Point 03

Hungerford Bridge

Route: Cross Parliament Square towards Westminster Bridge. Walk along Victoria Embankment (or take tube from Westminster to Embankment; exit via south entrance). Climb the riverside stairs up to Hungerford Bridge.

What I Did (Obsessive Killing Disorder)

London, spend the night with me.
Craving over water,
Lure with bondage and escape
The gaze of luminary artists.

London, spend the night with me.
Craving over water,
Dredge up the worst types:
Psychotic, degraded, people on the edge.

London, spend the night with me.
Craving over water,
Invite to the gala
Tramps, druggies, people on the street.

London, spend the night with me.
Craving over water,
Summon the famished ghosts
That loiter on the Thames embankment.

What I did, that spring evening:
Hurled a hobo to his death
On my sadistic spree
(A wolf-man fantasy).

What I did, that summer evening:
Drowned the voice of an angel 
In a pool of her own blood,
Strolled around for a couple of hours.

What I did, that autumn evening:
Murdered a civil servant for holding hands,
Stamped on his face with all my might,
Laughed and danced and put on make-up.

What I did, that winter evening:
Butchered the wife for breaking my pipe, 
Watched her head sink to the depths,
Made plans for a Sunday roast.

What I did, that spring evening:
Garrotted an impresario for chatting me up,
Forced a flick knife into his throat,
Jumped into a taxi home.

What I did, that summer evening:
Slayed a student who begged for help,
Threw him in the river for fun,
Joked and sang and exchanged kisses.

What I did, that autumn evening:
Killed a bartender for being there,
Kicked him so hard and punctured his spleen,
Captured the moment on film for posterity.

What I did, that winter evening:
Hurled a hobo to his death,
On my sadistic spree
(A Frankenstein fantasy).

Cold inhumanity, burning insanity, 
A cold rage seizes one so deep,
So many undone by unthoughtful death.
Dear God! Your very providence seems asleep.

Over the centuries, London’s bridges have been celebrated in art, poetry and song. In recent times, however, a darker side has pervaded. In the years leading up to the time of writing, four Thames crossings have been associated with either politically or religiously motivated murder. In 1978, Waterloo Bridge witnessed the assassination of the Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov by a secret serviceman using a poison-tipped umbrella. In 1982, the Vatican’s finance manager Roberto Calvi, known as ‘God’s banker’, was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in a suspected Mafia hit. Westminster Bridge and London Bridge have both witnessed horrific scenes in recent years when Islamist terrorists have used them to kill indiscriminately. But perhaps it is Hungerford Bridge, crossing from Lambeth to Charing Cross, that has most reflected the darker countenance of man, having been connected to an extraordinary number of brutal civilian murders, as explored in ‘What I Did’.

Hungerford Bridge takes its name from the baronial Hungerford family who in the early fifteenth century took up a residence on the north bank of the Thames. Originating in the town of Hungerford in Berkshire, the family’s history is littered with tales of treachery, brutality and murder. The town itself made world headlines in 1987 when a twenty-seven-year-old local man, Michael Ryan, armed with several guns, shot and killed sixteen people, including his mother, and wounded fifteen others, before fatally shooting himself. It is regarded as the first UK civil massacre.

In 1669, the Hungerford family’s Thames-side residence burnt down. Twelve years later, a market was established on the site. In 1824, Charles Dickens was sent to work in a factory built here, after his family had fallen on hard times.

The area was cleared in the 1840s to make way for a footbridge which was completed in 1845 by the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It was the first pedestrian suspension bridge to cross the Thames. In 1864, it was replaced by John Hawkshaw’s railway crossing into Charing Cross station. The chains from Brunel’s old bridge were reused in his famous Clifton Suspension Bridge. The original brick pile buttresses remain in use.

Public pressure forced the railway company to reincorporate pedestrian walkways on either side of the tracks. The Hungerford foot crossings were given permanence in 2002 when they were reconstructed and renamed the Golden Jubilee pedestrian bridges.

Hungerford Bridge was captured several times on canvas by some of the greatest artists of the impressionist era, including Pissarro, Sisley and Whistler, as well as by Monet in a famous series of paintings while he was staying at the nearby Savoy Hotel.

On the night of 18 April 1986, Michael Lupo left a bar in London and came across an elderly tramp on Hungerford Bridge. Lupo, who had worked at various hair salons and fashion boutiques in cities around the world, was a serial killer. Going by the name of the Wolf Man, he had dedicated his life to sadomasochism and boasted of having had 4,000 lovers. In a sudden rage, Lupo assaulted the tramp, kicked him in the groin and strangled him on the spot. Then he tossed his body over the bridge and into the Thames. A year later, Lupo was given life sentences for four murders. Other suspected murders by him remain unproved.

On 2 June 2008, a twenty-one-year-old man, gripped by jealousy and possessiveness, stabbed fifteen-year-old choirgirl Arsema Dawit more than thirty times in the neck in a frenzied attack at a block of flats near Waterloo station. He left the victim in a lift, lying in a pool of her own blood, with the knife stuck in her lifeless body. Two hours later, the bloodstained killer walked calmly onto Hungerford Bridge, where he dialled the police on his phone and confessed to the murder. For thirty-five minutes the operator kept him talking on the bridge as he threatened to jump into the river. He was finally arrested and later committed to psychiatric care.

On 25 September 2009, a teenage gang laughed and danced on Hungerford Bridge moments after they had fatally attacked a sixty-two-year-old man. The gang, comprising a male and two females, launched the assault on Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square for holding hands with another man. The subsequent trial heard that the seventeen-year-old girl first kicked Baynham in the groin before he was punched to the ground. The girl then grinned as she repeatedly stamped on the victim’s face ‘with all her might’. Leaving the man to die on the pavement, the gang made the five-minute walk down to Hungerford Bridge. Here, the girls calmly applied make-up in the lift before emerging to dance on the bridge.

On 13 January 1985, thirty-seven-year-old Nicholas Boyce strangled his thirty-two-year-old wife Christabel after she had apparently provoked him by casting slurs on his manhood and breaking his tobacco pipes. He chopped up her body, filleted the flesh from her bones, cooked it, then wrapped it in newspaper so that it would ‘look like someone’s Sunday lunch’. He placed her head in a plastic bag but wasn’t able to bring himself to remove her contact lenses. He distributed the parcels in rubbish bins around London. Then, holding his three-year-old son’s hand, he walked onto Hungerford Bridge and threw his wife’s severed head into the river. Sentencing the man to six years, the judge incredibly remarked, ‘A man of reasonable self-control might have been similarly provoked … Before these dreadful events, you were hard-working, and of good character. You were simply unable to get on with your wife.’ Ten years previously, the victim had been a governess to Lord Lucan’s children, taking turns to look after them with another governess, Sandra Rivett, who was subsequently found battered to death at Lucan’s London home.

Edwin Thornley was a London theatre producer and manager of the musician Tommy Steele. On the evening of 14 May 1974, he met a man in Piccadilly and suggested they go for a late drink. After setting off they were followed by two other men. As they crossed Hungerford Bridge, the three men together attacked and robbed Thornley before one of them cut his throat with a flick-knife. They left Thornley dying on the bridge and ran off towards Waterloo station, where they jumped into a taxi home. The official Scotland Yard police artist at this time was John Worsley, famous as the man who made dummy prisoners for a daring escape from a German World War II camp. Instead of issuing the usual photofits, he made incredibly realistic portraits of the suspects which successfully led to their arrest.

On 18 June 1999, at four o’clock in the morning, a gang of six youths viciously attacked two students on Hungerford Bridge, then threw them over the railings into the river. The students were initially accosted by three youths, two males and a female, who had approached them on the bridge from the south side. The students turned and appealed for help from another three youths coming from the north side, but, to their horror, these were friends of the first three and, instead of helping, joined the attack. The students were beaten and kicked unconscious, then thrown into the river after one member of the gang suggested it would be ‘fun’. The gang, all with either itinerant or displaced backgrounds, split up and went off in separate directions. One set was later caught on security cameras joking, singing and exchanging kisses; the other set went on to attack another man. One of the students was later rescued after drifting on the tide, but the dead body of twenty-four-year-old Timothy Baxter washed up on the riverbank two days later. The attack was later described in court as senseless, heartless and gratuitous. The grief of Timothy’s mother was reflected in her collection of poetry and prose entitled Losing Timo.

In the early hours of 30 October 2004, a gang of six teenagers set out to prowl the South Bank in London with the specific intention to ‘beat up tramps, druggies or just people on the street’. The worst of these savage attacks on innocent victims occurred at 3 am when the group set upon thirty-seven-year-old David Morley and his friend, who were sitting on a bench at the south stairwell to Hungerford Bridge. Morley was a bar manager who had previously been injured in the Admiral Duncan pub bombing in Soho in 1999. Testimony stated a fourteen-year-old female member of the group repeatedly kicked Morley so hard in the head that it jerked from side to side ‘like a football’. She then filmed the rest of the ferocious attack on her mobile phone, saying they were ‘making a documentary’. Morley suffered forty injuries, including broken ribs which punctured his spleen, and he bled to death.

Patrick David Mackay, known as the Devil’s Disciple, had been imprisoned in various institutions since childhood for a series of antisocial crimes including cruelty to animals, arson and burglary. At the age of fifteen, he was sent to a high-security unit for violent assault and identified as a ‘schizoid psychopathic killer’. Described as a dangerous misfit, he built models of Frankenstein’s monsters as a ‘hobby’. He identified with Adolf Hitler and saw himself as a servant of the Devil. In 1972, at the age of nineteen, he was released from psychiatric care and carried on a life of violent crime. In late January 1974, aged twenty-one, he threw an ageing vagrant to his death from Hungerford Bridge for no apparent reason. Over the following months, he went on a killing spree, brutally murdering four elderly women, kicking to death a shopkeeper, and hacking to death a Catholic priest with an axe. In November 1975, he confessed to several murders and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

“A great book… a great guide.

Poems… music… history… and fantastic ways to… go for walks”

Robert Elms, BBC Radio London

Soul City Wandering is published by Choir Press priced at £9.99. It is also available to order from the following online bookstores:

For further information please contact frank_k_molloy@hotmail.com

Published by Soul City Wanderer

Soul City Wanderer is the alias of London journalist and author Frank Molloy, a writer on the city’s history and culture. Born south of the river, he has an MA in London history (Birkbeck) and lectures at various institutions including the Museum of London and the National Portrait Gallery. He is also a fully-qualified Blue Badge Guide (MITG), Westminster Guide and City of London Guide.

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