Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Colin Ireland

The Story

Ireland's fifth and final victim was 41-year-old Emanuel Spiteri (a "leather type") who was a Maltese chef. Ireland remembers how he and Spiteri "went from the Coleherne - via a couple of trains - to his flat" in Catford on 12 June. When they arrived at the flat, Ireland cuffed and bound Spiteri on his bed, putting a noose around his neck and demanding his PIN number. But by this time Ireland's desire to kill seemed to be wearing thin.

"Once at his flat I bound him, but he was becoming suspicious. The word had got around about the gay murders and he was getting a bit worried. By then it was too late. But he was a very brave man. He told me, 'Do whatever you are going to do.' I told him I wanted his PIN number. It wasn't my primary motivation to kill him. It was more finance, money really. But I couldn't allow him to stick around and recognise me so I killed him with a noose again. I put a noose around his neck and started to tighten it and I killed him."

Ireland had now killed four times in seventeen days. Again, he went through the ritual of cleansing the flat of forensic evidence, and once again waited until morning, watching television, until it was safe to leave. Before he left he added a final touch, attempting to set fire to the flat. Indeed, he thought of leaving the gas on, in the hope that the whole block might set alight, but decided against it. When asked later why he had set the fire, he told police, "I once worked as a fireman - there is a bit of an arsonist in all firemen." He added, "I think there is something in me that's highly destructive, in some moods I would be quite happy to burn the world down."

The next day, Ireland rang the police, telling them to look for a body at the scene of a fire in south London. He also told them: "I have read a lot of books on serial killers. I think it is from four people that the FBI class as serial, so I may stop now I have done five. I just wanted to see if it could be done. I will probably never re-offend again." This statement prompted numerous calls from the British press to (ex) FBI Agent Robert Ressler asking him whether his book Whoever Fights Monsters shouldn't be removed from the shops, as Ireland had obviously read it and it had caused him to murder. Ressler answered that a person intent on committing a murder will seize upon any justification and encouragement for it.

While officers were searching for the body, on the early evening of the 15th, a landlady in Catford rang the police to report that one of her lodgers was dead. It was Emanual Spiteri, and there was evidence of a fire that burned itself out in his room.

The publicity campaign now began in earnest. Late that same night a press conference was called, and Detective Superintendent Ken John reported that the murders of five homosexual men had now been linked as a series, said Detective Chief Superintendent Ken John, the head of the inquiry, both "pathologically and forensically." The murders of Walker and Collier had already been identified as the work of the same man, but now Dunn, Bradley and Spiteri were being added to the series. Sitting next to a representative of the Gay London Policing Group, John appealed to the gay community to be wary, recommending that if they went anywhere with a stranger they should tell a friend exactly where they were going. Detective Superintendent 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." He also surmised (wrongly) about the killer's motives that "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 the 17th of June, Ken John made an appeal directly to the killer, asking him 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 told the press that a man had been in contact with the police, giving details of the killings, and they were very eager to talk to him, but that now that the matter had been exposed to the media - in order to warn the gay community - the calls had stopped. The calls, he said, were factual; they were not, as many were speculating, "baiting and mocking the police," but were more likely "a cry for help." He added that he wanted to protect the gay community in any way possible, and asked the media not to speculate about the killer's motives, as it might "spark him off. The person may be disenchanted with the way he has been portrayed. That again can spark reaction." Tread gently, he was pleading: "We are dealing with a man who might need help. We are prepared to offer it to him. I need to talk to him."

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