LONDON, ENGLAND — On July 21, 1993, 39-year-old military veteran and ex-con Colin Ireland turned himself into the police, not to admit to being the “Gay Slayer” serial killer — which he was — but to deny it, at least at first.
Authorities had released footage of murder victim Emanuel Spiteri, a 41-year-old chef, at the Charring Cross train station with another man just prior to his going home for the last time. Ireland recognized himself in the footage and attempted to act preemptively.
He dropped by a police station to say, yes, he was the one on the tape but, no, he hadn’t killed Spiteri. In fact, Ireland said, some other guy was at the chef’s apartment and he had left the two of them together.
In short order, though, Ireland’s fingerprints turned up in both Spiteri’s apartment and at the crime scene of a murder committed just three days prior, that of Andrew Collier — and his pet cat. Scotland Yard knew they had their man.
After being charged with the deaths of Spiteri and Collier, Ireland confessed in jail to also murdering choreographer Peter Walker, 49; librarian Christopher Dunn, 37; and Texas-born business scion Perry Bradley III, 35. He told a guard, “You better get the police, I am the Gay Slayer.”
Consistency marked the modus operandi of each case. Ireland met his victims at The Coleherne pub in London, a bar that catered to gay men interested in BDSM. Many patrons wore color-coded handkerchiefs in their pockets to communicate their particular kinks, which, unfortunately, aided Ireland’s sick mission.
While on the prowl, Ireland targeted “submissives.” He later explained that such bondage enthusiasts would happily allow him to tie them up, thinking it was part of a sex act. Then, as they lay defenseless, Ireland tortured his prey, demanding their bank PINs, cash, and credit cards before either suffocating or choking them to death.Afterward, Ireland usually made phone calls to announce his crime, sometimes to the police, once to the mental-health charity Samaritans, and another time to a reporter at the Sun newspaper.
Even though he spoke anonymously, Ireland really wanted credit for his evildoing. On New Year’s Day 1993, he made a resolution to end the year as a world-(in)famous serial killer. He just didn’t necessarily plan on getting caught.
Born in 1954, Colin Ireland grew up impoverished in Kent, the son of neglectful teenaged mother. He commenced committing crimes early, doing time in a youth detention center where he fought with other residents and started fires.
After a stint in the Army, Ireland spent his early 20s in and out of jail, typically for robberies or running scams. He married twice, abusing both wives, and had three children, all of whom he abandoned.
By 1992, Ireland was homeless and his thoughts turned to homicide. He read the true-crime memoir Whoever Fights Monsters by FBI profiler Robert Ressler, who wrote that an assailant must kill five times to be considered a serial murderer. Ireland now had a number he intended to hit.
On March 8, 1993, Ireland packed up a murder kit that included rope, gloves, a knife, and a change of clothes and departed for the Coleherne. He subsequently maintained he himself wasn’t gay, he just wanted to hunt gay men because they “keep their mouths shut and don’t tell the police things.”
Peter Walker died first. Ireland bound him to his bed and placed a plastic bag over his head, suffocating him. Before leaving, Ireland stuffed condoms into Walker’s mouth and nostrils, and left two teddy bears in a “69” position.
Chris Dunn expired on May 20. Police found him naked in a leather harness and initially deduced he’d died during a sex game gone wrong. As a result, they failed to connect this second slaying to the first.
Police also didn’t tie the killing of Perry Bradley III to the other two, as the victim, the son of a major Texas Democratic Party fundraiser, ostensibly lived as a heterosexual. Once again, though, Ireland picked up Bradley at the Coelherne, went home with him, and tied him up. Ireland then ended Bradley’s life with a noose.
The inability of the police to conclude that a serial killer was at work infuriated Ireland.
Just three days after killing Bradley, Ireland murdered Andrew Collier in a particularly grotesque manner. While Collier was tied up, Ireland strangled the victim’s pet cat in front of him. He used a noose, then, to finish off Collier, and placed a condom on the dead man’s penis. Ireland also placed the dead cat’s mouth over the condom.
Finally, Ireland did in Emanuel Spiteri, again with a noose, but this time, the slayer set fire to the crime scene. He then telephoned police to say where to look for a body, and that he didn’t think he’d kill again.
Ireland wouldn’t even get another chance to kill again, as authorities quickly lured him in by sharing the video of the Gay Slayer and his final target.
Upon confessing to his litany of atrocities, Ireland was sentenced by a British court to five consecutive life terms. He completed his sentence on February 21, 2012, by dying of pulmonary fibrosis at age 57.
Main photo: Colin Ireland [Wakefield Prison]