Born in Yorkshire in 1969, Carol Ann Lee spent her childhood in Cornwall. While at The University of Manchester, she interviewed Holocaust survivors for the city’s Jewish Museum as part of a work placement, and that intensified her much earlier interest in Anne Frank; in 1992 she began a one-woman campaign to bring an exhibition about Anne Frank to Cornwall in order to educate young people about the Holocaust. Thousands attended the exhibition when it was held in Truro Cathedral.
Granted an award from the Prince’s Trust to research Anne’s story, after interviewing many of the remaining Frank family, their friends and Holocaust survivors, in 1999 Carol’s first book, Roses From The Earth: The Biography of Anne Frank, was published by Viking. It appeared in fifteen languages and included a foreword by Anne’s cousin Buddy Elias, who stated: “Of the many authors, writers and historians who have written about Anne Frank and her father Otto Frank, Carol Ann Lee is the most knowledgeable and sets new scholarly standards… There is nobody who has done more acute and focused research on the subject… Her love and dedication to this cause warmed my heart.”
This was followed by a biography of Anne's father, The Hidden Life of Otto Frank, published by Viking in 2002, a Guardian Book of the Week. The book has been the subject of several documentaries, and following her ground-breaking research into the family's betrayal, the Dutch government re-opened the case. Carol also co-wrote A Friend Called Anne with Anne's best friend Jacqueline van Maarsen and has written extensively on the Holocaust for children, including Anne Frank’s Story, which has been in print with Puffin Books for more than 15 years.
After living in Amsterdam for several years, in 2005 Carol returned to the UK, settling near York with her son. She turned to fiction writing: Come Back to Me, which was published in the Netherlands, and The Winter of the World, a novel of the Great War which opens with the funeral of the Unknown Warrior. The Winter of the World was published in three languages and was a critical and commercial success in France especially, where it was shortlisted for two major awards, the Premier Roman Etranger and the Prix Femina.
Carol returned to writing non-fiction with One of Your Own: The Life and Death of Myra Hindley, published by Mainstream in 2010. It proved to be the definitive study not only of Hindley, but of the Moors Murders case. Carol interviewed a wide cross-section of those involved, from the victims’ families to the policemen who worked on the case originally, as well as many of Hindley's supporters. One of Your Own was both a Times and an Independent Book of the Week and was featured on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
During her research for One of Your Own, Carol met David Smith, chief prosecution witness in the Moors trial. This led to collaboration on the book Witness, published by Mainstream in 2011, in which David told his story for the first time. In 2012 Witness was re-published as Evil Relations, shortly before David died of cancer. It was shortlisted for the CWA Non-Fiction Dagger, Britain’s leading award for crime non-fiction.
In September 2012, Mainstream published Carol's biography of Ruth Ellis, A Fine Day for a Hanging. Again, she was given access to previously unavailable material, conducted new interviews, and was also permitted to visit Scotland Yard’s Crime Museum to examine the murder weapon and view their file on the case. It, too, was shortlisted for the 2013 CWA Non-Fiction award and Carol gave a talk at New Scotland Yard about the case; it has since been optioned for television by ITV Studios. In July 2015 The Murders at White House Farm was published with an extensive two-part serialisation in the Mail on Saturday. A six-part adaptation of the book for ITV1 by New Pictures is due to air in early 2020. Witness has also been optioned and is currently in development.
Carol’s latest book, Somebody's Mother, Somebody's Daughter: True Stories from the Victims and Survivors of the Yorkshire Ripper, was published in March 2019 by Michael O'Mara. It was optioned for television on the strength of its outline by a BAFTA-award winning team. Carol was interviewed as part of a programme examining the phenomenon of female interest in true crime on an episode of BBC4’s Woman’s Hour in April 2019.
Carol has just completed work on The Pottery Cottage Murders, the first in-depth and completely factual book about the 1977 case of escaped prisoner Billy Hughes, who held a family hostage in their Derbyshire home before murdering four of the five inhabitants. Her co-author Peter Howse was Chief Inspector of Bakewell at the time of the murders; he tackled the killer and saved the life of hostage Gill Moran.