John Sweeney 'Scalp Hunter'

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'Scalp Hunter’ John Sweeney Linked to Five More Deaths

04 Apr 2011

The “demonic” killer John Sweeney, who murdered two of his girlfriends and tried to kill another, may be responsible for the deaths of five more people, police have disclosed.

Sweeney, who called himself the ''Scalp Hunter’’, killed Paula Fields and Melissa Halstead in the Nineties before dismembering their bodies and dumping them in canals in London and Rotterdam.

The 54-year-old carpenter, of Kentish Town in north London, also tried to kill Delia Balmer, but she survived.

He was convicted of that attack in 2001 — seven years after she reported it to police in 1994. He has been in jail ever since, but it was not until Monday that he was convicted for the two earlier murders.

After he was found guilty of the murders of Miss Fields, 31, and Miss Halstead, 33, Scotland Yard disclosed that Sweeney is suspected of killing three previous girlfriends and two German men.

Officers believe a Brazilian cleaner called Irani and a Colombian woman called Maria went missing from north London in 1997, while a woman called Sue, from Derby, disappeared in the late Seventies or early Eighties.

All are thought to have links to Sweeney and detectives say they have information that some of the women have come to harm. The two Germans are men that Sweeney bragged he had murdered at the same time as Miss Halstead.

Sweeney will be sentenced today and the judge has already indicated that he is considering imposing a “whole-life tariff” which will ensure Sweeney is never released.

Det Chief Insp Howard Groves said: “As he contemplates life behind bars, I can assure him that this investigation will continue as we seek to identify and trace other potential victims in the UK, Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, who may have suffered a similar fate to that of Melissa and Paula.”

Two of the women — Irani and Maria — went missing during a six-year spell that Sweeney spent on the run from the police — a period during which he murdered Miss Fields.

He was arrested in 1994 after subjecting Miss Balmer to 48 hours of torture after she ended their relationship.

But he was granted bail by a magistrate and hours later attacked Miss Balmer with a knife and an axe before going on the run. He fled to Europe and it was not until 2001 that he was arrested by police as he left a London building site where he had been working.

After his conviction for attempted murder, officers investigated other crimes to which Sweeney was linked. He had left a collection of disturbing paintings and poems in which he described murders of women named ''Melissa’’.

The body of Miss Halstead, an American model who had been living and working in Amsterdam, was discovered in a canal in Rotterdam in 1990 but it was not until 2008 that she was formally identified and the link to Sweeney was made.

During the trial at the Old Bailey, the court heard how Miss Halstead had predicted her own death at the hands of Sweeney. Her sister, Chance O’Hara, said: “She told me if she ever went missing, that John Sweeney would have killed her.”

A note seized from Sweeney in 2001 contained a poem: “Poor old Melissa/Chopped her up in bits/Food to feed the fish/Amsterdam was the pits.”

Miss Fields’s body was found in holdalls in Regents Canal in 2001. It is not known how she died but the circumstances of her disappearance were so similar to Miss Halstead’s that prosecutors were able to prove Sweeney had killed her.

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John Sweeney

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Scotland Yard issued details about two former girlfriends from South America and a British woman known only as Sue who may have worked as a nurse in north London.

They believe clues to their fate lies in violent imagery in Sweeney's extraordinary paintings and poetry discovered at his home in Kentish Town.

The body of Miss Halstead, 33, was found in a Rotterdam canal in 1990. The body of Ms Fields, 31, was found in London's Regent's Canal in 2001.

Sweeney faces a "life means life" sentence for the two murders. Each woman's head, hands and feet have never been discovered.

Drawings from Sweeney's cell were then seized. One image showed a headless body cut into 13 pieces - a chilling reconstruction of what happened to Miss Halstead. In April last year Sweeney was taken from Gartree Prison in Leicestershire and questioned about a "timeline" of his life, and charged with both murders.

The divorced father-of-two was described as "demonic" and "a hateful and controlling possessor of women prone to outbursts of rage and murderous violence".

Among his weaponry police found hammers, a machete and a gruesome garotte made of bamboo and wire. As Mr Justice Saunders prepared to sentence him, police and prosecutors described him as "one of the most dangerous criminals ever to stand trial at the Old Bailey."

Detectives believe he left clues in his art to more victims, particularly a woman called "Sue" who they believe lived in the Holloway Road area.

His most frightening creation was a self-portrait which he signed lovingly and entitled the Scalp Hunter. In the guise of the devil he presided over bodies cut to pieces with an axe dripping with blood.

One of his poems, scribbled on the back of a scratchcard, referred to Melissa Halstead and amounted to some of the most compelling evidence against him. He wrote: "Poor old Mellissa (sic) chopped up in bits, fed to the fish, Am*dam was the pits."

Another went: "The trigger goes click, the dead don't talk. Thoughts of a lunatic, out for a walk. Seen the full moon, feel like dynamite. Thoughts of arrest, bridge to cross. Torture never stops, fills me with death. It's a mental nightmare, getting a breath of fresh air."

Paula Fields
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Melissa Halstead
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Some of the Sweeney's sketches, paintings and poems.

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4. Halstead is shown in the centre of this painting (sunglasses and blonde hair).
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5. Police discovered that a white portion of the painting beside Halstead's image had been blocked with white-out.
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6. Unknown woman.
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7. Sweeney poem referring to the death of Melissa.
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