Kenneth Erskine


Kenneth Erskine

A.K.A.: "The Stockwell Strangler"

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape - Sodomy
Number of victims: 7 +
Date of murders: April-July 1987
Date of arrest: July 28, 1987
Date of birth: 1962
Victims profile: Eileem Emms, 78 / Janet Cockett, 67 / Valentine Gleim,84, and Zbigniew Strabawa, 94 / William Carmen, 84 / William Downes, 74 / Florence Tisdall, 83
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Stockwell, London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Sentenced to life in prison 1988. In July 2009 murder convictions were reduced to manslaughter on the grounds on diminished responsibility following an appeal

Kenneth Erskine (born 1962) is an English serial killer who became known as the Stockwell Strangler.

During 1986, Erskine murdered seven elderly people, breaking into their homes and strangling them; most often they were sexually assaulted. The crimes took place in south and north London.

His first victim was Mrs Eileen Emms (78), of Wandsworth, who died on 9 April 1986. Her death was originally not believed to have been murder, and it was only established that she had been murdered when a television set was detected missing from her flat. A post mortem examination revealed that she had been raped and strangled.

His second victim was Mrs Janet Cockett (67), who died on 9 June 1986 after being strangled in her flat on the Wandsworth housing estate on which she was chairwoman of the tenants association. Erskine's palm print was found on a window at Mrs Cockett's flat.

On 28 June 1986, Erskine claimed his third and fourth victims (both men) at a residential home in Stockwell. His victims were Polish pensioners Valentine Gleim (84) and Zbigniew Strabawa (94). Both men were sexually assaulted and strangled.

Erskine's fifth victim was Mr William Carmen (84), of Islington. He stole cash from Mr Carmen's flat before molesting him and strangling him to death in an attack on 8 July 1986.

He claimed his sixth victim on 21 July 1986, when he committed a similar fatal attack on 74-year-old Mr William Downes in a Stockwell bedsit.

The final victim was Mrs Florence Tisdall, an 83-year-old widow who lived at a retirement complex in Fulham. She was found dead by the caretaker on the morning of 23 July 1986.

A homeless drifter and solvent abuser, Erskine was 24 years old when he committed the crimes, but had the mental age of a 12-year-old. He was convicted of seven murders.

Police suspected Erskine of four others murders. These include the murder of Wilfred Parkes (aged 81, at Stockwell, on 2 June 1986) and Trevor Thomas (aged 75, at Lambeth, on 21 July 1986). Erskine has never been charged with any of these murders.

Erskine was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommended minimum term of 40 years, but has since been found to be suffering from mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983, and is therefore now held at the maximum security Broadmoor Hospital. He is unlikely to be freed until at least 2028 and the age of 66. Some 20 years later, the trial judge's recommendation is still one of the heaviest ever handed out in British legal history.

In February 1996, Erskine was again in the news, this time for preventing the possible murder of Peter Sutcliffe, the "Yorkshire Ripper", by raising the alarm as a fellow inmate, Paul Wilson, attempted to strangle Sutcliffe with the flex from a pair of stereo headphones.

Kenneth Erskine

When 24-years-old Erskine was judged to have the mental age of eleven. He was abandoned by his parents, and was known as a 'persistent loner' that drifted through special schools and flophouse's. He was arrested on numerous occasions for burglary and had ten different bank accounts full of the proceeds from his successful thefts.

Eventually Erskine felt the need to go one step further and began taking more than money.

His first murder victim was Eileen Emms, 78. She was strangled in her own home in early April, 1987. Less than a month later Janet Crockett, 67, went the same way. On June, 28 Erskine scored a double-header. First he got Valentine Gleime, 84. And if you though that was pretty sick he went one better later in the day with 94-year-old Zbigniew Stabrawa.

All of these victims had been manually strangled. But this was not all, the sick little fucker had also molested all the victims. The molested victims had all been sodomized. The police could not determine if this buggery was done before or after death. Either way it sound pretty sick to me.

It was at this time that Erskine was dubbed 'The Stockwell Strangler', named such because the victims all lived in the South-west London neighbourhood.

On July 28, Erskine was arrested for trying to conceal one of his savings accounts from Social Security, and unluckily for him his palm print matched one found at a 'Stockwell Strangler' crime scene. He was then picked out of a line-up by a survivor of one of his attacks. When questioned about the crimes Erskine said -

"I don't remember killing anyone, I could have done it without knowing it. I am not sure if I did it."

Erskine was charged with seven murders (two more were dropped on insufficient evidence, and police have closed the book on two other murders) and was found guilty. He was given seven life terms, but comes up for parole in 2028.

Quotes & Interesting Bits

"It tries to think for me. It says it will kill me if it gets me.

It blanks things from my mind."

Erskin tried to blame the murders on a voice in his head.

As a child Erskine had twice tried to hang his younger brother.

When he was eighteen he was involved in an affair with a young male. One night he burst into his boyfriends bedroom and started stabbing him.

No charges were laid and Erskine was allowed to go free.

"I'm nice and cosy inside and I don't give a damn if I ever come out."

Obviously a man who is dying to get out of prison.

"There is simply no way of knowing how many defenceless old folk he killed; it could be dozens. This man must be from another planet. He simply does not have any regard for human life at all."

A senior detective gives his opinion on Erskine.

"I can't believe he did those things. Kenneth is just too weak and quiet."

A childhood friend gives her opinion.

He'd get really mad. When they were least expecting it he'd pick up a chair and hit them over the head."

A former cellmate tells of Erskine's temper.

Erskine, Kenneth

At age 24, Kenneth Erskine was diagnosed by court psychiatrists as possessing "a mental age of eleven." A persistent loner, abandoned by his English mother and Antiguan father, he drifted through a milieu of special schools and flophouses, compiling a record of arrests for burglary in London, living on the proceeds of his thefts. Business was good enough for Erskine to open ten separate accounts for his stolen loot, but money isn't everything.

Somewhere along the way, the simpleminded youth picked up a taste for homicide. Eileen Emms, 78, was the first to die, strangled in her home during the first week of April 1987. A month later, Janet Crockett, age 67, was killed in identical fashion. The killer rebounded with a double-header on June 28, claiming 84-year-old Valentine Gleime and 94-year-old Zbigniew Stabrawa in separate incidents. William Carmen, age 84, was strangled in early July.

Two weeks later, William Downes, 74, and Florence Tisdall, 80, were discovered on successive mornings. By then, police were working overtime to find the "Stockwell Strangler," so-called after the southwest London neighborhood where five of his victims were slain. There had been petty theft in several cases, with a television stolen from Crockett's apartment and roughly $900 missing from Carmen's home, but robbery did not appear to be the driving motive. All of the victims were strangled manually, left on their beds with the sheets pulled up to their chins. Five had been sexually molested, but authorities could not determine whether the acts were committed before or after death.

Kenneth Erskine was arrested on July 28, at a social security office, for trying to conceal one of his numerous savings accounts. In custody, his palm print matched one lifted from a Stockwell murder scene, and he was picked from a lineup by victim Frederick Prentice, 74, who had survived an attempted strangulation on June 27. Under questioning, Erskine seemed to plead amnesia. "I don't remember killing anyone," he told police. "I could have done it without knowing it. I am not sure if I did."

The court had little difficulty sorting out the problem. Charged with seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, Erskine was convicted across the board on January 29, 1988. (Two additional murders, dating from 1986, were eliminated from the list on grounds of insufficient evidence.)

The presiding judge sentenced Erskine to seven life terms with an additional twelve years for attempted murder, recommending that the killer serve a minimum of 40 years before he is considered for parole.

Erskine, Kenneth

A 24-year-old sexual psychopath who preyed on the elderly and became known as the 'Stockwell Strangler'.

On 7th April 1987 the body of 78-year-old, retired schoolteacher, Miss Eileen Emms was found in her home. In June there were three more murders, 67-year-old Mrs Janet Cockett, 84-year-old Valentine Gleim and 94-year-old Zbigniew Stabrawa.

In July three more elderly people were strangled in their homes. These were 82-year-old William Carmen, 74-year-old William Downes and 80-year-old Mrs Florence Tisdall. In none of the cases had there been a struggle and they were no signs of any forced entry. It looked as though their attacker had got in through unsecured windows. In some of the cases the victims had been robbed.

In the early hours of 27th June 73-year-old Frederick Prentice was awoken by sounds of someone entering his bedroom. He switched on the light and told the intruder to get out. He was then attacked and was being strangled when he freed one hand and pressed the alarm at the side of his bed. His assailant ran off.

A pathologist involved in the case reported that, from the pattern of injuries, it looked as though all the killings were linked. It appeared that the killer had knelt on the victim's chests, had placed his left hand over the mouth and had used the right hand to throttle the victims. In four of the seven cases the victim had been buggered after death. Forensic scientists discovered a single hair at the scene of Emms' killing and found shoe marks that matched at three of the scenes.

At the scene of the Cockett murder fingerprints were found on a displaced plantpot and there was a palm print on the wall of the Downes' kitchen. They were found to belong to Kenneth Erskine who had a criminal record for burglary. But Erskine's whereabouts were not known. It was discovered that he was collecting Social Security payments and a watch was kept at the office where he signed-on. When he appeared he was duly arrested.

At an identity parade he was recognised instantly by Frederick Prentice. Examination of his building society accounts showed that during the three months of the murders he had paid in around £3,000, including £300 the morning after the Carmen murder. The old man was known to have kept about £400 in cash in his bedroom.

A hairdresser told police that she had been approached by Erskine who had requested that she bleach his head and pubic hair. She had agreed to the former but had refused the latter request. She said that while he was sitting waiting for the bleach to take effect he had taken the bowl with the bleach and had applied it to his public region. He had also tried to bleach his eyebrows and had got some of the chemical into his eyes and needed help in washing it out. DNA fingerprinting with swabs taken from the Downes murder indicated that Erskine could have been responsible but they could not prove it conclusively.

His trial opened at the Old Bailey on 12th January 1988. He faced seven counts of murder and one of attempted murder.

He pleaded not guilty but the jury did not believe him and he was found guilty on all eight counts. He was given seven life sentences for the murders and 12 years' imprisonment for the attempted murder. The judge recommended that he should serve a minimum of 40 years, the longest period of detention ever recommended.

Kenneth Erskine

The London borough of Stockwell, South London, is a favoured place for elderly folk to retire to. In the summer months of 1986 however, a serial killer known as The Stockwell Strangler began a reign of terror amongst this community, leaving seven people dead and a further 4 suspected of being victims of him.

The murders started with the death of 78 yr old Nancy Emms, found dead in bed in her unkempt basement flat in West Hill Rd, Wandsworth, on 09 April 1986. At first, the cause of death was thought to be of natural causes, as Nancy was found lying in her bed, with no obvious marks on her body. A doctor called to the scene thought she had been dead about 3 days and signed a death certificate certifying natural causes. It was only when Nancy’s home help, who had found the body, noticed that a portable TV set was missing, that police were called in.

A post mortem revealed that Nancy had been strangled by bare hands. There was also heavy bruising to her chest, suggesting that her killer had kneeled on her whilst he throttled her. The killer had left virtually no signs of a break in, but police forensic scientists found one minute clue; a short Afro - Caribbean head hair on a bed sheet

On 09 June 1986, the body of 67 yr old widow Mrs Janet Cockett was found in her flat on the Overton Estate, Stockwell, South London. Detectives were immediately aware that this was a murder they were dealing with. Mrs Cockett had been savagely sexually assaulted, and had two fractured ribs as a result of someone kneeling on her chest. Her nightdress had been ripped from her, then folded up neatly and placed on a bedside chair, and detectives noticed another bizarre feature; Family photographs on the bedroom mantelpiece had been placed face down, or turned away from the crime scene. Police did discover some prints, including a clear palm print, at the scene.

Pathologist Dr Iain West examined the victims and determined that they were all strangled by the killer using only one hand. In such elderly victims unconsciousness would have occurred within 30 seconds and death within two or three minutes. Detectives working both murders compared notes on both of the crimes, but could find little or nothing at that stage to link the both. That view was to change in little over a fortnight.

In the early hours of 27 June 1986, retired engineer Fred Prentice was asleep in his room in a council run old people’s home in Cedars Rd, Clapham, when he was awoken by a noise in the corridor outside his room. Mr Prentice saw a young man enter his room, and managed to switch on the bedside light as the intruder jumped on him. Mr Prentice tried to shout out, but the killer placed his finger to his lips in a threatening gesture to the old man to be quiet. He then squeezed his windpipe powerfully, then relaxed his grip-then squeezed again. As he kept squeezing he uttered just one word over and over. “Kill, Kill, Kill”. Mr Prentice managed to hit an alarm button on his bedside wall, and although no sound came from it, the attacker was off the bad and escaped in a flash.

Detectives were now optimistic that the crimes were linked, and any remaining doubts that they did have were dispelled the next night, as the killer struck again.

The bodies of 84 yr old Valentine Gliem and 94 yr old Polish born Zbigniew Stabrawa were found in their adjoining rooms on the 28 June 1986 at Somerville Hastings House, an old peoples home in Stockwell Park Crescent. Both men had been manually strangled and sexually assaulted. The intruder had been spotted by alert night duty staff, but had vanished before police arrived. The entrance was once again to be determined as an open window. What made this horrific crime even more chilling was the discovery of a used flannel and electric shaver; the killer had calmly washed and shaved after killing two people in a nearby room.

Detective Chief Superintendent Ken Thompson of Scotland Yard was now put in charge of the case, and was given a squad of over 200 detectives to try to find the man the newspapers had now dubbed, “The Stockwell Strangler”. Plainclothes officers watched dozens of old people’s homes throughout the night.

Two weeks after his horrific double murder, the Strangler struck again. This time, he wrong footed all detectives by murdering on the other side of the river Thames, in Islington, North London. 82 yr old widower William Carmen was found dead in his bed in his flat on the Marques estate. The bed sheet was neatly pulled up under his chin, and for the first time since the first murder, there were clear signs of theft. £400 to £500 of Mr Carmen’s savings was missing, and there were clear signs of ransacking. On 12 July 1986 75 yr old Trevor Thomas was found dead in the bath at his home in Barton Ct, Clapham. Little forensic evidence remained as Mr Thomas had been dead for some time, and it was due to this that he was not counted amongst the Strangler’s victims, although he almost certainly was one.

On 20 July 1986 the body of 74 yr old William Downes was found in his flat on the Overton estate in Stockwell. He had been strangled in the now familiar fashion, and police were able to pick up an excellent new lead from the murder scene. On the garden gate and off the kitchen wall, they were able to lift a clear set of the killers palm prints.

One would think that it would be a formality to match the prints with ones already on file at Scotland Yard, but in 1986, although fingerprints had already been transferred onto computer disc, the process of transferring palm prints had not even begun. Detectives had a staggering four million files to work through, but by concentrating on London based burglars and petty crooks, they were able to reduce this job to a more manageable size.

Three months of fruitless searching paid off after three months when detectives were able to match the prints found at the crime scenes to those of Kenneth Erskine, a small time crook who had a long record of arrests for burglary and minor offences. However, police did not know where to find Erskine, and it was whilst they were searching for him that he killed his final victim.

80 yr old Florence Tisdall was found in her upmarket apartment at Ranelagh Gardens, close to Putney Bridge, on the 24 July 1986. She had spent the previous day watching the televised wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York (Prins Andrew and Sarah Ferguson), and had even had her hair done specially for the event. She was found the next day manually strangled, sexually assaulted, with broken ribs where her killer had kneeled on her chest.

The police search for Erskine intensified, but as he was a drifter with no permanent address, they were reduced to searching through the hundreds of squats and hostels in South London. The fact that Erskine was on a killing spree and could kill again at any time made them move quickly. Their big break came when they discovered that Erskine was claiming unemployment benefit from a Department of Social Security office in Southwark, and was due to collect his next cheque on 28 July. A team of detectives kept watch on the building, and Erskine turned up right on time to collect his money. As he joined the queue, detectives clicked handcuffs onto his wrist. Erskine didn’t struggle, and the reign of the Stockwell Strangler was at an end.

It was when detectives began to question Erskine that they realised that they had an uphill struggle on their hands. Erskine spent the majority of his many hours of questioning giggling, staring out of the window into the sky, or masturbating. He was clearly a disturbed individual, but was not a complete fool. In his possession detectives found details of 10 bank and building society accounts that Erskine had opened to hide the proceeds of his burglaries. Detectives noted that he had paid in nearly £3000 during his killing spree, whilst still drawing unemployment benefit.

The palm prints were damning evidence, but they only placed Erskine at 2 of the murder scenes, and with Erskine refusing to talk, detectives searched for other evidence. Fred Prentice willingly attended an identity parade at Clapham police station, and picked Erskine out of the line up without a second’s hesitation. Scotland Yard also took the unusual step of issuing his picture to the media, in an attempt to find more witnesses. The response brought in several leads, including a woman who saw Erskine on Putney Bridge, 200 yards from the scene of the final murder, on the night in question.

Erskine’s trial started at the Old Bailey on 12 January 1988, where he was charged with 7 murders and the attempted murder of Mr Prentice. Erskine pleaded not guilty to all the charges, but looked around the courtroom vacantly as though he was unaware of where he was. The jury was visibly moved whilst listening to the evidence, particularly in the case of Mr Prentice’s testimony. They also heard that Erskine had confessed to burgling the victims, but claimed that someone else must have followed him and killed them. After a trial lasting 18 days, Erskine was convicted of all the charges, and was jailed for 7 life terms, with a minimum of 40 years to be served.

Police believe that Erskine may have killed before his first known victim, and police theorised that due to the frailty and age of the choice of Erskine’s victims, and the lack of obvious injuries, many may have been attributed to natural causes. It remains a frightening thought that Erskine may have killed more.

Born to an English mother (Margaret) and an Antiguan father (Charles), Erskine was brought up in Putney. Erskine was one of four sons, and was remembered by neighbours to be a chubby, Bible reading soul. Erskine soon became difficult to control, and received his education at a series of schools for maladjusted children. Several times he violently attacked teachers and pupils, and appeared to inhabit a fantasy world. Erskine clearly had already murderous impulses, attempting to drown several pupils on a swimming outing, and once stabbing a teacher in the hand with a pair of scissors. Several periods in jail followed as Erskine graduated to an unsuccessful burglar. His own family cut themselves off from him and he had had no contact with them for years. When police arrested Erskine for the stranglings, they discovered that he had been a Rastafarian but had been shunned by fellow Rastafarians due to his habit of stealing. Little is known of his early life due to the lack of a detailed study of him. His only possessions were the clothes he stood up in and several building society books. No one has been able to penetrate the mind of Erskine due to his disturbed state, which has now worsened to the extent that he is now housed in Broadmoor secure hospital, and has been informed that he will die in prison.

Erskine remains a mystery character, with psychiatrists failing to be able to penetrate his mind. He has a problem distinguishing fantasy from reality, and remains locked in his childlike world. His mental state has deteriorated to an alarming extent nowadays, although one incident suggests that he may still be able to determine right from wrong. On February 23 1996 he was the sole factor that prevented convicted killer Paul Wilson from murdering Peter "Yorkshire Ripper" Sutcliffe in Broadmoor. Erskine managed to restrain Wilson from inflicting further injury.

Many psychiatrists continue to probe the mind of Erskine in an attempt to reach the bottom of his psyche, however, as of yet, Erskine remains a mystery. Only as and when he is reached will the answers so many have searched for for years will become available, and the Stockwell Strangler may be able to answer for his crimes.
Interesting facts

The biography about the Stockwell Strangler on the biography page was first published unedited on my website in 2003 as a column. The biography is written specialy for this site, by Paul Sutherland who works as a police man in Great Britain. Now I have published it again in an edited version. I added more details to the story.

Erskine was originally nicknamed the 'heatwave killer', later he was nicknamed the 'stockwell strangler' because most of the murders had accured in and around Stockwell, a small corner of South London.

All of Erskine victims were pensioners. In five of the cases involving two of the women and three of the men, there is evidence of sexual assault or interference. It is not generally possible to say whether that occurred before or after the victim was dead, but in each case it took the form of buggery.

Up to 350 police officers were drafted to find the stockwell Strangler at the height of the hunt for him. They included a team of 150 detectives, and senior officers from the C1 Murder Squad, who logged details from the five seperate incident rooms throughout London on a special Home Office computer. The computer, known as HOLMUS, was used to avoid the timewasting cross-checking of paperwork, which had dogged the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliff. Other officers set up static observation points near old people's homes, and manned extra patrols. A psychologist was brought in to build up a profile of the Strangler, and to give a view as to whether the killer's ritual was an attempt to cover his tracks, or a sign that he was acting out a bizzare fantasy. The team was headed by a 45 year-old Scot with 26 years experiance in the Met - Detective Chief Superintendent Ken Thompson, from Scotland Yard's Serious Crimes Squad. Mr Thompson appeard on television and appealed to the strangler to surrender.

Kenneth Erskine has put some of his victims through a bizzare ritual after they died, folding their arms accross their chests and tucking them up neatly in bed, to make it look as they had died in their sleep. This led to speculation that the Strangler might have killed many more men and woman, but that his crimes would remain undiscovered because relatives and carers had never suspected that his victims had died unnaturally.

Erskine appeared to inhabit a fantasy world, where he took on the role of Lawerence of Arabia, attacking and tying up smaller, weaker children. Erskine even tried to drown them on trips to the swimming pool, holding their heads under water until staff intervented. Homicidal tendences where already there. On one occasion, he attacked a teacher, stabbing him in the hand with a pair of sissors. A psychiatric nurse who tried to examine him was taken hostage by him, as he held a pair of sissors to her throat. And whenever female staff tried to show him effection, he would do his best to shock them by rubbing himself against them, or expossing his genitals.

The police were desperate to obtain information about the Strangler, who was described and even illustrated in the press as a 'faceless monster'. When Erskine was finally arrested, Sir Thomas Hetherington, the Director of Public Prosecutions, took the unusual step of sanctioning the plublication of pictures of the suspected killer in order to jog people's memories in the hope that other witness might come forward with information.

Before Erskine was caught he was named a 'faceless monster' so called because detectives had built up an idea of what the strangler wore, but did not know what he looked like.

There were reports that as a teenager Erskine had twice tried to hang his younger brother John. By the time he was 16, he had turned to drugs. It all became too much for his mother, who kicked him out of their home and disowned him after he tried to give John some cannabis. He never saw any members of his family again, but his tendency to violence grew worse. Two years later he tried to kill a youth with whom he was having a homosexual affair. He bust into the boy's bedroom, stabbing and slashing at him as the youth lay on the bed. Perhaps this first attack of somebody in bed was a foretast of the terror he would wreak six years later, when at least seven old people fell victim to his nighttime attacks.

After he was kicked out of the house by his mother, Erskine spent seven years drifting though the twilight world of London's homeless and rootless. He lived mainly in squats in Brixton and stockwell, including in petty crime. He carried out serval bulglaries, regulary getting caught. He significantly, preyed on eldery people.

While in Borstal for burglary in 1982, Erskine schocked staff by painting pictures of elderly people in bed with gags in their mouths, burned to death, or with daggers in them. Other drawings showed headless figures with blood spurting from their necks. He pinned the ghoulish drawings above his bed. It was a chilling foretast of what was to come, and alarmed the prison doctors enough for them to ask the authorities not to free him. But he was released, and four years later embarked on his killing spree.

Erskine life was so empty of friends and meaning that detectives where unable to trace a single possession of his, or find any of his haunts. When his photograph was finally released to the press (in an attempt to obtain such evidence), there where scores of phone calls, but not one single person came forward to say they had known him.

Erskine was arrested on 28 july 1986. He surrenderd without a struggle.

Erskine told police he was haunted by a whispering woman's voice, which came out of walls and doors and gave him dizzy spells. He claimed the voice tried to control him, and that he could not fight it. "It tries to think for me." Erskine said. "It says it will kill me if it can get me. It blanks things from my mind."

On 13 april 1987. Kenneth Erskine was sent for trial at the Old Bailey, accused of seven murders and one attempted murder. A further nine months passed until, on 12 january 1988, the jury of seven women and five men had been selected and the Old Bailey trail began.

Some publications claim that Florence Tisdall was murdered at he age of 83,
this is incorrect she was 80 years-old.

Some publications write the name Zbigniew Stabrawa as Zbigniev Stabrava,
with a 'v' instead of a 'w'

Some publications claim that William Carmen was murdered at the age of 84,
this is incorrect he was 82 years-old.

I found one publication, a magazine, who wrote the name William Downes, as William Downes and as William Downs.

Kenneth Erskine, The Stockwell Strangler

Kenneth Erskine was a complex character who veered between truth and fantasy.

He killed seven people in the summer months
of 1986 and is a suspect in four other murders

Flanked by detectives, Erskine steps from a police van.

Pathologist Dr Iain West examined some of Kenneth Erskine's victims and determined that they were all strangled by the killer using only one hand.

Leading psychologist Dr. Anthony Storr speculated that the killer probably bore a deep-seated grudge against his own parents who where probably eldery - or against his grandparents. "He seems to want to revence himself on old people who are perfectly innocent, probably for some incident in his past, it could be that he suffered at the hands of his mother and father. That could have let him to take terrble revenge for something that may have happened to him in the past. In my long experience of being consulted about psychotic killers, I can't recall a spate of terrible crimes like this".

Sir Thomas Hetherington, the Director of Public Prosecutions, took the unusual step of sanctioning the plublication of pictures of the suspected killer in order to jog people's memories in the hope that other witness might come forward with information.

The man in charge of the hunt for the Stockwell Strangler was Chief Superintendent Ken Thompson. In the late july 1986, he Announced that the police were still not sure that all the murders had been committed by the same man, but that it was highly probable.

Mr James Crespi, prosecuting council described Erskine as 'a killer who liked killing'. The killing, he said was 'wanton'. He said Erskine had apparently played with his victims, strangling them slowly, with one hand, while uttering the one word 'kill'. He would place his other hand over their mouths. When he murdered Florence Tisdall, he used enough pressure to break her neck.

The High Court judge at Erskine's Old Bailey trial, Mr Justice Rose, pointed out that just because Erskine had a mental age of only 11, it did not mean that he was not responsible for his actions. After Erskine was found guilty, the judge sentenced him to the longest recommended minimum sentence for murder ever handed down in a British court.


Known victims
During 1986, Erskine murdered elderly people, both men and women, breaking into their homes and strangling them to death. Most were sexually assaulted. The crimes took place in the Stockwell area of London. He was convicted of 7 murders and one Attempted murder, although police believe he was responsible for at least 4 other murders he was never charged with.

Name: Nancy Eileen Emms
Age: 78 years-old
Murdered: 9 April 1986
Location: Wandsworth, South London

Nancy Eileen Emms a retired schoolteacher, lived on her own in a basement flat in West Hill Road in the suburb of Wandsworth in South West London. When she was discovered by her home help it was at first thought that she had died of natural causes and there were no sign of violence or indeed anything to suggest suspicious circumstances. She was in bed with the bedclothes pulled up to her chin. When the doctor first examined her he thought she had been dead for about three days and as he had no reason to suspect otherwise he was happy to sign the death certificate to say she had died of natural causes.
It was only when the home help noticed that some things were missing from the flat that she began to suspect things were not what they seemed. The police were called and the scene was re-examined. It was found that she had been strangled with bare hands and that she had some bruising on her chest as if the killer had knelt on her which he had in fact done.
She had been murdered by Kenneth Erskine (the Stockwell Strangler) on 9 April 1986. The only clue the police were able to find was a single Afro-Caribbean head hair on the sheet. Nancy was in fact the first of a very long line of victims that would meet with devastating results Kenneth Erskine.

Name: Janet Cockett
Age: 67 years-old
Murdered: 9 June 1986
Location: Stockwell, South London

Mrs. Janet Cockett, who had led an active life as chairwomen of her local tenants association, was found with two fractured ribs, the result of Erskine having knelt on her, and a lock of hair that could have been Erskine's was found in her bedroom. Her nightdress had been torn off and neatly folded. Erskine's palm print was found on the bathroom window, and his thumb print on a plant pot.

Name: Frederick Prentice
Age: 73 years-old
Attempted murder: 27 June 1986

In the early hours of 27th June 73-year-old Frederick Prentice was awoken by sounds of someone entering his bedroom. He switched on the light and told the intruder to get out. He was then attacked and was being strangled when he freed one hand and pressed the alarm at the side of his bed. His assailant ran off.

Name: Valentine Gleim
Age: 84 years-old
Murdered: 28 June 1986
Location: Stockwell, South London

Mr Gleim was a retired British Army officer who was 84 years old. He lived in the same old peoples home as Zbigniew Stabrawa who was also murdered by Kenneth Erskine on 28 June 1986. Erskine had once again used an open window to access the building. He was actually spotted in the corridor of the home but by the time the police arrived he had gone. When Mr. Valentine Gleims body was found he had been strangled with bare hands and sexually assaulted.

Name: Zbigniew Stabrawa
Age: 94 years-old
Murdered: 28 June 1986
Location: Stockwell, South London

Zbigniew Stabrawa was the oldest victim of the strangler at the age of 94. He had been born in Poland and had lived there until the outbreak of World War Two when he had fled from the Nazis. He was living in an old peoples home when he was murdered by Kenneth Erskine (the Stockwell Strangler) on 28 June 1986. He had been strangled with bare hands and sexually assaulted. His murder was one of two murders that occured in the home that day.

Name: William Carmen
Age: 82 years-old (some publications claim that he was 84)
Murdered: 8 July 1986
Location: Islington, North London

Mr. William Carmen was found by his daughter on the Marquess estate, in Islington. He had been sexually assaulted, and photographs in his flat had been turned to the wall. £300 had also been stolen.

Name: William Downes
Age: 74 years-old
Murdered: 20 July 1986
Location: Stockwell, South London

Mr Downes was murdered on 20 july 1986, he was found by his son the next morning in his bedsit. His body was naked and the sheets pulled up to his chin (a common feature with most of Erskine's victims, who were tucked up in bed to make it look like they had died in their sleep). Mr Downs had been raped and strangled, semen stains were found on his sheets. His son had days earlier warned him to keep all windows firmly locked at night. The pathologist described his death as asphyxia due to manual strangulation. Police found an palm print on the garden gate and on the wall.

Name: Florence Tisdall
Age: 80 years-old (some publications claim she was 83)
Murdered: 23 July 1986
Location: Fulham, West London

Florence Tisdall was an 80 year-old widow who was partly deaf and blind, and who could move around only with the help of a walking frame. She lived in an almost empty block of flats. She had lived in the same block for over sixty years. It was a hot night and she had left a window open which was how the killer got in. She was murdered on 23 July 1986. She had been strangled with bare hands and sexually assaulted. she also had broken ribs caused by Erskine kneeling on her chest.

More victims?
Following Kenneth Erskine's Conviction, the police closed their files on four more deaths thought to have been caused by the strangler.
Name: John Jordan
Age: 57 years-old
Murdered: 4 february 1986
Location: Brixton

Found dead strangled, beside his bed in his flat in Josephine Avenue, Brixton
Name: Charles Quarell
Age: 73 years-old
Murdered: 6 may 1986
Location: Southwark

Found suffocated on his bed at his home in King James Street, Southwark.
Name: Wilfred Parkes
Age: 70 years-old
Murdered: 28 may 1986
Location: Stockwell, South London

Mr Parkes was found strangled in bed. The police had very strong suspicions that deranged half-caste Kenneth Erskine was involved. But they never managed to get a conviction.
Name: Trevor Thomas
Age: 75 years-old
Murdered: 12 July 1986
Location: Lambeth, South London

Trevor Thomas was a 75 year old man who was found dead and sexually assaulted in his bath. He was found four days after William Carmen. The bathwater had made the gathering of forensic evidence difficult and his death was never proved conclusively to be one of the stranglers. He was thought that he had been murdered by Kenneth Erskine (the Stockwell Strangler) on 12 July 1986.