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Former DI Ken Tappenden talks about Kent's forgotten serial killer Patrick Mackay

A serial killer from Kent who confessed to brutally murdering 11 people is apparently now in an open prison and could be set for release.

Patrick Mackay carried out his killing spree in the 1970s and was convicted and charged with five murders.

He was convicted of three manslaughters on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Former Detective Inspector Ken Tappenden talks about Mackay

Mackay, who used to live in the Dartford and Gravesend areas as he grew up, has been incarcerated for his crimes for the past 44 years.

He savagely killed elderly women in their homes in London and carried out other killings and returned to Kent near to his old stomping ground and befriended a priest.

Father Anthony Crean was later hacked to death with an axe and left in his blood-filled bath in the village of Shorne.

Mackay, who has been dubbed in a new book as Britain's forgotten serial killer, has also apparently now changed his name, has been in prison longer than any other person country.

In fact, because he has been behind bars for so long, he will put before the parole board and could potentially be freed.

Mackay has apparently been moved to an open prison
Mackay has apparently been moved to an open prison

The Parole Board has confirmed a parole review of Mackay is in process.

Should Mackay have the right to walk free? This is what one former Detective Inspector who helped snare him thinks.

Formerly an area commander of Kent Police, Ken Tappenden, was a Detective Inspector at Gravesend when the murder of Father Crean happened in Shorne in 1975.

Mr Tappenden who is now 81 and lives in Rochester remembers Mackay only too well.

He said: "Naturally we had to do a full murder inquiry and about three days after the murder, we obviously suspected Patrick as Father Crean had had his cheque book stolen by Mackay.

"Before that was caught by forging cheques and when he asked Crean to let him off, Crean wouldn't and we had to charge him, so he became a sort of suspect over that type of incident.

"In 1974 prior to that, Patrick had been seriously dangerous at times.

"He had committed a number of offences, he'd committed burglary, armed robbery, not in the way we know but with a house brick.

"He started to beat two kids up on a building site for their watches and injured them.

"But he'd had a bit of a history, he had pulled wings off birds and he had set fire to a tortoise and used it as a car in an outbuilding, things like that.

Mackay and his family also lived in Frobisher Way, Gravesend
Mackay and his family also lived in Frobisher Way, Gravesend

"At one time he had lived in Gravesend but predominantly most of his living was done in Dartford area but he had a string of convictions by the time he was a young man of sixteen/seventeen.

"And then afterwards of course, he still committed crimes and he was still known to the police and to social services."

So when Father Crean was murdered, the police focused their attentions on Mackay.

Mr Tappenden added: "In 1975 when he had this murder of Father Crean we did centre some of our attention on him.

"We had other suspects as well and within three maybe four days, we had sent detectives to London and within 48 hours they had found him in a house in Clapham as Mackay was co-habiting with a family sometimes.

"He had been working in a roasted chicken shop in Leicester Square but he was living at that time in north London in a hostel.

"When two officers went to the hostel they found Patrick has actually done a runner as he suspected the police might come and they took possession of memorabilia some pieces of his property and much of it was from the Nazi era and he would carry that around.

"It appeared he had a bit of a hatred for that period of time."

However, Mackay was not found immediately and eventually three officers went to the house in Clapham.

Father Crean was hacked to death by Mackay
Father Crean was hacked to death by Mackay

Mr Tappenden added: "They didn't know where the house was but they found out through electoral roll and councils and knocked the door and Mackay was up in the hallway.

"They went in and arrested him for the murder of Father Crean and he admitted it before he even got in the back of the car.

"I had met Patrick before that when he had come into custody on other charges so to speak but on that occasion, two other senior officers took over the interview of him at Northfleet Police Station and I remained at Gravesend doing the inquiry with our teams.

"At one time I did go to court with him and Mackay said 'do my shoelaces up'... I looked at his eyes and I decided I was not going to do the shoelaces up because his mother had upset him that day and there was no doubt he was switching into a strange kind of trance and mood.

"Lets put it this way, he was up at the Old Bailey for five murders and that's the ones there was fool proof evidence of, and I tell you how that came about.

"It was a result of the Metropolitan Police coming to Northfleet and Gravesend where he was detained and having seen some property and it was quite outstanding.

"The property was laid out on a table and they walked in and said that a spoon came from the murder of Isabella Griffith, that cup and saucer came from another murder etc.

Patrick Mackay confessed to 11 people in the 70s
Patrick Mackay confessed to 11 people in the 70s

"What we didn't know was they had been chasing a series of murders over a long period of time all in the Belgravia area of London and what we found out then was he did admit them to the police and we got up to 11 murders.

"He told us about all of those murders and the police had to go and find the murders if you know what I mean.

"Although once the Met were involved you know, they had 10 murders and we had one.

"They looked at the MO (Modus Operandi) and then realised it was Patrick Mackay."

The murders had been brutal and deranged and officers started their inquires with Mackay.

Mr Tappenden added: "They started their inquiries with him while we had him in custody and came up with these 11 murders, from Southend, Hackney, the Belgravia area.

"In particular he would find elderly people going home to their nice big houses and would ask for instance if he could carry their cat food, can he carry their bags and he befriended them and once inside their premises then it came over him that they had to die and he was going to murder them.

"These people were extremely vulnerable, I mean we didn't go to their murder scenes but the scenes afterwards the Met would tell us they were quite horrific scenes all of them.

"I went to the murder scene of Father Crean and I stayed at the murder scene and I saw Father Crean murdered in the bath and there was an axe which had blood all over it.

"It was found under the stairs by the front door.

"We had a notification that Father Crean had not returned from a walk as he had gone out at about 4pm, but his dog had arrived without him and that was very rare.

"And then believe it or not, there must have been a search by the nuns at Malthouse in Shorne which Father Crean run.

"But they never did find him until about 9pm when someone thought to go an look in the bathroom and found Father Crean in a bath of blood as Patrick had run the bath and had dumped him there."

Ken Tappenden
Ken Tappenden

"Eventually as I said there were 11 murders on file and he was charged with five and three he was found guilty on, although he did plea diminished responsibly and the three he pleaded guilty on and the two others, were not difficult to prove.

"Then the judge decided three were enough and the other two were not in the public interest as they could have gone on and on and on, so they were left on file.

"I think he would have killed more, he was on a rampage, he threw a tramp off a bridge and he drowned him and all the tramp did was cough as he walked past him.

"He had committed a number of murders like that and I can't believe he could have stopped if we had not caught him.

"He was a registered psychopath."

Psychopath Patrick Mackay
Psychopath Patrick Mackay

Mr Tappenden says he has mixed emotions about Mackay's future.

He added: "I've got mixed feelings about him being released.

"He is a person who has done 44-years incarcerated.

"I do believe there is as place for rehabilitation of any prisoner, but there is also got to be a caution on that as he was released from two mental hospitals and he went on to kill after both of them.

"So I have some apprehension, also I don't have sympathy for the judicial system but I do hope on this occasion they are right with their assessment of him being released if he does get released.

"I didn't know he has changed his name I was quite surprised by that and I didn't know and still do not know what prison he ended up in.

"He may well be in the open prison already for all I know with a different name and I do find that a bit strange.

"I think he's been forgotten because of the length of time, it's been 44-years and it is an awful long time to be incarcerated. He is 67 now.

"I have not seen Patrick since the day he was sentenced and I remember it well."

According to Mr Tappenden, Mackay's childhood was difficult as his father was an alcoholic.

Mr Tappenden added: "He worked in London and went into London every day but in the evenings he would be arrogant to the family to Patrick and that actually created a violent atmosphere within the house which the police and social services were often called to both in Dartford and Gravesend.

Mackay use to live in The Brent, Dartford
Mackay use to live in The Brent, Dartford

"Basically what happened after that was his father dropped dead on the Underground in London and Patrick assumed at 14 years-of-age the role of the man of the house and that's when he started getting strong.

"Well he was strong anyway, as when he was 15 it took six policemen at Dartford Police Station to hold him down.

"When he actually got so strong he lost all reality about his own strength.

"He lived in The Brent in Dartford and lived there quite a while with the family.

"And they had a house in Gravesend, in Frobisher Way and I think he went to school predominantly in Dartford because a number of Dartford schoolmates came forward during the inquiries."

In terms of the number of people Mackay killed, he is the most prolific killer Mr Tappenden has dealt with in his career.

He added: "In terms of numbers, yes.

"He told us he killed 11 people, the mere fact he retracted six of them when he got into prison, I don't know.

"What I will say about the other six, there wasn't insufficient evidence but the evidence wasn't strong to place before judge.

"But each murder he mentioned was found, so he knew where they were.

"It was a kind of a bit of a shock to the public at the time because he had been released several times before this news made the Houses of Parliament."

Mackay had been released from various establishments 19 times when he was apprehended for the murders.

Mr Tappenden said: "When he was in his teens he would not do bizarre things, but he got on the roof of Stone House Mental Hospital in Dartford, and threw the tiles off.

"He got into those kinds of things that we do see today with more mature prisoners, but he did things like that way ahead of his time."

And does the former area commander think Mackay was he born to kill?

Ken Tappenden is not sure if Mackay should be released
Ken Tappenden is not sure if Mackay should be released

He added: "It has been said he was born to kill and that's a statement which was made by one of the other officers who had dealt with him before the murders.

"That officer had written in a report that one day this man would go on to kill.

"He goes to work at the paper mills in Northfleet and the foreman of the paper mills on the machines didn't want to see him any more after a day-and-a-half and said, 'I am frightened of this man and his actions around the machinery'.

"All the evidence which came from his friends during his school years showed that Mackay didn't have a girlfriend.

"Shorne in particular dealt with the death of Father Crean with lots of sadness.

"He used to drink, and Patrick would often be drinking with him, this prior to murdering him obviously.

"As a priest it was his nature to get to know people but none of the other 10 victims were known to Patrick.

"They were all instantaneous, he had to kill.

"Mackay showed no remorse over killed Father Crean - he didn't show remorse over any of them.

The big burning question is... How can a serial killer be rehabilitated?

"How can one be sure and this is the big query the parole board will have to deal with.

"It was a very trying and traumatic time for us and once the Met Police arrived and unearthed the other 10 murders, of course that caused an awful lot of work and we actually dealt with the Gravesend aspect of it as quickly as possible.

"We took him to court and held him in custody in Kent while the Met were up and down dealing with him.

"He had two sisters and used to annoy the sisters immensely and used to beat them up.

"His sisters are still probably alive and still probably live in the Dartford area."

Timeline of Mackay's killing spree, he was sentenced to life in 1975

1965: Institutionalised for trying to set fire to a church

1967: At 15 Mackay was diagnosed as a psychopath and was committed to Moss Side hospital for four years

1972: Released from hospital

1973: Befriends Father Anthony Crean and soon begins stealing from him

1973: Kills Heidi Mnilk, an au pair girl, by hurling her from a train near New Cross

1973: Mary Hynes beaten to death in her Kentish Town apartment

1974: Stephanie Britton and her four-year-old grandson were stabbed to death at Hadley Green, in Hertfordshire

1974: Tosses a homeless person from Hungerford Bridge

1974: Isabella Griffith, was strangled and knifed to death in her Chelsea home

1974: Bludgeoned a 62-year-old tobacconist to death

1974: Sarah Rodwell, 92, was beaten to death on her doorstep in Hackney

1974: Ivy Davies, slain with an axe

1975: Kills Father Crean with an axe

1975: Strangles Adele Price

1975: Mackay is arrested and confesses, but he was not charged with all the crimes.

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