What’s your worst nightmare as a commuter on the London Underground?
The claustrophobia of being crammed into a stiflingly hot carriage, unable to breathe, as a sweaty businessman’s armpit is wedged under your nose? A power cut that plunges your world into pitch darkness, leaving you trapped, hundreds of feet underground, the terrifying possibility that whatever is rubbing your leg is a “pervert’s protuberance”? Or … being pushed, to your death, under the wheels of a moving tube train, by the London Underground’s most prolific serial killer?
The last one? Of course it is. But that would never happen, right?
Wrong. During the 1970’s and 80’s, a sadistic serial killer stalked the Northern Line of London’s Underground network looking for his next victims. This series of murders were so shocking, that Scotland Yard covered them up for fear of causing a city-wide panic amidst London’s 2.6million commuters. Many of his victims were recorded simply as suicides, with every commuter tutting as the rush-hour news was announced “we apologise for the delay, this is due to a body on the line at Kennington”.
Evidence only came to light last year, when former Scotland Yard detective Geoff Platt announced "It was a cover-up. Think about it, the police don't want it getting out – there would be mass panic. They didn't want people knowing a serial killer got away with pushing innocent people on to the tracks – they’d be afraid it could happen again."
But it had – 18 times.
London Underground’s most prolific serial killer was an Irish drifter in his 50’s known as Kieran Kelly, who preyed upon the commuters of the network’s Northern Line (at stations such as Kensington, Clapham Common, Oval, Stockwell and Tottenham Court Road, to name but a few).
Kelly, a violent alcoholic and a homeless beggar (who ironically had a pathological hated for tramps) was convicted murdering his cell-mate, William Boyd, by strangling him with a pair of socks and stamping on his skull until it was an unrecognisable mush. As well as Hector Fisher in a Clapham Common graveyard, and Maurice Weighly, found murdered in the graveyard of St Anne’s Church (Soho), his face and genitals mutilated, the neck of a broken bottle thrust up his rectum.
Former Scotland Yard Detective Geoff Platt commented that, not only was Kieran Kelly a willing eye-witness at many of these “tube suicides”, but – whereas most commuters would depart the scene after such a harrowing incident - “What got my attention was Mr Kelly often appeared to have been the only man left standing on the platform", offering false witness statements about the victim’s final few moments and even their suicidal motives.
It wasn’t until Detective Geoff Platt interviewed Kieran Kelly for the murder of his cell-mate William Boyd, that Kelly spilled the beans. "He was loaded with testosterone and adrenaline, mentally, physically and sexually aroused and could not stop talking about what he had done. He was asked if he had murdered his cellmate and he admitted that he had, and, unprompted, he then went on to admit that he had also previously killed fifteen other people".
So, the next time you’re on a tube or train platform, surrounded by strangers, all huffing and puffing with pent-up frustration, one curt word short of losing their temper. Ask yourself? Who’s that standing behind me? What are they thinking about? And – more importantly – who have they already killed?
* Unlike every case presented in Murder Mile Walks, “The London Underground Serial Killer” has not been researched, verified or checked by my own thorough and meticulous standards (using court transcripts, etc, as there are currently no such documents). This "evidence" exists solely as a statement made by a former police detective… with a book to sell. Therefore the truthfulness of these facts I cannot verify as accurate. At the time of writing this, British Transport Police have invited “Mr Platt to submit any information he has on these matters to us.". He is yet to reply.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten quirky & unusual things to do in London” and featuring 18 murderers, 3 serial killers, across 21 locations, totalling 75 deaths, over just a one mile walk.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime historian, writer and tour guide of Murder Mile Walks.