Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Unthinkable: Children Who Kill

Britain's 'Most Dangerous Teenager'

The consensus in court was that Stuart Harling was not ill but stupid in his possible bid to become his town's first serial killer. If they're right, then the sentence he received means he could be free one day to consider doing it again.

Sign: St. George's Hospital in Hornchurch
Sign: St. George's Hospital in Hornchurch

As the sensational trial commenced in June, several British media sources published the daily details. Harling, 19 and an unemployed accountant trainee, had gone out on April 6, 2006, prepared to kill. In fact, he'd rehearsed for it and had spent a year in preparation. Dressed in a long wig and sunglasses that day, and armed with a large hunting knife (all of which he'd purchased online), he went to the wooded grounds of St. George's Hospital in Hornchurch, Essex, and hid behind a hedgeFrom there Harling spotted a newly-married thirty-three-year-old nurse, Cheryl Moss, taking a cigarette break.

Cheryl was talking on her cell phone, so she did not notice the young man leap out at her the instant she ended her call. In a frenzied manner, Harling stabbed her in the head, neck, face, back, and chest. After the first thrusts, she fell to the ground, unable to fend off the blows. She couldn't even scream, so no one came to her rescue. Harling managed to stab her 72 times until his wig fell off, at which point he fled.

Cheryl Moss, victim
Cheryl Moss, victim

Cheryl's colleagues found her and tried to help, but she was already dead. They called the police, and it did not take the authorities long to find the culprit. For all his planning, Harling had made a significant error: he left his murder kit behind, containing the bloody knife, sunglasses, wig, gloves, and an envelope addressed to him. The police went to his home in Rainham and arrested him. By that time, he had already logged onto the Internet to see the news flashes about the murder.

Later, Harling claimed that he'd been surprised to learn from the arresting officers that his victim had died. He'd meant only to take her car keys, he said, so he could "overthrow an African government." His friends confirmed that he'd talked about recruiting people for this venture as a way to get rich. Obviously, his plan included mitigating his crime with a mental illness defense.