Student who confessed to murder in game of truth or dare had ‘kill list’ of targets

A student, who used a game of truth or dare to admit murdering his step grandmother, had previously drawn up a "kill list" of potential targets, it can be revealed, as her family said they had always suspected his involvement.

Tiernan Darnton, 21, murdered 94-year-old Mary Gregory by deliberately setting fire to the curtains in her bungalow in Heysham, Lancashire, in May 2018.

Initially it was thought her death had been the result of a tragic accident, but detectives reopened the case the following year after Darnton confessed to his involvement during a counselling session.

Police subsequently discovered that he had made a similar confession during a game of "truth or dare" with some friends, telling them it was his "darkest secret".

Yesterday after Darnton was jailed for a minimum of 15 years, Mrs Gregory’s son, Peter, said she had “despised and distrusted” him and had never wanted him anywhere near her.

Mary Gregory, 94, who died following the fire at her bungalow

Credit: PA

Darnton claimed he had disabled the fire alarm because he did not want his step grandmother to suffer from dementia anymore.

But the court heard he was obsessed with serial killers and searches of his mobile phone found references to him describing himself as a "murderer" and a "monster". 

Police also discovered a "kill list" with numerous names as well as detailed plans he had drawn up to stalk and attack women.

In a victim impact statement Peter Gregory condemned Darnton and also criticised his own brother for siding with the killer.

‘Disgusting and shattering’

He said: "Having learnt that my mum’s death was at the hands of Tiernan Darnton, whom we had willingly welcomed into our family home, is disgusting and shattering.

"He was frequently in mum’s house in the final months leading to mum’s death. She despised and distrusted him, and did not want him anywhere near her.

"I must live with the burden that my brother (Chris Gregory, Darnton’s stepfather) did not heed the warnings from his mother to stop him going into her house, and even gave him keys.

"Not only have I lost my darling mum but I have now also lost my brother who has chosen to support an individual who murdered his own mother, rather than cooperate with the police inquiries.

"I never accepted that this was an accident caused by my mum. My family and I have had to live with that knowledge and anguish of not knowing what really happened on the night of May 28 2018. Now we do and I pray it gives us some closure.”

‘Neighbours heard her screams’

Sentencing Darnton to life, Mrs Justice Yip told him: "Murder had been on your mind for some time. On your own evidence, you were fascinated by serial killers and their crimes. You had dark thoughts.

"Internet searches which you made before and after you killed Mrs Gregory paint a worrying picture.

"Your opportunity to act on your dark thoughts came when your stepfather was away. In the early hours of 28 May 2018, you went to Mrs Gregory’s home and deliberately started a fire in one of the bedrooms."

The judge went on: "It is hard to imagine the horror Mrs Gregory must have felt when she realised her house was on fire and was filling with smoke.

"Neighbours heard her screams. Despite her frailty, she tried to get out, but she had been trapped. The fire service found her near to the conservatory doors, where you had blocked her exit.

"Her final days were spent in hospital. Quite understandably, her condition in those days continues to haunt those who loved her. The manner of her death was particularly cruel."

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