Colin Ireland was a nobody who wanted to become a somebody by becoming a serial killer. Like two serial killers before him, he trolled the Coleherne Pub in Earls Court for gay men to murder.
by Mark Pulham
Earls Court has been many things in its time. During the late 1800s, it was the Bohemian quarter of London, and in the 1940s, following World War II, it was inhabited by Polish immigrants, which led the area to be nicknamed “The Danzig Corridor.” In the 1960’s it was taken over by Australian and New Zealand travelers which led to a new nickname, “Kangaroo Valley.”
It was the home to many of the famous. Alfred Hitchcock lived in the area, as did Howard Carter, the man who discovered the Tomb of Tutankhamun. Hollywood film star Stewart Granger was born in Earls Court; lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, lived there; and probably most famously, Princess Diana had a flat there for a couple of years before she married Prince Charles.
Roman Polanski filmed the 1965 movie Repulsion in Earls Court, and the 1981 horror comedy An American Werewolf in London was also filmed there. And the 1941 novel by Patrick Hamilton, Hanover Square, was set in Earls Court.
The Coleherne Pub – a Notorious Gay Bar
But long before Soho and other places had made the claim, Earls Court was known as a gay district. And one establishment became notorious: The Coleherne Pub, located at 261 Old Brompton Road.
It began as a regular pub, although with a Bohemian clientele, in 1866, but by the 1930’s, it was featuring drag acts to entertain the crowd after a Sunday lunch. By the mid-1950’s, when homosexuality was still illegal, it was firmly established as a gay pub, though the bar was separated into a gay side and a straight side.
By the 1970’s, the pub had become a fully gay pub, and had transformed into a Leather bar. Behind the pubs blacked out windows, the sadists and the masochists mingled with each other, the color-coded handkerchiefs hanging from their pockets, displaying whether they were tops – the master or dominant partners, or whether they were bottoms – the slave or submissive partner.
New friends would be made, anonymous and secretive, and the night would be spent in each others company.
The Coleherne Pub attracted the unwanted attention of the police, who found it an easy place to make arrests. The offenses were obstruction, importuning, and soliciting, even though all they were doing was standing in the street saying goodnight to each other. It did no good for those arrested to point out that the other pubs in the area that were not gay also had people standing outside saying goodnight.
The pub also attracted a well known clientele, such as Rupert Everett, Freddy Mercury, Rudolph Nureyev, and Anthony Perkins. Armistead Maupin, in his Tales of the City book, Babycakes mentions the pub, as did the group The Stranglers in its song “Hanging Around.”
But the group was not the only stranglers that are connected to the pub.
Between 1978 and 1983, the Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen strangled and drowned 15 young men whom he had met at various locations throughout the city. One of the locations he frequented on his hunt for victims was the Coleherne.
In 1986, Michael Lupo, an Italian living in London, murdered four men. Once again, he was a frequent visitor to the Coleherne.
One serial killer associated with the pub is unfortunate, two is a huge coincidence, but three is a pattern.
A New Year’s Resolution to Kill Someone
In 1993, a new killer came onto the scene. Like many others, on January 1 he had made a New Year’s resolution. While others resolved to change their lives, or lose weight, or become a better person, this man’s New Year’s resolution was that this year, he would kill a human being.
The man was a nobody, but he thought that this was the best way to become a somebody. For many killers, there are easy targets. Runaways, hitchhikers, prostitutes, all are potential victims for one reason or another. For this man, he chose homosexual men, easy victims because many lead double lives, anxious to conceal their sexual preference from family members, friends, and co-workers, who may not understand.
And this man chose his hunting ground well, a gay pub where no questions were asked, where the clientele moved in anonymity.
Although the resolution was made in the New Year, it wasn’t until the beginning of March that the man made his first move. On March 8, he entered the Coleherne Pub, using the side door as he knew that the front door was covered by a security camera. Even then, he was unsure of whether he would carry out his plan. He would later tell the police that if he had not been approached, he would probably would not have done anything.
Victim No. 1
The man indicated that he was a “top” and waited, and soon, a “bottom” came over, accidentally spilling his drink on the man. The bottom asked that he be punished. The two men began chatting.
Peter Walker was a 45-year old choreographer and former dancer, originally from Liverpool, who had only recently been hired to work in the West End on the musical City Of Angels. He regularly went to the Coleherne hoping to meet someone. Later, friends would say that Walker was a lonely man, whose only real companions were two dogs that he owned, Sammy, a white German shepherd, and Bessie, a black Labrador. They said that he didn’t want to go home to an empty flat.
Walker made it clear that he was a homosexual who was into S & M, and that he was the submissive partner in a sexual relationship. The invitation was clear, and the man took it.
They eventually left the Coleherne, using the side door, and caught a cab to Walker’s home in Battersea, South London, chatting happily to each other on the way, both men no doubt looking forward to the rest of the night, though Walker’s idea of how the night would go differed wildly from that of his new friend.
When they got back to the apartment, the man put the two dogs in another room and closed the door, while Walker got undressed. The man had brought a bag with him, and inside was his “murder kit” containing gloves, cord, handcuffs, and a complete change of clothing. If Walker saw what was in the bag, he wouldn’t think anything of it. It seemed like standard equipment for the S & M crowd.
The man got Walker onto the bed, a four poster, where he bound him with the cord and handcuffed him. The man then gagged him using tied up condoms. Walker was now helpless, but not worried. The man then began to beat Walker, using his fists, and then using a dog lead and a belt.
It’s likely that even at this stage that Walker was not concerned with what was happening, assuming it was part of the fantasy, part of the game. But soon, the violence became excessive, and Walker must have become worried. The man left Walker for a moment and went into the kitchen. When he returned, he had a plastic shopping bag with him.
He pulled the bag over Walker’s head and held it there for a short time, then removed it, taunting his victim and telling him how easy it would be for him to end Walker’s life. He would later tell the police that when Walker asked if he was going to die, the man told him that he was. He felt that Walker had resigned himself to his death, and that he had, in a sense, given up.
Finally, tired of the game, the man put the bag over Walker’s head for the last time and suffocated him. When it was over, the man burnt Walker’s pubic hair. He would explain to the police later that he was curious to know what it would smell like. The killer then did a search of the apartment, during which the killer found something that enraged him. Among the papers he rifled through was evidence that Walker was HIV positive and he had not told him, but was perfectly willing to engage in sex.
The man, angered, pushed a condom in Walker’s mouth and into a nostril, and then arranged two teddy bears in a 69 position on the bed.
The killer was an enthusiastic reader of true crime books and FBI manuals, and he knew how to clean up a crime scene. He wiped down any surface that he may have touched and changed his clothes, putting the ones he had on in the bag, along with the cord that he had used to bind Walker to the bed.
He then settled down to wait out the night, thinking that leaving at that time would cause suspicion. He watched television until he felt it was safe enough to leave.
Once the morning rush hour had started, the killer left, blending in with everyone else on their way to work. He threw away keys he had taken from the apartment into the Thames from Battersea Bridge as he headed across into Chelsea. Then, on a train heading home, he threw the murder kit out the window and into a canal.
There had been nothing in the newspapers about the murder the day after the killing, so the man called the Samaritans. He told the person who answered about the dogs, telling them they had been locked in the room a couple of days and that someone should go there. He explained that the owner was dead, and that he had killed him.
This was done not because of the killer’s concern over the plight of the dogs, but so that someone would go and discover the body.
Not content with one phone call, he made a second one, this time to The Sun newspaper. He told them of his New Year’s resolution to kill someone, and pointed them in the direction of Peter Walker, telling them that the victim was a homosexual that was into kinky sex, adding, “You like that stuff, don’t you?” This was a reference to the newspapers disreputable content.
But what the killer didn’t know was that the body had already been discovered, by the building caretaker. The police investigation, led by Detective Inspector Martin Finnegan, came to what seemed an obvious conclusion, that this was a sex game that had gone horribly wrong.
The police needed to know the identity of Walker’s sexual partner on the evening of his death. Finnegan went on television to appeal for the man to come forward, but to no avail. The police reached out to the gay community, and immediately hit a wall of resistance.
The police and the gay community had never had a good relationship, and the police had a reputation for not taking crimes against homosexuals seriously, even when they were assaulted, and were even hostile themselves toward members of the gay community.
If that wasn’t bad enough, on March 11, two days after the death of Peter Walker, the House of Lords ruled that it was an offense to cause bodily harm to someone while engaging in a sado-masochistic act, even if there was consent. Effectively, S & M was now illegal.
This, along with their past experiences, virtually guaranteed that there would be no co-operation with the police from the gay community, especially those who enjoyed rough sex who now feared they would be subject to prosecution. With no clues left at Walker’s apartment, no witnesses, and the lack of co-operation from the gay community, the police had no choice but to close the case as unsolved.
Two months passed. The killer was lying in wait, waiting for the police investigation to die down. By this time, any fears that were going through the gay community would have passed and they would feel safe. But by the end of May, the urge to take another victim had built up and needed to be satisfied.
Back to Prowl the Coleherne
On May 28, the killer travelled back to the Coleherne and hunted for another victim.
Christopher Dunn was a 37-year-old librarian, a regular at the Coleherne, and like Peter Walker, a submissive partner. Dunn was precisely the type the killer was looking for. The two men started chatting in the pub, and Dunn revealed to the man that he liked to be dominated.
The two men left the pub, again by the side door, and went to Dunn’s home, a Victorian cottage in Wealdstone in North London. Once there, they spent some time together, having something to eat and watching an S & M film that belonged to Dunn. When it was over, the man told Dunn to go and get ready. Dunn left and went to the bedroom.
The man waited a short while, and then he too entered the bedroom. Dunn was naked, except for a studded belt and a black leather body harness. The man told Dunn to lie down on the bed on his stomach. He then handcuffed Dunn and tied his feet together. The man asked Dunn how he felt, and Dunn told him he felt scared but excited.
His excitement would soon pass, but the fear would increase. The man began to beat Dunn with his fists and a belt and started to demand his cash card and PIN. The violence was horrific, and Dunn gave him everything he wanted. But the man didn’t believe the PIN he gave him was real, of the four numbers, three consecutive numbers were identical.
The killer took his lighter and held the flame to Dunn’s testicles, and there was more beating. Satisfied that he had the right information, the killer took some pieces of cloth and jammed them into Dunn’s mouth, suffocating him.
Once again, the killer cleaned up the crime scene thoroughly, putting the plate and glass he had used earlier into his bag and wiping everything down, and even cleaning the batteries from his flashlight, something he had seen on a television program. His clothing and shoes had been changed and the discarded clothes placed in the bag to be disposed of by throwing them from the train.
As before, he stayed at the apartment until he deemed it was safe enough to leave. Later, he would tell the police that he believed staying in the apartments with the corpses affected him mentally, that sitting with them as they gradually became blotchy wasn’t something he could cope with.
It turned out that murdering men was a costly business, what with having to replace items in his murder kit and having to buy new clothes to make up for the ones he was throwing away. With this in mind, the man used Dunn’s cash card and PIN to withdraw £200 from his account.
On May 30, two days after his death, Dunn’s body was discovered by a friend who had come to call on him. The police who investigated believed, at first, that it was a sex game gone wrong, having been informed that Dunn was a gay man who went to bars and clubs, including the Coleherne, that catered to the homosexual community. But when they realized that money had been taken from Dunn’s bank account using his PIN, the theory was changed to a robbery and murder, and that he was tortured to reveal the PIN.
At the time of the killings, the Metropolitan Police were split into five different areas, and they didn’t normally consult each other on crimes that had taken place. As the police investigating the Dunn killing were from a different station than the Battersea police who were looking at the Walker killing, neither of the two murders was linked. Once again, there was no forensic evidence or any witnesses that could help with the investigation.
The Urge to Kill Sharpens
On June 4, 1993, the man was back in the Coleherne pub. It had been just six days since the murder of Christopher Dunn. The man’s urge to kill was escalating, and the gap between killings was becoming shorter. He was becoming frustrated by the fact that the killings had not been linked, and the craving he had for recognition had not been fulfilled.
Perry Bradley III was a tall and handsome blond man from Sulphur Springs, Texas, the International Sales Director for J-B Weld Co, an adhesives manufacturing company. Perry’s late father was Perry Bradley Jr., a U.S. Congressman and a Democratic Party fundraiser, and Perry himself, with success in both the real estate and construction businesses, was already quite wealthy.
Bradley had his fatal meeting at the Coleherne and the two men went back to Bradley’s apartment in Kensington. The 35-year-old Bradley took off his clothes and his new friend suggested that he tie him up as foreplay. But Bradley was not into S & M, and was reluctant to do so. However, the man told him that for him to get aroused, he needed the bondage foreplay. Bradley relented and soon, he was face down on the bed, hands cuffed behind his back and his feet tied together with cord. The man then placed a noose around Bradley’s neck.
To Bradley’s horror, the man then demanded Bradley’s cash card and PIN, and told him he was quite willing to kill him if he needed to. The man threatened to take his lighter and burn Bradley’s testicles if he wasn’t told what he wanted to know.
Bradley, frightened for his life, told the man where the card was and the PIN, and offered to go to the bank with him to withdraw the money. The man said that would not be necessary.
He then told Bradley that it was going to be a long night, and suggested that he get some sleep. As amazing as it seems, Bradley actually drifted off to sleep. According to his statement to the police, the killer sat around for a while and considered letting Bradley live, but then decided it was easier just to kill him.
As Bradley slept, the man began to tighten the noose. Bradley hardly struggled as the man took away his life. Once Bradley was dead, the man searched through the apartment, finding £100, which he stole. He then cleaned up thoroughly and spent the rest of the night relaxing, listening to the radio, until it was safe to leave. Before he left, the man placed a doll on Bradley’s body.
At the bank, the man used Bradley’s cash card to withdraw another £200, then headed back home, again throwing the murder kit from the train window.
This third killing was also not linked to the others, again because the police investigating the death were from a different area. It was also not linked because the others concerned the deaths of known homosexuals, and this was not a homosexual death. Perry Bradley III was not gay. At least, that’s what people thought. Bradley had kept his sexual preferences so secret that no one knew that he was a homosexual.
When people back in Sulphur Springs heard of his death and that there was a suggestion of homosexuality, they all dismissed it. One said that Bradley loved beautiful women, and suggested that he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The police may have kept an open mind about Bradley’s sexual preferences, but likely went along with the heterosexual suggestion to protect the family.
However, the death of the son of a prominent political figure did make the headlines, though the killer was still angry that despite having killed three times, none of the deaths were linked, and therefore his wish to be recognized as a serial killer was still unfulfilled.
This time, the gap between killings became even shorter. On June 7, just three days after he killed Perry Bradley, the man was back at the Coleherne searching for yet another victim.
Victim No. 4
The man met and began chatting to 33-year-old Andrew Collier, who worked as a warden for a sheltered housing complex in Dalston, in North East London. They left the Coleherne and went back to Collier’s apartment where, just after they arrived, a disturbance took place and both men looked out of the window.
Whatever it was died down, and the two men returned to the reason they were there. As with the others, Collier allowed the man to handcuff him and tie him to the bed. A noose was then put around Collier’s neck.
Once again, the demands for the cash card and the PIN were made, but Collier refused to give them. Angry, the man began to torture Collier, and then started searching through the apartment. Among the items he found was notification that Collier was HIV positive.
The man’s anger increased, and he tortured Collier some more, using his lighter to burn parts of Collier’s body.
Then, to Collier’s horror, the man caught Collier’s pet cat, Millie. As Collier watched, the man hanged the cat by the neck from the door, killing it in front of Collier. No doubt at this point, Collier knew he was going to die, and he was right. The man tightened the noose around Collier’s neck and killed him, then stuffed condoms in his mouth.
But still angry, the man then decided to humiliate Collier even more. He placed a condom over Collier’s penis, and another one over the cat’s tail. He then positioned the cat on Collier’s body so that the cat’s mouth was around Collier’s penis, and the cat’s tail was in Collier’s mouth.
Once again, he cleaned the crime scene and waited until the streets were busier so he could blend into the crowd. He took with him £70 that he had found, and a mug that he had used.
When Collier was eventually found, it was a scene that the police had never encountered before. Once again, this was a different team investigating this death. Although, like the killings before, this could have been interpreted as a sex act that had gone too far, the fact that the cat had been killed and displayed in such a manner caused the detectives to think that this may be something more.
The investigating officers, led by Detective Chief Superintendant Albert Patrick, began to look at other deaths within the past few months to see if anything similar had occurred. Detective Sergeant Terry Webster called the team investigating the Bradley death, but was told that as Bradley was not homosexual, it wasn’t linked. With the Christopher Dunn death labeled as accidental, it was not surprising that none of them were linked. But when Webster saw the details of the Patrick Walker killing, he knew that he was on to something. The two teddy bears left in the 69 position were similar, in essence, to the position that the cat and Collier were left. Webster called the police in Battersea. Finally, two of the deaths were linked.
The police made an appeal to the gay community, but there were bridges that had to be built.
The killer still craved publicity, and on June 12, five days after murdering Andrew Collier, he called the Kensington police and gave details of the killing, and claimed that he had killed four men in total.
He also called the Battersea police. “Are you still interested in the death of Peter Walker?” he asked them. He also asked them if they had stopped the investigation into Walker’s death, and suggested that they were not interested in the death of a homosexual. He told them he dreamed of committing the perfect murder, and said that he will kill again.
The Last Victim
That night, the man went out once more, back to the Coleherne, hunting for another victim.
Emanuel Spiteri was 42 years old, originally from Malta, now a chef working in London. He was a short man who liked to dress in leather pants and wore motorcycle boots. He frequently went to many gay bars, but as one barmaid stated later, he was shy and retiring, a classic wallflower.
On June 12, he went to the Coleherne.
The killer met him there and they chatted for a while, but then Spiteri left. This could have been a lucky escape, but unfortunately, a while later, the killer bumped into him again at Earls Court Tube Station. They chatted again, and this time Spiteri invited him back to his apartment in Catford, South East London.
It took several trains to get there, but once in his apartment, the usual scene played out. Spiteri was handcuffed and tied to the bed, and a noose was placed around his neck. Once more, the killer demanded the cash card and PIN, but Spiteri refused to give it. The man tightened the noose, strangling Spiteri.
The man performed his usual clean up, removing any forensic evidence, and watched television until the morning before he left. But this time, he decided to add something new. He gathered papers and put them on the floor in the bedroom, then set them alight. He hoped the blaze would destroy the whole apartment block, and had even considered turning on the gas, though he then decided not to.
The next day, the man called the police and told them to look for his fifth victim at the scene of a fire in South London. What the man didn’t know was that just after he had left, the fire burned itself out, doing little damage.
While the police were searching through reports of fires, the police station got a call in the early evening of June 15. The woman was a landlady who reported that one of her tenants was dead, and that there was evidence of a fire in the bedroom. The police had found Emanuel Spiteri.
It was now clear that a serial killer was on the loose, targeting the homosexual population. Both Walker and Collier had been linked, and now Dunn, Bradley, and Spiteri had been added to the list of victims.
The police called a midnight press conference. Detective Chief Superintendant Ken John, heading the inquiry, said that the five murders were linked both “pathologically and forensically” and were the work of the same man. John made an appeal to the gay community, asking them to be careful, and recommended that if they were going off with anyone they didn’t know to inform a friend exactly where they were going. Albert Patrick added “I am extremely frightened that this man will strike again. There may well be other victims we don't yet know about, and heterosexuals may also be at risk.”
Patrick also added what may be the motives for the murders. “It is possible that the killer has AIDS and is taking revenge for his own HIV infection. I have a gut feeling that the men were lured for sex and then things went badly wrong.”
On June 17, another press conference was called, this time allowing Ken John to make a direct appeal for the killer to give himself up. “Speak to me, I am willing to speak to you. I need to speak to you. This is something we can talk about. Enough is enough. Enough pain, enough anxiety, enough tragedy. Give yourself up – whatever terms, whatever you dictate, whatever the time, to me or my colleagues.”
He then explained to the press that a man had been calling the police and telling them that he had committed the murders, giving details of the killings, but that now the calls had stopped. John believed the calls were a cry for help.
Two days after the last press conference, London’s Gay Pride Festival was held. It was attended by more than 50,000 homosexuals, and the police were present to hand out leaflets giving details of the murders of the five victims, and asking for anyone to come forward if they had information, and warned the homosexual community to be careful in any encounters with people they meet casually.
“The Gay Slayer”
The news of the killer, now given the nickname “The Gay Slayer,” chilled and horrified the city, though the least shocked seemed to be the gay community itself. As one put it, “Gay people take a lot of risks anyway, and it just seems like another one to look out for.” In fact, within the gay community, he began to be jokingly referred to as the “queerial killer.”
This may have seemed like an odd reaction, but as the publisher of London’s Capital Gay newspaper, Michael Mason, said, “After living 10 years under the shadow of AIDS, suddenly people are wondering if we're quaking with fear because five people have been murdered, as terrible as that is.”
Profilers Weigh In
The police asked psychologist Dr. Mike Berry to draw up a profile of the killer. Berry advised them that the killer was driven by violent fantasies, but each killing didn’t live up to the fantasy that he had in his head, causing him to have to recreate the killing with a new victim. He also said that he believed the killer is not HIV positive and therefore not taking revenge on the homosexual community.
Another psychologist, Dr. Jonas Rappeport, agreed with Berry, and went on to suggest that the killer was possibly not even homosexual, but just pretending to be one to attract the victims to him, giving them a false sense of security.
Criminal psychologist Paul Britton also gave advice, as did Dick Walter, a psychologist from Michigan, and famed FBI profiler Robert Ressler, who happened to be in England on a book tour.
One Fingerprint Left Behind
Despite the cynicism of the gay community regarding the police and their distrust, one gay man came forward. It happened that this man was on the same train from Charing Cross to Hither Green as Spiteri and his killer on the night that he was murdered, and got a clear view of the man Spiteri was with. He gave the police a description, which was released on June 24. The man with Spiteri was a white male aged between 30 to 40 years old, over six feet tall, and clean shaven. He had a full face and had short dark hair. The police, based on this description, created an E-FIT, an Electronic Facial Identification Technique, of the suspect, and issued it to the press.
As the witness said he was on the train from Charing Cross, the police contacted the station and asked for their security camera tapes for the night in question, hoping that they were lucky enough to have captured the killer on tape. Charing Cross Station sent them almost 500 hours of videotape which they had to go through.
|Still from CCTV camera|
Finally, the officers’ viewing paid off, the man with Spiteri had been caught on tape. Taking a still from the videotape, the police released it to the public on July 2 and asked for information. By the next day, the police had received more than 40 telephone calls, many of them from men claiming that they had seen or even talked to the man in the Coleherne Pub.
On July 19, a 39-year-old man walked into the office of his solicitor in Southend-on-Sea, a coastal resort town in Essex, some 40 miles from London. He had seen the video still that had been released and had recognized the man with Spiteri. He was that man.
His name was Colin Ireland, and he explained to the solicitor that the man in the video was him, but he had not killed Spiteri. He said he had met Spiteri and had agreed to go home with him, but when they arrived, there was another man there, and Ireland didn’t want any part of that, so he left.
By this time, the police had already identified the man in the video as Colin Ireland, and were on their way to see him in Southend. The solicitor called the police, and they went to the solicitor’s office to await the arrival of Colin Ireland.
When Ireland arrived, he handed them a written statement, telling the story that he had told the solicitor. The police immediately placed him under arrest and took him back to London. At Islington police station, Ireland’s fingerprints were taken, and he was interviewed, but Ireland had decided not to talk.
Anatomy of a Serial Killer
The police looked into his background. Colin Ireland’s mother was a young news agent’s assistant when, at the age of 17, she gave birth to her son at the West Hill Hospital, in Dartford, Kent. It was March 16, 1954. The pregnancy was unplanned, and, no surprise to her, the father wanted nothing to do with it. He vanished from the scene, and the young mother left his name off the birth certificate. She was unable to cope with being a mother on her own, and with barely enough money coming in for herself, let alone a newborn, she moved in with her grandparents at Myrtle Road, Dartford.
They stayed there for the next few years until more relations from abroad came to stay. At this point, now 22 years old, she decided to move with her 5 year old, and become more independent. They moved to Birch Road in Gravesend, but things were more difficult, with her trying to balance looking after a small child, and trying to earn enough money from part-time and unskilled work. Eventually, when it became too much, they moved back into the house at Myrtle Road until 1960, when she had saved some money.
This time, they moved to Sidcup in Kent, but later that same year moved again, this time to Westmalling in Maidstone, Kent.
Westmalling was a camp for homeless women and their children, almost like a prisoner of war camp than a home. The day she arrived there, the young Colin remembered her bursting into tears. She was able to stand it for three months, but no more than that. She returned to Myrtle Road.
By the following year, things had improved. She had met a man, and the three of them moved to Farnol Road, Dartford. There they would remain for three years, after getting married, and changing Colin’s last name from Ireland to his new stepfather’s name of Saker.
Colin liked his new father, but though he was an electrician by trade, he only worked once in a while, and was completely irresponsible when it came to money. With the constant moving around, Colin’s school life suffered, constantly being the “new boy” with its subsequent taunts. Tall and thin, Colin just never seemed to fit in. Between the ages of five and 10, Colin went to six different primary schools, with a move causing him to leave just as he was getting used to it.
Colin became a loner and withdrawn, standing on the sidelines watching rather than joining in.
In 1964, the family was evicted from Farnol Road for non-payment of rent. Colin and his mother ended up back at the women’s camp at Westmalling, with his stepfather having to find somewhere else to stay as the camp was for women and children only.
That same year, Colin’s mother discovered that she was pregnant. It was clear that the emotional and financial strain could not take the addition of a new baby, but Colin’s mother wanted the child. They decided that Colin would go into foster care until the financial situation improved.
Colin stayed with a family in Wainscott, Kent, until his family was able to take him back. When he was returned, his mother, stepfather, and a baby brother were living in West Kingsdown.
Still poverty stricken, his mother would sacrifice for her children, often going hungry so the kids would have enough to eat. Colin bonded with his mother, and although poor, things seemed to be going right. But then what little stability they had was torn apart when Colin’s stepfather abandoned them.
The marriage had been going downhill for quite a while, and before her husband had even left, she had already met another man. The couple married fairly soon after, but Colin, angry and resentful to all adults, refused to take the new stepfathers name, reverting back to the name of Ireland.
The new stepfather was stable and good hearted, and in 1965 the family moved to Clyde Street in Sheerness, Kent. They would stay in this house for the next five years.
By this time, Colin was 12 and beginning to get interested in sex. He started masturbating at this age, his fantasies fueled at that time by the usual stuff, mildly erotic magazines and the underwear sections of shopping catalogues, the same things that most boys used as fantasies at that time.
But there were other sexual experiences that were not so normal. On four occasions, elderly men approached him in the hopes of enticing him somewhere for sex. In each case, nothing happened, Colin refused to go with the men, but the attempts made him angry, and for a boy with an already diminished confidence, it made him feel that he was destined to be a victim.
In 1970, Colin turned to crime. The 16 year old stole £4.00 and planned to run away to London with the money. But the plan failed. He was caught and made the subject of a “fit person order” and sent to Finchton Manor School in Kent. There he was bullied by other boys who made fun of his accent and also made fun of the fact that the council was paying for his stay there, whereas the other boys were being paid for by their parents.
In revenge, he went to the room he shared with two boys and set fire to his belongings.
The fire brigade put the fire out, and Colin was taken away by a social worker. No charges were brought against Colin for the incident.
Fires seemed to have played a great part in Colin’s mind. He had recurring nightmares that revolved around fire, and read books about the fire brigade. It’s likely that this was the reason he set fire to Spiteri’s room.
Now free of Finchton, Colin ran away to London and began hanging around Playland, an amusement arcade where pedophiles would often pick up young runaways. Although Colin was never abused, he saw others sell their bodies for a place to sleep.
Colin had no money, and nowhere to sleep, and inevitably, he found himself in trouble again, committing minor offenses which led to a sentence at Hollesly Bay Borstal. The security was so light that Colin escaped. His freedom was short lived, however, as he was picked up by the police and sent back to Borstal, this time the tighter institutions at Rochester and Grendon.
He was there in 1971 and 1972, and then, at the age of 18 he was released. It was around this time that he began his first relationship with a woman, but which was not a happy period of his life. The relationship faltered.
When he was 21 years old, in December 1975, he was captured after stealing a car, damaging property and committing two counts of burglary. No longer a minor, he was sentenced to 18 months, though he only served 12.
Shortly after he was released, he moved in with a woman and began his first sexual relationship, losing his virginity at the age of 22. This relationship lasted a few months before Colin left.
Over the next few years, Colin went back and forth between prison for crimes such as demanding with menaces, robbery, and attempted deception, interspersed with jobs such as a volunteer fireman, a volunteer in a homeless shelter, and a bouncer at a number of bars, including a gay bar.
When he was 27, he was working as a chef when he met a woman named Virginia Zammitt at a lecture on survivalism. She was 36 years old, nine years older than Colin, confined to a wheelchair after being paralyzed in a road accident when she was 24, and she had a 5-year-old daughter. Nevertheless, they hit it off, and the following year, 1982, they married.
Colin loved Virginia and her daughter, but he was becoming more unstable, and eventually, the marriage failed as Colin was becoming increasingly aggressive and getting into more trouble and finding himself imprisoned. When Colin had an affair in 1987, the marriage ended.
Two years passed, and in 1989, Colin met the landlady at the Globe pub in Buckfast, Devon. Janet Young fell in love with Colin, and within the space of a week, he moved in with her and her two children, aged 11 and 13. Three months later, they were married.
Four months into the marriage, Colin drove Janet and her children to her mother’s house. Nothing seemed wrong. But Colin then disappeared, taking with him everything from the house, emptying Janet’s bank account, stealing money from the pub, and taking the car.
With the collapse of this marriage, Colin moved to Southend-on-Sea in Essex. There, he got a job working in a shelter for the homeless. The manager, Richard Higgs, said that he was liked by the guests as he had similar problems and could empathize with them. But, by December, 1992, many unfounded allegations were made against Colin, forcing him to resign. Colin went to an adult training center, where he found himself breaking up wooden pallets. To Colin, it was demeaning work, and he was becoming frustrated. He realized in this life he was a nobody, and he wanted to be a somebody. His solution was to become a serial killer.
Colin had been an avid reader of crime books and knew that to be classed as a serial killer, according to one book, he had to murder five people. He also knew about the relatively new theory of geographical profiling, and that the serial killers home range was, in England, seven miles. Killers operate within this seven mile radius, and with this knowledge, Colin chose to trick the police by consciously killing outside that seven-mile limit.
To further confuse the police, he would throw the murder kit from the window of the train, but always within that seven mile radius.
And on March 8, 1993 his plan became reality.
After his capture, Ireland maintained his silence through two days of interrogation, revealing no emotions. Instead, he just stared at the officers. But Ireland was shocked for a moment when the police revealed one thing. As much as Ireland’s story of leaving Spiteri with the other man at his home was plausible, they had one piece of evidence that proved he was lying: a fingerprint. And it had been found not in Spiteri’s home, but in the apartment of Andrew Collier.
The Collier Crime Scene
That night at Collier’s home, the disturbance outside which caused them to look out of the window resulted in Ireland accidentally touching the inside of a bar that was across the window. Ireland had completely forgotten that he touched it, and so didn’t wipe it when he cleaned up. After the initial shock of the fingerprint evidence was over, Ireland went back to silence.
On July 21, the police charged him with the murder of Andrew Collier, and two days later, with the murder of Emanuel Spiteri.
Ireland was remanded in custody, and for the next four weeks continued to be silent, until August 19, when he suddenly decided to make a confession. He was the man responsible for the five deaths. Once he started, he gave detailed descriptions of what he did, showing no emotions. The next day, he was also charged with the murders of Walker, Dunn, and Bradley.
Ireland told the police that he felt he needed to be removed from society, adding that he knew the murderous side of his personality could only be controlled if he was in prison. He pointed out that he himself was not gay, and had no particular grudge against homosexuals. He just picked them because they were easy targets. According to him, it could just as easily have been women he targeted.
Colin Ireland had confessed to all five murders, and so there was no need for a trial, just a sentencing. By confessing, Colin had ended the chance of becoming as famous as previous serial killers.
On December 20, at the Old Bailey’s Number One Court, Colin Ireland was sentenced by the judge, Mr Justice Sachs, who said, “"By any standards you are an exceptionally frightening and dangerous man. In cold blood and with great deliberation you have killed five of your fellow human beings. You killed them in grotesque and cruel fashion. The fear, brutality and indignity to which you subjected your victims are almost unspeakable. To take one human life is an outrage, to take five is carnage. You expressed the desire to be regarded as a serial killer. That must be matched by your detention for life.”
And life it was. While walking in the yard at Wakefield Prison, Ireland, then 57 years old, slipped and fractured his hip. Ten days later, on February 21, 2012, Colin Ireland died from pulmonary fibrosis and the fractured hip.