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Getting Caught: Its All About The Mistakes

A look at some of London’s most notorious serial killers

London, it’s fair to say, harbours a dark relationship with serial killers but, in order for us to know their names they did, eventually make mistakes leading to their capture. Those of them known to us, anyhow. One exception is, of course, Jack the Ripper. DNA wasn’t around during his time, and one has to wonder if the resolution of that case might have been different if it was. Read on for a little more insight.

Our capital encompasses a grizzly history on many levels. Streets both sides of the river Thames were poverty-stricken and, and police were baffled with the ever-increasing numbers of missing persons. With the lack of technology, they’ve become accustomed to today, the police grew ever reliant upon complacency of the culprits. Complacency is still a factor, but in today’s world the science helps.

Here are a few ‘first mistakes’ from some infamous serial killers.

Amelia Dyer was born in 1837 and died in 1896 in Newgate Prison. She was a woman that would cause distress to most. Also known as The Baby Farmer she is thought to have killed hundreds of babies given up for adoption with the belief she would care for them. Accepting upfront payment and a box of clothes that were destined for the pawnbrokers, she would then tie tape or cord around the infants necks, before depositing their bodies in the Thames. Cruelly telling the parents, many of whom expected to reclaim their babies once in a better position to look after them, that all was fine.

Dyer’s first mistake was to wrap a baby’s corpse in brown paper that identified her by giving an address. When the ‘package’ was found floating in the Thames, it gave the police enough evidence to place Dyer under surveillance.

Thomas Neill Cream, better known as The Lambeth Poisoner, was a physician and surgeon, who fled to America after the woman he’d been having an affair with was found dead in an alleyway close to his offices in 1879. She was pregnant and had been poisoned with chloroform. Once in America Cream claimed four more lives. Interestingly his wife had died in 1876, her cause of death recorded as ‘consumption’ at the time. Cream returned to London, settling in Lambeth Bridge Road (1891) and within one year four prostitutes had died after accepting drinks from him. These drinks were laced with strychnine. It was later believed Cream had murdered his wife.

Cream’s first mistake was to offer an American visitor a tour of where the victims had lived and met their fate, doing so with detailed knowledge. After the tourist mentioned this to the police, they placed him under surveillance.

Mary Pearcey was convicted of murdering her lover’s wife, Phoebe Hobb and her daughter in October 1890 and hanged in December of the same year. After inviting them into her home, she bludgeoned the woman to death and smothered her eighteen-month-old baby daughter. Although its unknown if the daughter was alive or if Pearcey was transporting a corpse she used the woman’s pram to dispose of the bodies that she dumped under rubbish in Hampstead. In addition, Pearce was suspected of being a serial killer as it was thought, perhaps, she could have been Jill the Ripper. She was the only female suspected of being the notorious Jack the Ripper at the time.

Pearcey’s first mistake was to have the audacity to push the pram around the streets of London, using it to dispose of her murder victims. Passersby noted her strange behaviour and called the police, who found blood in her home. With regard to the Ripper case, DNA was used in 2006 to analyse the stamps used to post the letters in the Jack the Ripper case; it was concluded that they were licked by a woman.

John Christie, or The Rillington Place Murderer, started his murdering spree in April 1943 after meeting an Austrian prostitute. Christie was married to wife, Ethel but this didn’t deter him taking the prostitute back to his flat, as she was visiting friends. Christie murdered and buried the prostitute in their back garden. During a ten-year period, Christie killed at lease eight people that included the wife and baby daughter of Timothy Evans. Evans was their neighbour in an adjoining flat. Police searched, and failed to find the bodies initially, but on a second search arrested Evans for the crime. Christie gave evidence against Evans in court, resulting in his conviction and subsequent hanging in 1950. Sixteen years later, Evans was pardoned after Christie admitted to these murders, and the others he committed.

Christie’s first mistake was to rent out his flat. The new tenants attempted to hang a bracket on a wall, revealing a hidden alcove—the wallpaper gave way revealing three bodies stacked inside.

Dennis Nilsen is London’s most recent serial killer and certainly one of the most prolific. Taking at least twelve lives, he lured men back to his flat in Muswell Hill between 1978-1983. Choosing his victims for their vulnerability, mostly were homeless or lonely homosexuals. His motivations were sexually motivated. Admitting to sexually pleasuring himself after their killing had taken place, Nilsen had a macabre fascination of changing their bodies during death. Bathing, cleaning, and dressing them would be part of his routine before leaving them in his flat for weeks or months after the event.

After boring with them, he’d dissect their flesh (which would be putrid by then) from the bones before burning it on a bonfire or flushing it down the toilet.

Nilsen’s first mistake was to call a drain cleaning company after he and other residents noticed they were getting blocked drains. The engineer noticed flesh-like substance inside, and small bones. Nilsen even commented to him that it looked like someone was flushing their KFC away.

 

© Donna Siggers (2023) The moral right of Donna Siggers to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

Camden's own 'Ocean's Eleven' Background and Tour

Terry Ellis is the first to be featured twice on my Soul2Ink blog, not only am I an avid supporter of his writing but am also proud of the man he’s become. Stuck within a negative cycle Terry had found himself in trouble from an early age, nurtured into believing that to thieve and earn a living from crime was perfectly fine as long as you didn’t get caught. At a young age a brick missile split open his head, giving him concussion which changed his personality (and that’s most definitely a reality I can relate to). Such physical trauma can change us, for Terry he no longer felt pain and had no filter on certain emotions, such anger. This was catalyst to how a young boy’s life would manifest alongside the behaviour he had already learnt. Terry’s own mother took him shop lifting and ordered him through factory windows to pass out to her what she required from within in order to sell their loot at bingo—this concept worked for her as long as Terry didn’t get caught. Money, he managed to earn on his own criminal activities with mates wasn’t turned away back home either. Terry was under the care of a social worker and when he became too difficult to handle and had run out of chances with them his mother abandoned her son and left him at a children’s home where he’d get regular beatings from the offset.

All this happened before Terry was twelve years old.

Moving from one children’s institution to the next became a way of life—as did standing before a judge. Eventually Terry was forced into the countryside far from his beloved Camden. Ironically, among the country bumkins as he calls them (and I qualify as one of those) he settled down—but not until they accepted school wasn’t going to be a part of his routine. Unfortunately, it fell apart when Terry’s young girlfriend became pregnant and he had no choice but to move back to London, where he lived in a flat with lads much older than himself.

Its here he discovered dole money wasn’t enough and the glory of armed robbery was both encouraged and gave Terry an adrenaline lift. A lift he became addicted to, it seems. I know from my own experiences that you can never quite fulfil that first adrenaline hit for the trouble with that naturally produced chemical is that the first can never be repeated and you’re left forever chasing it. The risks need to be higher in order to reach you needs—its no different to other addictions and Terry has beaten those too.

I’ll not detail the criminality leading up the Verizon “job” or the various holidays at Her Majesty’s pleasure that Terry talks you through in his book, for I’d actually like you to read his book! Instead, I want to share a personal experience that will embed this story into my memory forever.


David Last, Donna Siggers and Terry Ellis outside the Verizon Building
(photo credits to Anna)
Buy Verizon here

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Between Christmas 2021 and the New Year Dave and I spent time in London. At short notice we met up with Terry and his lovely partner, Anna for a cuppa. They whisked us of separately for slightly different tours before we met back up outside the Verizon building in Camden. Terry walked us around the vast building, sharing with us detailed explanations of how they planned and executed what became branded Camden’s own ‘Oceans Eleven’ robbery. This brazen act saw them walking away with an incredible £5m worth of data chips and £100m in data.

There were no guns involved. Just men in [fake] blue and their dogs.

One of the many things I like about Terry is that he doesn’t hide from his past—he owns it in a way that helps others find the right path. He found that for himself through a programme at Grendon Prison, his book on that was the first ever feature on the Soul2ink blog that you can read right here.


by Donna Siggers


Stalking

Living a full life is important to me as trauma has touched my psyche too many times to count, and has done so on deep and personal levels. Approaching the launch of my new book I’m going to be addressing some subjects over the next few weeks that are, shockingly, a part of many people’s lives. I do so with the intention to uplift the spirit of anyone going through the torment of each given subject and hope that it gives them strength. 

Unfortunately, being stalked has formed a part of my past. Unwanted attention curtailing the freedom of another person to the point they are left feeling in a constant need of being careful is a good description of stalking. Although each individual, isolated incident might seem innocent enough to onlookers, these repeated behaviours mount up. In doing so they amount to a course of conduct causing significant alarm, harassment or distress that is unwanted attention.

This behaviour is, therefore unacceptable.

Stalking is a form of mental assault, which at times can also become physical. There are laws in place to protect against it but unless you are under direct threat of violence its often difficult to get anyone to take you seriously (especially the police) and you have to provide written, photographic or video evidence that you are under direct threat of violence to be taken immediately seriously. 

Stalking is a dangerous game to be on the receiving end of. It leaves you in a position of choice—crumbling under the pressure or in becoming stronger. Personally, I was left having to decide on tactic changes, on having to leave the house at differing times and living behind closed curtains in order for peace.

I knew my stalker, which is often the case. Ironically they are the most dangerous kind. It started with a letter and some flowers, with the letters turning to emails and phone calls. My ordeal lasted six years.

Now with a platform to speak out about the torment that some endure, I believe it important to speak out, for silence solves nothing. Some might think I’m holding onto my past—to those I say I share to help others have the strength to make this stop.

I struggled in silence for too long. I relied on those who said they couldn’t help. Help is out there if you know where to seek it.

I would like to add that the person on the receiving end isn't always a woman and that in some cases it is the woman doing the stalking. 

Help is out there... here are the websites etc,

If you are in immediate danger always call 999 and ask for the police.

The National Stalking Helpline through the British government will take you to three links: 

First: The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which was set up after estate agent, Suzy Lamplugh went missing on 28th July 1986 9in Fulham. She was officially declared dead, presumed murdered in 1983. The trust was set up "because what happened to Suzy must not happen to anyone else". The website is filled with useful information.



Second: Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service, who assist high risk victims of stalking throughout England and Wales. You would be put into contact with Paladin through the police. Their website address is down right now but is normally available if you google "stalking government UK"


Third: Protection Against Stalking, which was set up after Clare was murdered at work by her ex boyfriend by Clare's mother, Tricia. Committed to raising awareness of stalking and supporting victims and their families they can be contacted via the link below,




Additionally, Solace Women's Aid is specifically located in London for women and children. It gives free advice and support on how to build safe, strong lives enabling futures free from abuse and violence.

https://www.solacewomensaid.org/get-help/other-support-services/paladin-national-stalking-advocacy-service




LondonCrime (DotCoDotUK)

LondonCrime is a fantastic website owned and managed by Jim Fletcher. Operating in its third year and dedicated to Jim’s love of our city and of its criminal history he set up the promotional site in honour of his late father.

Upon the site you have access to “the best London gangster books, movies, history and more” you can “explore the history of London's crime” and “watch the best London movies”. If that’s not enough, you are also able to “read fiction and true crime books and explore the history

of London's criminal underworld”. At least if you cannot do that on the site (of which some you can) you can access the films and books through it.

If you love everything London, you will absolutely love LondonCrime! Working tirelessly into the night, reading or watching new material that Jim feels would benefit from being added (what an excuse) every book or film is scrutinised before its added. Each has to fit Jim’s criteria that the storyline is based in London—there is just once exception to this rule and its Donna that Jim has broken it for “because he can”, as the man himself says.

Who is Jim, who is the man behind LondonCrime? An engineer, Jim balances family life and work (as well as working on the website). Many might not know but as an essential worker, Jim has continued to work throughout the pandemic as his company produce essential components. He works extremely hard and he works long hours. Once home he, of course, has family responsibilities to take care of before embarking on his website duties. That might be adding new material, creating metadata and yes Donna and Jim have conversations about that) or spending time with his essential product research!

This passion spills out into all he puts his heart into and LondonCrime is included in that. Engineering (see what I did there) a team to help with promotions, Jim is our driving force, our enthusiasm and momentum.


Please visit Jim's site once you've finished reading all about the man himself!

www.londoncrime.co.uk

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Striving for the success of others is just one outstanding quality that Jim as. As one of the team members of LondonCrime, Donna knows how much dedication goes on behind the scenes and also that he is no stranger of putting his hand in his pocket to help others strive. All the promotions Jim does for others are done for the love of what he’s read or watched and that’s humbling—all is cost free for us authors and film makers.

 Given what Jim does, what might motivate him? We’ve already shared that the website was set up in memory of Jim’s father, Jim shares that he was “ a larger-than-life figure, he was a man with a heart of gold and well respected”. Jim has shared some stories that, perhaps, can be told another day but one he has mentioned recently is that “he was once cut up in town as a long-distance lorry driver, and known for having a short fuse at times he lost his patience with this caravan driver and proceeded to put a crowbar through the caravan roof!”

Poignant, was his friendship with Michael Luvaglio. Jim shares with us that his father “worked and was friends with Michael in the early 1960s.” “Luvaglio and Dennis Stafford were both convicted of murdering Angus Sibbet in January 1967.”  “Being bought up with my father firmly stating that there was no way that either Michael or Dennis would have committed this crime, and after losing my father in 2014, I persevered with trying to find out as much as possible about it, the people involved and tried to help Michaels case in proving his innocence.” Jim has worked extremely hard, on this case, including sending letters to MP’s and the CCRC which were met with repeated resistance. Jim still feels, to this day, there was a massive cover-up during the whole case. Pleased to have been able to contact Neil Jackson, another expert on this case, who was able to relay messages to Michael on his behalf, Jim hopes that his innocence will one day be proven. Unfortunately, Michael has now passed away and won’t see this day for himself.

Jim loves music and at the tender age of seven saw Bill Haley and the Comets in concert at Hammersmith Palais, which he has revealed was in 1974 (so you can do the math on that). He was also taken to see the musical stage show of ‘Grease’ long before it became a film. Having been bought up on a diet of rock and roll, he has assured us his music taste is a lot more varied now! Fascinated by the various subcultures of times past, mods, rockers, teddy boys, skinheads, punks, casuals, etc, Jim feels it's a shame these lifestyles have mostly disappeared.

Jim also promotes other causes when time permits. Beside his passion to see others succeed he hates knife crime and often runs campaigns against it—he strongly believes people can change, given the correct chances. Jim also has dreams for the future, that include LondonCrime becoming a brand and perhaps for that to included publishing true crime and fiction books (and you never know even expanding into LondonCrime films)!


by Donna Siggers and David Last

 


A Blazing Movie Deal!

David P Perlmutter has a few true crime stories under his belt and he tells them in a way that makes you feel as if you’ve been magically transported into an off the hip documentary. Taking you back in time, to his younger years, you are locked into a passionate embrace one minute and then thrown into extreme panic the next. His stories are raw and authentic—they are dramatic. The first words I ever read of Dave’s were “Let go of my fucking hair”, words that both resonated with me and that have stuck in my head—they were the opening lines of 'Five Weeks'.

Drama is most definitely at the forefront of Dave’s mind these days at a very different level, for production of his first movie is beginning to take shape. 'Wrong Place Wrong Time' has become a worldwide bestseller on Amazon and is now a Book To Movie project with Golden Mile Productions and No Reservations Entertainment. And with the recently added Bafta winner, executive Producer Mark Foligno from movies such as Moon and The King’s Speech this movie is definitely one to be looking out for!


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Letting you in a little on this story, it unfolds as Dave, an estate agent from London, finds himself on the wrong side of the law in England’s capital and so he runs away to Spain rather than facing the shame he’d bought upon his family because he’d lost his job, and his driving licence. In hindsight what occurred on home soil was a far simpler matter than the night over in Marbella that the book is essentially about. Dave (it seems odd calling him that, as to me he’s DPP) stumbled upon a burning building and entered it, not giving a thought to his own safety. I’m not going to give anything further away as it’s a compelling story that I know you’d enjoy for yourself but I'll say this--despite all the help he gave that night, there may have been a little misdemeanour in the mix, and he was arrested and charged for far more than he’d carried out.

Cups and Oranges is one of my favourite chapters—it portrays the harshness of the situation Dave finds himself in, both physically and emotionally. Isolated in a foreign country, he finds a simple way to connect with his family in a way that’s truly moving and this chapter may have bought a little moisture to my eyes.

Dave has written more true crime books (pictured below) than the two I’ve mentioned, they can all be found through his author page each of which are stand alone stories and as compelling as one another. I began with 'Five Weeks' but with the movie looming my ultimate recommendation has to be 'Wrong Place Wrong Time'. There is much more to DPP's writing than his true stories and I will share some more of his work at a later date.


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On a personal note, I’d like to say a huge thank you to DPP, an author who gives to others through promotion of their work. I often try to find an advert on Facebook to share for Dave’s own books and cannot because they are buried beneath everything else. For your utter kindness to all of us, thank you!
by Donna Siggers

Mutiny at St Mary's Convict Prison, Chatham

Walking has always prompted a stream of thinking, but this week was different. We took a walk around St Mary’s Island, Chatham and paused to read an information board which prompted some research. Both of us are interested in Britain’s criminal past, and so we’ve stepped back to the 1860s and to a time St Mary’s Prison held one thousand convicts, but our research took us back a little further in order to understand the full impact of what we were reading.

Prison hulks had been present on the River Medway since the early nineteenth century, when Chatham became a permanent hulk station.  By the end of the French wars in 1815, in excess of 70,000 prisoners of war were being held in these hulks moored at Chatham Reaches, Gillingham and Sheerness. Disease was rife and punishment harsh. 


 Prison Hulk

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When, in 1818, the announcement that Chatham Dockyard would be expanded it was the convicts from the hulks who provided the labour for the work—this included the reclamation of St Mary’s creek.  Over time the hulks deteriorated but the authorities, wanting to keep the labour, begun the construction of a brick convict prison on St Mary’s Island, which opened to receive hulk convicts from Chatham and Woolwich in 1856.


St Mary's Convict Prison, St Mary's Island, Chatham

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According to The Times, (January 1861) “A considerable degree of uneasiness, almost amounting to alarm, has been occasioned to the officials of the convict prison of St Mary’s Island… in consequence of the disaffection and mutinous conduct of the convicts confined in that establishment.” So, what might this be about? Continuing the article, we learnt that convict Peters had acquired a skeleton key and during a mass gathering in the hall where he and fellow convicts were awaiting a medical examination, he took the opportunity to escape. Making his way across the parade grounds he attempted to release a man named Bennett, incarcerated for burglaries in London, but was recaptured by a warder.

Revolt followed. Although, in comparison with today’s standards of retaliation against authority their response might be considered somewhat mild. The prisoners protested by disturbing the minister during his chapel service. No violence was displayed, instead marks of disapproval such as hooting, yelling and cheering were used. Considered a prelude to something that might manifest into a larger event, the ringleaders were rounded up by order of the governor and his deputy—Captain Powell and Mr Measor respectively. Now safely confined to the punishment cells they assumed it would be easy to contain the remaining convicts. The following days would see 150 warders on duty, all heavily armed, but they made no difference. Mutiny continued within the cells. Windows were smashed and furniture broken, alongside the vocal disturbances that continued.

Official action was deemed necessary and upon request of the Home Secretary--Sir George Cornewall Lewis—the inspector-general, Captain Gambier, of the convict establishments commenced an investigation but this wouldn’t be the end of the matter. Despite prison food being far superior to that of any union workhouse dinners, a dockyard work party begun a protest regarding the quality of their food. At a pre-arranged signal fifty convicts threatened to massacre their keepers, stole their cell keys and begun to release fellow convicts. Pandemonium ensued and damages amounting to £1,500 (approx. £35.5K in today’s money) was caused.

Military intervention was deemed necessary. Four-hundred Royal Marines, stationed nearby, charged the rioters with muskets—the Warders following in close quarters with their truncheons. Order was resumed. Warders lost their jobs—staff at the prison had been made up from two hulk ships and it had been reported there was jealousy between the two sets of staff that resulted in bad management of the convicts. A number of Warders were transferred from Pentonville prison to replace them.

It seems the ‘blame culture’ has been around some time!


The River Medway today, from St Mary's Island

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by Donna Siggers and Dave Last