The British Serial Killer Who Targeted Gay Men from One Pub
Colin Ireland was a British serial killer given the nickname of the Gay Slayer.
He was a highly organised killer who carried a complete murder kit of rope, handcuffs and a change of clothes to each of his five murders. After killing the victim, he would clean the building of all forensic evidence that linked him to the scene.
On occasion, he would take the additional precaution of staying in the deceased's flat until morning to avoid arousing the suspicion of any neighbours who might have seen him leave in the middle of the night.
Like many killers, despite all his planning, he made a mistake that led to his capture.
The Childhood of a Killer
Ireland's mother was just seventeen when she gave birth to him on 16th March 1954 in Dartford, Kent. His father was also an unmarried teenager who left them both shortly after the birth.
Little is known about the other half of his genetics as his mother neither put his father's name on the birth certificate nor told Ireland who he was. Instead, she packed her belongings and lived with her parents for five years.
By 1961, his mother had found a new partner and the three of them moved back to Dartford for the next three years. When the couple married, Colin's surname was changed to that of his stepfather, Saker.
Despite being financially unstable and not the perfect partner, Saker was a good father figure, treating Colin well. However, despite this relationship, life for the young boy was chaotic. Between the ages of five and ten, he attended six different schools.
Ireland was always considered the 'new boy' at school; his thin, lanky frame and bow-legged stance made him an obvious target for bullies. Being bullied is one of the precursors to serial killing.
At age ten, Ireland, along with his mother and stepfather, were evicted, and his mother was again pregnant. His mother decided that he was an expense she could not afford, so she placed him in care. Soon after, his stepfather walked out on the family and Ireland was invited back.
However, the three of them were broke and alone. Two years later, Ireland welcomed another stepfather when his mother remarried. Although Ireland refused to take his name, reverting to his mother's maiden name, many considered this a time of stability for the young man.
While living in Sheerness, Kent, Ireland, was approached four times by older men wanting to have sex with him. Each time he refused their advances, there was never any physical or sexual contact. However, these incidents started filling Ireland with rage, a rage that had no outlet.
It was shortly after this that Ireland started to commit crimes. In his mid-teens, he was sent to Borstal for theft, where he set light to another resident's belongings.
He escaped from Borstal on one occasion, only to be returned there reasonably soon. On his release in 1976, he moved to Swindon, where he was convicted of extortion a year later.
Two other sentences in 1980 and 81 would follow for robbery and deception charges. In 1982, he married his first wife, Virginia Zammit. The couple went on to have a daughter and were known to live in the Holloway area.
Three years later, he was convicted and sentenced to six months on a charge of 'going equipped to cheat.' His wife divorced him in 1987 when his adultery was discovered.
He would not be alone long; he married Janet Young in Devon in 1989. It was reported that he was violent to her and stole from her; the couple separated in the early 1990s.
The Ignored Murderer
Following another failed marriage, Ireland moved to Southend-on-Sea, where he became homeless for a while and lived in a hostel before moving into his own flat. While living in the flat, he started frequenting the Coleherne Arms in Earls Court. The bar was considered by all to be a gay bar and is where Ireland started to meet his victims.
Ireland would seek out men who liked to be the passive partner in a shadow-masochism relationship. This made the men easy to restrain because they believed it was part of a sex game.
His first victim was fourth-five-year-old Peter Walker. While restrained, Ireland placed a plastic bag over his head and suffocated him. Then, he posed his body in an erotic position with two teddy bears.
The day after the murder, Ireland scoured the media and found that no news outlets were reporting his crime. So he called a journalist at The Sun newspaper to advise them that the victim's dogs had been locked in and room and he had killed their owner. He told them he would become a famous serial killer.
True to his word, his second victim was thirty-seven-year-old Christopher Dunn. Again he killed him in a similar fashion to Walker. However, the two victims lived in different areas, so two police forces investigated. Unfortunately, they failed to connect the two murders, despite both men drinking in the Coleherne Arms.
Perry Bradley III was Ireland's third victim. The thirty-five-year-old businessman was reluctant to be tied up until Ireland told him he couldn't perform without the sexual elements of bondage.
Bradley hesitantly agreed and was restrained with a noose around his neck. Ireland then proceeded to rob Bradley before strangling him. Before leaving Bradley's flat, he placed a doll on the dead man's body.
Ireland's rage increased as he received no publicity for the killing of three men. Within three days, he claimed his fourth victim. This was where he made the first of two mistakes.
Andrew Collier was thirty-three and took Ireland back to his flat. When they arrived, there was a disturbance outside; both men went to the window to investigate. Ireland unwittingly grabbed the horizontal bar at the window.
Ireland once again strangled his victim and cat, placing the cat in a provocative position on the dead body. He cleaned the murder scene as always but forgot to wipe his prints off the window. Police found these prints during their investigation.
His last victim was Emanuel Spiteri; this time, he set light to the flat to hide the evidence. The fire was not successful, destroying only one room of the property.
After this murder, he phoned the police to enquire why the previous four murders had not been linked. The mass media publicised the murder; a serial killer was targeting gay men.
The investigation team uncovered that Spiteri had left the pub and travelled home with the killer by train. Security footage captured the two men on the platform at Charing Cross.
Ireland saw the footage and rang the police claiming he was the man with Spiteri but not the killer. He claimed he left him in his flat with a third unidentified man. However, when the police ran his fingerprints against those in Collier's flat, they came back as a match.
They charged Ireland with the murders of both Collier and Spiteri. While in jail, Ireland confessed to the other three murders.
Motivation for Killing
When interviewed, Ireland made it clear that he was not gay and had been married twice to women. Although he stated he pretended to be gay to befriend his victims, he also claimed that none of the murders was sexually motivated.
Ireland used the murders to rob his victims as he was unemployed at the time. He said he used the funds obtained to travel to and from London, hunting for more victims.
He also claimed that he did not have a vendetta against gay men; he targeted them as they were easy targets, much like targeting women. He also admitted to studying books on serial killers to become successful.
One of his favourite books was Whoever Fights Monsters by FBI agent Robert Ressler. He claimed this was where he learned to be so forensically aware.
Trial and Punishment
On 20th August 1993, at the Old Bailey, London, Ireland, was charged with the murders of Walker, Dunn, Bradley, Collier and Spiteri. He pleaded guilty on 22nd December 1993 and was sentenced to life imprisonment for the five killings.
In 2006, he was named as one of only thirty-five prisoners to have a whole life tariff; he would never be released. Ireland remained in prison until February 2012, when he died from natural causes; he was fifty-seven years old. He was a prisoner at Wakefield Prison, nicknamed Monster Mansion.
After his death, a post-mortem revealed he had died from pulmonary fibrosis resulting from a fractured hip he suffered earlier in the month. It is unclear how he fractured his hip.