovered three rotting bodies buried beneath the woodshed at their family home.

Those of Lesley and her two sons, Steven and Craig. Peter, who was at the scene at the time of the discovery recalls, “When they first brought the first body out, then you know it’s true, it hits home even more.”

Senior Investigating Officer, Chris Boarland remembers the scene and how it shook his team.

Police found the bodies a month of Lesley and her two boys found in a shed at their home

He said: “I mean it was such a horrific scene that they found that badly affected experienced police officers who were used to searching for bodies. The bodies had probably been there in excess of four weeks and it had been summer.

“The smell was dreadful. I was out on the road with other officers and that smell hit us from there.”

The bodies of the strangled girls were unearthed from shallow graves in a field, approximately six miles from the house.

The bodies of the two sisters were found in a shallow grave

“Without a doubt he’d moved the bodies in some sort of half-hearted attempt to conceal what he’d done.”

It was later believed he was planning to move all of the bodies in an attempt to cover his tracks.

Ford is currently serving five life sentences at HMP Durham but will be eligible for parole in 2027. Peter, among other members of family and friends, believe he should spend the rest of his life in jail.

It was a month after Lesley and her children went missing before their bodies were discovered

He says in the documentary: “The papers say he got five life sentences; he didn’t even get one in my mind.”

“How can somebody actually kill five people, especially kids, four kids, which have got the rest of their lives to go. Why should he live any life at all?”

Peter Wyatt, Lesley's brother, says he still feels guilt over her death

A petition set up to ensure that Ford stays inside has now been signed by more than 15,000 people, with the hope that it will be debated in Parliament.

The brand-new series of Deadliest Mums & Dads airs 10pm Saturdays exclusively on Quest Red and is available to stream now on discovery+.

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