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Right! Let’s learn more about some infamous murderers and serial killers on a more social level. This week: food, what do convicted killers enjoy eating… when they’re not gnawing on dismembered limbs or nibbling on hacked-off haunches?
You may think? Why do we need to know this? Food – like everything else in life – is something that (unless we’re literally hours away from starving to death) we deliberately choose a meal which we not only enjoy the look, taste and smell of, but it comforts us by reminding us of happier times, perhaps in warm memories from our childhood, and it gives other people an insight into how we see ourselves and (more importantly) how we want other people to see us.
Fred West, the Cromwell Street murderer, was a very plain and unimaginative eater, raised on a simple country diet of meat and vegetables for most dinners, and would always reject anything with a hint of spice or flavouring, right into his adulthood, often referring to curry as “muck”.
Myra Hindley: Very little is known about Hindley’s favourite foods prior to meeting Ian Brady, but her mother always insisted that she had a side portion of chips with every meal as Hindley was a notoriously picky eater - perhaps brought on by being bullied over (what she considered to be) her wide-hips, with kids giving her the nickname “Square Arse”. Having met Brady, her tastes copied his and they’d often dine on French or Chinese food. During her incarceration at Holloway Prison, Hindley paid (in cigarettes) a Jamaican prisoner to cook her a traditional West Indian meal once a week.
Ian Brady: In his earlier years, he had simple tastes; fish & chips in a trucker’s café, black pudding & chips after a few drinks, with steak being a specific treat, but as his reading habits evolved so did his desire to appear more cultured, so he’d often eat French, German or Oriental cuisine – with Chinese food in 1960’s Manchester still being seen new and exciting. After his arrest, his diet was limited according to what Ashworth Psychiatric Hospital would provide, but whilst on self-imposed hunger-strike, Brady would sneakily eat toast with butter and packet soup made with boiling water.
Harold Shipman: Although not a particularly fussy eater, Shipman ate a very normal diet consisting of Weetabix for breakfast, sandwiches and fruit for lunch, and with his evening meal, he often had four slices of brown bread (as he strongly believed that “food should be very carbohydrate oriented”) and as Primrose (his wife) was a good cook, he enjoyed her Beef Wellington and was a fan of curries, all of which would be consumed with the vegetables he grew in his back garden.
Dennis Nilsen, the “kindly killer”, who treated many homeless boys to one last meal (usually pork chops or an omelette) before he shagged and slaughtered them, having trained as an Army chef in 1st Battalion the Royal Fusiliers and served as a cook at the Al Mansoura Prison in Aden, South Yemen, it was here (according to colleagues at the Job Centre) that he learned to make a “mean curry”. That said, although he ate well, his tastes remained uncomplicated… unlike his love life.
And also; Levi Bellfield – The Bus Stop Killer who was convicted of killing school girl Millie Dowler, went through phases of being fat and lean, so when he wasn’t working out, he gorged on junk food especially his favourite - Kentucky Fried Chicken. Jeremy Bamber – The White House Farm murderer – who brutally murdered his adoptive family, liked nothing more than a bacon sandwich and a coffee, and Ian Huntley, the much-hated Soham murder who murdered schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, had simple tastes, hating spicy food and preferring to live on a diet of chips and chocolate.
And for our overseas readers…
Ed Gein (the Wisconsin grave-robber, murderer and necrophile) wasn’t much of a cook; as being a single man who lived alone with his dead mother, his farmstead had no electricity or running water, and his cupboards contained little more than the basics of canned goods, oatmeal and bread, with his main source of nutrition being potatoes and the rabbits he hunted.
Of those American serial killers who were executed on Death Row, when asked what their final meal would be (and they could literally order anything, within reason), this is what they ordered:
Aileen Wuornos had "a simple cup of black coffee". John Wayne Gacy - the killer clown ordered "12 deep-fried shrimp, a big bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken (as he used to run a KFC) with French fries and a pound of strawberries". Ted Bundy declined a final meal so was given a standard dinner of medium rare steak, over-easy eggs, hash browns, toast, milk, coffee, juice and a bowl of jelly, none of which he ate. Timothy McVeigh - "The Oklahoma Bomber", ate "two tubs of chocolate & mint ice-cream". Velma Barfield ate "a bag of Cheez Doodles and a can of Coca-Cola". Teresa Lewis ate "two fried chicken breasts, buttered beans, chocolate cake and a can of Dr Pepper" (which – ironically for someone on Death Row - has the slogan says "what's the worst that can happen?")
And Ronnie Threadgill requested "a baked chicken, mashed potato with gravy, vegetables, sweet peas, bread, tea, water and punch". But this simple request was denied? Why? Because when Lawrence Russell Brewer ordered his final Death Row meal, he asked for “two chicken fried steaks smothered in gravy with sliced onions; a triple meat bacon cheeseburger; a cheese omelet; a large bowl of fried okra; one pound of barbecue meat with half a loaf of white bread; three fajitas; a Meat Lovers pizza; three root beers; one pint of vanilla ice cream; and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts. His final meal request was granted, but when it arrived, he refused to eat the meal. Since that day, Texas has denied all special requests for final meals on Death Row.
And as for military maniacs, dictators and despots?
People may mock Adolf Hitler for being a vegetarian, but he didn’t decide to not eat animals on moral grounds, instead he believed that a meat-free diet could cure his chronic flatulence, which plagued him since a boy, hence he was always trying new herbal remedies, which his famously quack-ish doctor Theodore Morrell tried to cure him of, once using extract of Bulgarian peasants' faeces. Being notoriously paranoid, Hitler had a fifteen strong team of female food tasters on hand at all times, and - only after they had survived a full 45 minutes after tasting his meal - would he allow any food to be served. Oddly, many serial killers and mass-murderers also suffer with stomach troubles.
Idi Amin: Uganda's infamous dictator adored a simple goat stew, but his life was shrouded in a cloud of cannibalism after he was quoted saying “I don’t like human flesh… it’s too salty”, and was cited by the cook who supposedly prepared him a human cadaver which was reputedly stuffed with rice and flambeed in gin. But then Idi Amin was an odd man, it is reported that he was so obsessed with HRH The Queen (and why wouldn’t you be) that he once sent her a letter asking for a pair of her knickers.
Nicolae Ceausescu: Whilst being hosted by other leaders, the former Romanian dictator would only drink raw vegetable juice through a straw and avoided all solids, but whilst relaxing at home he loved nothing more than a chicken stew, made with breast, beak, feet, the whole lot. Ceausescu was notoriously paranoid and travelled with a chemist and a fully functioning food testing laboratory.
Benito Mussolini: Coming from peasant stock, the Italian dictator loved nothing more than a big bowl of raw chopped garlic. So much so that his wife couldn’t sleep next to him after he’d eaten his favourite dish as the aroma was too overpowering. During WW2, a Nazi doctor examined Mussolini a declared that he was "dangerously constipated", meaning his stools were as likely to move forward as his tanks. Way-hey, a little joke about the Italian army there.
And finally, Colonel Gaddafi: A big fan of couscous and camel meat, Gaddafi was famously flatulent, as recounted by BBC journalist John Simpson, who said "I listened (to the recording of the interview). There was absolutely no doubt about it. The personal microphone which we had pinned on [Gaddafi] had picked it up very clearly. The passage of wind lasted for about ten minutes of our half-hour interview. [Gaddafi] would rise up a little in his seat, the thunder would roll for fifteen or twenty seconds at a time, and then he would sink back into his seat with a pleased expression on his face".
And there you go; that was everything you need to know about maniacs, dictators, their food and their bot-bot flaffy-woofs woofs. You’re welcome. Parp!
If you found this interesting? Check out the Mini Mile episodes of the Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast, or click on the link below to listen to an episode.
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 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 of Murder Mile UK True Crime and creator of true-crime TV series.
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