- Life In London Magazine
- London’s Most Gruesome Murderers
London’s Most Gruesome Murderers
OK, so London's a pretty safe place, on the whole, but here are some tales of a murky associated with murder.
We all know the stories and conspiracies surrounding Jack the Ripper, but unfortunately London has yielded a fair few other serial killers since. If you’re squeamish you’re advised to stop reading at the end of this paragraph, for we are about to take you on a lurid journey of London’s most vicious killings…
The Baby Killer
Amelia Elizabeth Dyer worked as a nurse in the late 1800s, but she also earned an income from “baby farming”. In the days when abortion was illegal and illegitimate children a taboo subject, it was not unheard of for babies conceived out of wedlock to be given up into the care of a foster parent in exchange for money. Sadly it was also not unheard of for the foster parents to allow the child to die of malnutrition, in order to make a profit from the transaction. Dyer didn’t wait for the children to starve, instead she suffocated them to death. One infant was strangled with white tape at her flat in Willesden and then thrown into the Thames. Dyer tried to commit suicide when she was arrested by drinking laudanum, but her substance abuse meant she had a tolerance to opiates. She was hanged in 1896 for killing six babies, however it is believed she could have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds, having evaded the authorities by using different names and moving around the country.
The Acid Bath Murderer
The son of religious fanatics, John George Haigh was jailed for fraud in his twenties. During his time in prison he plotted to target wealthy people, not only that, but he believed to have thought up the perfect crime – if the bodies disappeared, there would be no evidence to convict him. His first victim was a former employer who he clobbered over the head before dissolving his body in sulphuric acid. The crime was carried out at his home on Gloucester Road. More deaths followed, and Haigh would steal victim’s possessions, forge cheques and sell their properties. He also claimed he drank his victim’s blood. He pleaded insanity at his trial, but the judge wasn’t having it; he was hanged in 1949.
The Murders of Rillington Place
John Christie was a member of the War Reserve Police, and was known for grassing up his colleagues, and being taunted for his sexual inadequacy. He lived at 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, where he killed five prostitutes, his wife, a woman and her 14 month old baby. He hid six of the victims here, in a cupboard, and kept their pubic hair in tins. He would only attack his victims while they were unconscious; he would lure a woman back to his flat, offer them booze, and then convince them to inhale gas as if it was a cure for asthma or some other ailment. It was in fact carbon monoxide, and while the women were passed out he raped and strangled them. He was arrested after carelessly sub-letting his flat, only for the dead women to be discovered. Charged with eight murders, he was hanged in 1953. A 1971 film called 10 Rillington Place was based on the case, starring John Hurt and Richard Attenborough.
The Muswell Hill Murderer
Dennis Nilsen didn’t have an easy start in life; his father was an alcoholic, his mother ultra conservative, and at the age of eight he nearly drowned, only to be sexually assaulted by his rescuer. After his parents divorced he lived with his grandparents, and the death of his grandfather had a profound effect on him. Nilsen targeted men, usually homeless or rent boys. He would get them drunk, then strangle them. After killing his victims he would undress, wash and dry their lifeless bodies. To get rid of the corpses he set fire to their bodies in the back garden of his flat in Cricklewood. Later he moved to Muswell Hill, where he didn’t have the benefit of a garden and disposed of victim’s body parts by flushing them down the toilet. He was arrested after neighbours complained about the drains clogging up - a drain cleaning inspector got the shock of his life when he turned up to find what looked like flesh oozing out of them. Nilsen was convicted of six murders (although he claimed to have killed 16) and imprisoned for life in 1983. In 2006 the Home Office included his name on a list of criminals who will never be released from jail.
The Gay Slayer
Colin Ireland targeted gay men, however he claimed his motive was to become famous for being a serial killer, rather than homophobia. Ireland met his victims at The Coleherne pub in Earl’s Court, a popular gay venue. He cruised for men who were into sadomasochism and would go back to their home to restrain and strangle them. He stole money from some of the victims and was thorough in his methods; after each killing he would remove all traces of evidence, change his clothes and stay the night, to avoid arousing suspicion by wandering around in the early hours. Ireland wanted notoriety; even calling the police and telling them about the murders, however they didn’t link the different deaths till much later (there are claims that police homophobia had something to do with this). He was charged with the murders of five men – having chosen this number after hearing this is the minimum to be considered a serial killer - and received a life sentence in 1993. The Home Office has since stated he will never be released.