London is by far the biggest city in the UK, and as it is one of the most important cities in the world if not the centre of the known universe, it is hardly surprising that more happens there - good, bad and indifferent - than in the rest of the country put together. But what is Manchester? Are there any embassies there; is it home to some of the world's greatest research archives like the British Library
or that marvellous place
at Kew? What exactly does Manchester have?
Well, it was home to the Mind Sports Olympiad
for three years running, and sometime before that, Karl Marx
and his chum Engels were known to hang out there. It is also home to a branch of Tuckers
solicitors. And to the odd serial killer or two.
Probably still the most notorious though now far from the most prolific Mancunian serial killers were the Moors Murderers
. Okay, Ian Brady was born in Scotland, but his mistress and partner-in-crime Myra Hindley was Manchester born and bred, and he had lived there long enough to claim honorary status. Hindley departed this Earth ten years ago, but Brady is still with us, and will be for some time if the people who hate him most
have their way.
In 1977, another serial killer of teenagers was brought to book. Trevor Hardy murdered three girls
between December 1974 and March 1976. Like so many such murders, they appeared to be totally motiveless; the first victim was stabbed to death; the second was bludgeoned with a paving stone; the third was strangled. Only one of them appears to have been sexually assaulted.
Hardy is behind bars where he belongs, and is likely to remain there forever, but the most prolific serial killer ever in these islands was also a denizen of Manchester. Dr Harold Shipman was born at Nottingham on January 14, 1946, and relocated to Hyde, Manchester in 1977 where he would remain until his arrest in September 1998, so like Ian Brady, he qualifies as a bona fide
The crimes of this deranged doctor beggar belief, and might have gone unnoticed had he not forged the will of his last victim. Mrs Kathleen Grundy was the eighty-one years young former Mayoress of Hyde, active in her community and undoubtedly a potential centenarian. After poisoning her and signing her death certificate, this man with a stratospheric IQ tried to claim her estate with an incredibly amateurish piece of artifice that would hardly have succeeded even if Mrs Grundy's daughter had not been a solicitor. After the authorities were alerted, Shipman found himself under investigation for forgery and murder, the scope of the investigation widening until he found himself standing in the dock facing no less than fifteen murder charges, which were clearly only specimen charges.
After a trial lasting four months, he was convicted on all counts; sentenced to life imprisonment he did the decent thing, hanging himself in his cell at Wakefield Prison in January 2004, an act that prompted the Home Secretary to suggest cracking open a bottle of champagne.
An exhaustive investigation into Shipman presided over by the High Court Judge Dame Janet Smith concluded that he had murdered 250 people in all
Though they look pale in comparison with the crimes of Harold Shipman, the murders of Anuj Bidve on Boxing Day last year and the more recent entrapment murders of two women police officers were no less shocking for it. Self-professed psycho Kieran Stapleton
is now behind prison bars rather than an institution for the criminally insane, but a man who murders a stranger because "he had the biggest head" is surely anything but sane in the conventional sense of the word. A man has been charged with the murders of Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, so little can be said at this stage (and in some quarters
too much has been said already). Dale Cregan has also been charged with two other murders. The funeral of Nicola Hughes is being held today
; a heavy turn out is expected.
All the above murders were totally senseless, which begs the question, how can one relatively unimportant city have produced such a glut of psychopaths? Is it something in the water, or is this a foretaste of what is to come as Britain and indeed the world goes slowly mad and we turn on and murder each other over the most trifling triviality, or over nothing at all?