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John SWEENEY

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "Scalp Hunter" - "The Canal Murderer"
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Murdered and dismembered two former girlfriends before dumping their remains in canals in Rotterdam and London
Number of victims: 2 +
Date of murders: 1990 / 2000
Date of birth: 1958
Victims profile: Melissa Halstead, 33 / Paula Fields, 31
Method of murders: Hacking to death
Location: Rotterdam, Netherlands / London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on April 5, 2011
 
 
 
 
 
 

photo gallery 1

photo gallery 2

 
 
 
 
 
 

Canal murderer John Sweeney to spend rest of life in prison

Life sentence without parole for double murderer who killed girlfriends and left dismembered body parts in canals

By Caroline Davies - Guardian.co.uk

April 5, 2011

A carpenter who murdered and dismembered two former girlfriends before dumping their remains in canals in Rotterdam and London has been told he will die in prison.

John Sweeney, 54, from Liverpool, was given a whole life tariff at the Old Bailey after being convicted on Monday of murdering Melissa Halstead, 33, a former model from Ohio in the US, and Paula Fields, 31, a mother-of-three living in north London.

The women's remains were found a decade apart, and detectives fear three other women known to Sweeney may also be victims.

Sweeney, already serving a life sentence for the attempted murder of a third girlfriend whom he attacked with an axe and a knife, refused to leave his prison cell at Belmarsh prison to hear his sentence.

Judge Mr Justice Saunders, sentencing him in his absence, said the gravity of the offences was exceptional and only a whole life term was appropriate.

"These were 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.

"Not only does it reveal the cold-blooded nature of the killer, but it has added greatly to the distress of the families to know that parts of their loved ones have never been recovered."

The remains of Halstead, whose head and hands were missing, were found in the Westersingel canal in Rotterdam after she vanished from her Amsterdam flat in 1990. She was only identified in 2008 after Dutch detectives carried out a cold case review and matched familial DNA.

A freelance photographer, she met Sweeney in London and embarked on a tempestuous relationship, with him following her to Europe when she was deported from the UK for overstaying her work visa.

Fields, originally from Liverpool, a crack cocaine user leading a chaotic life in north London that involved working as a prostitute, met him in 2000. She vanished three months later and 10 body parts were found in six holdalls in the Regent's Canal near King's Cross in February 2001. Her head, hands and feet were missing.

Saunders said the killings had been planned. "The method of disposal of the bodies demonstrates that there was a substantial amount of planning.

"Why the killings occurred, I cannot be sure, but I am satisfied that this defendant is controlling in his relationships with women and, chillingly, that control extends to deciding whether they should live or die."

The jobbing carpenter, who worked under assumed names on construction sites around mainland Europe and south-east England, had denied both murders. But, the jury heard, he had a hatred of women and turned violent when they tried to reject him.

In 1994 he went on the run living under assumed aliases following the attack in Camden on Delia Balmer, a nurse, with whom he had a relationship. He was finally arrested six years later at a central London building site after the discovery of Fields's remains. Police then realised there was a connection. The identification of Halstead then allowed them to place crucial pieces in a gruesome jigsaw they fear may not yet be complete.

Detectives are appealing for information about three other women, about whom they only have sketchy information, who may also have been killed by him.

One is a trainee nurse called Sue, from Derbyshire, who was said to have left for Switzerland in the late 1970s or early 80s.

Two former girlfriends of Sweeney, a Brazilian known as Irani, and a Colombian called Maria, have not been seen since the late 1990s, when they knew Sweeney in north London.

Asked if the three women were thought to have been murdered, Detective Chief Inspector Howard Groves said outside court: "We have some information which would suggest that is a possibility."

Clues to Sweeney's visceral hatred of women were found in a hoard of more than 300 violent and lurid paintings and poems found at his home, with one, entitled the Scalp Hunter, depicting a female victim and a bloody axe.

On the back of a scratchcard he had written a poem: "Poor old Melissa, chopped her up in bits, food to feed the fish, Am*dam was the pits."

They also found a calendar on the back of a minicab receipt with 16 December 2000 circled and then "9 1/2 weeks" and the letter "P" written under it which within three days was the period before Paula's body was discovered on 19 February 2001.

The jury heard that while on the run Sweeney had told his best friend that he found Melissa in bed with two German men and had killed them all. He also told his former wife, with whom he has two children, that the police were looking for him and he had "done something really bad which would make her hair stand on end".

 
 

The many faces of the 'Scalp Hunter': Serial killer's disguises revealed as police say he could have murdered more women

DailyMail.co.uk

May 25, 2011

Murder Squad detectives have released new photos of 'Scalp Hunter' murderer John Sweeney in an attempt to trace more potential victims.

Investigators believe Sweeney, 54, who murdered two of his girlfriends and tried to kill another, may have been behind the deaths of even more women.

They have released the photos in the hope people who knew Sweeney can help police build a picture of his movements across the UK and Europe during the Eighties and Nineties.

Officers have also released some of Sweeney's macabre artwork, in an effort to identify three missing women with whom he may have had relationships.

Detective Chief Inspector Howard Groves said: 'As Sweeney contemplates a life behind bars, I can assure him that this investigation will continue.'

Last month Sweeney was found guilty at the Old Bailey of the brutal murders of Paula Fields and Melissa Halstead, after a joint EU Commission-funded operation by British and Dutch police.

The carpenter, of Kentish Town, north London, also tried to kill another of his lovers, Delia Balmer, but she survived.

He was convicted of that attack in 2001 - seven years after she reported it to police in 1994.

He has been in jail ever since, but it was not until last month that he was convicted for the two earlier murders.

After Sweeney was found guilty of the murders of Miss Fields and Miss Halstead, Scotland Yard revealed he is suspected to have killed three previous girlfriends as well as two German men.

Detectives believe a Brazillian woman, called Irani, and a Colombian woman, known as Maria, went missing from north London in 1997.

The two women went missing during a six-year spell that Sweeney spent on the run from the police - a period during which he murdered Miss Fields.

A third woman called Sue, from Derby, disappeared in the late 1970s or early 1980s. She was living and working in or frequenting the Holloway Road area.

DCI Groves said: 'We believe she was training to be a nurse and went to Switzerland to work.

'There is some information to suggest she was a devoted churchgoer in the north London area.'

All the women are thought to have had links to Sweeney and detectives say they have information that some of the women have come to harm.

Sweeney had drawn gruesome pictures of some of the women that seem to show the circumstances of their murders.

DCI Groves said: 'We don't know what happened to these women - we just need to find out more about them and their relationship with Sweeney.

We also need to identify another woman whose drawing was found among his possessions and is marked "London 1985".

'We would urge anyone who recognises this woman as them or someone they knew to get in touch.'

The two Germans are men that Sweeney bragged he had murdered at the same time as Miss Halstead.

DCI Groves said: 'He has been described as a handsome and charming man who led a Bohemian and transient life working as a carpenter.

'He used a number of aliases such as Joe Johnson, Joe Carroll and Scouse Joe and he spoke with a stutter.

'We are releasing pictures of Sweeney taken during the 1980s and 1990s in the hope that someone may recognises him and come forward.'

Sweeney was first arrested in 1994 after subjecting Miss Balmer to 48 hours of torture when she ended their relationship.

He was granted bail by a magistrate and hours later attacked Miss Balmer with a knife and an axe before going on the run.

He fled to Europe and it was not until 2001 that he was arrested as he left a London building site where he had been working.

After his conviction for attempted murder, officers began investigating other crimes to which they believe Sweeney was linked.

He had left a collection of disturbing paintings and poems in which he described murders of several women.

The body of Miss Halstead, an American model who had been living and working in Amsterdam, was discovered in a canal in Rotterdam in 1990, but it was not until 2008 that she was formally identified and the link to Sweeney was made.

During the Old Bailey trial, the court heard how Miss Halstead had predicted her own death at the hands of Sweeney.

Her sister, Chance O'Hara, said: 'She told me if she ever went missing, that John Sweeney would have killed her.'

A note seized from Sweeney in 2001 contained a poem: 'Poor old Melissa/Chopped her up in bits/Food to feed the fish/Amsterdam was the pits.'

Miss Fields's body was found in holdalls in Regents Canal in 2001.

It is not known how she died, but the circumstances of her disappearance were so similar to Miss Halstead's that prosecutors were able to prove Sweeney had killed her.

 
 

Canal Killer John Sweeney may have left trail of murder across Europe, police fear

A DERANGED carpenter who butchered two of his girlfriends and dumped their chopped up bodies in canals may have left a trail of murder across Europe.

By Jon Clements - Mirror.co.uk

April 5, 2011

A DERANGED carpenter who butchered two of his girlfriends and dumped their chopped up bodies in canals may have left a trail of murder across Europe.

Detectives fear John Sweeney could have killed at least seven victims during a 10-year reign of terror in Britain and Holland.

But they are convinced there could be even more victims because the “jealous and obsessive” gun fanatic had dozens of lovers as he drifted across the continent under different names.

It would make the evil 54-year-old, who dubbed himself the Scalp Hunter, one of Britain’s worst serial killers.

Sweeney was last night told he would likely die in jail after being convicted of hacking to death Melissa Halstead and Paula Fields.

He mutilated their bodies, chopped off their heads and hands, roped up their torsos inside bin bags and put them in weighted holdalls he later threw in canals hoping they would sink without trace.

After Sweeney’s trial at the Old Bailey finished yesterday, Det Chief Insp Howard Groves said: “As he contemplates a life behind bars, I can assure him this investigation will continue as we seek to identify and trace other potential victims in the UK, Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe who may have suffered a similar fate to that of Melissa and Paula.”

The maniac, already behind bars for trying to murder another girlfriend, told police he had “30 to 40” ­relationships across the Continent.

Scotland Yard is planning to circulate his details to forces in Italy, Austria and Germany while Dutch cops issued their own appeal.

Sweeney murdered former model Melissa, 33, ­originally from Ohio, in Holland. Her body was found in a Rotterdam canal in 1990.

Prostitute Paula, a 31-year-old crack addict and mum-of-three who lived with Sweeney at a flat in Kilburn, North London, was killed in 2000.

Her body was found in the nearby Regent’s Canal by two boys fishing the following February. It had been cut into 10 pieces.

Detectives fear three women who have been missing for years may have been murdered by the cynical brute, who depicted his appalling crimes in paintings and poems.

Outside court, police appealed for information about a woman called Sue, who vanished in the 80s. A devoted churchgoer from the Derby area in her 30s, she fled North London for ­Switzerland, pursued by Sweeney who had become obsessed with her. Officers also want to trace a Brazilian known only as Irani, in her mid-40s. She lived in North London around 1996 and may have worked as a cleaner.

And they fear a Colombian called Maria in her late-30s, who lived around Finsbury Park and Holloway Road, from 1997 to 1998, is yet another victim.

Sweeney also confessed to several people that in Amsterdam he shot dead two German tourists he caught having sex with Melissa.

Dutch police are taking the claim seriously because he has a string of firearms convictions.

Experts are convinced Sweeney has more victims. Criminologist Professor David Wilson said: “The mutilation of the bodies is evidence of the deep-seated hatred he has for those women.

“He is deeply obsessional and sees women as pawns that he can use or dispose of at his will, not when they want to end the relationship. It is highly likely he has killed more times.”

Dad-of-two Sweeney is serving life for the attempted murder of girlfriend Delia Balmber who he maimed on her doorstep in December 1994. After the attack he went on the run and turned up at the Northampton home of estranged wife Ann Bramley. He confessed he had killed three people and “done something really bad which would make her hair stand on end”.

Using several aliases including Joe Carroll he then lived as a fugitive on building sites across Britain and Europe for the next six years.

Paula moved in with Sweeney and they began sleeping together. But he accused her of stealing his tobacco and using his mobile phone.

On the night of December 13, 2000 a neighbour was woken up in the early hours by a male voice screaming and shouting: “No, no, no.”

Detectives now believe this may have been Sweeney’s reaction after Paula discovered his true identity and he killed her two days later. When they raided his flat they found a hoard of 200 terrifying poems and pictures, a machete, a garotte, a loaded Luger pistol, two shotguns and ammo.

Prosecutors did not have enough evidence to charge him with murder but he was convicted of trying to kill Delia, false imprisonment, actual bodily harm and firearms offences.

By this point Dutch police suspected a mutilated corpse found in the Westersingel canal was Melissa. Sweeney had met her in 1986 after leaving Ann.

He was arrested three times for beating her up and was once heard shouting: “Who do you think you are? I’m the one who says what you can and can’t do.” Melissa was so scared of him she told her sister Chance O’Hara he would kill her one day.

In 1988, she was deported for working here without a permit and went to Vienna. Sweeney followed her, broke into her flat and tied up her flatmate before searching for any evidence of a new lover. That same day he attacked her with a claw hammer, fracturing her skull, and was jailed for six months.

Melissa told police: “I only wanted to help him and have only seen the good in him. Now I know he must have hated me.” But in March 1989 after forgiving Sweeney yet again she got him released. Chance said: “She said John cried and begged her and said he had no one else and he was sorry and that he would leave her alone if she would get him out one last time.”

Sweeney and Melissa travelled to ­Stuttgart in Germany and then to Amsterdam where she vanished. On May 3, 1990, Rotterdam police spotted an army surplus kit bag floating on the Westersingel canal with a body in it.

It had been sawn through the spine, folded in half and bound in with rope.

Sweeney had carried the corpse on a train for an hour before dumping it.

He returned to Britain shortly ­afterwards. Because he repeatedly confessed to killing Melissa he became a suspect but the investigation was clouded when another woman was found in an Amsterdam canal.

Further confusion arose when a German serial killer said he had murdered a woman in the city.

But in 2008 the body from Rotterdam was ­identified by DNA as Melissa and an Anglo-Dutch inquiry was launched. Sweeney’s family, from Skelmersdale, Liverpool, including his mum Catherine, 76, insist he is innocent, despite his history of extreme domestic violence.

But Ann, who called police on several ­occasions during their marriage, told officers her husband had confessed to killing Melissa.

She died of cancer in 2002. Their daughter Tracey, 33, who lives in Lincolnshire, refused to comment. The couple also have a son believed to be called Michael, now 35.

Sweeney, of no fixed abode, showed no emotion as the guilty verdicts were read out but refused to return from the cells after being told he will almost certainly die in jail. Mr Justice Saunders warned he was considering imposing a “whole life” tariff when sentencing the monster today.

 
 

John Sweeney's artwork: Did serial axe monster murder 5 women?

DailyMail.co.uk

April 5, 2011

A suspected serial axe killer is feared to have murdered up to five women, police revealed yesterday.

Former carpenter John Sweeney, 54, regarded as one of the most dangerous men in Britain, was today sentenced to a whole life sentence for butchering two girlfriends and dumping their remains in city canals.

But as the psychopath faced the prospect of dying in prison, Scotland Yard launched an urgent appeal to trace three other women who previously had relationships with him.

Detectives are ‘particularly concerned’ about one of three missing former girlfriends, who was referred to in some of around 300 macabre drawings, wood carvings and poems by the Liverpool-born killer.

Officers believe the material is ‘autobiographical and confessional’ and holds clues about other murders.

In addition, Dutch police are investigating claims that Sweeney murdered two ‘German’ men in Holland more than 20 years ago. The Old Bailey heard he had bragged about killing the pair, whose bodies have never been found.

Woman-hating Sweeney received a whole-life tariff for murdering American model Melissa Halstead, 33, in Holland in 1990 and crack addict prostitute Paula Fields, 31, in London in 2000.

In sentencing him today Mr Justice Sweeney said the gravity of the offences was exceptional and only a whole-life term would do.

He said: 'These were 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.

'Not only does it reveal the cold-blooded nature of the killer, but it has added greatly to the distress of the families to know that parts of the bodies of their loved ones have never been recovered.'

The judge said the killings had been planned, adding: 'The method of disposal of the bodies demonstrates that there was a substantial amount of planning.

'Why the killings occurred, I cannot be sure, but I am satisfied that this defendant is controlling in his relationships with women and, chillingly, that control extends to deciding whether they should live or die.'

The dismembered body of Miss Halstead was found in a bag floating on a canal in Rotterdam on May 3, 1990. It was not until 2008 that her remains were identified using an advanced DNA test, paving the way for Sweeney to be charged with her murder.

The killer, who has a history of violence towards women, tried to murder a second girlfriend, nurse Delia Balmer, in 1994 after returning to the UK.

He was still on the run for that attack when he killed 31-year-old prostitute Paula Fields in 2000. Her remains were found in Regent’s Canal, London, on February 19, 2001. Her head, hands and feet were missing.

After Sweeney was arrested a month later at a building site near the Old Bailey, police discovered weapons at his home including sawn-off shotguns, a machete and a garrotte made with bamboo and wire. There was also a holdall with a ‘killer’s kitbag’ of a saw, bow knife, Stanley knife, axe head, orange rubber gloves and rolls of tape.

He had also amassed hundreds of ‘demonic’ drawings of women’s body parts, exploding policemen and references to ‘666’ and himself as Satan.

A poem found scribbled on the back on a scratchcard read: ‘Poor old Mellissa (sic), chopped up in bits, food for the fish, Am…dam (sic) was the pits.'

At the time, prosecutors ruled there was insufficient evidence to charge him with Miss Halstead’s and Miss Fields’s murders.

The names of two of other possible victims, a Brazilian known as Irani and a Colombian, Maria, were given to police by Sweeney during an interview in 2001 in which he boasted he had been with ‘30 to 40 women’.

He described them as former girlfriends and they have not been traced. Police are also anxious to locate a church-going trainee nurse from Derbyshire called Sue.

In 2002, Sweeney received four life sentences after being convicted of the attempted murder of Miss Balmer.

The divorced father of two was nearing the end of his minimum nine-year jail term when an Anglo-Dutch police investigation was launched in February 2009. In April last year he was charged with the murders of Miss Halstead and Miss Fields.

When police went to Sweeney’s cell in Gartree Prison, Leicestershire, they found he had been spending his time in jail drawing women without limbs.

During the trial, Sweeney claimed the police had ‘sexed up’ the evidence.

But Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, said the evidence revealed Sweeney’s ‘obsessive and violent hatred of women and a pre-occupation with dismemberment’. ‘The evidence in this case provides a picture of a hateful, controlling and possessive man, a man prone to outbursts of rage and indeed violence,’ he said.

Among the sadistic artwork found in the investigation was a picture called ‘One Man Band’ in which Sweeney had painted Miss Halstead’s gravestone – and then covered it with correction fluid.

Once treated with ultra-violet light, it revealed the inscription: ‘RIP Melissa Halstod bon on 12th December 56’ (sic). The word ‘died’ was followed by a dash.

One of the most chilling pictures – called the ‘Scalp Hunter’ – showed Sweeney with a bloody axe tucked into his belt and a lock of hair hanging from its blade.

The killer described the artwork in court as ‘nonsense’ and said he had spent the 1980s and 1990s taking drugs including LSD and cannabis.

He showed no emotion as he was found guilty. Sentencing was postponed to today after he refused to leave the cells.

The victims he brutalised

Melissa Halstead: A 33-year-old American model and former girlfriend of Sweeney’s, whose remains were found in a canal in Rotterdam in May 1990. Miss Halstead had suffered domestic violence at the hands of Sweeney, who had stalked her across Europe before tracking her down to Holland. Miss Halstead’s sister, Chance O’Hara, said: ‘She told me if she ever went missing, that John Sweeney would have killed her. He had threatened that he would kill her and he would make sure no one would ever find her body.’

Delia Balmer: Now 59, former nurse Miss Balmer suffered appalling violence after she ended her relationship with Sweeney in 1994. He attacked her with an axe and a knife only hours after being released on bail. He had subjected her to 48 hours of torture the previous month when she ended their affair. Miss Balmer, an Australian, survived the murderous attack in London but lost a finger and suffered horrendous scars to her chest.

Paula Fields: Sweeney was still on the run for trying to kill Miss Balmer when he murdered 31-year-old prostitute and crack addict Paula Fields in 2000. Her remains were found in six large bin bags in Regent’s Canal, north London, in 2001. She had been cut into ten pieces with a hacksaw. Police believe Miss Fields, a mother of three from Liverpool, was murdered after she discovered Sweeney’s real identity.

Detectives are also ‘extremely concerned’ about three other women:

‘SUE’: Officers want to trace a woman called Sue, who was thought to be in her late 20s or early 30s when she moved to Switzerland in the late 70s or early 80s. She had lived in the Holloway Road and Seven Sisters area of north London and was possibly a devoted churchgoer.

‘IRANI’: Another former girlfriend, she was a Brazilian living and working as a cleaner in kitchens in north London from 1996 to 1997 when she was believed to be in her mid-40s. She was said to frequent pubs and restaurants in the area.

‘MARIA’: Maria was a Colombian in the north London area from 1997 to 1998 when she was thought to be in her late 30s. She was also said to go to pubs in the area

'If I ever go missing, John Sweeney has killed me': Melissa's Halstead's chilling premonition of her own death

Melissa Halstead predicted her own death at the hands of John Sweeney.

He had beaten and stalked the former model, eventually boasting of feeding her to the fish in a canal.

Miss Halstead's sister, Chance O'Hara, said: 'She told me if she ever went missing, that John Sweeney would have killed her. He had threatened that he would kill her and he would make sure no one would ever find her body.'

She added: 'He was extremely possessive and demeaning. He felt he owned her.'

Miss O'Hara, 63, said she last saw her sister in London in 1987 when she was working as a photographer and make-up artist.

She noticed bruising on the 33-year-old, who said Sweeney had caused it.

Miss O'Hara added: 'When he came back to the apartment, he told her that she was supposed to do what he said and that he had control in the relationship.

'He said that when I left she would not have anybody and she would only have him.'

Miss O'Hara said that in 1990, Miss Halstead rang her from Europe to say Sweeney had 'tracked her down and was stalking her'.

She said he had attacked her with a claw hammer but she was going to bail him out of jail.

Miss O'Hara said: 'I asked her if she had lost her friggin' mind. I could not understand why she would release someone from prison who had already beaten her with a hammer.

'She said John had cried and begged her. He had no one else. He was sorry and he would leave her alone if she would get him out.'

But after Miss Halstead did not contact their mother on her birthday on November 2, 1990, the family became alarmed.

Miss O'Hara was not well enough to attend the trial but gave evidence by videolink from California in the U.S.

Miss Halstead began working as a model aged 15, signing to the Ford model agency in New York. After a successful career, she went to Paris and then London where she lived in Chelsea as she branched into photography.

She had met Sweeney through a friend when she arrived in London and it was to lead to her tragic death.

'She was very successful and extremely intelligent,' said her sister.

Miss Halstead's headless body had been fished out of a canal in Rotterdam but it would be another 18 years before she was identified by DNA.

A poem found amongst Sweeney's possessions read: 'Poor old Melissa, chopped her up in bits, food to feed the fish, Amsterdam was the pits.'

The body parts of Sweeney's second victim, Paula Fields, 31, were found in six holdalls floating in the Regent's Canal in Camden, north London, in February 2001.

Her head, hands and feet are still missing.

Her sister Irene said she was the youngest of 11 children and their mother died when Miss Fields was only nine.

Irene said: 'When Paula had her own children she thought she could make a better life in London.

'In May 2000, we began to hear she was into drugs and prostitution.'

 
 

'Scalp Hunter’ John Sweeney is linked to five mystery deaths

The “demonic” killer John Sweeney, who murdered two of his girlfriends and tried to kill another, may be responsible for the deaths of five more people, police have disclosed

By Mark Hughes - Telegraph.co.uk

April 4, 2011

Sweeney, who called himself the ''Scalp Hunter’’, killed Paula Fields and Melissa Halstead in the Nineties before dismembering their bodies and dumping them in canals in London and Rotterdam.

The 54-year-old carpenter, of Kentish Town in north London, also tried to kill Delia Balmer, but she survived.

He was convicted of that attack in 2001 — seven years after she reported it to police in 1994. He has been in jail ever since, but it was not until Monday that he was convicted for the two earlier murders.

After he was found guilty of the murders of Miss Fields, 31, and Miss Halstead, 33, Scotland Yard disclosed that Sweeney is suspected of killing three previous girlfriends and two German men.

Officers believe a Brazilian cleaner called Irani and a Colombian woman called Maria went missing from north London in 1997, while a woman called Sue, from Derby, disappeared in the late Seventies or early Eighties.

All are thought to have links to Sweeney and detectives say they have information that some of the women have come to harm. The two Germans are men that Sweeney bragged he had murdered at the same time as Miss Halstead.

Sweeney will be sentenced today and the judge has already indicated that he is considering imposing a “whole-life tariff” which will ensure Sweeney is never released.

Det Chief Insp Howard Groves said: “As he contemplates life behind bars, I can assure him that this investigation will continue as we seek to identify and trace other potential victims in the UK, Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, who may have suffered a similar fate to that of Melissa and Paula.”

Two of the women — Irani and Maria — went missing during a six-year spell that Sweeney spent on the run from the police — a period during which he murdered Miss Fields.

He was arrested in 1994 after subjecting Miss Balmer to 48 hours of torture after she ended their relationship.

But he was granted bail by a magistrate and hours later attacked Miss Balmer with a knife and an axe before going on the run. He fled to Europe and it was not until 2001 that he was arrested by police as he left a London building site where he had been working.

After his conviction for attempted murder, officers investigated other crimes to which Sweeney was linked. He had left a collection of disturbing paintings and poems in which he described murders of women named ''Melissa’’.

The body of Miss Halstead, an American model who had been living and working in Amsterdam, was discovered in a canal in Rotterdam in 1990 but it was not until 2008 that she was formally identified and the link to Sweeney was made.

During the trial at the Old Bailey, the court heard how Miss Halstead had predicted her own death at the hands of Sweeney. Her sister, Chance O’Hara, said: “She told me if she ever went missing, that John Sweeney would have killed her.”

A note seized from Sweeney in 2001 contained a poem: “Poor old Melissa/Chopped her up in bits/Food to feed the fish/Amsterdam was the pits.”

Miss Fields’s body was found in holdalls in Regents Canal in 2001. It is not known how she died but the circumstances of her disappearance were so similar to Miss Halstead’s that prosecutors were able to prove Sweeney had killed her.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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