Canal killer may have murdered three other Islington women

A DOUBLE killer jailed for life this week for chopping up two of his ex-girlfriends may have murdered three other Islington women, police have revealed.

Carpenter John Sweeney will die behind bars after he was ordered to serve a whole life sentence for butchering Highbury mum Paula Fields and American model Melissa Halstead and dumping them in canals in Camden Town and Rotterdam.

John Sweeney, 54, refused to go to the Old Bailey to hear the judge describe the murders as “terrible, wicked crimes” at his sentencing hearing on Tuesday.

But detectives have released further details of three local women who may have been killed by Sweeney since the 1970s and are now appealing for information from the public in a bid to find whether they are still alive.

The first woman is called Irani and is believed to be Brazilian. She lived and worked in north London in 1996 and 1997 and visited pubs or restaurants in Highbury and Holloway Road areas. She was in her mid forties at the time and may have worked as a kitchen cleaner.


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The second possible victim is called Maria and is believed to be Colombian. She stayed in north London in 1997 and 1998 and visited pubs in the Finsbury Park and Holloway Road areas. At the time she was in her late 30s.

Sue, who is believed to be English and originally from Derbyshire, had connections with the Holloway Road and Seven Sisters Road areas of north London in the late 70s and early 80s. It is thought she attended a nursing college whilst training to be a nurse and went to Switzerland to work.

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Detective Chief Inspector Howard Groves, joint leader of the investigation, said: “Sweeney had convinced himself that he would never be caught for his heinous crimes, but as he contemplates a 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.”

The dismembered body of Ms Halstead, 33, was found in a bag floating in a canal in Rotterdam on May 3, 1990.

She was only reported missing two years later and it was not until 2008 that her remains were identified using an advanced DNA test.

Sweeney, who has a history of violence towards women, tried to kill a second girlfriend, Kentish Town nurse Delia Balmer, in 1994 after returning to the UK.

He was still on the run for that attack when he killed Ms Fields and dumped her in the Regent’s Canal in Camden Town.

Paula was also known as Michelle or Lisa Barton and originally from Liverpool. She moved to London in about 1998 and lived in a hostel in Highbury Grove.

She was a sex worker and became a regular visitor to Sweeney’s home in Digby Crescent, Finsbury Park.

Her body was found in six bags in the Regent’s Canal on February 19, 2001.

She had been cut into 10 pieces with a hacksaw but the head, hands and feet were missing.

After he was arrested a month later at a building site near the Old Bailey, police discovered two loaded sawn-off shotguns at his home and a loaded pistol in his work locker.

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

In a reference to his murder of Melissa Halstead, a poem found scribbled on the back on a scratch card read: “Poor old Mellissa (sic), chopped up in bits, food for the fish, Am*dam (sic) was the pits.”

Sweeney was convicted of the attempted murder of Delia Balmer in 2002 and given four life sentences.

In April 2010, he was charged with the murders of both Melissa Halstead and Paula Fields.

Sweeney, of no fixed abode, denied two counts of murder and one count of perverting the course of justice by disposing of the body of Paula Fields.

He was given a whole life sentence on each count of murder and 10 years concurrent for perverting the course of justice.

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