Serial killer locked up for life: 'To take one human life is an outrage, to take five is carnage,' says judge

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The Independent Online
A PETTY criminal who admitted killing five homosexuals because he wanted to be recognised as a serial killer was yesterday jailed for life by an Old Bailey judge who said his actions were almost beyond belief.

Sentencing Colin Ireland, 39, to five life terms, Mr Justice Sachs told him he should never be released, saying: 'To take one human life is an outrage, to take five is carnage.' He had killed in 'grotesque and cruel circumstances,' his victims suffering unspeakable indignities.

A packed Number One court at the Old Bailey heard how Ireland, of Southend-on-Sea, Essex, had confesssed to meticulously planning and carrying out his killing spree, murdering five sado-masochistic homosexuals, specifically targeted because they were vulnerable.

During the two-hour hearing, Ireland, thick set and 6ft-tall with cropped greying hair and wearing a burgandy crew neck sweater, showed little emotion. But he appeared alternately bored and restless, constantly staring around the courtroom, particularly at the crowded press benches, then stretching and stifling yawns.

Ireland's barrister said his client sought no medical shelter for his actions and knew it was unlikely he would ever be released. As he was taken from the dock, his mother, Pat Williams, sobbed; Alan Williams, his stepfather, said the sentence was 'justified'.

Afterwards, Detective Chief Superintendent Ken John, who led the investigation, said Ireland had chosen homosexuals who practised sado-masochism as a vulnerable group who would allow themselves to be tied up by strangers. 'He told us 'I wanted to burn down the world' and that he hated people.' Det Ch Supt John rejected gay activist criticisms that the fifth murder could have been averted if police had realised and made public earlier the links between the first four; although Ireland had claimed responsibility by telephone, police had to wait for scientific confirmation.

The investigation did, however, mark a new degree of co-operation between police and the gay community, which for several weeks in mid summer knew that a killer was systematically picking off gay men. Police were forced to seek the assistance of Galop, the group that monitors police and gays in London and offered anonymity to those giving information. Gay officers were drafted in to the investigation as advisers. Many observers believe the force is more understanding of gay issues.

Detectives believe Ireland made a new year resolution to kill as a consequence of the failure of his life - he had two broken marriages, no settled home, a childhood in borstal and a string of petty convictions for burglary or theft - coupled with his departure in November 1992 from a job he had enjoyed as relief manager at a Southend night shelter for the homeless. He had fallen out with the owners and resigned.

Born in Dartford, Kent, Ireland left school at 13. Between spells in borstal and prison, he had worked as a volunteer fireman and was rejected by the Foreign Legion. Although he claimed to be a survivalist, detectives learnt he would sneak into restaurants leaving others to suffer the cold.

He married Virginia Zammit, a disabled sportswoman, in 1982. She believed his violence and apparent hatred of homosexuals stemmed from some childhood experience; they were divorced in 1987. In 1990 he remarried and for a while ran a public house in Devon.

When police distributed a close-circuit camera photograph of an unidentified Ireland with his last victim, he contacted police to claim that although he was the man in the picture he was not the killer. He confessed after learning he had left a fingerprint at the home of his fourth victim.

John Nutting, for the Crown, said Ireland wanted some things made clear: the offences had been committed while he was sober and not on drugs; although he was once a bouncer at a homosexual club, he had never been bisexual or homosexual; neither had he undressed during his encounters or become sexually excited; and although he had experienced sado-sex with women he pretended an interest in the male variety to commit the murders.

Asked for a motive, Ireland replied that he had been bullied as a child: 'I was a thin, lanky little runt - always getting the worst of it. It was building up in me - a general dislike of people.'

Andrew Trollope, QC, Ireland's counsel, said Ireland's good side had taken over and he realised what he was doing; that was why he had telephoned police to say: 'You have got to stop me.'

The five homosexual victims

PETER WALKER, 45, an assistant theatre director on a West End musical; suffocated at his flat in Battersea, south London, on 8 March;

CHRISTOPHER DUNN, 37, a Brent council librarian, strangled at his home in Wealdstone, north London, on 28 May;

PERRY BRADLEY III, 35, a businessman and son of a US congressman, strangled in his flat in Kensington, west London, on 4 June;

ANDREW COLLIER, 33, warden at a sheltered housing complex, strangled at his home in Dalston, east London, on 7 June;

EMANUEL SPITERI, 41, a chef, strangled at his flat in Catford, south-east London, on 12 June.

Calculating murderer, page 6

(Photograph omitted)