The Disturbing Story Of Suzanne Capper, The British Teen Who Was Tortured To Death By Her ‘Friends’

Published November 2, 2022
Updated November 3, 2022

In December 1992, Suzanne Capper endured a week of relentless torture in Greater Manchester, England. Then, she was burned alive.

Suzanne Capper was only 16 when she died, but while the circumstances surrounding her death were horrific, her murder was largely overshadowed in the press by the murder of two-year-old James Bulger two months later.

Suzanne Capper

PA Images/Getty ImagesSuzanne Capper had asked to move in with her mother, but her mother needed a few weeks to prepare her new flat. Suzanne was meant to move in on Christmas Eve.

Still, Suzanne Capper’s story of a quiet, friendless girl who clung desperately to the few connections she had managed to make, no matter how violently and terribly they treated her, is one of the most sadistic accounts of murder in British history.

This is the disturbing story of Suzanne Capper’s death.

Suzanne Capper’s ‘Friends’ Mistreated Her Long Before The Murder

Born in the Greater Manchester region of England in 1976, Suzanne Jane Capper was described by her mother as “very forgiving.”

Growing up, she and her sister Michelle never knew their biological father. They were raised primarily by their mother Elizabeth Dunbar and their step-father, John Capper, Confidentials reported. However, the couple split when Capper was only 14 years old — a split that proved to be traumatic for the whole family.

Capper and Michelle alternated between staying with their mother, their step-father, family friends, or in the care of local authorities. This instability and frequent relocating ultimately led Suzanne Capper to the home of Jean Powell.

Capper and Jean met shortly after a chance encounter with a boy around her age named Clifford Pook, Jean Powell’s younger brother.

Pook had been sitting by the side of the road one day, lamenting a situation with his girlfriend, when Capper approached him to see if he was okay. Jean and Capper met shortly after.

Jean Powell

PA Images/Getty ImagesJean Powell was one of the three people in the group given a life sentence for her role in Suzanne Capper’s death.

Jean was 10 years Capper’s senior, a 26-year-old living with three children in a dilapidated home not far from John Capper’s house. Often babysitting Jean’s young children for free, Capper would spend the night at their home and skipping school the next morning.

In only a short time, Capper was spending more time with Jean and her friends than anyone else — her family largely unaware of the true horrors going on behind the scenes.

“We found out that Jean had taken Suzanne out of school and was making her work as a cleaner at the CIS building in town,” Capper’s mother later said. “She was taking [Capper’s] money, just letting her keep £5 a week, while we thought she was in school. When we confronted her about it, she actually threatened to burn our house down.”

The real trouble began, however, when a neighbor named Bernadette McNeilly moved in.

Jean Powell And Bernadette McNeilly Were A Match Made In Hell

Twenty-four-year-old Bernadette McNeilly had three children of her own and had been living only a few doors down from Jean Powell, but by 1992, she had all but moved in to Powell’s house, along with her children.

As The Independent reported, the already ramshackle house had become a den of drugs, parties, and sex.

Jean and Bernadette were weighing amphetamines in the kitchen, dealing them in the living room, selling stolen car parts, and sleeping with a slew of people who came through the house for drugs — chiefly, a 16-year-old named Anthony Dudson, who entered a sexual relationship with both Powell and McNeilly, as well as Suzanne Capper.

The house was also frequented by Jean’s 29-year-old ex-husband Glyn Powell, 26-year-old drug addict Jeffrey Leigh, and, of course, Clifford Pook.

Suzanne Capper's Murderers

PA Images/Getty ImagesSuzanne Capper’s murderers — Top: Glyn Powell, Bernadette McNeilly, Clifford Pook. Bottom: Anthony Dudson, Jean Powell, Jeffrey Leigh

Sometime around late November 1992, at one of their drug-fueled parties, Capper and Jean met a friend of a friend named Mohammed Yussif. Capper encouraged Jean to sleep with Yussif — a suggestion Jean didn’t care for.

She later told police that she gave Capper a “good hiding for trying to make [her] go with an Arab.”

Capper , however, allegedly told neighbors that Jean Powell had tied her up and held her for four days. None of them believed her.

It was the first of several petty spats that eventually led to Suzanne Capper’s horrible death.

In another instance, McNeilly, Dudson, and Jean and Glyn Powell all contracted pubic lice. Bernadette McNeilly blamed Capper.

Enraged by this baseless claim, the group forced the girl to shave her pubic hair in front of them and clean it off the floor.

McNeilly had also convinced herself that Capper had stolen a pink duffle coat from her, worth around $60.

Then, on Dec. 7, 1992, Jean Powell and Bernadette McNeilly arrived at John Capper’s house to invite Suzanne Capper to a party. A boy she liked was going to be there, they told her.

There was no boy, however. There was no party.

The Gruesome Torture And Murder Of Suzanne Capper

Having lured Suzanne Capper to Powell’s house, the group — high on amphetamines and at this time comprised of Bernadette McNeilly, Jean Powell, Glyn Powell, and Anthony Dudson — shaved her head, attacked her, beat her with wooden utensils and belts, and suffocated her with a plastic bag.

That night, they locked her in a cupboard. Capper screamed all through the night. The six children who were still living in the home heard her cries.

Bedframe Where Suzanne Capper Was Tortured

PA Images/Getty ImagesThe bedframe to which Suzanne Capper was bound for five days while her supposed friends tortured her.

The next day, Suzanne Capper’s “friends” moved her into McNeilly’s former home, where no children were present to hear the teenager scream. They tied her to a bed frame with cord, rope, electric flex, belts, and a chain, injected themselves with amphetamines, and began their depraved, days-long torture.

During this time, McNeilly injected so many amphetamines that she began to call herself “Chucky” after the character from Child’s Play. During visits to the house, Clifford Pook and Jeffrey Leigh also partook in the girl’s torture.

Her mouth was stuffed with socks so she couldn’t scream. She was given a bath in concentrated disinfectants, burning her skin. Her body was covered in cigarette burns.

At one point, just hours before her death, Bernadette McNeilly injected Capper with amphetamines, placed headphones over her ears, and blasted rave music at full volume featuring Chucky’s catchphrase looping on repeat: “I’m Chucky. Wanna play?”

Suzanne Capper’s torturers pried out two of her front teeth so that her body would be more difficult to identify — they had decided to kill her.

Loading her into the trunk of a car that Leigh stole, they drove Capper 13 miles to a wooded area near Stockport. Three of them — Leigh, Dudson, and McNeilly — shoved her through the bramble, and as she lay almost entirely naked on the ground, Bernadette McNeilly doused her in gasoline.

“I saw a flash,” Jean Powell said during her trial. “I turned round and looked and saw Suzanne in flames. She was screaming … I was numb. I was scared.”

They left her for dead in the early hours of the morning, singing “Burn, Baby, Burn” all the way home.

But Suzanne Capper wasn’t dead yet. With the last of her strength, she pulled herself to the nearest roadway, where she was spotted by the driver of a passing vehicle.

At the hospital, before she fell into a coma and ultimately died, she was able to tell the police who she was, what had happened, and who, exactly, had been responsible.

In the end, the Manchester Evening News reported, Jean Powell, Glyn Powell, and Bernadette McNeilly were given life sentences for Suzanne Capper’s murder — though McNeilly’s sentence was controversially reduced by 12 months after she proved to be a “model prisoner, filled with remorse.”

Leigh was released from prison in 1998, Pook in 2001, and Anthony Dudson in 2013.

“Suzanne was very forgiving,” Capper’s mother said. “But she was also a girl who would try to sort out her problems on her own. That’s what she did in the end, she survived her ordeal long enough to name every single one of them.”

After learning of Suzanne Capper’s tragic, torturous end, read about Kelly Anne Bates’ murder at the hands of James Patterson Smith. Or, dive deep into the Amityville Horror house and its dark, haunted history.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Erik Hawkins
Erik Hawkins studied English and film at Keene State College in NH and has taught English as a Second Language stateside and in South America. He has done award-winning work as a reporter and editor on crime, local government, and national politics for almost 10 years, and most recently produced true crime content for NBC's Oxygen network.
Cite This Article
Harvey, Austin. "The Disturbing Story Of Suzanne Capper, The British Teen Who Was Tortured To Death By Her ‘Friends’.", November 2, 2022, Accessed April 19, 2024.