Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Punk Rock Romeo and Juliet: Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen

"Tragic in Love, Tragic in Death"

A court of law never determined Sid Vicious's guilt or innocence in the death of Nancy Spungen. Friends and relatives knew that he beat her and that they sometimes beat each other. It's possible that he stabbed her in a fit of rage, his judgment clouded by his addiction.

But the couple also often spoke of taking their own lives, and just weeks before Nancy's death during their visit to the Spungens in Pennsylvania, they had mentioned that they probably wouldn't live long. During one of his suicide attempts after his arrest, Vicious did cry out that he hadn't lived up to his part of the "bargain." Is it possible that he and Nancy made a suicide pact, but in his drug haze he was unable to take his own life?

It has also been suggested that Nancy Spungen's killing was the result of a robbery gone bad. Rockets Redglare claimed that Spungen had cash spilling out of her bag in the early morning hours of October 12, but the next day police investigators found no sizeable amounts of cash in the room. Upon leaving the Chelsea Hotel at about 5 a.m., Redglare saw the mysterious 'Steve C' in the lobby. According to author Malcolm Butt, Steve C was a "local drug dealer" with a "history of mental illness." Perhaps Steve C or someone else entered Room 100 while Vicious was unconscious or out wandering, attempted to take Spungen's money, and killed her when she put up a fight.

It might also have been a revenge killing. Spungen was not well-liked, and Butts claims that she had had an argument with a Puerto Rican drug gang the day before she died. Perhaps someone she had disrespected wanted payback.

Sex Pistols' lead singer Johnny Rotten never believed that Vicious was guilty. "Sid isn't capable of killing her," Rotten told Melody Maker in an October 1978 interview. "It's not possible."

The true circumstances of Nancy Spungen's death may never be uncovered, but its notoriety as what one policeman called New York's "first punk rock murder" will never fade. Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen will be remembered forever as the punk Romeo and Juliet — tragic in love and tragic in death.

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