There were extraordinary scenes at London’s principal criminal court on Monday when a 31-year-old woman stunned her own legal team by casually admitting to the alleged murder of three men - and attempting to murder two more.
When her lawyers attempted to intervene, Joanna Dennehy, 31, told the court that she didn’t want the inconvenience of traveling back to the Old Bailey courtroom as it was “a long way to come” to repeat herself.
When the judge questioned whether her plea was genuine, she retorted, “I’ve pleaded guilty, and that’s that.”
Dennehy was admitting the killing of Kevin Lee, 48, Lukasz Slaboszewski, 31, and John Chapman, 56, who were found with multiple stab wounds in late March and early April this year. The case seems set to grip the British public, as it features not only the first female U.K. serial killer since Rose West (who was convicted in 1995 of helping helped her husband kill ten young women), but also a co-defendant who is one of the tallest men in Britain, her 7’3” partner Gary Richards.
Richards, who towered over his Dennehy when he appeared in court alongside her Monday, denies all charges. Richards also uses the name Gary Stretch—not to be confused with the British boxer, to whom he is no relation.
Dennehy and Richards were prime suspects from the moment that Lee’s body was discovered dumped beside a main road in Cambridgeshire on March 30. As part of a nationwide appeal to find Dennehy and Richards following the murders, the police issued a statement saying, “Gary and Joanna are very distinctive in their appearance which is why I am asking the public for help. They are very recognizable—even more so if they are together.”
They urged members of the public not to approach her and described her as having “a very distinctive green tattoo on her right cheek, beneath her eye”. The tattoo was evident in court Monday.
Dennehy’s other two alleged victims were found a short distance away a few days later. Lee, a property developer, is believed to have owned a property which the other two men were renting from him. Dennehy also admitted the attempted murders of two other men, John Rogers and Robin Bereza.
The guilty pleas were met with astonishment by her own lawyer, who told the court, “The course is not one I had anticipated. We ask for more time given what has just occurred.”
But Dennehy was having none of it, and objected to her lawyers being given more time to check her guilty pleas, and complained at the inconvenience of making the trip to court from the provincial prison where she is being held on remand. “I’m not coming back down here again just to say the same stuff. It’s a long way to come to say the same thing I have just said.”
The judge told her lawyers, “She has pleaded guilty to a large number of counts, clearly intentionally, and in the circumstances if there is to be any application for a change then I will consider it, but otherwise she has pleaded guilty.”