A community worker called Stephan, who had spent time with the city’s homeless for six years, later said: “Homeless people have to give off a lot of bravado to survive, but Martin was talking about how he was going to make a name for himself, that he was going to hurt people. We got the sense that there was something else – that he was capable of serious violence.”
On December 29, 2004, Katie Baxter, 18, who had been living on the streets for a year, vanished. Two days later another homeless girl, Zoe Pennick, 26, also disappeared.
The rumours started that bodies had been discovered at a derelict warehouse off Great Northern Close, a lonely spot used by the homeless.
On Friday, February 11, a police dog found the decomposing remains of Katie under carefully placed pieces of brick, soil and debris.
Five days later officers found Zoe’s body, also buried beneath rubble, close to where Katie was discovered.
Both women had been beaten and strangled and police soon linked their deaths to that of Ellen Frith, 25, a homeless mother of two who’d been found in a burning squat in the St Ann’s area of the city on January 24. As police began interviewing scores of Nottingham’s homeless, one name kept cropping up: Reds.
He was of particular interest to police as he had also used the squat in Marple Road. One detective who worked on the case said: “He was a bully with a short fuse and there was barely a homeless person in Nottingham who did not have a bad experience to tell about him.”
Martin was arrested along with a homeless associate, John Ashley, and both were charged with Ellen’s murder.
Cops learned that Ashley had once been in a relationship with her, while both Katie and Zoe were linked to both men.
As the police built a case against them for the murders of Katie and Zoe, Martin was on remand in jail, where he bragged to cellmates about becoming Nottingham’s first serial killer. He told one lag: “If you’ve killed one, you might as well kill 21.”
Martin told the lag he’d taken Katie back to the warehouse for sex where he suddenly “snapped” and strangled her. She’d scratched him, so he burned her fingertips to remove any evidence.
He said he killed Zoe because she’d left a hypodermic needle in his bed, with the lag testifying: “He said he’d sorted her out and he’d ‘smashed her legs up like biscuits’. He said it was hard and she didn’t want to die. He was punching her and kicking her. In the end he stood on her throat.”
Ellen was strangled after she went with the men and another, Dean Carr, to smoke drugs in the Marple Road squat.
Martin was found guilty of all three murders while Ashley and Carr were jailed for life for their part in Ellen and Katie’s murders.