Colin Ireland, British serial killer, died he was 57
Colin Ireland was a British serial killer known as the Gay Slayer because his victims were homosexual men.
(16 March 1954 – 21 February 2012)
Ireland suffered a severely dysfunctional upbringing. He committed various crimes from age 16 and had served time in borstals and prisons. Criminologist David Wilson stated that Ireland was a psychopath.
While living in Southend, he started frequenting the Coleherne pub, a gay pub in west London. It was known as a place where men cruised for sexual partners and wore colour-coded handkerchiefs that indicated their preferred role. Ireland sought men who liked the passive role and sadomasochism, so he could readily restrain them as they initially believed it was a sexual game.
Ireland said he was heterosexual –
he had been married twice – and that he pretended to be gay only to
befriend potential victims. Ireland claimed that his motives were not
He was highly organized, and carried a full murder kit of rope and
handcuffs and a full change of clothes to each murder. After killing his
victim he cleaned the flat of any forensic evidence linking him to the
scene and stayed in the flat until morning in order to avoid arousing
suspicion from leaving in the middle of the night.
He was jailed for life for the murders in December 1993 and remained imprisoned until his death in February 2012, at the age of 57.
Ireland was born in Dartford, Kent to an unmarried teenage couple. Shortly after his birth, his father left him and his 17 year old mother. He is not named on his birth certificate and he did not know his identity. He was raised in poverty by his mother; they moved many times. In the early 1960s, she married. When she became pregnant, she put Ireland into care; he later returned to her. In 1966 she married another man. during the 1960s in Sheerness, Kent – Ireland was propositioned on three occasions and spied on once by men who were sexually attracted to him. In his mid-teens, he sent to borstal for theft and whilst there deliberately set fire to another resident’s belongings. At age 17, Ireland was convicted of robbery. He escaped and was returned to borstal.
Ireland had been a soldier and had a series of manual jobs.
In December 1975 he was convicted of car theft, criminal damage and two
burglaries, for which he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.
He was released in November 1976 and moved to Swindon, Wiltshire. He
lived with a black West Indian woman and her children for a few months. In 1977, he was convicted of extortion, for which he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. In 1980, he was convicted of robbery, for which he was sentenced to two years imprisonment. in 1981, he was convicted of attempted deception. In 1982, he married Virginia Zammit; the couple and her daughter lived in Holloway, London. In 1985, he was convicted of going equipped and sentenced to six months imprisonment.
He divorced in 1987 after his wife discovered that he cheated on her.
In 1989 in Devon, he married Janet Young; he was violent to her and
stole from her.
In the early 1990s, they separated; she and her children became
homeless. He moved to Southend-on-Sea, where he became homeless and
lived in a hostel. He later moved to a flat in the town and lived there whilst visiting a London gay bar where he found his victims.
Peter Walker, a 45-year-old choreographer who liked Sadomasochism, took Ireland back to his flat in Battersea. There he was bound, and ultimately suffocated by a plastic bag being placed over his head.
Ireland placed two teddy bears in a 69
position on the body. Ireland left Walker’s dogs locked in another
room. The day after the murder, having heard no news reports of the
crime, he called Samaritans and a journalist from The Sun newspaper, advising them of the dogs, and that he had murdered their owner.
Dunn was a 37-year-old librarian who lived in Wealdstone. Dunn was found naked in a harness, his death was initially believed to be an accident that occurred during an erotic game.
In addition, because he lived in a different area from Walker, a
different set of investigators worked on the case. For these reasons the
death was not linked to Walker’s.
Perry Bradley III
Ireland met a 35-year-old businessman, named Perry Bradley III, at the Coleherne pub. Bradley lived in Kensington and was the son of Texas Democratic Party fundraiser Perry Bradley Jr.
The two men returned to Bradley’s flat, where Ireland suggested that
he tie Bradley up. Bradley expressed his displeasure at the idea of sado-masochism.
In order to get Bradley to comply, Ireland told Bradley that he was
unable to perform sexually without elements of bondage. Bradley
hesitantly cooperated and was soon trussed up on his own bed, face down,
with a noose around his neck.
After Ireland had secured Bradley, he demanded money from him and
demanded his PIN under the threat of torture. Ireland assured Bradley
that he was merely a thief and would leave after stealing Bradley’s
After Bradley gave Ireland his PIN, which Ireland later used to steal
£200, along with £100 in cash stolen from Bradley’s flat, Ireland told
Bradley that he should go to sleep, as he wouldn’t be leaving his flat
Bradley eventually did fall asleep and Ireland momentarily thought of
leaving Bradley unharmed. Ireland then realized that Bradley could
identify him, and he used the noose, which he had earlier attached
around Bradley’s neck, to strangle him. Before leaving Bradley’s flat,
he placed a doll on top of the dead man’s body.
Ireland, angered that he had received no publicity even after three
murders, killed again within three days. At the pub he met and courted
33-year-old Andrew Collier, a housing warden, and the pair went to
Collier’s home in Dalston.
After entering the flat there was a disturbance outside and both men
went to the window to investigate. Ireland gripped a horizontal metal
bar that ran across the window. He later forgot to wipe the bar for
prints during his usual cleanup phase. The police found this
Once he had tied up his victim on the bed, Ireland again demanded his
victim’s bank details. This time his victim refused to comply. Ireland
killed Collier’s cat in Collier’s presence whilst he was restrained on
Ireland then strangled Collier with a noose. He put a condom on
Collier’s penis and placed the dead cat’s mouth over it, and placed the
cat’s tail into Collier’s mouth.
Ireland had become angered at discovering Collier was HIV positive
while rummaging through his personal effects looking for bank details.
A suspected reason for his killing of the cat was that after Ireland
killed Walker and had left this previous victim’s dogs locked in a
separate room, he later called anonymously to advise parties to the fact
that these dogs were being or had been locked up.
As a result the media called the killer an animal lover. He strangled
the cat to demonstrate that the “animal lover” assumption had been
Ireland left the next morning with £70;
he also left a clue for the police by putting a condom in Collier’s
mouth, just as he had done to Walker, creating a possible link between
the two murders.
Ireland’s fifth victim (he had read that serial killers needed at least five victims to qualify as such) was Maltese chef Emanuel Spiteri, aged 41, whom Ireland had met in the same pub as his previous victims.
Spiteri was persuaded to be cuffed and bound on his bed. Once more,
Ireland demanded his bank PIN but did not obtain it. He again used a
noose to kill. After carrying out his post-murder ritual of cleaning and
clearing the scene, Ireland set fire to the flat and left. He rang the
police later to tell them to look for a body at the scene of a fire and
added that he would probably not kill again.
There are suggestions that police homophobia delayed the linking of
all the murders and that they were initially not handled well
but police eventually connected all five killings. The crimes were
widely publicised through the mainstream media and it quickly became
known in the gay community and the wider community that a serial killer who specifically targeted gay men was operating.
Investigations revealed that Spiteri had left the pub and travelled
home with his killer by train, and a security video successfully
captured the two of them on the railway platform at Charing Cross station.
Ireland recognised himself and decided to tell police he was the man
with Spiteri but not the killer – he claimed to have left Spiteri in the
flat with another man. However, police had also found fingerprints in Collier’s flat, matching those of Ireland.
Convictions and imprisonment
Ireland was charged with the murders of Collier and Spiteri, and
confessed to the other three while awaiting trial in prison. He told
police that he had no vendetta
against gay men, but picked on them because they were the easiest
targets. Ireland pretended to be gay in order to lure his victims.
He had robbed those he killed to finance his killings because he was
unemployed at the time, and he needed funds to travel to and from London
when hunting for victims.
After the first murder, Ireland phoned The Samaritans and The Sun,
telling them what he had done. Ireland said he wanted to become famous
for being a serial killer. After killing three more men, and the pet cat
of one of them, he phoned the police, asking why they had not linked
the four murders.
When his case came to the Old Bailey on 20 December 1993, Ireland admitted all charges and was given life sentences
for each. The judge, Justice Sachs, said he was “exceptionally
frightening and dangerous”, adding: “To take one human life is an
outrage; to take five is carnage.”
On 22 December 2006, Ireland was one of 35 life sentence prisoners whose names appeared on the Home Office‘s list of prisoners who had been issued with whole life tariffs and were unlikely ever to be released.
Ireland’s notoriety was reflected in sensational reports in the
tabloid press. As well as the nickname “The Gay Slayer”, he was
headlined as “Jack The Gripper” by the News Of The World.
Ireland died on 21 February 2012, at Wakefield Prison. A spokeswoman for Her Majesty’s Prison Service said: “He is presumed to have died from natural causes; a post-mortem will follow.” Later, his death was ascribed to pulmonary fibrosis and a fractured hip he had suffered earlier in the month as preliminary causes of death.
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