John Sweeney

Jason Marshall
AKACanal Murders
DOB13 Oct 1956
Kill Total2
Kill PlaceRotterdam & London
Kill Date1990 & 2000
VictimMelissa Halstead, 33
Paula Fields, 31

John Sweeney was born in Kirkdale, Liverpool, on 13th October 1956, he spent his early life living with his mother in Skelmersdale where he would train as a carpenter and joiner.

1976, After travelling around Europe her met and married Anne Bramley. They divorced in 1979 but then remarried two years later and went on to have two children.

November 1982 he was bound over to keep the peace by magistrates in Ormskirk, Merseyside, after his wife complained to police she had been threatened.
Officers had found Sweeney waiting in the walk-in wardrobe at the couple’s home with a hammer in one hand and an axe in the other.
They went on to divorce again, Sweeney moved to London, where he then met former model Melissa Halstead, from Ohio, USA. They moved in together in a a shared house in Bethune Road, Stoke Newington. Swenney was arrested a few times after neigbours reported shouting from the flat, on one occasion, Sweenewy is reported to have shouted, "Who do you think you are? I’m the one who says what you can and can’t do." Sweeney would later go on to describe the relationship as 'love-hate'.

September 1987 Swenney hit Melissa in the face with a stool, and was fined £5 for assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

December 1987, he was again fined £5 for kicking her in the legs. 

20th April 1988 he was bound over to keep the peace following another row.
It was after this that Melissa confided in her sister Chance O’Hara.
Ms O’Hara said: ‘She told me that if she ever went missing that John Sweeney would have killed her.’

October 1988, Melissa was deported from the UK for working in the UK without a work permit and went to live in Vienna, Austria. Sweeney followed her there, broke into her flat and tied up her flatmate before searching for any evidence of a potential new lover. 

4th November 1988, Melissa persuaded Swenney to leave and bought him a ticket to Amsterdam but a few days later he arrived back at her front door in Austria.
Later that same day he was arrested after fracturing her skull with a hammer as she took him up to her flat. Sweeney told police that he only wanted to ‘surprise’ Melissa. Sweeney was arrested and sent for trial.  He was held in prison awaiting his trial, he was given a suspended 12 month prison sentence and a ten year deportation order.

March 1989 the couple flew to Germany together to continue their on-off relationship before heading towards Amsterdam

April 1990, Melissa seen for the last time in Amsterdam.

3rd May 1990, Police officers in Rotterdam, spotted an army surplus kit bag floating on the surface of the Westersingel canal. After rescuing the bag, Inside they found the naked remains of a female folded in half and bound with lengths of rope.
Her head had been sawn off at the neck and the hands were also missing.
At that point the body could not be identified and was buried in a Rotterdam cemetery.

Sweeney had continued to work on and off as a carpenter in Amsterdam.

December 1990 Swenney returned to the UK and started a relationship with Australian Delia Balmer. they moved into her home in Leighton Grove, Camden, by the following year, she too found him controlling, possessive and violent.

November 1994, Swenney held her hostage at gunpoint after she told him to leave her home.  After tying her to the bed, Sweeney then boasted how he had killed Melissa Halstead after finding her in bed with two German men, he also claimed to have cut up the men and dumped the bodies in the canal, he later said that this was a joke. Delia managed to escape after a friend came to the door and Sweeney was arrested. Police found a green canvas rucksack containing a groundsheet, a length of rope, masking tape, surgical gloves and a saw blade. Swenney was released on bail.

22nd December 1994, he ambushed Miss Balmer her with an axe and a knife as she arrived home on her bicycle. She only escaped death thanks to a neighbour who armed himself with a baseball bat and managed to chase Sweeney away.

Swenney went on the run, using many false names, living a fugitive type lifestyle, and over the following weeks turned up at friernd's houses, as well as ex-girlfriends, often confessing to three murders in Amsterdam.

September 1995 he moved into a bedsit in Digby Crescent near Finsbury Park, which he filled with depraved artworks and erotic carvings, erotic pictures of women were all over the walls. 

November 2000, Paula Fields, a Liverpool-born prostitute and crack addict, had become a regular visitor to the flat to see both Sweeney and his brother Tony.
She began a relationship with Sweeney, who complained that she stole his money, tobacco and mobile phones.There were frequent loud arguments reported by others in the block of flats. 

15th December 2000, Paula was last seen, after visiting the Digby Crescent flat. Only weeks after Sweeney left his home and moved to a house in Charteris Road, Finsbury Park

19th February 2001, two boys were out fishing in Regent’s Canal, they spotted bags floating in the water.
When they pulled one out, bricks and an object wrapped in bin liners fell out. They were the severed remains of Paula Fields.
Her body had been cut into ten separate pieces and placed in six different bags. Her head, hands and feet were missing.

Police launched a nationwide manhunt for Sweeney 

23rd March 2000, Sweenney was spotted by a policeman at a building site in Shoe Lane, Holborn, working under the name Joe Johnson.
He was surrounded by armed officers before he could reach for a knife hidden in his waistband and arrested. In his work locker, police found a loaded 9mm Luger pistol.

At the Finsbury park flat where Swenney had been living, police officers found two loaded sawn-off shotguns, a Webley and Scott .410 and a Savage Arms Corporation 16-gage, and a huge stash of bullets and cartridges.
They also found a brown wig, a machete, an axe, a rounders bat, bin liners, cable ties and a garrotte made of bamboo.
As well as his disturbing artwork and a wood carving of a pair of buttocks fashioned into a bench, he had also scrawled notes about his life on the run.

March 2002 Sweeney was given four life sentences for the attempted murder of  Delia Balmer in 1994,and for several firearms offenses, he was told he would not be considered for parole for another nine years.

12 June 2007, A full DNA profile for the unidentified remains found in the Rotterdam canal was added to the Dutch databanks. and a match was reported in November 2007.

28th April 2010 Sweeney was taken from Gartree Prison, Leicestershire, and questioned about a ‘timeline’ of his life. He was charged with both murders.

4th April 2011, at the Old Bailey in London, Swenney was handed two life sentences after being found guilty of murdering Melissa Halstead and Paula Fields.

October 2011, Swenney was placed on the home Office list of prisoners with a 'Whole Life tariff', never to be released, never eligible for parole. See list Here >>

Police still have at least two other cases open, where women have disappeared, and they believe Swenney may have a connection, but nothing further has been done due to lack of evidence.

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