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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 and beyond the West End.
At just before midnight on Sunday 2nd April 1989, Victor Castigador and his small gang of cohorts robbed the Leisure Investments amusement arcade at 23 Gerrard Street in Chinatown, but owing to a very petty grudge, Victor would turn a simply robbery for a few thousand pounds into one of London's worst and most horrific mass-murders.
As many photos of the case are copyright protected by greedy news organisations, to view them, take a peek at my entirely legal social media accounts - Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
The location of Leisure Investment amusement arcade, now known as 'Play 2 Win' at 23 Gerrard Street in Chinatown is where the orange triangle is. To use the map, click it. If you want to see the other murder maps, such as West London, King's Cross, etc, access them by clicking here.
Here's a little video shownig you 23 Gerrard Street in Chinatown, where the robbery and mass murder took place.It hasn't changed since that day back in 1989. I've also posted a link to the song - 'Burn It Up' by the Beat Masters, this was the song that Victor and his gang were singing to celebrate the robbery and the arson attack on their victims.
This video is a link to youtube, so it won't eat up your data.
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.
SOURCES: Sadly, the original police investigation files is held in the National Archives until 1st January 2096, so I've had to use other sources and filter out the tabloid shite:
UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE:
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 and beyond the West End.
Today’s episode is about Victor Castigador; a liar, a thief and a deluded fantasist who held such a petty grudge having been rejected for a promotion in a West End arcade, that his simple plan for some quick cash would leave two innocents fighting for the lives and two others dead.
Murder Mile is researched using authentic sources. It contains moments of satire, shock and grisly details, and as a dramatization 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 98: The Petty Grudge of Victor Castigador.
Today I’m standing in Gerrard Street, W1; one street north of the charred remains of Reginald Gordon West, two streets west of the shooting Michael Barry Porter in the Rose n Dale club, a few doors north of the stabbing of David Knight in the Latin Quarter, and two hundred feet west of James McDonald, the bank robber who may not have known that he was robbing a bank – coming soon to Murder Mile.
To most visitors, Gerrard Street is commonly known as Chinatown, as although this area also consists of Rupert Street, Newport Place, Newport Court, Lisle Street, Coventry Street and a bit of Shaftesbury Avenue and Wardour Street, as the most central and decorated part, it’s also the most visited.
After the blitz bombing by the German Luftwaffe of the city’s largest Chinese enclave in East London’s Limehouse Docks, by the early 1970’s, a few seedy side-streets south of Soho had spawned into a new Chinatown. Looking less like a real street and more like a tacky theme-park ride designed by a colour-blind architect who was obsessed with dragons, lanterns and pagodas, this pedestrianised street is full of the staples of Chinese life – such as restaurants, supermarkets and betting shops – but as if this oriental experience isn’t confusing enough, a demented ex-Disneyland designer has added a few weird flourishes; like a slew of non-Asian buskers – such as an Elvis, a Bee-Gee and an Edith Pief – and several characters in dirty threadbare costumes – including a Spiderman, a Pikachu and two Mickey Mouses.
On the corner of Wardour Street at 23 Gerrard Street sits a four-storey wedge-shaped building with three non-descript white-fronted offices above and on the ground-floor an amusement arcade called Play 2 Win. With large frosted windows plastered with gambling symbols on both sides and illuminated by flashing neon signs, through the red Doric pillars of the corner door echoes the moan of cheesy pop music, the tinny tunes of slot-machines and the occasional machine-gun thrum as a few pound coins are excitedly pooped-out, only to be ploughed back-in before the supposed winner can crack a smile.
All this colour and sound suggests ‘fun’, but this is also a place of loss; not just of money, but of life.
As it was here, on Sunday 2nd April 1989 that Victor Castigador, a small security guard with a big grudge would turn a very simple robbery into one of West London’s most horrific mass-murders. (Interstitial)
Open any trashy tabloid newspaper or turgid true-crime book and you will see the same lazy phrases trotted-out again-and-again to describe Victor Castigador – “he was mad”, “he was bad”, he was pure evil”, “the man was a maniac”. Many sources will gleefully tell you that the Spanish translation of his surname means the ‘punisher’ or the ‘enforcer’, as if a killing-spree was part of his birth rite. And even though, many writers still regurgitate the same tired facts that this so-called ‘Killer from Manilla’ was a violent and ruthless assassin for either the Philippine commandos, the President’s death squad or regime’s secret police – even though not a single shred of his sinister-history can be proven, every lie which emanated from his mouth is still rehashed even years after his incarceration and his death.
So, why do we accept it?
Firstly, it makes for a more exciting story. Secondly, as he’s dead, almost anything can be written about his life without legal ramifications. Thirdly, most readers believe that if it’s in a book then it must be true. And finally, because no-one wants to believe that a person so ordinary could perpetuate such a brutal and horrifying crime over a grudge so petty. But he did. The rage, resentment and rejection had built-up for decades, and yet sometimes all it takes is a single spark to turn a tiny flame into an inferno.
So, who was Victor Castigador and why did he kill?
Born in 1954, Victor Morales Castigador was raised in Quezon City, a densely populated metropolis in the south-east Asian country of the Philippines. As an archipelago of more than seven thousand islands between Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia, being surrounded by some of the world’s most active volcanos, infamously known as the ‘ring of fire’, the Philippines is also prone to earthquakes and typhoons. But as the fifth most populous country, it’s not just geologically unstable, but financially and politically.
As spoils of the Spanish empire, the Philippines has been fought over by countless invaders for the last hundred years, from the Spanish to the Americans to the Japanese, and although the Treaty of Manilla saw this newly independent country become a democracy, like so many, it soon slid into a dictatorship.
Raised in a period of political upheaval, as a poor boy from an impoverished background, very little is known about Victor’s family, his upbringing and therefore almost nothing has been documented.
Being small and skinny, Victor was pushed around and bullied by the bigger boys; seen as insignificant in a world where men and boys needed be physically strong to succeed, this little sprat was easily forgotten, often neglected and readily angered and hurt by the constant rejection. To stand his ground and gain the respect he craved, Victor would assert his dominance over those who dared to say “no”.
By the mid-1960’s - as President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda espoused to the cash-strapped country their hopes and dreams of a better future for everyone, only to embezzle billions of dollars of public funds to live a lavish lifestyle - being in his early teens, Victor dreamed of a better life.
As a small kid keen to flee his bullies, Victor worked-out, hoping to make-up for his lack of height with width, and although he bulked-up to become a thickly-set teen, he wasn’t physically imposing, as this short squat guy with a boyish face, long black hair and a feeble goatee beard was barely five-foot-tall.
Following the state of martial law declared by President Marcos in 1972, as imposed by his brutal army and sinister secret police - being an adult with the dreams of respect, control and the authority which comes with a rank, a title and a crisp black uniform - aged 21, Victor applied to both forces…
…but was rejected.
Having claimed to anyone who would listen to his lies that he had joined the Army, the Police and a “quasi-military death squad”, given that the minimum height requirement for a Filipino soldier in the 1970’s was five-foot-four and for a Policeman it was five-foot-two - as he was too short, partially deaf owing to a childhood infection, had only ever worked as a diver and he lacked the basic literacy skills for an administrative role - it’s more than likely that his “career in uniform” was as a security guard. But who would know any different and who could prove otherwise in such an unstable region?
By 1983 - the year that the political rival of President Marcos was ‘conveniently’ assassinated – 29-year-old Victor, who described himself as a “part-time diver” and a “sort of Policeman” befriended Michael & Jacqueline Haddon, two ex-pats living in the Philippines whose seven-year marriage was at an end. Beguiled by his charm and mystery, Jacqueline and Victor began an affair, they fell in love, and having returned to England in 1984, they set-up home in the coastal village of Middleton-on-Sea.
In October 1984, their son Adam was born. In August 1985, Victor & Jacqueline married. In October 1986 – as the Philippines erupted in a People’s Revolution after the corrupt election and subsequent death of Ferdinand Marcos - their daughter Robyn was born. But being a short-tempered and jealous man who beat Jacqueline and ill-treated their two toddlers, she told him to leave and they divorced.
As a UK Citizen with a passport and a legal right-to-remain, by the winter of 1986 Victor had moved into a relative’s flat at Coventry Cross, a council estate in Bow, East London. Being too small for a career in the British military or the Police, he headed into the West End in search of a job.
Victor Castigador - a short stocky bully with a patchy work record, no known convictions and a habit of lying to mask his inadequacies – had found work as a security guard in a low-rent amusement arcade at the edge of Chinatown. He was solid, prompt and ambitious. But four years later, in that basement, all because of a very petty grudge, this so-called assassin would kill. (Interstitial)
Life was uneventful at the Leisure Investments amusement arcade at 23 Gerrard Street. Open from midday to midnight, Monday to Sunday, with a strict over 18’s only policy, the arcade consisted of two ground-floor rooms crammed full of the flashing lights and tinny tunes of thirty pinball, penny-drop, videos games and slot-machines. And although this alluring cacophony of sights and sounds suggested fun, excitement and possible riches, you would never see a smiling face here, as being a cash-cow for the owners only, the customers were guaranteed to lose more than they could ever hope to win.
Overseen by the duty manager - 24-year-old Yurev Alejandro Gomez from Chile, known to his friends as Yuri - the average day in the arcade was often routine, dull and predictable.
At 11am, escorted by one of two security guards, Yuri would deposit the night’s takings at Lloyds Bank in Piccadilly, while the second guard secured the arcade, as the cashier – 26-year-old Kenyan, Deborah Bernadine Alvarez, known as Debbi – ensured the slot-machines had enough coins for any pay-outs.
At 12pm, as a simple security feature, the arcade’s only entrance or exit (situated on the corner of the ground-floor) was opened and every customer was watched by security and filmed by a CCTV system.
The cash box on each slot machine was alarmed, the door to the strong-room below was locked (with the key held by Yuri) and the only other money was doled-out in denominations of 10, 20 and 50 pees by Debbi, up to a limit of £500 (£1500 today), whilst she was sat behind a secure metal cage.
In the event of a robbery, all monies were kept to a minimum and the owners had told their staff to offer no resistance to the robbers and to surrender to their requests, as all losses were insured.
With a high turnover of cash on the premises, Victor was one of three security guards who worked in shifts, with two on duty at all times. It was a simple job with regular hours, nice staff and an adequate wage, but as much as this barrel-chested boaster loved to strut-about in his crisp black uniform, using his rank to assert a modicum of authority, the hardest part of the job was the boredom.
Being stuck in two small rooms, twelve-hours-a-day, seeing the same sights, the same faces and the same routines - as a little man with big dreams and even bolder lies – his days had become dull.
Every midnight, with the customers gone and the slot machines shut down, as one guard kept an eye on the arcade floor, a second guard would escort Yuri and Debbi down into the basement. Behind a thick steel door stood the strong-room, a reinforced concrete hold with no windows, no vents and no way of breaking in. Inside of which was six-foot-square wire-cage where the takings were stored in a safe till the morning and - as no-one but Yuri had the key - this messy basement also worked as a makeshift storeroom stacked with cleaning products, newspapers and paints for any general repairs.
By 12:30am, with the doors locked, the lights off and the alarms set, all of the staff would head home, only to start the whole process again, the very next day.
By March 1989, after three years at the arcade, Victor had developed a reputation as a bit of a bulldog; he was short but strong, fun but fiery and was prone to snap when pushed too far, and although the staff had all been regaled with his fanciful stories – of how, as a commando, a secret police agent and an assassin to President Marcos’ personal death squad he had shot, drowned and burned alive twenty people – nobody believed his lies. He was just a little guy who liked playing tough, and had a very vivid imagination and a sadistic streak having watched too many video nasties.
So, although he considered himself good at his job, superior to the other two guards – 21-year-old Ambikalpahan Anapayan known as ‘Pan’ and 28-year-old Kandiahkanapathy Vinayagamoorthy known as “Moorthy” – and felt that he deserved a promotion to deputy manager; owing to his lack of literacy, his short-fuse and his abundance of lies, he was denied the leg-up into a minor management role.
Feeling spurned and angry at this rejection, Victor became lazy, abusive and unreliable, so much so that by the end of March 1989, he was dismissed as a security guard at the amusement arcade.
Anyone else would have found themselves another job, but Victor harboured a very petty grudge.
On Sunday 2nd April 1989, just shy of midnight, the tiny shadowy figure of Victor Castigador sculked behind a brick wall in Rupert Court; a thin unlit alley sixty-feet south of Gerrard Street. With Chinatown shutting down after a busy day trading, across the desolate street he had a perfect view of the arcade.
His plan was simple; with the customers gone, the door unlocked and the staff cashing-up two day’s takings as the bank was shut on Saturdays, ordered to offer no resistance to robbers, he would raid the safe, lock the staff in the strong-room and escape; in short, get in, get out, in three minutes flat.
Had Victor been a commando as he claimed, he would have known that an oversized hood, a slipping scarf and no gloves wasn’t a great disguise - but he didn’t. Had he been in the Secret Police, he would have known how to get a real gun rather than a child’s plastic toy – but he didn’t. And had he actually been a death-squad assassin, he could easily have robbed the arcade single-handed – but he didn’t. Instead, he roped-in four useless youths who he knew; 17-year-old Calvin Graham Nelson, 19-year-old Paul Stephen Clinton and – tagging along for the ride, the excitement and some easy money to be split five ways - their girlfriends, 17-year-old Karen Dunn and 20-year-old Allison Linda Woodside.
But this robbery would be a breeze, as he knew the layout, the routine and the rules.
As per usual, at 11:58pm, with both security guards on the arcade floor, as Pan got into position to lock the main door and Moorthy stood guard over Debbi and Yuri as they counted-up the cash, dashing across the unlit street five dark figures (four slight and thin, one short and stocky) stormed the arcade.
Swinging open the frosted door, in an instant, the hard-fisted Victor punched Pan, knocking him to the floor, as Nelson and himself pulled pistols on the startled staff. Caught by surprise, overpowered by numbers and aiming toys guns which looked real enough in the neon-bathed arcade, Yuri and his team offered no resistance as the bulldog-shaped man and his excitable gang of accomplices - who towered over their tiny leader - herded the trembling staff down the stairs into the concrete basement.
With the money insured, the well-trained staff knew it wasn’t worth risking their lives, so instead they were silent, they listened, they obeyed and memorised everything about the gang and the robbery.
Standing at the heavy steel door of the strong-room, surrounded by the office supplies and paint pots of this badly-used space, as Victor pressed the gun’s muzzle against Yuri’s neck - in his thick Filipino accent - the five-foot-tall stockily-built bully-boy with the slipping disguise and the very familiar eyes, curtly ordered Yuri to unlock it, which he did, as the staff were ushered inside.
The strong-room was cold and dusty. It was little more than a four-sided concrete shell, with a single metal door, no windows, no vents and to one-side, a six-foot square wire-cage, which housed the safe.
Again, ordered by the miniature masked marauder to unlock it, the second that Yuri unveiled the stash of cash within, Victor thumped his former-employer hard across the back, flooring him, as the gang bundled £8,685 worth of used and untraceable notes into an anonymous black rucksack.
Two minutes in; with the robbery over, to allow ample time for a clean getaway, knowing that the cleaners weren’t due until 8am, the next part of the plan would give them an eight-hour head-start.
Inside the wire-cage, Victor ordered his ex-colleagues to their knees, he bound their hands behind their backs and – to ensure that they couldn’t escape till the morning – he would tightly wind the wire-cage’s lock with a metal coat-hanger and lock the steel door of the strong-room. By dawn, they would be cold, hungry and tired, but ultimately fine.
And that would take the third of three minutes.
It wasn’t a great robbery, one which was devised by a military or criminal mastermind, but it was more akin to a thug nicking of some easy-pickings having coerced some poor kids with a bullshit history and the promise of pocket-money which may have seemed like a fortune, but it was littered with mistakes.
The slot-machines were full of cash and yet he ignored them. The CCTV had recorded it all, and yet he didn’t switch it off or remove the tape. With no gloves, his gang had left fingerprints everywhere. With no getaway car, they were forced to hop in a taxi. Having stolen the equivalent of £21,700 today – if evenly split between five – that was barely £4,500 each. And – worst of all - even though their disguises were truly awful, it was practically impossible to hide the fact that their short, stocky, foul-tempered Filipino gang-leader was a recently-sacked security-guard at the arcade called Victor Castigador.
This was the moment that Victor should have fled, but he didn’t. We know what happened next wasn’t pre-planned as he hadn’t come prepared. Whether he did this to protect his identity, or as part of a petty grudge over the failed promotion is unknown. But seeing his old colleagues tied-up, helpless and kneeling - from a waste bin - he scattered piles of dry discarded paper around him. Down a drain, he emptied the only fire extinguisher until it was nothing but a dribble of water. And from a store-cupboard full of cleaning products and paints, he produced a one litre squeezy bottle of white spirit.
The staff screamed as Victor soaked all four from head-to-foot in the highly flammable fluid. Yuri yelled “How can you do this? These are people just like you”, but his pleas fell on deaf-ears, even as his old work chum – Pan – begged for his life, screaming “Don't light it. I would rather you shoot me”. Besides, even if the gun had been real, Victor had no plans to give any of them a merciful death, as with gleeful cackles, he and Nelson fired a volley of flaming matches at the tinder-dry paper and volatile fluid.
Getting to his feet, Moorthy tried to stamp the matches out, but there were too many. And as Victor secured the cage with a coat-hanger and slammed the heavy steel-door shut, being saturated in a lethal accelerant and igniting in a fog of explosive vapours, the abandoned staff were left to burn alive.
(Street sounds, screams fade). This wasn’t the work of a professional assassin; this was the vengeful act of a petty-minded little man with serious psychological issues. Trapped in an airless basement with no vents to expel the smoke, or for their screams to be heard by neighbours, four good people were subjected to a slow and painful death; as their lungs choked on the toxic fumes, their hair was scorched by the licking flames, and the intense heat stripped the searing flesh from their bodies. But if he had been a real assassin, knowing he had enough time, he would have stayed behind to make sure that the job was done and that all the witnesses were dead - but he didn’t. (Screams fade back in).
The charred bodies of Pan and Moorthy lay at the back of the wire-cage - smoking, collapsed and horrifically burned - as in their last moments alive, the two Tamil refugees who had fled the Sri-Lankan civil war to begin a new life for their families, uttered a final prayer, exhaled and expired.
In the pitch-black basement, having freed his hands from behind his back, Yuri had used his rubber-soled shoes to kick open the scorching heat of the wire-cage. Describing the strong-room as like an oven, each time he rolled on the floor to extinguish the hot blue flames which enveloped his clothes that melted onto his skin, the searing heat re-ignited the fire, as he felt his whole body disintegrate.
Blinded, chocking and exhausted, as Yuri dragged himself along the concrete floor, under a thick blanket of swirling flames and towards the impenetrable steel-door, he tried to push the blistering hot handle, but with no key, he knew he was trapped. And yet, this door would be their salvation.
Having dragged Debbi to his side, barely able to breathe amid the acrid smoke and poisonous fumes, a small but vital supply of air was seeping through the key-hole and the thin gap under the steel-door. And although the hot metal blistered their lips, it was all they had left to save them from death.
That night, as two people died and two more baked alive, Victor and his four compassionless cohorts - Calvin, Paul, Karen and Allison - celebrated their audacious robbery with a nice meal, a boogie at a nightclub and the next day they headed to Torquay for a holiday. There they drank, laughed and – as a private joke – they regaled their taxi-driver with a rendition of the Beat Masters tune ‘Burn It Up’.
At 7:55am, eight hours later, smelling smoke, the cleaners called 999, and within minutes, fire fighters from Shaftesbury Avenue station were on-scene and heading towards the basement. As they unlocked the steel-door, everything was a smouldering black mess; all warped, charred and smoking; no-one could tell a wall from a door, or a box from a bench, but over the familiar smell of accelerant, they could also smell the overpowering and unforgettable stench of roasted flesh.
Inside, amidst the darkness, on the scorched floor, lay the dark and lumpen shapes of four bodies – all black, silent and featureless. All four should have died, but somehow, two had survived. And although both were in critical condition, Yuri was able to utter three simple words - “Victor did it”. (End)
All five were arrested a few days later in Torquay and in a joint operation between the Devon and Met Police, they were escorted back to Cannon Row police station, where – under questioning – Victor remained indifferent to the robbery, the injuries to the witnesses and the callousness of his crime.
On 14th April 1989, he was charged with one count of robbery, two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder at Bow Street Magistrates Court, with a full trial at the Old Bailey, one year later.
At both trials, having sustained horrifying injuries – with Yuri suffering 30% burns to his left arm, chest, right arm and losing a lung having inhaled the scorching hot smoke, and Debbi with 28% burns to her arms, hands, back, thighs, lungs, and losing almost all of her face – through unquestionable strength, Yuri and Debbi testified against the accused and on 28th February 1990, all five were found guilty.
Calvin Nelson and Paul Clinton were convicted of robbery, murder and attempted murder, with Calvin sent to a young offender’s institute for life, Paul was held in detention under Her Majesty’s pleasure, and both of their girlfriends - Karen Dunn and Allison Woodside - were found guilty of robbery.
So cruel were Victor’s crimes, that James Mulcahy, Victor’s own defence said to the jury “it would be very surprising had you not come to the conclusion that he was a ruthless, callous and inhuman monster”. The Judge, Mr Justice Rougier concluded “I find it almost impossible to understand a mind as evil as yours”, and sentenced him to life in prison, to which Victor cockily crowed “fair enough”.
Extended to a whole life tariff meaning that he would never be released, on the 21st March 2017, having served twenty-seven years, 62-year-old Victor Castigador died of a stroke. He was mourned by nobody.
So, as much as trashy tabloids love to trot-out the same tired story about ‘the Killer from Manilla’ who was (supposedly) a hired assassin for President Marcos, if you really feel the need to share his tawdry tale to impress your true-crime chums, don’t glorify his actions, his exploits, or perpetuate the same unproven twaddle which only spewed from his lying lips. Instead, remember him for who he was – a small, pathetic, mentally unstable liar, who ruined four lives, and all because of a petty grudge.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
After the break, I shall do some of this, a bit of that, some additional of the other, just as I did last time, only some of the words will be in a different order – and that I will call Extra Mile. Oooh.
Before that, a big thank you to my new Patreon supporters who are Annette Milsom, David Evans and Mandy Belshaw, I thank you all. I hope you enjoy all the extra goodies which come with being a Patron, like locations videos, exclusive crime-scene photos and special discounts off Murder Mile merch. Oh yes, the list of benefits is endless.
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.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster 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 curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British Podcast Awards", one of The Telegraph's top five true-crime podcasts 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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