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Welcome to the Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, set within one square mile of the West End.
On Sunday 7th May 2000 at 08:05pm, outside of The Crown public house in Seven Dial (Covent Garden), 53 year old Edward Alexander Crowley stabbed 12 year old Diego Pineiro-Villar. But what seemed like a random attack by a stranger was anything but.
As many photos of the case are copyright protected by greedy news organisations (and I don't want to be billed £300 for copyright infringement again), to view them, take a peek at my entirely legal social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
I've added the location of The Crown public house on Seven Dials marked with a dark green !. It's in the middle by 'Covent Garden'. To use the map, simply click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, such as King's Cross and Paddington, you access them by clicking here.
And for your enjoyment, here's two short videos. The one on the left shows you The Phoenix Gardens where Diego first met Edward and on the right is Seven Dials (just a few hundred feet from Phoenix Gardens and Diego's home) where he was murdered. This video is only one minute long and is a link to youtube, so it won't eat up your data.
I've also posted some photos to aid your "enjoyment" of the episode. These photos were taken by myself (copyright Murder Mile) or granted under Government License 3.0, where applicable. Sadly, as photo of Emily & Patrick are copyrighted, I can't post them here.
Ep76 – The Schoolboy, The Stranger and the Failure of the System
SCRIPT: Welcome to Murder Mile; a true-crime podcast and audio guided walk featuring many of London’s untold, unsolved and long-forgotten murders, all set within London’s West End.
Today’s episode is about the murder of Diego Pineiro-Villar; a sweet-natured boy whose simple act of compassion for a homeless man called Edward Crowley led to an unusual friendship and to his brutal death, and yet, both of their lives were destroyed by an unfortunate series of legal loopholes.
Murder Mile is researched using authentic sources. It contains moments of satire, shock and grisly details, and as a dramatisation of the real events, it may also feature loud and realistic sounds, so that no matter where you listen to this podcast, you’ll feel like you’re actually there.
My name is Michael, I am your tour-guide and this is Murder Mile.
Episode 76: The Schoolboy, The Stranger and the Failure of the System.
Today I’m standing in Seven Dials, WC2; one street south-west of the St Giles workhouse where frozen infant Charlie Chirgwin was turfed-out into the snow, two streets west of the dank hovel of Mary Ann Moriarty who hacheted her cruel husband to death, one street south-east of the empty Shaftesbury Avenue shop where the violated corpse of Nora Upchurch was “sensationally discovered” by her own killer, and two streets west of the baffling murder of Morris Sholman – coming soon to Murder Mile.
Situated north of Covent Garden market, Seven Dials is an iconic roundabout marking the convergence of seven streets – including Short’s Gardens and both ends of Mercer, Earlham and Monmouth Street. In the centre, on top of a thirty foot Doric column is a sculpture of six sun-dials, designed to face each street and to display the solar-time, accurate to within ten seconds. Sadly, having been commissioned in 1693, shortly before the seventh street was added, the six dial sculpture remains on Seven Dials.
Although factually inaccurate, Seven Dials is still a great place to hang-out; there’s swanky bars where ninnies and knob-heads natter in obnoxious voices having necked back one-too-many Negroni, artisan eateries where utter arseholes pay for the privilege of eating a thimbles worth of unpronounceable offal whilst dining ‘al-fresco’ by the bins, a theatre producing mostly musicals for simpletons who can’t understand a plot unless someone warbles it, and a pitifully pointless market selling woollen beanie caps for hipster twats, because (as the saying goes) “if you haven’t got a personality, get a hat”.
On the north-east apex of Monmouth Street and Short’s Gardens is The Crown public house. Built in 1833, when Seven Dials was one of London’s most notorious slums and a big inspiration for local scribe Charles Dickens, although it’s now in an epicentre of absolute pomposity, thankfully it’s still a proper pub for normal people, where you can have a decent pint, a bag of crisps and you should feel safe.
As it was here, on Sunday 7th May 2000, where an unusual bond between a schoolboy and a stranger came to a tragic end, and yet the real culprit was the system which failed them both. (Interstitial)
The senseless murder of Diego Pineiro-Villar began fifty-three years earlier…
Edward Alexander Crowley was born Henry Alan Dibby, an only child to working class parents in the post-war austerity of Coulby Newham, a rural village near Middlesbrough in the North-East of England. And although little is known about his early years, later on, he would almost be completely forgotten.
Edward’s birth was unremarkable. Being small and thin, with grey-blue eyes, podgy pale skin and a wisp of brown hair, he seemed like a healthy little boy, and even though he rarely slept, always cried and often refused to eat, his worried parents were reassured “he’ll grow out of it”. Only he didn’t.
As a baby he was hard-work, as a toddler he was exhausting and as a child he was a handful, but he wasn’t wicked, cruel or criminal; he didn’t swear, steal, start fires or rip the wings off flies. It was like he was on half-speed, a distant little boy forever trapped inside his own mind whose only friend was imaginary. With his parents concerned, the doctors reassured them “it’s just a phase”. Only it wasn’t.
As a teen, Edward was shy and reclusive, so to bring him out of his shell, his mum took him to church. The faith wasn’t for him; he disliked all the sins, guilt and silences, as being at mass was like being inside his head, but he loved Jesus’ miracles (what he called his “magic”) and when Edward said he was hearing voices, this was brushed off as nothing more than hysteria or hormones. Only it wasn’t.
Aged 15, although Edward was well-read - loving books on gods, magic, the occult and having taught himself Latin and Spanish - he left school with a limited education. Eager to find his purpose, he started work as a pattern maker in a metal work shop, but being haunted by hallucinations, he lasted only a few months, and - unable to hold down another job - for the rest of his life, he would live off handouts.
In 1972, aged 24, Edward was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, a chronic mental illness which although incurable, its symptoms can be treated with a life-long prescription of neuroleptics. But as Edward withdrew further from reality and the voices and visions in his head got greater, unable to escape his delusions, over the next twenty years, he would attempt to take his own life eight times.
And then, in 1994, aged 47, with his father dead and his mother in care, Edward disappeared.
For the next seven years, Edward became invisible; a nameless nobody living on the London streets, who slept rough behind The Savoy, ate in the Embankment soup-kitchens and begged for change in Covent Garden, and with no medical or psychiatric support, he stopped taking his medication.
Edward’s only salvation was the writing of the notorious occultist, self-styled prophet and practitioner of black magic - Aleister Crowley; so obsessed had Edward become, that in 1999, he used what little money he had to officially change his name from Henry Alan Dibby to Edward Alexander Crowley.
But to those who passed him, Edward was nothing but a sad little stranger with brown balding hair, a tatty moustache, sad ring-lined eyes and his worldly possessions in a plastic carrier-bag, into whose pot a do-gooder might pop a pound to feel better about themselves, but just as quickly forget. And so, as a shy reclusive nobody from nowhere - with no job, no home or no criminal record - in the eyes of the local authorities, 53 year old Edward Alexander Crowley was a danger to no-one. (Interstitial)
By all accounts, as very different people, Edward and Diego should never have met.
Born in 1988, 12 year old Diego Pineiro-Villar lived a comfortable and uncomplicated life in a small Covent Garden flat within sight of Seven Dials; with his Spanish-born mother Angela, his step-father Juan and his 15 year old step-brother Roberto. For the family, life was simple but good.
Raised well, although he seemed like an ordinary boy, who played football with his pals, cracked jokes with his brother and ran errands for his mother, Diego was bright, polite and sensitive. And blessed with short dark hair, chestnut eyes and a cherubic grin, to those he met, he was instantly likeable.
But what made him stand-out was his compassion. Whether this was a family trait, part of his Catholic upbringing or simply formed by what he saw; living a few hundred yards from the Royal Opera House and St Mungo’s homeless hostel, seeing such extremes as the fur-clad wealthy quaffing champagne in their chauffeur-driven Bentley’s and the dirty bedraggled deadbeats shooting-up smack by the kiddie’s swings in the Phoenix Garden, Diego saw the best in everyone and the worst in no-one.
So it’s no surprise that - although they were very different people – Diego and Edward would meet.
Just off Charing Cross Road, on the corner of Stacey Street and in the courtyard of St Giles’ church is the Phoenix Garden; a communal space for locals whose thickly-stacked council flats loom over this miniscule patch of green. Where-as now it’s gated, safe and manicured, back in the May of 1999, the Phoenix Garden wasn’t much; a ragged walled garden full of daisies and dog-plop, stinging nettles and syringe needles, sharp thorns and fragments of porn, with a broken bench, a few squeaky swings and a wonky roundabout. But in a big bustling city, it was a rare place for the kids to play.
On the May Bank Holiday, as Diego played footie with his pals in the Phoenix Garden, just yards from his home, the sensitive boy’s attention was drawn to several excitable whoops as a gaggle of bored kids hurled stones at a pile of dirty rags. Only as each rock hit; the rags moved, the rags cried and the rags yelped. Dashing over and demanding they stop, as a dark-blue Parker hood tipped-up, Diego saw a ragged man with brown balding hair, a tatty moustache, sad ring-lined eyes and his worldly possessions in a plastic carrier-bag. And although a little battered and bruised, he was okay.
In Edward, Diego saw not a sinister stranger to be feared and abused, but a shy shambolic recluse who was educated, direct and enjoyed his company. In Diego, Edward saw someone special, an instantly likeably boy who was compassionate, innocent and intelligent. And with that, the schoolboy and the stranger formed an unusual friendship.
Over the next month, the two unlikely chums often met in the Phoenix Garden, they ate, talked, played and (although broke) Edward used his meagre monies to treat his new pal to burgers at Macky-Dee’s, little gifts from American Candy, trips to the Trocadero arcade, the latest flicks at the Prince Charles Cinema and they’d sometimes take a dip at the Marshall Street Swimming Baths in Soho. They were just friends, but knowing his mother would disapprove of a 12 year old schoolboy hanging around with a 53 year old homeless stranger, Diego kept his new pal a secret. And for a while, it was fun…
But after a few weeks, their friendship had soured, as Edward’s desperate need for Diego’s attention became uncomfortable, suffocating and inappropriate; as an innocent play-fight went awry when Edward licked Diego’s ear, as they wrestled he tickled the boy’s belly-button and as they swam, he softly stroked the skin of the semi-clad boy. Although innocent, Diego was intelligent enough to realise that (for Edward) they were more than just friends, so he did his best to keep his distance.
Only Edward didn’t want it to end. Every day, the love-sick loner waited in the Phoenix Garden. Unable to escape his stalker, Diego started lying, saying he was elsewhere, but by following him to football, shadowing him to school and haranguing his home-phone (hanging-up if his mum answered or leaving soundless messages on the answerphone), Edward knew the truth. And still, Diego kept it a secret.
But by then, although the homeless man was off the local authority’s radar, Edward had come to the attention of the Police, as neighbours had seen him approach other children.
On 15th September 1999, as a wanted man, Edward handed himself in at Holborn Police Station and openly confessed that he was in a "loving but not primarily sexual" relationship with Diego. To Edward, their love was consensual, and although it was a complete fantasy, with Diego being only 12 years old, Edward was cautioned, arrested and interviewed.
And there, it could have ended.
Only with Edward having withdrawn his confession and Diego’s mother unwilling to involve her son in a court case, with no evidence to proceed, the Police had no option but to release Edward on bail.
Once again, Edward Crowley fell between the cracks of the system.
Although deemed “a danger to children”, he presented as shy, polite and lucid. With no charge against him, he couldn’t be placed on the Sex Offender’s Register. As a homeless man with no family, friends or fixed abode, he would be difficult to track. And given a full mental health assessment, even though he was diagnosed as a ‘paranoid schizophrenic’, as a treatable condition they couldn’t detain him under the Mental Health Act. And so, although they knew he was a risk, legally Edward was free.
Edward was fine, as long as he was taking him medication…
…except, downing a daily cocktail of strong anti-psychotics to dampen his symptoms, and forced to endure a dizzying array of life-sapping side-effects like vomiting, nausea, blurred vision, spasms and seizures, preferring to withdraw from reality, once again, Edward stopped taking his medication.
Edward Crowley was a homeless loner, drifting through the city and lost inside his mind, unaware that the visions, delusions and voices which plagued him were fantasies. And with nothing to occupy him but time and a well-thumbed copy of The Book of the Law by the occultist Aleister Crowley, feeling spurned by Diego, as Edward brooded, his love for the boy took a sinister turn (Interstitial).
A little after dawn on Wednesday 3rd November 1999, having received reports from worried parents that a man was loitering in the bushes of the Phoenix Garden, as the Police arrived, Edward fled. But on a seat of the children’s roundabout, scrawled in neat capitals and daubed using white typewriter correction fluid, the devastated derelict had left a love-letter. It read; "I'll always love you Diego. Please forgive me for everything. I couldn't stand the pain. One day, you'll know how much you hurt me, how much I needed you. I'm sorry. Goodbye”, having signed it with his middle name – Alex. Below he had wrote “And remember – always cheat others before others cheat you – if they're clever enough. I wasn't and I wouldn't want to be... Bravo! Mi chico latino", which is Spanish for my little latino boy.
That same day, Edward was arrested and charged with harassment; but again, with no witnesses, no confession and the message not a death threat, the charge was dropped and Edward was released.
On the morning of Monday 6th December 1999, as Diego arrived at Canada Blanch, his private Spanish school in Portabello Road, five miles west of his home, across three doors were painted "Why did you cheat me Diego? Why all the lies? I should hate you but I don't. Alex" in English and Spanish.
That same day, Edward was arrested again, but all they could charge him with was criminal damage. Tried at Marylebone Magistrates Court, he pleaded guilty to the minor misdemeanour and was given a two-year conditional discharge order (meaning that no further action would be taken unless he committed a further offence within the next two years) and – once again – he was released.
Edward was a free man, free to wander the streets wherever and whenever he liked; whether around Covent Garden, Charing Cross Road, Soho, Seven Dials or the Phoenix Garden. So as the boy’s mother made plans for the family to return to the safety of Spain, a terrified Diego lived in fear, never knowing where his stalker was, but knowing he was somewhere; around a corner, in a bush or behind a tree.
But then, Edward’s obsessive delusions got the better of him…
On Friday 10th December, at Holborn Police Station, once again, Edward confessed to having a sexual relationship with 12 year old Diego, and although he refused to give any further details, having confessed to a crime whilst serving a two-year conditional discharge order, under the Protection from Harassment Act of 1997 and combined with a Psychiatrist’s report which declared him “a danger to children, the public and himself”, this gave the Police the powers to arrest and detain Edward Crowley.
When interviewed, he refused to cooperate, so with the boy’s mother overseas, the Police obtained his step-father’s permission to interview Diego, and having received the boy’s statement in connection with the licking, tickling and the inappropriate touching, Edward remained behind bars until the trial.
On Monday 20th March 2000, the committal hearing of Edward Alexander Crowley for the serious charges of ‘harassment’ and ‘gross indecency’ took place at Highbury Magistrates Court. To ensure a conviction, the Police and Camden Council Social Services were ready to give their evidence…
…but with the Crown Prosecution Service’s case “not ready for court”, the Police’s custody time having expired and the prisoner having already served more than three and a half month in prison, against every objection, District Judge Dorothy Quick had no choice but to grant Edward a conditional bail.
Edward was released, that day, on the condition that he reported daily at Kentish Town police station and did not contact Diego or visit his home, his school or the Phoenix Garden - rules he abided by. But two weeks later, on 3rd April 2000, because his behaviour was good, the bail conditions were dropped.
So concerned were the Police that not only did they escort the boy to-and-from his school on the days following the lifting of the bail conditions, they also gave him a mobile phone to call them immediately should Edward Crowley ever approach him. But beyond that, they were powerless.
Once again, Edward was free to wander wherever he liked; to slink in the shadows, duck into doorways and bury himself in the bushes, this was his home, he had every right to be here, and as he walked in plain sight, to those he passed he was nothing but an anonymous face with an unknown name.
So, after three-and-a-half months in prison, seething about the boy who had spurned his love, with nothing to occupy him but time, a paranoid grudge and a well-thumbed copy of The Book of the Law by the notorious occultist Aleister Crowley - the self-styled prophet, black magic practitioner and supposed Satanist, who was quoted as saying "a male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the most satisfactory and suitable victim" – and over the next six weeks, Edward’s anger festered.
The evening of Sunday 7th May 2000 was unremarkable; a drab day which dribbled to a disappointing demise as a lack-lustre sun slowly set behind an opaque sheet of London smog. The beanie-caps in the street market were boxed-up, dippy theatre-goers dawdled through the doors of an already-started show humming its tune they already knew, the alfresco ponces had ordered a post-aperitif espresso shot of Guatemalan demi-capu decaf half-caf’, and a smattering of pissheads sat on the six sun-dialled plinth of Seven Dials, swigging pints and commiserating their final hours of fun before work. Urgh!
Shortly after 8pm, Diego and his step-brother left their home near the Phoenix Garden to run a little errand at a nearby shop. The last six weeks had been surprisingly quiet; with no sightings of his sinister shadow, Diego and Roberto scampered towards Seven Dials.
The street was broad, bustling and brightly-lit.
Feeling safe in a public space, the boys joked and jostled as bonding brothers do - giving each other dead arms, trying to trip each other up and mocking each other’s mother (without any hint of irony) – as they passed the apex of Monmouth Street and Short’s Gardens, outside of The Crown public house.
In the corner of his eye, Roberto spotted a furious blur flash across Seven Dials; he sensed an ominous stale smell, the rustle of a plastic carrier-bag and a tatty moustache poking through a dark-blue Parker hood, but before he could react, the assailant punched Diego in the face, knocking the bleeding boy off his feet and flat onto the concrete slabs, as towering over the terrified 12 year old stood Edward. (Echo) “One day, you'll know how much you hurt me, how much I needed you. I'm sorry. Goodbye”,
Instinctively, to protect his baby brother, Roberto grabbed Edward from behind; jumping on his rigid back, yanking at his veiny neck and struggling to pull the volatile vagrant to the ground. He grappled harder, and although he was only thin, Edward remained upright; his strength fuelled by the vengeful anger of his paranoid delusions, and as he shook the struggling teen off, Roberto crashed to the floor.
Only it wasn’t in vain… Roberto’s bravery had given Diego vital seconds to pull out the phone the Police had given him to dial 999. But it was as the emergency call went through that Roberto saw that his leg was sore, sticky and wet, as from the plastic carrier-bag, Edward had pulled a kitchen knife. And as its six-inch blade dripped red with Roberto’s blood, Edward stood over Diego, fuming.
The call connected at 8:05pm, but all the operator heard was the boy’s screams, as with frenzied force, Edward raised the knife high and slammed it deep into Diego’s neck and chest, smashing several ribs, as the staring psychotic stabbed the screaming boy again, and again, and again, and again, and again, in total thirty times (carry on in the background and fade into distance) and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again (echo).
Three brave onlookers disarmed Edward and pinned him down till the Police and Paramedics arrived, his blood-lust as unsated as his deluded love for the boy, but as blood pooled around his pale body, with the blade having pierced his heart, 12 year old Diego Pineiro-Villar, the kind, sensitive and sweet-natured child who had saved Edward’s life, died on arrival at St Thomas' hospital at 8:45pm. (End)
For the detectives, the evidence was self-evident, they had a victim, a culprit, a weapon, CCTV footage, eye-witness testimony and a full confession from his killer. Dropped at the scene, in amongst his worldly possessions in a plastic carrier-bag, they found a well-thumbed copy of The Book of the Law by Aleister Crowley with key passages underlined, and on a tatty scrap of paper were scrawled occult symbols and the words ‘Delendu est D Pineiro’ which in Latin means “Diego Pineiro is to be destroyed”.
On Monday 12th February 2001, a short trial was held at The Old Bailey, as although the proceeding ten months were wisely used to collate and cross-check every piece of evidence to secure a lengthy conviction, sparing the Crown Prosecution Service from more humiliation after their earlier failure, it all proved to be irrelevant as Edward pleaded guilty to murder. He is currently serving a minimum of thirty years in prison before parole is considered, but given his mental state, his release is unlikely.
At the scene; cards, teddies and floral tributes were left by shocked locals with messages like "You didn't deserve to die like this, we hope you are at peace now", a two minute silence was held at Diego’s Spanish school, who declared it a day of mourning, and in the ensuing report of what-went-wrong, the Police, Camden Council and the Crown Prosecution Service were all condemned for their actions.
Diego Pineiro-Villar was a sweet-natured schoolboy whose simple act of compassion for a homeless stranger led to an unusual friendship and to his brutal death, and yet, decades before he was even born, they could both have been saved had they not been failed by the system.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
For all of Michael’s gut-busting, fat-shaving, carrot-chomping diet-dudes, there’s more low-calorie fun after the break. A big thank you to my new Patreon supporters who are Amy Brown, April Louise McLucas and Jonathan Greenwood, I thank you, with a thank you to all past and present Patreons too. Coming soon to Patreon will be a series of short videos about the local murder cases too impossible to research so they will never appear on Murder Mile – oooh. With a thank you to all the listeners who’ve recently been on my Murder Mile Walk, it’s lovely to meet you in person. The crack dealers appreciate it too.
And just to say, if you love the murder location videos I post on my blog, all videos for past episodes are now available via my Youtube Channel, there’s a link to it in the show-notes.
Murder Mile was researched, written & performed by myself, with the main musical themes written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
The Murder Mile Threadless Store
Credits: The Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast was researched, written and recorded by Michael J Buchanan-Dunne, with the sounds recorded on location (where possible), and the music written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name. Additional music was written and performed as used under the Creative Common Agreement 4.0.
The music featured in this episode include:
Sources: Sadly the original declassified police investigation files from the National Archives is not available as the case is too fresh, so I've researched it using some of the following sources, as well as local knowledge and first hand accounts.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tor of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British podcast Awards 2018", and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 50 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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