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Canals murderer to die in jail

A double killer who called himself the Scalp Hunter has been told that he will die in jail after being convicted of butchering two women and dumping them in canals.

John Sweeney, 54, was given a whole-life tariff at the Old Bailey for the murders of former girlfriends Paula Fields and Melissa Halstead. Their bodies were discovered a decade apart in England and Holland and police now fear three other missing women may have suffered the same fate.

Sweeney, a carpenter, boasted of his violence in lurid paintings and verse found at his home - and in one picture, showing a bloody axe, he called himself the Scalp Hunter.

Sweeney refused to come to court from his prison cell at Belmarsh Prison to be sentenced.

Mr Justice Saunders 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."

Sweeney was already serving four life terms imposed in 2002 for the attempted murder in 1994 of former girlfriend Delia Balmer and having four guns when he was arrested while on the run.

The body parts of 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.

Former model Miss Halstead, 33, from the US, was killed in 1990. Her dismembered body was thrown into a canal in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. She was only identified 18 years later by DNA, although her head and hands have never been found.


From Belfast Telegraph