The British Man Executed in 1996 as a Serial Killer
The last execution of a Britain was John Martin Scripps in Singapore
Scripps became famous as the first tourist, hung in Singapore and only the second for any offence. His defence centred on his belief that he would not be executed as he was British. However, it took Scripps several years to graduate to serial killer status; previous to this, being a drug dealer was his profession. This occupation led to him learning the skills to kill.
The Early Life of John Martin Scripps
John Martin Scripps was born in Hereford on 9th December 1959. The family moved to London when he was a small boy. He remembers a happy childhood where he was close to his sister Janet. At age nine, though, he faced the hardship of losing his father. Scripps found his father with his head in the gas oven dead; he committed suicide when he found out that his wife was leaving him for another man. At the same time, Scripps mother found out that she had throat cancer. Although she survived, it is clear that for the nine-year-old Scripps, his world fell apart.
He became an introvert, and his schooling started to suffer; by the age of fourteen, he was known to the juvenile magistrates’ court for burglary and theft. Scripps then spent many years in and out of prison for various offences, including robbery and drug selling. Prison’s found it hard to contain him; he escaped to travel to multiple countries every time he was incarcerated.
The Tourist from Hell
Whilst on leave from prison in June 1990, Scripps absconded and boarded a plane to Bangkok. He spent several weeks with a young woman travelling around the country, ending in Patong Beach, Phuket. He spent ten days there before he decided to fly back to London; with him, he had a large quantity of heroin.
During the flight, the plane made a routine stop at Oman. During a random search, police found the heroin on Scripps. To test the powder, the Oman authorities would have needed to detain Scripps; instead, they chose to let him fly onto London under the control of the Captain, where he would be arrested.
Whilst he was remanded for this offence, police found various travel documents in a variety of names. Although he escaped whilst on bail for the crime, the police eventually caught up with him, where they discovered he had drugs worth over £50 000 in his possession. On 6th January 1991, Scripps pleaded guilty to the drug smuggling charges and received a sentence of thirteen years. He started his sentence in the Isle of Wight Albany Prison, where he learned a trade, that of a butcher.
He was shown how to bone out forequarters and hindquarters of beef, sides of bacon and pigs. James Quickley, who instructed him, described him as a ‘quick learner.’ However, the authorities did not know that while training him in butchery, they were also teaching him to murder and dismember humans.
Three years and ten months into his sentence, he escaped.
The Travelling Serial Killer
After absconding, Scripps went on a globe trotting murder rampage. He travelled through several countries, including Mexico, where he tried to reconcile with his estranged wife. Whilst there, he befriended British backpacker Timothy McDowell. It is thought that he beat McDowell to death and then dismembered his body, leaving it at the alligator river. What is known is that McDowell’s bank account was emptied with the money being transferred to Simon Davis, a known alias for Scripps. This money was used to travel to Singapore.
On 8th March 1995, thirty-three-year-old Gerald George Lowe arrived at Changi airport. He had a plan to buy a large amount of cheap technology and then return to South Africa to sell it at a profit. He was like any tourist looking for a friendly face; once Scripps saw his gold credit card, he had a friend.
Scripps suggested that they share a hotel room to save money, and the two went by taxi to The River View Hotel. Within moments of arriving, Lowe sat down to make his shopping list. Scripps chose this moment to come up behind Lowe and hit him with a hammer. He assaulted Lowe until he told him his PIN for the card. Scripps took him into the bathroom and slit his throat. Once he was dead, he dismembered him, placing his body in black bags and putting him in the wardrobe. He cleaned the bathroom and went on a shopping spree with Lowe’s gold card. Purchasing meals, computers and tickets to a concert. On his last night in Singapore, he deposited the bags in the river and walked out without paying his hotel bill. His next stop was Thailand.
As he left the plane in Phuket, he met mother and son Sheila and Darin Damude. Darin had been on a gap year travelling when he broke his leg, mum had flown to Thailand to give him some motherly love, and they had decided to go to Phuket. Scripps befriended them immediately and suggested they accompany him to Nilly Marina Inn, where he was staying. So they did and took a room opposite him. Scripps used the alias of Simon Davis to book in.
The day after they booked in, they were seen having breakfast and perusing the postcard rack in the morning. Unfortunately, it was the last time they were seen alive. It is believed that they went back to their room to make plans when Scripps attacked. Although, he was never charged with this offence, it seems inevitable he murdered them, as the next day, he went on another shopping spree, this time with the travel documents of the Damude’s. The remains for both were discovered sometime later, dismembered down an old mining shaft.
Capturing of a Killer
Meanwhile, in Singapore, the remains of Lowe had been discovered, and it fell to Acting Superintendent Lim to solve the crime. It was clear from the remains that the body was a Caucasian male; Lim first contacted the hotels to see if anyone had a guest missing. Within hours The Riverview Hotel said they had two guests who had left without paying. On 14th March, Vanessa Lowe filed a missing person report for her husband. She would later identify his body from scars on his body as his head was not found.
Police also discovered that Simon Davis had used Lowe’s credit card. So Davis became their prime suspect. The case would have rested there if not for the strange choice of Scripps to return to Singapore on 19th March. He was arrested on entry to the country and taken in for questioning.
When the officers opened the backpack he was carrying; they found a murder kit consisting of a stun-gun, hammer, can of mace, various restraining cuffs and knives. Another of his bags was filled with a middle-aged woman’s clothes and passports of two Canadian citizens by the name of Damude.
Trial and Execution
Although the Royal Mounted Police wished to interview Scripps about the Damude murders, the Singapore government refused. On 2nd October, Singapore tried Scripps case in front of a judge. This went on until 7th November where he was found guilty and sentenced to hang. Scripps himself said that his fate was in the hands of God now, and he was at peace with the decision. He refused to appeal or apply for clemency with regards to the conviction.
With this conviction, you would presume that he died as a peaceful man; however, this is far from the truth. On 19th April, he had time with his mother and sister, who did not say goodbye as neither could bring themselves to utter those words. At 3 am Scripps was awoken and fought with guards all the way to his execution. He had previously refused to be weighed to get the rope length right.
During the struggle, his prison clothes were ripped from him; he sustained a broken nose, multiple fractures and cuts as they dragged him to the noose. He was pronounced dead shortly after. What led Scripps to return to Singapore will never be known. Was it arrogance did he believe that as a British citizen, he would not be executed. In a twist, police found a safety deposit box shortly after his death in the name of Simon Davis. The box contained enough heroin for a fatal sentence; it appears this may have been why he returned to Singapore. With the number of drugs, if found, he would have been arrested, all avenues led to his execution.