As peaceful, fascinating and picturesque as London’s canal system can be; with its wondrously diverse wildlife, its wealth of historical significance, its architectural impressiveness, and now with its ever-expanding community of boat-dwellers who add a much needed splash of character and colour to what would be a relatively soulless place without them, if you look below the murky surface of the canal, you’ll often seen some true oddities; whether builder’s rubble, car-parts and trolleys, or missing historical artefacts, WW2 grenades, discarded safes, and – if you’re really unfortunate – a human corpse, whether the whole body or in bits.
As with most rivers and canals, many a departed person has floated down London’s waterway, carried by a breeze as the after-effects of their tragic suicide bobs up and down amidst the myriad of boats, but occasionally the London canal system (from the Grand Union, Regent’s Canal, to The Thames and the Lea River) has also been the dumping ground for many of London’s sadistic killers hoping to dispose of an unwanted spouse, an unfaithful friend or gangland rival. Murder Mile blog investigates London’s Canal Killers.
As well as having been convicted of attacking another ex-partner – Camden nurse Delia Balmer – with an axe whilst on bail for torturing her over a 48 hour period, Sweeney is also suspected to have murdered five other ex’s; including Sue (a trainee nurse from Derbyshire), Irani (a Brazilian cleaner), Maria (a Colombian), as well as two German men who it is believed he found having a threesome with Melissa Halstead. None of whom have been found.
Fuelled by an intolerable hatred of women, Sweeney would turn violent whenever his partners snubbed, rejected or attempted to leave him. Upon his arrest, Police discovered a wealth of paintings and poems in his Kentish Town flat, depicting graphic violence towards women. On one painting he’s written a poem: "Poor old Melissa (Halstead), chopped her up in bits, food to feed the fish, Amsterdam was the pits". Sweeney’s crimes were described in court as "….terrible, wicked crimes. The heads of the victims having been removed, it is impossible to be certain how they were killed… the mutilation of the bodies is a serious aggravating feature of the murders”.
Paula Fields, a 31 year old mother-of-three, who was originally from Liverpool, was hopelessly addicted to crack cocaine whilst working as a prostitute. Having met Sweeney in April 2000, she mysteriously vanished and it wasn’t until three months later that her dismembered corpse was discovered in the Regent’s Canal near King’s Cross (opposite Battlebridge Basin), ten body parts in six different bags, and yet – even today – her feet, hands and head are still missing. John Sweeney is one of 70 murderers currently serving a whole life sentence (Belmarsh prison).
Having tried numerous times to break his heroin addiction, Sebastiano Magnanini went to the flat of known King’s Cross drug-dealer Michael Walsh (31) to procure some scag and crack. When Magnanini was unconscious – having been heavily intoxicated with a lethal mix of heroin, alcohol and cocaine - Walsh and his friend (Daniel Hastie, 22) stole his bank cards and proceeded to empty his account of £1900 over an 18 hour period. Upon discovering that Magnanini had died of an overdose, they both “panicked” and decided to dispose of the body by dumping it in the Regent’s Canal, at 5.15am on 24 September 2015, having enlisted the help of Paul Williams (61).
Although their defence teams claimed that Paul Williams has bone marrow cancer and Daniel Hastie had autism having been motivated by the promise of new trainers and a tracksuit, Michael Walsh was sentenced to four years and Paul Williams to two years for preventing the lawful burial of a body, and Daniel Hastie to twelve months for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation. The death of Sebastiano Magnanini was listed as "accidental overdose".
Marta Ligman murdered by Tomasz Kocik
On 1st May 2015, Tomasz Kocik (38), a forklift driver from Buckingham Road, Harlesden, murdered his girlfriend Marta Ligman (23) by beating her unconscious with his fists, folding her up into a foetal position, placing her into a suitcase, her body wrapped in bin bags and curtains, and then he dragged the suitcase in the early hours down to the Grand Union Canal (off Scrub’s Lane, here), where it drifted and was discovered by a houseboat owner in Little Venice (near here) ten days later. The occupants of the houseboat spotted her dyed red hair peeping out of the case.
As his trial, the pathologist stated that Ligman “must have been unconscious, dead or dying” when Kocik hauled the suitcase half a mile to the canal and carried a stick the submerge the case when he got there. As well as being beaten, Marta Ligman died of hypothermia, although Kocik claimed that he found Ligman dead in their flat after days of an amphetamine fuelled bondage sex session. He was described as “an obsessively jealous controlling boyfriend” with a history of violence. Tomasz Kocik will serve a minimum of 18 years and six months.
Gemma McCluskie murdered by Tony McCluskie
On 1st March 2012, Tony McCluskie (a heavy cannabis user) got into a petty dispute with his sister Gemma, a former Eastenders actress, over an overflowing bath. In a blind fit of rage, Tony punched her to the floor, bludgeoned her with a blunt instrument, and then spent several hours dismembering her corpse, before disposing of the headless and limbless torso in a suitcase in the Regent’s Canal. The “suspicious looking” suitcase was found a few days later at Broadway Market (right by the Pritchard’s Road bridge); a distinctive tattoo led the police to identify the body as that of 29 year old Gemma McCluskie and CCTV footage showed her brother Tony carrying a suitcase to the canal from their maisonette in Bethnal Green.
Gemma McCluskie played Kerry Skinner in EastEnders; this was her only high-profile acting role as at the time of her death she was her mother’s carer, having suffering from a brain tumour. In court, Tony McCluskie admitted manslaughter but denied murder, citing a "loss of control". He was found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of 20 years.
Ruby Love murdered by Manzar Juma
Mother-of-three Ruby Love (23, born Rubina Malik) was strangled with a ligature by her boyfriend Manzar Juma (27) on 25th December 2011. With a long history of domestic violence against Ruby, and still on bail having assaulted her just a few days earlier, Ruby & Juma were heard shouting in Juma's flat at Hexham Gardens between 1.30am and 1.45am on Christmas Eve. Having strangled her – he would later deny this in court; instead blaming it on Ruby threatening him with a knife and criticising his dead parents – Juma then drove her corpse to the Grand Union Canal, where it was dumped, only to be discovered by a dog-walker at Bankside, Southall, at 11.42am.
Forensic evidence linked Ruby’s body to Juma’s car, as well as CCTV which captured him driving to the canal. In court, Juma claimed diminished responsibility, saying that at the time of the murder he was suffering from depression and a personality disorder, but on 5th August 2013 Manzar Juma was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 16 years before parole.
Outside of London, you also have the following Canal Killers:
If you "enjoyed" this blog post, take a peek at other intreguing topics such as; Killer Couples Part 1 & Part 2, Life, Death & Whole Life Sentences, Famous British Serial Killers - Where Are They Now? Serial Killers & Murderers Who Were Never Caught, London's Deadliest & Often Forgotten Disasters, KIllers Born During a Full Moon, Killer's Birthdays / Star Signs, Serial Killers Who Were On TV, Celebrities Who Have Killed, London's Railway of Death, Serial Killers as Kids and the World's Weirdest Death Rituals
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 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totalling 75 deaths, over just a one mile walk.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster & tour guide of Murder Mile Walks, hailed as one of the best "quirky curious & unusual things to do in London".
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