Serial killer targets London's gays Murderer in touch with police

5 dead

June 18, 1993|By Richard O'Mara | Richard O'Mara,London Bureau

LONDON -- A serial killer is at large in London, the town that gave the world the most infamous of that breed, Jack the Ripper.

The killer, according to Scotland Yard, already has murdered five men, four of them known to be homosexuals. All the cases, said Detective Chief Superintendent Ken John, are "pathologically and forensically" linked.

Three of the victims were strangled. Four were killed in their own homes, presumably by someone they had brought there.

This is the second series of murders to hit London's gay community. Six years ago, Michael Lupo was sent to prison for life for the murders of four homosexuals and the attempted murders of two others.

The current killer is following the practice of Jack the Ripper of communicating regularly with the police. He has telephoned after each murder and on one occasion contacted a newspaper. He has threatened to claim one victim a week; he has not revealed a motive.

The Ripper, who taunted the police, once mailed them half a human kidney that he said was from one of his victims. He stalked the Whitechapel neighborhood of east London in 1888 and killed six women, five of them prostitutes, before disappearing anonymously into history.

The fifth murder in the present series occurred in south London on Monday night. The next day, the police announced that there was a serial killer abroad in London.

Monday's victim was a Maltese chef named Emmanuel Spiteri, 41. The first, discovered March 8 in Battersea, a neighborhood on the south bank of the Thames, was a 45-year-old theater director named Peter Walker, who was working in the hit musical "City of Angels."

Others include a librarian, an American businessman and an employee of an old folks' home.

Mr. John yesterday went on television and appealed to the killer to surrender.

"Enough is enough," he said. "Enough pain, enough anxiety, enough tragedy. Give yourself up. Whatever terms, whatever you dictate, whatever time, to me or my colleagues."

Earlier, he urged gays "who are frequenting various pubs, restaurants and bars in London to be aware that somebody who is prepared to attack their community is about in London."

Detective Superintendent Albert Patrick said he was "extremely

frightened that this man will strike again. There may well be other victims we don't yet know about."

He speculated that the killer might have the AIDS virus (as Lupo did) "and is taking revenge for his own HIV infection."

The gay community itself doesn't seem panicked, but rather nervous and focused on the situation.

It is deploying its resources in its own defense. GALOP (Gay London Policing), an organization set up 10 years ago to improve relations between gays and the police, takes calls from people who think they might have useful information but who are not willing to talk to the police.

The information is then passed on to Scotland Yard. So far, dTC people calling the GALOP line indicate some 20 similar but unsuccessful attacks.

Philip Derbyshire, who just completed a study for the Home Office on the police response to assaults on gays, said that police have become more sensitive toward gays.

But the problem remains that the police are "culturally ignorant" about gay life, said Mr. Derbyshire. They are sincerely trying to catch "this monster," he believes, "but the whole series of presumptions the majority of straight police officers have leave them looking at this case blankly. They don't know what gay men do. They don't know about cruising. They don't know where to start."

Warning gay men not to pick up strangers in public places such as pubs and restaurants, he said, was like telling young women to stay in at night in an area where a rapist is active.

Mr. Derbyshire, who is gay himself, asserts that most gay men will continue to pick up strangers.

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