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Right! Let’s get acquainted with some infamous murderers and serial killers on a more social level. This week: pets, which killers loved their pets?
The reason I ask this is because cruelty to animals (along with bed-wetting and arson) and an inability to show empathy for another living creature is often a small but crucial step into a child's development from a normal human-being into being a serial killer. But not all serial killers hated animals. Many adored their pets.
For example: John Reginald Christie, owned two pets during his time at 10 Rillington Place, one was a black & white cat (with no known name) who disappeared from the house shortly after his arrest, and his faithful 14 year old mongrel terrier – Judy – who he often fed fish & chips, ah, but sadly, being unable to look after the elderly dog with an infected eye whilst he was on the run, Reg had Judy put to sleep, in a gas chamber, for five shillings. Hmm, okay, maybe that wasn’t a great example.
John George Haigh was denied pets as a child, but having murdered Dr Archibald Henderson and his wife Rosalie Henderson and dissolved their bodies in a drum of acid, he took all of their belongings, including their dog – a red setter called Pat - and kept him and fed him, (ah, that’s nice) but with the dog being old, suffering with night blindness and management at the hotel not allowing dogs, Pat was taken to a kennels and euthanized. Hmm, another not great example there, sorry about that.
Beverly Allitt, the deadly nurse and child-murderer was gifted a lovely floppy eared toy dog called “Sad Sam” by her boyfriend Steve for her 18th birthday, (ah, sweet) sadly Beverly didn’t really care much for the dog, and it’s fate is unknown. Oh, dear, this is not going well.
Rose West, of the infamous house of horrors in Cromwell Street suggested that the family get a dog, to help them get over the fact the Fred – her husband – was in prison for murder. Instead of getting just one, they got two, a bearded collie and a Cocker Spaniel, which Rose would take on the train to see Fred in Birmingham Prison. Ah, that’s nice. Although the family later admitted Rose never liked dogs. Shit.
Patrick MacKay, dubbed “The Devil’s Disciple” who confessed to murdering eleven people over one year in 1974 and 75, he owned a tortoise as a boy… until he set fire to it. Ah, bloody hell.
This isn’t going as well as I thought.
Peter Manuel, dubbed The Beast of Birkinshaw, murdered at least seven people between 1956 and 58 in Lanarkshire, Scotland. On 1st January 1958, Manuel broke into the house of Peter and Doris Smart and their 10 year old son Michael, in Uddington, shot all three family members dead without saying a word, then helped himself to food and stayed in their home for a week, amongst the dead bodies, and then hearing their hungry cat crying, as there was no milk in the fridge, he poured it a bowl of water, fed it tin of Kittikat and a tin of salmon and then put the cat outside. There you go, see, he wasn’t all bad.
Dr Harold Shipman, dubbed "Doctor Death", although he was one of the world's most prolific serial killers, he had very few pets (except a black poodle and a few rabbits), but as a medical student at Leeds School of Medicine, Shipman would regularly complain about the caged dogs that were kept on the roof for medical testing and vivisection, and would often weep at the sight of the poor little dogs being led to their early deaths. Kind of ironic really.
And yet, although there are many badly written news articles (mostly in the tabloids) which proclaim that some of the serial killers I’m going to mention were animal abusers, they weren’t.
Dennis Nilsen: Although he also owned a black and white cat, years later, whilst in HMP Full Sutton, although Nilsen was one of the 72 prisoners serving a whole life tariff, he was allowed to keep two budgerigars in his cell who he named Hamish and Tweedles. But I’m going to tell you about Bleep.
"Bleep" was the faithful, loyal and loving Border Collie-cross of London's most notorious serial killer Dennis Nilsen. She was bought as a puppy in a local pet shop on Kilburn High Road and was named "Bleep" as the puppies muted barks sounded more like a high-pitched squeak. Nilsen absolutely adored "Bleep"; he fed her, brushed her, bathed her and the two would take lovely long walks together on Hampstead Heath. Bleep was his best-friend, his closest companion, and - in Nilsen's eyes - the only one who ever truly loved him. But in 1978, after a few volatile months together, "Twinkle" (Nilsen’s boyfriend) walked out, causing Nilsen to spiral out of control, and with his rage uncontrollable and fuelled by anger and drink, he killed fifteen young men in just five years. "I wanted to stop sooner", Nilsen said after his arrest, but after he'd murdered his second victim - Kenneth Ockenden - he knew he'd be locked up for life and his main concern was "if I'm put away, what would happen to Bleep?". Unfortunately, Nilsen's concerns were proved right as just three days after he was imprisoned, "Bleep" was put to death by lethal injection as the Police believed no-one would want to own her. And her only crime? Being a faithful, loyal and loving dog... of a serial killer.
Myra Hindley owned a tan & white collie called "Puppet", which she was totally besotted by. Unfortunately, after her arrest an as accessory to the brutal murder of 17 year old Edward Evans and the discovery of her partner Ian Brady's suitcase which contained a series of highly disturbing photos and a 13 minute audio of the torture and murder of 10 year old Leslie Ann Downie, Police were alerted to a few photos of Hindley and Puppet, taken on Saddleworth Moor at different times, and they wondered whether this was a macabre memorial taken on top of a shallow grave. Sadly, they were right.
As Hindley refused to cooperate, they needed to find a way to accurately date the photos, and to do that they needed to determine the age of “Puppet”, so they put the dog under anaesthetic to x-ray her teeth. Unfortunately, “Puppet” died during the procedure and Hindley was inconsolable, later stating “I feel as though my heart's been torn to pieces. I don't think anything could hurt me more than this has”. Oddly, she never showed any remorse for her victims.
Ian Brady: Lazy biographers often state that Moor's Murderer Ian Brady was an animal abuser, whether torturing cats or drowning dogs, but (as much as this makes for good newspaper copy) it's simply not true. Ian Brady truly loved animals; as a child he had three rabbits; a big grey called Jenny, a big black called Harry and a small Dutch called Smokey, a black & silver German shepherd called Una and a Cocker Spaniel called Sheila, at whose death the ten year old Brady was inconsolable.
Also, in an incident he recounted to DCI Peter Topping of Manchester CID, when Brady was a child growing up in The Gorbals (Glasgow) he saw an injured horse which had slipped on the icy-road, a canvas screen was erected and the horse was "euthanized" with a house-brick. Brady said “it lay there with its massive sides heaving and its breath steaming the frosty air… I can still see the great liquid eyes rolling in terror… they were going to kill the horse. My chest was bursting and I began to cry”. Even if this story is a fabrication, it seems unlikely that he was an animal abuser, especially as Brady reportedly asked for the proceeds of his autobiography – Black Light – to be split between four animal charities.
Now, for one of the world’s most infamous mass-murderers and pet-lovers?
Adolf Hitler: It seems odd that a man with so much hatred, who orchestrated the holocaust and the deaths of six million Jews, could have so much love for his pets, but it's true. Hitler loved his dogs, these included: "Fuchsl", a white Fox Terrier who Hitler found as a stray, nurtured and raised during World War One and was reportedly “distraught” when the dog was lost during a trench bombing. “Prinz”, a German Shepherd who comforted Hitler during his post-World War One years of poverty, but as Hitler was unable to afford to feed Prinz, Hitler had to re-home her, but she always escaped and returned to her loving master.
There was also “Muckl” a German Shepherd, "Blonda" (born in 1928), “Blonda” (her daughter born in 1930), “Bella”, another German Shepherd who was brought from a minor official in the Ingolstadt post-office (the nearest town to his countryside retreat dubbed The Wolf’s Lair) in 1942 to keep his other dogs company, and, more famously, there was his beloved “Blondi”.
On 29th April 1945, as the Soviets closed in on Berlin, Hitler decided to take his own life, but fearing that his SS-issued cyanide capsules lacked the necessary potency, he ordered Dr Werner Haase to test them on Blondi who died instantly. After which, Hitler became inconsolable at the death of his beloved dog, and so at Hitler’s request, his dog-handler shot Eva Braun’s two dogs and Blondi’s litter of puppies in the garden of that infamous bunker.
I think the moral of the story is, people who love their pets are great. Everyone else is meh.
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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