Kenneth Erskine

Kenneth Erskine (born 1 July 1963) is a British serial killer who became known as The Stockwell Strangler.[1] He committed the murders of 7–11 senior citizens in London between April and July 1986.

Kenneth Erskine
Born (1963-07-01) 1 July 1963 (age 59)
Other namesThe Stockwell Strangler
Criminal penaltyDetention at Broadmoor Hospital
Span of crimes
9 April – 28 July 1986
Date apprehended
28 July 1986

Early lifeEdit

Erskine was born in Hammersmith[2] on 1 July 1963 to a British mother and Antiguan father. Erskine has three brothers.[2] He was abandoned by both parents during childhood and attended various special schools.[3] His parents divorced when he was 12. On a field trip, he tried to drown his peers, and he became more violent as he grew up.[2] He eventually became homeless.[2]


Erskine's criminal career began with a number of burglaries. He was able to open ten separate bank accounts with the proceeds of his crimes.[3] Erskine served time in HM Prison Feltham.[2] During 1986, Erskine murdered at least seven elderly people, breaking into their homes and strangling them; most often they were sexually assaulted. The crimes took place in London.

His first victim was Nancy Emms, 78, of Wandsworth,[2] who died on 9 April 1986. Her death was initially believed to have been due to natural causes, and declared as such by her doctor on her death certificate.[2] It was only established that she had been murdered when her home help noticed that her television set was missing from her flat.[2] A post mortem examination revealed that she had been raped and strangled.[2]

His second victim was Janet Cockett,[2] 67, who died on 9 June 1986 after being strangled in her flat on the Wandsworth housing estate on which she was chairwoman of the tenants' association. Her death was initially thought to have been from natural causes.[2] She had not been sexually assaulted. A post mortem showed that she had been murdered.[2] Erskine's palm print was found on a window at Cockett's flat. He later broke into the residence of an elderly man, but Erskine abandoned this burglary when a noise disturbed him enough to make him flee.[2]

On 28 June 1986, Erskine claimed his third and fourth victims (both Polish men) at a residential home in Stockwell.[2] His two Polish victims were pensioners, one of them a World War II veteran:[4] Valentine Gleim, 84, and Zbigniew Strabawa, 94. Both men were sexually assaulted and strangled. Erskine's fifth victim was William Carmen, 84, of Islington. He stole money from Carmen's flat before molesting him and strangling him in an attack on 8 July 1986. He claimed his sixth victim on 21 July 1986, when he committed a similar fatal attack on 74-year-old William Downes in a Stockwell bedsit.[2]

The final victim was Florence Tisdall, an 83-year-old widow who lived on her own at Ranelagh Gardens Mansions in Fulham.[2][5] She was strangled and raped. She was found dead by the caretaker on the morning of 23 July 1986. Erskine was arrested on 28 July 1986 at a social security office. Police were then able to match his palm print to one left at one of the murder scenes, and he was identified in a police lineup by 74-year-old Fred Prentice who claimed Erskine tried to strangle him in his bed a month before police apprehended him.[6]

Investigation and trialEdit

A homeless drifter and solvent abuser, Erskine was in his early twenties when he committed the crimes. Erskine's burglary convictions before and during this killing spree meant that his fingerprints and photographs were on police record. Police had identified Erskine as the perpetrator during his killing spree.[2] He was convicted of seven murders. During his trial, he was seen to be masturbating.[7]

Police suspected Erskine of four other murders. These include the murder of Wilfred Parkes (aged 81, at Stockwell, on 2 June 1986) and Trevor Thomas (aged 75, at Lambeth, on 21 July 1986), but did not find sufficient evidence to charge Erskine with these crimes.

It was clear to the police that all these attacks were the work of one man. There were no signs of forced entry, with every indication that the intruder had gained access through an unsecured window. In each case it appeared that the killer had knelt on the victims' chests, and then placed his left hand over their mouths whilst he used his right hand to grip their throats and strangle them to death. In addition, four of the victims had been sodomised, although there was some uncertainty as to whether this had taken place before or after death.

Erskine was found guilty of seven murders in January 1988 and sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommended minimum term of 40 years, but has since been found to be suffering from a mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983. In 1988 he was transferred from prison under sections 47/49 of the Mental Health Act 1983 to the maximum security Broadmoor Hospital and has been held there since then.[2][8] He is unlikely to be freed until at least 2028 (when he will reach the age of 65). The trial judge's recommendation is one of the most severe ever handed out in British legal history.[citation needed]

A report by Horne dated 17 March 2006 refers to an assessment of Erskine in September 2004. Horne concludes that, at the time of the assessment, Erskine had chronic schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder and that this had probably been the case since March 1980.[9] In July 2009, following an appeal, Erskine's murder convictions were reduced to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.[1]


On 23 February 1996, Erskine saved the life of fellow serial killer Peter Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe was attacked in his room in Broadmoor Hospital's Henley Ward by Paul Wilson, a convicted robber, who asked to borrow a videotape before attempting to strangle him with the cable from a pair of stereo headphones. Erskine and convicted murderer Jamie Devitt intervened on hearing screams.[10]


Erskine's crimes have been the subject of multiple documentaries:

  • On 8 May 2014, an episode of eminent criminologist David Wilson's series First Kill/Last Kill documented Erskine's crimes. The episode was titled The OAP Killer and was shown on Channel 5.[11]
  • On 12 August 2021, an episode of New Scotland Yard Files aired which focused on Erskine. It was presented by former New Scotland Yard detective Peter Bleksley and aired on CBS Reality.[12][13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "'Strangler' wins murders appeal". BBC News. 14 July 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r The OAP Killer
  3. ^ a b Newton, Michael (21 February 2006). The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9780816069873 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "Snaring the Stockwell Strangler". BBC News. 14 July 2009.
  5. ^ Kate Kray (31 July 2007). The World's Twenty Worst Crimes - True Stories of 10 Killers and Their 3000 Victims. John Blake Publishing. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-78418-436-0. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  6. ^ Michael Newton, The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers, Facts on File, 1999, p. 68
  7. ^ "Hunting Britons and Their Victims 1960-2006", David Wilson, p72
  8. ^ Strange answers to the psychopath test - Jon Ronson, retrieved 1 November 2020
  9. ^ "R v Kenneth Erskine". Her Majesty's Court Service. 30 November 2007. Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  10. ^ "Attacks on Peter Sutcliffe", The Yorkshire Ripper.
  11. ^ "The OAP Killer: First Kill, Last Kill". TheTVDB. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  12. ^ "New Scotland Yard Files". Prime Video. Amazon. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  13. ^ Macleod, Dave (30 March 2020). "CBS Reality Original Series: New Scotland Yard Files". CBS Reality. Retrieved 1 May 2022.

External linksEdit