Authors: Tammy Cohen
1 THE FIRST CUT IS THE DEEPEST
Stephen Marsh and Rebecca Harris
2 THE KEN & BARBIE KILLERS
Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo
3 ACCIDENTS DO HAPPEN
Carol Ann Hunter and Anton Lee
4 ‘THE DEVIL MADE US DO IT’
Daniel and Manuela Ruda
5 THE LIES THAT BIND
Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr
6 THE PRINCESS AND THE BIT OF ROUGH
Charlene and Gerald Gallego
7 SMOTHER LOVE
Sante and Kenny Kimes
8 DUNGEONS OF THE MIND
Marc Dutroux and Michelle Martin
10 MR AND MRS MURDER
Fred and Rose West
efore you read any further, be warned. The stories in this book will leave you appalled and traumatised; worse still, they will shake your faith in human nature. Certainly that’s how it was for me as I researched each gruesome case with growing horror. When writing about lone killers, at least there’s the consolation of telling oneself that this was one isolated, deluded individual. Writing about couples who kill removes even that crumb of comfort.
These are disturbing cases that will make you question everything you know, or
you know, about who we are and what we are capable of. Our immediate instinct is to classify the perpetrators as monsters, alien creatures that exist outside our comprehension and yet if that’s the case, how is it that such exotic creatures manage to find one another? How many of
them must there be to be able to pair off with such sickening regularity? Of course, the truth is that there are no monsters, only monstrous crimes that grow out of a particular dynamic between two people. That dynamic is what I have tried to focus on in telling these terrible stories. As far as can be ascertained, all the facts are accurate, but, inevitably, some small liberties have been taken in bringing people and events to life to understand them better.
In 1997, in a letter to the then home secretary, Ian Brady referred to the child murders he committed with Myra Hindley as ‘marriage ceremonies theoretically binding us ever closer’. While the Moors Murders have been analysed so many times as to make their retelling in this book unnecessary, Brady’s words offer a chilling insight into this most warped and most dangerous dynamic. The couple that kills together stays together – bound by their secrets, their knowledge of one another, and by the blood rituals they’ve shared.
Writing these stories wasn’t easy, but it was grimly fascinating in terms of what it revealed about the secret underbelly of human relationships. I hope reading them provides the same experience. Just make sure you leave the light on!
14-year-old girl is kept for days as a sex slave, filmed begging for her life and then strangled. Two 8-year-olds are snatched off the street and left to starve in an underground dungeon. A man’s head is staved in with a hammer before he’s stabbed 66 times, his blood collected in a bowl to be drunk. A vulnerable man is held prisoner in a garden shed, then tortured to death… Sadly, there is nothing unique about violent death. Since records began there have been no shortage of accounts bearing witness to man’s tremendous capacity for inhumanity. But what makes the above crimes so shocking is that they are not the work of one depraved individual but a couple acting together. In a world where brutality has become so commonplace that we are almost immune to it, the juxtaposition of love and savagery, of romance and sadism, can still make us sit up and take notice.
We Westerners hold very little sacred, but one of our last, most fiercely protected ideals is that of the redemptive power of love. With the right person by our side, we insist, individuals who were once broken can be healed, lives that were going off track can be set straight again… The love that inspires sonnets, poetry and even Whitney Houston ballads is what we’re all searching for because it represents the key to another kingdom, where past wrongs are put right and shattered hearts become whole. Love lifts us up where we belong, we’re told. And where we belong is this better place – beyond loneliness, isolation and acts of desperation borne of bitterness and despair. Put simply, love – at least the kind of love we choose to believe in – is a power for good.
So pervasive is this view, so seductive the premise, that when something happens to cast doubt over it, we cannot, simply will not, believe it. Lovers should be heroes, not psychopaths; they should be kissing rather than killing. Their prize should be mutual salvation, not contamination.
The romantic comedies we flock to see, the love songs we sing along to, all share one clear message: love makes you a better person. Which is why crimes such as the ones described above send such shockwaves through us all. Here are couples lucky enough to find love, which is after all, our modern-day holy grail. But instead of redemption, they institute rape; instead of salvation, sadism; and instead of devotion, death.
Individually, they may have been broken from the start, but rather than fixing them, love shatters them still further into
millions of irreparable pieces. This is not the noble, true love we know from a thousand big-screen love stories, but love that exalts in power, that feeds on misery, that wallows in violence. This is a love that’s twisted and warped out of all recognition – and yet it is still love.
The couples featured in this book are not inspired to be better people because they found each other. Instead they’re encouraged to be worse. Rather than boosting one another’s strengths, they exploit each other’s weaknesses. You would think you might be able to spot them, wouldn’t you, these freaks of nature who turn romance into a blood sport? And that’s another reason why they so disturb us: their very normality. They kidnap, they rape, they murder, torture and abuse… And in between they make each other cups of tea, run baths, buy birthday gifts, have sex and tour their local DIY store together on rainy bank holidays. Love may have created a monster, but it’s a monster that wears a scarily ordinary face.
Pretty, petite blonde-haired Karla Homolka and her handsome young fiancé cooked her parents a Father’s Day meal, while the dead body of the young girl they’d just assaulted lay festering among the bags of potatoes in their cellar. Rose West broke off from the most violent sexual abuse to make her husband and their victim a cup of tea. Kenny Kimes stopped off at a florist’s on his way home from disposing of the body of the man he’d just murdered to buy the woman he loved a bunch of flowers…
It’s not the differences between these couples and any other
couple in love that makes them so terrifying; it’s the similarities. You wouldn’t spot them if you saw them walking towards you, hand in hand. If they moved in next door, you wouldn’t know them. It’s our ability to recognise love, but not evil.
Of course, not all killer couples are cut from the same cloth. There’s not one neat template defining them all. Some couples in this book would probably not have killed if they hadn’t met. Something in the way they reacted with each other, in the timing of their coming together, created the soil in which the germ of violence was allowed to grow. Would Ann Hunter and Anton Lee, two well-respected professionals, have solicited for murder if they hadn’t happened to have met each other and had those first drunken conversations, which spiralled out of control? Would the two couples who imprisoned and tortured vulnerable young men have graduated from bullying to murder if fate hadn’t thrown them into each other’s paths?
In other cases, there’s a high probability that one of the partnership, usually the woman, would probably have gone on to lead a largely uneventful life, if they had not been sucked into the malevolent orbit of a psychopathic partner. Michelle Martin, wife of Marc Dutroux, the Beast of Belgium, was remarkable only for her unremarkableness, for her lack of moral weight, her lack of substance… Would she have gone on to commit the atrocities of which she was found guilty had she never crossed paths with her perverted husband? Rebecca Harris had a mean temper and a sharp tongue, but would she have stabbed anyone, if not for the influence of murderous lover
Stephen Marsh? Would Kenneth Kimes now be facing a future behind bars if he’d never come into the clutches of the materialist, domineering Sante?
Then there are the other couples, the ones whose proclivity towards what is most base and most vile, what degrades and what destroys is the very thing that first brings them together. What most attracts each to the other is the image of their own worst selves reflected back at them. Rose and Fred West each killed individually, but in each other they found a soul mate in savagery, someone whose sexual sadism and lust for power mirrored their own, and, by mirroring it, made it seem normal, acceptable, even desirable.
Whatever their particular make up, in the end couples that kill affront everything we hold most dear. We want to be able to pigeonhole our psychopaths in order to recognise them when we find them: loners in bed-sits who can’t form normal relationships, misfits and freaks. We don’t want them to be the couple next door, the newlyweds across the street. Most of all, we don’t want them to be truly in love.
As a society, we pride ourselves on being realistic, cynical even. And yet the need to believe that love conquers all permeates every aspect of our lives. Love is good, we tell our children: love is the answer. The couples in this book have known great love, but in the end, it’s that very love that corrupts and maims, that rapes and slaughters. In that, they become our worst nightmare.
ed marks were appearing on her inner wrists where the cord tying her to the bedposts rubbed against her pale, exposed skin, but Rebecca Harris hardly noticed. Besides, with the blindfold obscuring her vision, she couldn’t see anything anyway.
Lying in the darkness, Rebecca felt her whole body tense. The anticipation was unbearable.
‘Here it comes. You know you like it.’ The voice was hoarse, teasing.
Rebecca took a deep breath, her ribcage rising sharply under the tight, black corset. And then she felt it. Sharp and cold against her goose-pimpled flesh, the blade of the knife was stroking her thigh, gently at first and then with increasing pressure. Her breath escaped in a low moan of excitement mixed with something else: fear.
‘You love that, don’t you?’ Now he was running the blade along her arm and she could feel a trickle of blood running down towards her elbow. Then another sensation: soft, moist. His tongue was languorously licking it up.
‘We could be together all the time like this, if you’d just do as I ask,’ his voice, with its gentle South Wales accent, was gentle, but insistent.
‘I’d do anything for you, you know that,’ her words came out in a high-pitched rush, and she hated the note of desperation in her voice. Of course, he picked up on that right away.
‘So why won’t you do this one thing?’ he was wheedling now. ‘We could be together forever. Wouldn’t you like that?’
Of course she would. Ever since she’d started her affair with Stephen Marsh eight months before, Rebecca Harris had wanted nothing else but to spend every moment with him. She’d done whatever he’d asked her, even going along with the cutting, the bondage, the whips… enjoying it for his sake because this was what he wanted. But this was something else. And yet, if she didn’t do it, he might leave her. He’d had other lovers before her, and she knew he’d have no problem finding someone else to replace her. He was so good-looking, so charismatic… She didn’t know what she’d do without him.
As if he was reading her thoughts, he stepped up the pressure.
‘I love you, you know that. I just want us to be together all the time, the way we’re meant to be.’
He was saying all the right things, all the things she longed to hear.
‘And we could be – if only you’d do this one thing for me. If only you’d kill my wife…’
Of course he was married. The good-looking ones always were, Rebecca thought, eyeing up Stephen Marsh at the Swansea Directory Enquiries call centre where the pair were working. Youthful-looking for his 36 years, with dark hair and blue eyes that, when he fixed them on you, made you feel as if you were the only person that mattered… All the women had a soft spot for Stephen. Anyway, rumour had it that he took his marriage vows with a large pinch of salt, enjoying a series of girlfriends on the side.
Well, good on him! That’s what Rebecca thought. Married herself for nearly five years to a man forty years her senior, she had had plenty of time to dwell on the drawbacks of monogamy. Looking back on it, she couldn’t imagine what had possessed her to agree to marry Ronald Harris, who’d been 65 when they walked down the aisle. With the bride just 25, he’d been old enough to be her grandfather.
Of course, the security had been a big factor, particularly once she’d got pregnant with their 5-year-old son – Ron had been a reasonably successful businessman and the couple led a comfortable life. But the age gap was always going to be a problem, and as the marriage went on, Rebecca found herself more and more resentful of her OAP husband and flying into increasingly violent rages. Their frequent rows were bitter and full of venom and vitriol; she was left shaking with anger.
No, marriage was not an institution Rebecca Harris held in high regard.
‘You’re gorgeous, do you know that?’ Stephen Marsh’s twinkling blue eyes locked onto hers and, to her annoyance, she could feel herself blushing.
‘Fancy coming for a drink with me after work?’
Rebecca could hardly bring herself to meet his gaze. She’d heard the expression ‘undressing you with his eyes’ before, but she’d never actually known what that meant. At least until now.
‘I’m married,’ she muttered, the fingers of her right hand furiously twisting the wedding ring she’d come to despise.
‘That’s all right,’ he grinned. ‘So am I!’
Over that night and the weeks and months that followed, Rebecca got to know all about Stephen Marsh. She knew he’d been married for 13 years to a Sikh woman called Jaspal that he’d met while working for the Ministry of Defence in London. Jaspal’s strictly religious family had never approved of him, he’d told her. Neither had they liked the fact that the couple left the MoD to run pubs. That’s why they’d ended up coming back to Swansea, Stephen’s home town.
Of course, when he was telling this story to Rebecca, Stephen left out the part about Jaspal being fed up with him flirting with all the female customers and the girls working behind the bar. And how being around alcohol all the time caused his drinking, always prodigious, to get completely out of control. But then, as Rebecca would learn for herself, Stephen Marsh was very proficient at manipulating the truth when it suited him.
At first when they’d made love, Stephen had been a caring and affectionate lover. Invariably it had happened at the smart house he shared with Jaspal on an executive housing estate in Gorseinon, West Swansea, on the site of an old colliery. Understandably, Rebecca had been nervous at the beginning. Even though Jaspal had a demanding job at an insurance company in the city centre which kept her out of the house for long hours, the place still bore another woman’s stamp. When the Marsh’s old dog, Bwbach, gazed up at her, Rebecca couldn’t help detecting a touch of reproach in her big brown eyes. No wonder she had found it hard to relax, jumping every time she heard a car door slam outside. But Stephen was so sexy and so full of confidence that nothing would go wrong that Rebecca soon lost her initial nerves and began to enjoy their sessions.
It felt so good to have a younger lover again, someone whose lithe, taut body and sexual stamina more than matched her own. She loved looking at him naked, devouring him with her eyes so that she could recreate every detail in her fantasies when she was once again back home with Ron.
But rapidly, Stephen’s sexual demands began to change. He became rougher in bed, less focused on her and more on his own pleasure. He started calling her a whore and asking her to dress up in fetishistic clothing. Sometimes he’d even slap her about. But then in the next breath, he’d be so loving, so tender that Rebecca would feel as if her insides were melting. Anyway, by that stage, she was in love and determined to do everything she could to keep her man and make him happy.
So she bought a whole selection of black fetishist-style underwear, which she’d cram into a bag and bring into work on the days when she knew she was meeting up with Stephen. And she repeated back the words he wanted to hear. ‘I’m a whore,’ she’d groan, knowing how it turned him on.
At first, though, when he’d brought up the subject of using a knife during sex, she refused to listen.
‘You want me to do
?’ she’d shrieked, unable to believe what she’d just heard.
‘I want you to cut me. Just a little bit,’ he’d repeated. ‘Then you lick up the blood. Don’t worry, it’s nice,’ he’d assured her, seeing her disgusted expression. ‘It’s a real turn-on, you’ll see.’
‘No way!’ had been her initial response. But, as with so many things, when he’d persevered enough, she’d eventually given in. There was just something about Stephen that made women want to do what he said, even when it went against everything they’d previously thought about themselves. He was that kind of guy.
To her surprise, Rebecca found herself not only using the knife on Stephen, but letting him do it to her as well. The first time she’d been terrified, and then angry. He’d promised only to cut her once, but then he’d launched into a kind of frenzy, slicing the blade across her skin, again and again.
‘I’m not doing that again!’ she fumed. But of course she had – she never could deny him anything for long. And he was right. It
a turn-on. Well, it was a turn-on for her to see how
he was getting! Bizarrely, considering she was trussed up and it was her own blood that was trickling down her thighs, it gave
her a feeling of power to witness his mounting excitement and to know that it was all because of her. It was just more proof, she decided, of how much they loved each other. If only they could be together all the time; if only they didn’t both have to go home to other people at the end of the day, she thought.
‘We could always bump them off,’ joked Stephen, after another discussion about their respective spouses and how wonderful it would be if they didn’t exist. But when he started to bring the subject up again and again, Rebecca began to wonder whether he really was joking after all. Sometimes it was so hard to tell with Stephen.
‘We’ll kill Ron,’ he’d tell her, enthusiastically outlining some plan for doing away with her ageing husband. ‘Then I’ll divorce Jaz and we’ll be together.’
But the next time she saw him he’d have changed his mind about getting divorced. Why should he give up his flash home and yuppy lifestyle? No, they’d kill Jaspal instead.
Rebecca’s answer was always the same. ‘Stop messing about, Steve,’ she’d say, annoyed that he was wasting the precious time they had together with more of his ridiculous plans. But increasingly, Stephen wouldn’t be put off.
‘I thought you loved me,’ he’d snap at her, his eyes suddenly cold and devoid of any affection.
‘I do,’ Rebecca would stammer, desperate to see the tenderness return to his now-icy gaze.
In the pub after work, or in the car driving home, the conversation would inevitably turn back towards the same
subject. Now he’d dropped the talk of killing Ron and his focus was entirely on Jaspal – and how good life could be if she was out of the picture.
‘I just want us to be together,’ Stephen would say, giving her the full force of that ‘special’ look that made her forget about everything else in the world.
Things became so intense that Rebecca would almost dread being alone with him, although, paradoxically, this was also what she most craved. Their embraces were still passionate, burning with the heat of the emotions both were having to suppress at home, but now there was an undercurrent of tension that hadn’t been there before. During their brief, but fiery relationship, Rebecca had denied Stephen nothing, but now she was holding out against him. And it was driving them apart.
Rebecca grew desperate. By now she’d realised her marriage was over. She could never go back to being satisfied with Ron after she’d been with someone as wild and exciting as Stephen. By now, her marriage was beyond saving; she’d well and truly burned her bridges at home – and if she lost Stephen as well she’d be left with nothing. She’d only known him a few short months, but already life without him was becoming unthinkable. She had to keep his interest.
Their love life became even more extreme. Now Stephen would slap her during sex, shoving her around roughly, and she readily went along with it, even when he filmed everything on his mobile phone. But now it wasn’t enough. Rebecca could feel Stephen slipping away.
‘OK, I’ll do it!’
The words came tumbling out before she had time to register she’d said them. And it was worth it for the look on his face. Suddenly the adoration of those early days was back. He was so happy with her again, so in love. Besides, she told herself, it wasn’t as if they’d actually go through with it. Lots of people kidded around about killing off husbands or wives, but it didn’t make them murderers. Probably Stephen would forget all about it now that he’d got her to agree. He was drinking so heavily by this stage, it was hard to tell how much of what he said was coming straight from the heart and what was straight from the bottle. Maybe all along this had been some sort of test to see how much she loved him.
But Stephen was like the proverbial dog with a bone. Now that Rebecca had said she’d help him kill his wife, he wanted to talk about details. What was the best way to do it? When? Where?
Early on, he ruled himself out of the actual murder. They always suspect the husband first – anyone who’d ever watched a TV police drama knew that. No, he’d have to find himself a foolproof alibi out of the house while Rebecca took care of Jaspal. No one would ever link her to the killing – she’d never even met Jaspal.
‘We’ll set it up to appear like a burglary that went wrong,’ he explained, excitedly.
With a growing sense of unease, Rebecca listened to his plans unfolding. Now that she’d said she’d do it, she couldn’t back out – well, not without losing Stephen anyway. But then neither
could she go through with killing someone. It was preposterous. All she could do was hope that Stephen tired of the whole thing before she had to break it to him that she was pulling out.
Jaspal Marsh glanced up from the TV at her watch: 10.30 and Stephen was still not home. No doubt he’d have another excuse ready – that he’d met up with friends, had to work late… she’d heard them all a million times before. He must think she was really stupid. She cursed herself for not having listened to her family all those years before. They’d known he was no good for her, but she’d been so blindly in love that she hadn’t listened to them. And look at the price she’d paid – thirteen years of watching her husband drink himself silly and flirt with other women, and who knows what more besides behind her back.
‘I’m going to leave him,’ she’d stormed to friends just a few months before. ‘I know he’s having an affair.’
But of course Stephen always denied it. ‘Don’t be silly. You know I love you, Jaz,’ he’d tell her whenever she brought anything up.
And, to be honest, with them both working such long hours away from home, they were practically living separate lives anyway, so she’d never carried through her threat. But she knew who Rebecca Harris was. She even had her number logged in her phone. It was under ‘B’ for ‘bitch’.