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ABOUT THE BOOK

Murder City: The Untold Story of Canada's Serial Killer Capital

Like the mythic cities of Gotham or Gomorrah, London, Ontario was for many years an unrivalled breeding ground of depravity and villainy, the difference being that its monsters were all too real. In its coming to inherit the unwanted distinction of being the serial killer capital of not just Canada—but apparently also the world during this dark age in the city's sordid history—the crimes seen in London over this quarter-century period remain unparalleled and for the most part unsolved. From the earliest documented case of homicidal copycatting in Canada, to the fact that at any given time up to six serial killers were operating at once in the deceivingly serene "Forest City," London was once a place that on the surface presented a veneer of normality when beneath that surface dark things would whisper and stir. Through it all, a lone detective would go on to spend the rest of his life fighting against impossible odds to protect the city against a tidal wave of violence that few ever saw coming, and which to this day even fewer choose to remember. With his death in 2011, he took these demons to his grave with him but with a twist—a time capsule hidden in his basement, and which he intended to one day be opened. Contained inside: a secret cache of his diaries, reports, photographs, and hunches that might allow a new generation of sleuths to pick up where he left off, carry on his fight, and ultimately bring the killers to justice—killers that in many cases are still out there.

Murder City is an explosive book over fifty years in the making, and is the history of London, Ontario as never told before. Stranger than fiction, tragic, ironic, horrifying, yet also inspiring, this is the true story of one city under siege, and a book that marks a game changer for the true crime genre.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Murder City: The Untold Story of Canada's Serial Killer Capital

Preface – Kingdom Hall
Chapter 1 – London Reign
Chapter 2 – Dark City
Chapter 3 – The Truscott Hangover: 1959-62
Chapter 4 – Flashpoint: 1963-67
Chapter 5 – The Tissue Slayings: 1968
Chapter 6 – Critical Mass: 1969
Chapter 7 – Lost and Found: 1970-75
Chapter 8 – The Slasher and the Strangler: 1976-79
Chapter 9 – Ebb Tide: The 1980s
Chapter 10 – Aftershocks
Postface – The Last Detective

Chapter 2 – Dark City


For decades, the city of London, Ontario trumpeted itself as the “Forest City.” It was one of those self-ascribed pseudonyms that seemed to have no known first instance, but which persisted for generations until it came to replace, like Chicago as the “Windy City” or Denver as the “Mile-High City,” London’s actual name in most public dialogues. From day one, the alias stuck. But as the Brothers Grimm knew all too well and aptly warned us about through their macabre fairy tales, forests, while outwardly picturesque and innocent places, often harbor dark and foreboding characters—and even darker secrets.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Michael Arntfield is a leading North American authority on cold case murders and serial homicide. Having served as a police officer in London, Ontario for over 15 years, he is now a criminologist and award-winning professor at Western University, also in London.

He has been invited to serve as the visiting Fulbright Chair in crime, communication and culture at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2016, and has been an invited lecturer at universities as far away as England and Bulgaria to the Canadian Police College in Ottawa. He is also a member of the American Investigative Society of Cold Cases and is affiliate faculty by special invitation at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Research in Forensic Semiotics at Victoria College.

On television, he is the host and co-creator of the hit true crime series To Catch a Killer on the Oprah Winfrey Network, a series modeled on his Cold Case Society at Western.

He has also worked as an investigative consultant for a variety of news documentary series, including the CBC’s The Fifth Estate. His other related books include Practical Criminology (2016), Gothic Forensics: Criminal Investigative Procedure in Victorian Horror and Mystery (2015), and Introduction to Forensic Writing (2014), among others. He is also the co-author or contributing author of numerous published works, including Necrophilia: A Global Anthology (2015), Homicide: A Forensic Psychology Casebook (2015), Screening Justice in Canada (2015), Digital Death: Mortality and Beyond in the Online Age (2014), Criminology: A Canadian Perspective, 8th Edition (2014), and The Social History of Crime and Punishment in America (2012), as well as nearly a dozen scholarly and scientific journal articles.

PRESS

Visit Michael Arntfield's personal website for press information.

Chapter 6 – Critical Mass: 1969


What the police couldn’t have gleaned from such a disorganized scene was that this was just his first murder, and that he had liked it. Using her as his template, he thought he had found himself the ultimate easy victim—women he saw as naïve, lonely, and unduly trusting, and who nobody would be looking too hard to find. One of Canada’s most enduringly peculiar serial killers with one of the most singular patterns in victimology on record anywhere—the London Chambermaid Slayer—had officially been spawned by the city. Then, someone turned on the faucet.

EXCERPTS

Murder City: The Untold Story of Canada's Serial Killer Capital

Preface – Kingdom Hall

He had been there under false pretenses more than enough times to know the closing routine—to know her routine. Through the clouded windshield of the ’57 Meteor, by a quarter past the hour he could see two plumes of steam in the cold night air as the front door to the diner opened and then closed again, the owner and the girl talking—exchanging goodnights and see-you-tomorrows—before abruptly splitting up. The owner, still donning a counterman’s visor, struggled to put the key in the latch and spin the tumbler, frozen-solid, to lock up for the night. At the same time the girl tenuously gripped her pea coat and headed due south into a freezing headwind, and directly into his path.

Chapter 1 – London Reign

Everyday, crimes of epic horror and depravity occur in these communities without anyone knowing—trees falling in a forest somewhere that no one will hear much less ever hear of. Unfortunately, there are few people left to speak for the victims of this senseless and largely inexplicable time in history that most can’t forget fast enough. Even fewer people seem prepared to consider what the jarring numbers really mean, and how this happened in the first place. This is now—a safe and prosperous city—but that was then. The will to forget won’t change that.

Chapter 2 - Dark City

For decades, the city of London, Ontario trumpeted itself as the “Forest City.” It was one of those self-ascribed pseudonyms that seemed to have no known first instance, but which persisted for generations until it came to replace, like Chicago as the “Windy City” or Denver as the “Mile-High City,” London’s actual name in most public dialogues. From day one, the alias stuck. But as the Brothers Grimm knew all too well and aptly warned us about through their macabre fairy tales, forests, while outwardly picturesque and innocent places, often harbor dark and foreboding characters—and even darker secrets.

Chapter 3 - The Truscott Hangover: 1959-62

The idea that a stranger could undetectably waltz into such a tight-knit rural community populated by largely God fearing civil servants and flyboys was all but unconscionable. It turns out that one young boy nearly paid with his life in order for the townspeople to defend the local myth. Down the road in London, the domino effect through the province’s crucible of police agencies ensured that the legacy of the Truscott debacle was one tantamount to an incurable hangover, an unyielding weight that not only inspired a culture of plodding and manacled cops to the rule book for time immemorial, but which also made it impossible to come up for air. Moving forward, only an equally impossible wish list—a smoking gun, a signed confession, eyewitnesses to beat the band—would do in order to actually move the needle. With London and region as the unenviable laboratory where this new experiment would play out, the tougher the case, it seemed, the longer the wish list.

Chapter 4 - Flashpoint: 1963-67

Terms like “sociopath” and “pervert” were used interchangeably and routinely thrown around by investigators and court officials without any real qualification or clarification during the early years of this dubious era; behaviours what we now recognize to be criminal signatures and attack paraphilias were deemed to be tell-tale signs of sexual murderers being “insane.” After all, what sane person would break into an occupied apartment in the middle of the night, horrifically mutilate a complete stranger, and then disappear for several years before resurfacing only to confess? With everything from explosive anger to psychopathy qualifying as an “irresistible impulse” under the “temporary insanity” provisions of a new system of criminal responsibility being toyed with at the time, cities like London paid dearly as offenders, their lawyers, and mercenary doctors played the system like a fiddle during the years spent under the specter of America’s so-called Durham Rule of legal insanity.

Chapter 5 – The Tissue Slayings: 1968

Years ahead of coffee shops becoming Canadian institutions, the store was something of a neighbourhood curiosity in that it served both regular and decaf by the styrofoam cup, two self-serve glass pots always brewing on a hotplate beside an empty cakebell. For customers who had the weekly password, the money, and the right connections, that same cup of coffee could be sipped in the privacy of the store’s basement behind a locked metal door. The low-ceiling, musty lightbulb-on-a-wire cellar is where the owner kept much more than just the store’s inventory. For the group of young girls working the counter, more frightening than what was found behind that door was who showed up to indulge.

Chapter 6 – Critical Mass: 1969

What the police couldn’t have gleaned from such a disorganized scene was that this was just his first murder, and that he had liked it. Using her as his template, he thought he had found himself the ultimate easy victim—women he saw as naïve, lonely, and unduly trusting, and who nobody would be looking too hard to find. One of Canada’s most enduringly peculiar serial killers with one of the most singular patterns in victimology on record anywhere—the London Chambermaid Slayer—had officially been spawned by the city. Then, someone turned on the faucet.

Chapter 7 – Lost and Found: 1970-75

On the morning of March 26th, a fisherman setting up on the shores of the Kettle Creek near the local beach town of Port Stanley—a favoured summer destination among Londoners then and now—made a gruesome discovery. It was initially thought to be part of a mannequin perhaps jettisoned by some commercial ship sailing farther out, though that wouldn’t have made much sense. In reality, what it was actually revealed to be made even less sense. Before long, Dennis arrived in his ‘66 AMC Ambassador—lime green, zero trim—and despite what the previous year had brought to the London area, even he wasn’t prepared for lay before him. Before the clinical and forensic literature agreed on a common term of erotophonophilia to describe such bizarre and grotesque crime scene behaviours, London was once again out in front of types of offending that Canada in most cases had never seen before. In short order, Dennis knew he’d catch this case too. He also knew that like the others, it would also soon be running on fumes.

Chapter 8 – The Slasher and the Strangler: 1976-79

It was December ‘75 and he had already claimed victims in both London and back in his hometown of Guelph using precisely the same MO. In both cities, all of his murders were declared deaths by natural or accidental causes ranging from pharmacological anomalies resulting in asphyxiation, to hardened arteries and even a pulmonary edema. All of the victims were females who lived alone in low to medium-rise apartment buildings, and all of them were off the police books in just a few days each—first and final files that the Coroner had signed off on in no time flat. He had claimed four victims and no one was even looking for him, no one even recognized his work for what it is was. Soon he would take steps to make sure people furnished him with the recognition he thought he deserved.

Chapter 9 - Ebb Tide: The 1980s

Londoners shuddered at the possibility that after another unexplained fifteen-year hiatus, the Forest City’s Tissue Slayer had returned to strike again while the city slept. But even by 1975 and certainly by the fall of ’83, police had for the most part figured out that the cases weren’t connected. Still, to this day rumours continue to swirl about the same multi-generational killer returning to the city to find new victims, a type of folkloric villain akin to some Hollywood horror concoction, and insert items in their mouths post-mortem as a message to the city. With the U.S. Center for Homicide Research in Minneapolis, a clearinghouse and cutting-edge think tank for long-term data consolidated by the FBI and other agencies across the world confirming that fewer than 1% of all recorded homicides involve foreign objects being placed in the mouths of victims for “intrinsic” purposes, it would have certainly made sense statistically speaking. But London was of course a place that for many years defied the statistics, this one included. As with most of the city and region’s other crimes, the real story was even worse.

Chapter 10 – Aftershocks

For many years, it was a tough rep to shake, and word traveled quickly through the jungle telegraph of the Canadian prison system and criminal underworld. With a serial killer and a certified psychotic family slayer teamed up for the first time, they would follow their instincts and head to where their murderous colleagues had told them the hunting was good—the Forest City. Throwing back beers in the car the whole way, they sped to London via the 401 like so many killers before them. At just before 6:45pm, they found a 14-year-old girl sitting atop a Canada Post relay box waiting for bus in one of the tonier areas of the city's Old North enclave. They snatched the young teen and told her that if she complied and didn’t put up a fight they wouldn’t hurt her. Once again, like so many before them, they were lying.

Postface – The Last Detective

One part Lieutenant Columbo, one part Sam Spade, he was an unlikely if not impossible combination of the cerebral and unassuming chess master and the gritty hardboiled film noir detective. He was the embodiment of what Raymond Chandler, in describing a natural born case man in his novel The Simple Art of Murder, calls “a common man and yet an usual man…he will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without due and dispassionate revenge.” But, alas, he was not the last detective—he was the first. Were it not for what he left behind, his name might have been lost to history. But now, who the last detective is on so many of these cases still remains to be seen—a road uncharted and a mystery as puzzling as any of the ones contained in these pages. Either way, we’re all just following his lead.

IMAGES

Murder City: The Untold Story of Canada's Serial Killer Capital

Chapter 8 – The Slasher and the Strangler: 1976-79


By December ‘75, he had claimed victims in both London and back in his hometown of Guelph using precisely the same MO. In both cities, all of his murders were declared deaths by natural or accidental causes ranging from pharmacological anomalies resulting in asphyxiation, to hardened arteries and even a pulmonary edema. All of the victims were females who lived alone in low to medium-rise apartment buildings, and all of them were off the police books in just a few days each—first and final files that the Coroner had signed off on in no time flat. He had claimed four victims and no one was even looking for him, no one even recognized his work for what it is was. In time he would take steps to make sure people furnished him with the recognition he thought he deserved.