Here I am outside Wakefield Prison where "The Gay Slayer" Colin Ireland died. Oddly it's walls which hold in iridescent evil are on Love Lane. I knew it was a big prison but thought it might be in the countryside. However while sat at a red light on a busy road the Sat-Nav said I was 400 metres away from my destination. I turned a corner and high walls rose up. This was Wakefield Prison - or the entrance anyway. Shoppers were walking by carrying ASDA and Matalan bags as though the prison was a shopping centre.
In 1993 Ireland strangled five men in three months (four within fifteen days.) Whether he was born a psychopath is unknown but being born into a severely dysfunctional family can’t have helped. Before he’d grown whiskers he was thieving and blackmailing and from 16 spent time behind bars. He tried but failed to join the French Foreign Legion and returned to the UK. He liked dressing in army gear and did survival training (often camping out on the Essex moors.) Why he chose to murder homosexuals is unknown as he said he was heterosexual and had married twice. He wanted to "become somebody” and on 1st January 1993 his New Year’s Resolution was to become a serial killer.
While living in Southend in London he started frequenting The Coleherne pub in Brompton Road in West London (men wore colour-coded handkerchiefs to indicate their sexual proclivities; Ireland posed as a ‘top’ - a master in an S&M sex.) He sought out passive men who didn’t mind being tied up. They fell into his trap easily and he went back to the flats of five men and strangled them while they were in submissive roles.
He knew exactly what he was doing, carrying a “murder kit” of gloves, knife, rope and handcuffs and a change of clothes to each flat. On the night of the first murder in March 1993 he got invited back to the flat of Peter Walker, a theatre director. Ireland tied Walker to his bed, beat him, whipped him, strangled him and burnt his pubes. Angry that Walker hadn’t initially confessed he was HIV positive he stuffed knotted condoms into the corpse’s mouth and nostrils and placed two teddv bears in a "69" position on the bed. Walker was only found two days later when Ireland felt sorry for Walker’s hungry dogs and informed The Sun newspaper. Ireland had cleaned the murder scene so the police had little to go on and wondered if the victim had died in a sex game.
Ireland returned to pub and selected his next victim. When police found the bound up gagged corpse and no clues they thought it may be a sex “accident". A vexed Ireland started taunting the police, calling them to ask why they hadn’t linked the two murders. He also called them after strangling an American businessman, telling them "I did the American.” The police found Ireland had left a plastic doll on top of the victim posed in a sex act. Again he made an anonymous call to police, taunting them to hunt him. "Are you still interested in the death of Peter Walker?" he asked. "Why have you stopped the investigation? Doesn't the death of a homosexual man mean anything? I will do another.”
Very soon Ireland strangled again, also strangling the victim’s cat and left it on top of the corpse with its mouth fastened on the corpse's dick. This time Ireland had left a fingerprint on a window frame. Shortly after Ireland murdered a Maltese chef and then spent the night watching television and eating whatever was in the fridge. He set fire to the apartment but when the flames went out he telephoned the police, "Have you found the body in southeast London yet - and the fire?"
Police admitted they had a serial killer out there and launched a publicity campaign. Success: Ireland had gone back to a victim’s flat on a train and a security camera had recorded him. Blurry photographs were published and Ireland approached his solicitor, admitting he was the man in the photograph. Interviewed by the police he crumbled and confessed to all five murders. He was jailed for life for the murders in December 1993.
He died here in the healthcare centre of the prison aged 57. There was no obvious reason but a post-mortem later said it was pulmonary fibrosis - a build-up of scar tissue on the lungs often contracted by sandblasters, coal miners or workers who've absorbed asbestos. I’ve since read that Ireland was in another prison and strangled his cell-mate who was a convicted child-killer. It was kept quiet as Ireland was already to condemned to die in prison (two weeks after the murder he moved here to Wakefield Prison.)
I parked on double yellow lines that surrounded the prison entrance. I sprinted down nearby streets taking photos. Stupidly I did a pose of me holding a pretend remote control box for a drone. Later I would doctor this photo to show me flying a pretend drone dropping drugs over the wall (see photo). Bad move as when I got back to the car a prison van hemmed me in. A uniformed man stepped out and I put the window down. Bum.
“Hello Sunbeam?” he said dryly.
“Hello, how’re tricks?”
“Turn your engine off for a minute will you? Do you mind telling me what you’re doing here?” the man asked in a manner but with a friendly twinkle in his eye.
My mind was spinning.
“Just have a looking at the prison. I lived near Harold Shipman and knew he’d killed hung himself here.” This was....is true.
“Oh, wonderful. Where are you going?”
“I’m on the way to Scarborough for the weekend but I’m interested in death stuff to do with infamous people, where they’ve died or their graves. Bit of a geek.”
He didn’t look convinced.
I got out my phone and showed him my website. With a slightly shaking finger I whizzed up and down the screen showing people whose graves and death locations I'd visited. He didn’t look convinced but I doubt he could read the screen without glasses.
“Bit of a nerd about these things,” I said.
“Is this your car?” I could hear his brain spinning.
“Yes – I doubt I’d nick a car like this.”
“Can I take your name?”
“John Halley – like the comet,” I said but he didn’t write it down.
“It’s probably best if you move on,” he said neutrally. He had the demeanour of a man who was about to retire soon and couldn't be bothered with this.
“Someone might want to catch up with you later if it’s classed as suspicious.”
“You’re lucky we’re outward bound or we might have asked you to come in for a chat." Bum.
The van drove off and I don't mind telling you I was relieved to get away, too. There's a book called "The Gay Slayer" if you'd like to read more about this weirdo.
Yeah….I could get a cocaine-laden drone into the prison. Here goes…