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Confessions of a murderer

Older brotherPolice uncover clues to gruesome murders hidden in more than 300 paintings and poems by John Sweeney.

John Sweeney was born in 1956 in the Kirkdale district, Liverpool city, apprenticed as a carpenter. John married Anne Bramley in 1976 and had two children. The couple divorced in 1979 and got back together two years later. But soon, in 1982, they broke up again because Anne repeatedly reported to the police about being threatened by John.

After another divorce, John moved to London in 1985 and met Melissa Halstead – a 33-year-old American model and photographer. From an addict, the two begin a tumultuous relationship, mainly due to John’s violent personality and unpredictable behavior.

Melissa has reported experiencing domestic violence three times. One witness said he heard John yell at Melissa: “Who do you think you are? I’m the one who told you what you can and can’t do.”

In 1988, Melissa was deported from the UK for overstaying her visa. John followed his girlfriend to Vienna and Amsterdam. The family in the US lost contact with Melissa after she was deported.

On May 3, 1990, divers found a female body part in a black bag that was dumped in the Westersingel canal near the city of Rotterdam, Netherlands. It was not until 2008, that the body was officially identified as Melissa when her family provided matching DNA.

Melissa's dismembered body bag on the canal bank.  Photo: Metropolitan Police

Melissa’s dismembered body bag on the canal bank. Image: Metropolitan Police

When Melissa “disappeared”, John returned to England without suspicion. In 1991, he met his new girlfriend Delia Balmer at a pub in the town of Camden, London.

During their three years together, nurse Delia has to endure John’s terrifying acts of violence. “He warned me not to scream or I’d cut my tongue,” Delia said. When she couldn’t stand it anymore, Delia informed police that John imprisoned her in the apartment and threatened to kill her with a gun to her head. John was detained but later released on bail.

Three days before Christmas 1994, Delia returned home to find John waiting in the apartment stairs. She was attacked by him with an ax and a rusty knife, causing multiple wounds to her chest and thighs, losing the pinky finger of her left hand.

When the police arrived, John escaped and began the process of fleeing across Europe for 6 years. In 2000, John returned to London and lived under a false name. He began a relationship with Paula Fields, a 31-year-old mother of two addicted to cocaine. The two met while Paula was selling sex on the streets of London.

In December 2000, Paula went missing. Her dismembered body was found two months later in bags dumped in the Regent’s Canal.

Divers search for bags containing Paula's body in the Regents Canal.  Photo: PA Wire

Divers search for bags containing Paula’s body in the Regent’s Canal. Image: PA Wire

The turning point came in March 2001, when police arrested John for the alleged attempted murder of Delia in 1994. While working on a construction site in London, he was surrounded by armed scouts before he could withdraw. Knife hidden in belt. In John’s locker at work, police found a loaded pistol. He also had a storage room for pistols, saws, machetes, homemade hanging chairs, ax heads, rubber gloves, and rolls of duct tape.

Investigators discovered more than 300 violent paintings and poems about the victims, bleeding blades, showing obsession and hatred for women. He listed the names of Melissa, Paula, Delia and other victims.

For example, a painting called “One Man Band” gave the police a clue about the murder of Melissa. The content depicts a woman believed to be Melissa, next to a small space that has been erased with a pen. When forensic experts shone UV light on the area, it revealed a tombstone that read “RIP Melissa Halstead, born 7/11/1956. Dead”.

The picture drawn by John has an image of Melissa in the middle, next to it is a tombstone with creepy words that have been painted with an eraser.  Photo: Metropolitan Police

The picture drawn by John has an image of Melissa in the middle, next to it is a tombstone with creepy words that have been painted with an eraser. Image: Metropolitan Police

In 2002, John received four life sentences for the attempted murder of Delia and illegal use of a firearm.

In February 2009, British and Dutch police investigated the deaths of Melissa and Paula. The incomplete bodies of the two women made it impossible for police to identify them. It took the police in the UK and the Netherlands years of investigation, thanks to the advancement of forensic science and the discovery of John’s macabre confession paintings to piece together the information and find the truth.

Although there was no crime scene, no witness or confession, John was still found guilty of murder and disposing of the body. His paintings were seen as confessions.

In April 2011, John refused to leave his cell at Belmarsh prison to hear the court sentenced him to life in prison without parole. He did not reveal where the victims’ heads were hidden.
In the book Living with a Serial Killer Writing about his past living with a killer, Delia speculates on why John hid the victim’s body parts.

“It’s another form of control,” she said. “Only John knows where those parts are. When we were in Germany in 1993, he said he had stuffed a glass case containing a dead pet spider inside one of them,” she said. brick wall at the construction site at work. He could easily have done something similar with the body parts of victims somewhere across Europe.”

From the pictures that connect John to the murders of Melissa and Paula, police believe that other women in the photos may also be John’s victims.

According to Delia, John may have committed crimes with two German men through what he said while keeping her in the apartment. He swung his gun and knife at her and yelled, “I guess you wonder what happened to my ex-American girlfriend Melissa?” He said he had caught Melissa in a room with two German men in Amsterdam, then murdered all three, and dumped them into the canal.

Police are appealing to the public for information about three women in England and two German men in Amsterdam who may have been murdered by John. However, to date, no body has been found.

Tue Anh (Follow Liverpoolecho, Crimeaandinvestigation)

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