JOHN SWEENEY

Midweek Sport - - NEWS -

John Sweeney was jailed for life in 2002 for the hor­rific at­tempted axe mur­der of his girl­friend, po­lice who had searched his London flat feared the grue­some crime was just the tip of a blood-soaked ice­berg.

Stored in the build­ing were more than 300 ex­plicit draw­ings, paint­ings and po­ems that seemed to of­fer clues to two grisly un­solved mur­ders...and the twisted work­ings of Sweeney’s mind.

Years ear­lier in 1990, Amer­i­can model turned pho­tog­ra­pher Melissa Hal­stead, 33, who had pre­vi­ously lived in the UK, van­ished from her canal­side home in Am­s­ter­dam. Soon af­ter, a woman’s torso with its head and hands miss­ing was fished out of a canal, al­though it wasn’t un­til 2008 that a DNA match would prove the torso was Melissa’s.

In 2000, Paula Fields, 31, from Liver­pool, went miss­ing from the London streets where she worked as a pros­ti­tute. Her re­mains, sim­i­larly dis­mem­bered but with the feet also miss­ing, were found in holdalls float­ing in Re­gent’s Canal in Cam­den, north London, in Fe­bru­ary 2001.

Both had had re­la­tion­ships with Scouse car­pen­ter Sweeney, who was by 2008 six years into his life term for the at­tempted mur­der of his ex, Delia Balmer. She had sur­vived his axe at­tack in 1994 but had lost a fin­ger and had scars to her chest.

Sweeney had been on the run for six years, pos­si­bly liv­ing and work­ing across Europe, when armed of­fi­cers pounced on him in 2001 as he left a London build­ing site. He strug­gled with of­fi­cers who even­tu­ally over­pow­ered him as he made a lunge for his tool­box, which had a re­volver in­side.

At the time there was not enough ev­i­dence to link him to the canal mur­ders, but shortly be­fore he re­tired in 2003, the lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor in Delia’s case Det Ch Insp Nor­man McKin­lay or­dered a re­view of the Sweeney case, and vis­ited the brute at HMP White­moor in Cam­bridge to ask about the un­solved cases.

“He said noth­ing at all,” McKin­lay said later. “He just looked at me, star­ing and smirk­ing. His eyes al­ways got me. He had pierc­ing eyes.”

But among the art­work Sweeney left was a draw­ing of a woman, called One Man Band, be­lieved to be Melissa. When foren­sic sci­en­tists shone ul­tra-vi­o­let light on a sec­tion where cor­rec­tion fluid had been ap­plied, it re­vealed a grave­stone with the in­scrip­tion: “Melissa Hal­stead, born 7 Novem­ber 1956.

An­other sketch, The Scal­phunter, showed women tied up, and an­other showed Sweeney drip­ping with blood.

When Sweeney was brought back to court for his dou­ble mur­der trial in 2011, pros­e­cu­tor Brian Alt­man QC told the jury: “Po­lice found amongst his pos­ses­sions of­ten lurid and de­monic sketches, paint­ings as well as pages of verse which re­veal an ob­ses­sive and vir­u­lent ha­tred of women and a pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with dis­mem­ber­ment.”

New DNA ev­i­dence con­firm­ing Melissa’s iden­tity would prove to be enough to con­vict Sweeney and he was handed a whole life tar­iff for the dou­ble mur­ders.

But im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing his in­car­cer­a­tion de­tec­tives ap­pealed for in­for­ma­tion about six other miss­ing women.

Scot­land Yard’s homi­cide and se­ri­ous crime com­mand said it wanted to iden­tify a Scot­tish woman who may have been his girl­friend in the 1980s, pos­si­bly called Fiona, who shared a house with oth­ers in Hornsey Park Road, north London, in 1985.

An­other woman po­lice want to trace is a trainee nurse called Sue, from Der­byshire, who was said to have left for Switzer­land in

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

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