A PAROLE hearing for a handyman who murdered four people has begun.

George Francis Stephenson was given a mandatory life sentence in 1987, after he was convicted of murdering two men and two women, raping another woman, and robbery.

He killed Joseph Cleaver, his disabled wife Hilda Cleaver, their son Tom Cleaver and family nurse Margaret Murphy at Burgate House in Fordingbridge in September 1986.

Bournemouth Echo: George Francis StephensonGeorge Francis Stephenson

Stephenson was cleared of murdering Tom Cleaver’s wife, Wendy, but one of his co-defendants was convicted of this killing.

He became eligible for parole in 2021, and a private parole hearing began on Wednesday, November 29.

Stephenson, who was 36 when he was sent to prison, has served his minimum term of 35 years’ imprisonment and the hearing was scheduled to last two days.

An oral hearing was started by the Parole Board in May of 2022, but it was adjourned.

Victims of the crime had requested in February of this year for the hearing to be held in public, but this request was refused.

The justice secretary at time, Dominic Raab, supported the request by the victims, but it was opposed by then 71-year-old Stephenson, who made submissions through his legal team.

At the time of the request, the Parole Board chair Caroline Corby said the victims had her deepest sympathies.

She said the applicant had made ‘strong arguments’ due to the ‘terrible’ impact on them and their ‘desire to see justice done’.

However, Ms Corby said a ‘high bar’ had been set for parole hearings to be public in the interests of justice.

She concluded that this was not met in Stephenson’s case.

Ms Corby added that a detailed summary of the decisions made would satisfy the requirements of transparency.

Stephenson’s co-defendants, brothers George and John Daly, were convicted after a three week trial.

John Daly was convicted of the same offences as Stephenson and received a life sentence.

George Daly was cleared of murder, but was sentenced to 22 years in prison for rape, robbery and manslaughter.

The outcome of the hearing is expected to be released later this week.