Looking back, there was nothing in his childhood that could have predicted how Stephen Akinmurele would later go on to viciously murder at least five elderly victims. No abuse, no violence, or at least, nothing that we know of, aside from an allegedly strict maternal grandmother.
Unknown origins of hate
Akinmurele, who was born in Nigeria in 1977 and moved to the Isle of Man 10 years later when his parents divorced, appeared to have led a fairly unremarkable childhood. Although it was reported that he would often get in trouble, Akinmurele was considered a friendly boy.
Little else is known of his early years, except for one mention of “unspecified mental health issues” that he suffered from as a child. Stephen moved to Blackpool when he turned 18 years old, where he took up a civil servant job while also working as a bartender on the side. He seemed to have led a largely normal life, he held steady jobs and even had a girlfriend, who had no idea of the explosive brutality that lay within her boyfriend.
Victims beaten bloody
The total number of his victims remains unclear, but what we do know, is that he murdered his landlady and roommate Jemmimah Cargill, 75, and set her apartment on fire to conceal evidence in September 1998. This was only deemed a murder after his arrest for the murder of Eric, 76 and Joan Boardman, 74, in October of the same year. In fact, detectives would reopen at least 10 cases that were deemed “suspicious” once they captured Akinmurele in November 1998.
The cul-de-sac killer, so named because his victims lived in quiet suburban areas, beat the Boardman’s brutally to death using a homemade bludgeon (consisting of batteries bound together), which he left at the scene, bearing a hand/fingerprint that led to his arrest.
Joan’s bloody body was found in the living room, while her husband Eric’s last stand took place in the hallway under a fallen wardrobe. Eric posthumously received a civilian honor for his valiant attempts to fight off his vicious attacker, efforts which ultimately caused Akinmurele to leave the bludgeon behind, a critical piece of evidence.
All of his victims were savagely and heartlessly beaten, bearing all the hallmarks of a targeted, considered approach that lacked spontaneity.
Police claimed he had a “pathological hatred” of the elderly, which would explain the bloody mess of bodies that he left behind, as well as the fact that his victims were also strangled to death – an intimate, personal way to kill. Stephen would also rob some of his victims.
Detectives quickly linked him to two murders back in his hometown on the Isle of Man; the February 1996 death of Dorothy Harris, 69, who perished when her apartment caught fire, which was initially declared an accident. Akinmurele was also suspected of strangling Marjorie Ashton in her home in 1995, although both of these charges were ultimately dropped due to legal complexities arising from his nationality. The police were also investigating several other cases that they thought he may have been responsible for.
While in custody, he confessed to three murders that police believed he didn’t do, reasoning instead that the angry murderer falsely admitted to these murders as a way to throw them off his main motivation for killing, which was his blind hatred of older people.
“Always wanting to kill”: A deeper look at his murderous psyche
There is little doubt that Stephen was a troubled man.
The lead in the investigation, Detective Superintendent Bob Denmark of Lancashire police said: “I’ve interviewed him personally and regard him as one of the most dangerous men I have ever met, I would always have been concerned about his propensity to kill and the risk he would have posed to other people, whether in custody or not.” The police were especially shocked at how quickly his mood could switch from amicable to violently angry.
Interviewed by a forensic psychologist, who decided that Stephen was fit to stand trial, he said that he was “haunted by the images of his victims.” Stephen also confided to Prison hospital doctor Andrzej Rozyki that he would often lie in bed at night thinking about murder.
His girlfriend, Amanda Fitch, who warned police of Akinmurele’s suicidal tendencies, said: “He told me he wished the police had never found him and he didn’t want to go to trial.”
He was initially placed in the prison’s health care ward on self-harm watch, but was consequently moved to solitary confinement once staff found a sharpened toothbrush in his possession. Stephen admitted that he fantasized about taking a female member of staff hostage.
Two days later, in August 1998, after two failed suicide attempts while in custody, and tormented by his overwhelming obsession with murder, he hung himself in his cell. He was 21 years old.
His suicide note read, in part: “I couldn’t take any more of feeling like how I do now, always wanting to kill.” He also expressed regret and fear that he would keep killing.