John Martin Scripps, the “Garden State Butcher”, first British murderer hanged in S’pore
He was also linked to murder and disappearance cases in Thailand, the U.S. and Mexico.
Most Singaporeans would know of Adrian Lim and the brutal murders he committed.
But not as many people would have heard of John Martin Scripps.
Scripps was the first British man to be hanged in Singapore after having been found guilty of murder.
He was 36 years old.
A shocking find
The case began on March 13, 1995, when a gruesome discovery was made in the waters off Clifford Pier.
Dismembered human body parts — a torso and lower limbs — were found in black plastic bags floating near the pier.
Police identified the body as the remains of Gerard George Lowe, a South African tourist who had earlier gone missing after checking into the River View Hotel.
Lowe, a brewery engineer, had arrived in Singapore on March 8, intending to buy electronics.
But at Changi Airport, he was approached by Scripps, who asked if he would like to share a hotel room with him.
He was not seen thereafter, and his head and arms were never found.
Struck again in Thailand
A few days later, the news of another mysterious disappearance emerged, this time from Phuket, Thailand.
Mother and son Sheila and Darin Damudes, from Canada, were reported missing after they were last seen having breakfast on March 16.
On the flight to Phuket on March 15, the Damudes had befriended a British man, who later checked into the same hotel as they did near Patong Beach.
This was Scripps, who had traveled to Bangkok, Thailand, after Lowe disappeared.
He told the receptionist that the Damudes had checked out, and he would settle their bill for them.
Arrested in Singapore
On March 19, Scripps flew back to Singapore, where he was arrested at Changi Airport by the Singapore police.
Police found that Scripps was carrying knives, a stun device, and about US$40,000 in cash and traveller’s cheques.
He was also carrying the passports, credit cards, and other belongings of Lowe and the Damudes.
Later that same day, the Damudes’ skulls were found in an unused tin mine in Phuket.
The dismembered remains of their bodies would be discovered on the side of a road five days later.
Scripps was charged with the murder of Lowe.
During the trial, he admitted to killing Lowe. However, he said he was provoked.
Scripps claimed that while sharing the room with Lowe, he was woken up when a “half-naked Lowe” supposedly touched his buttocks in the middle of the night.
Scripps said that he was shocked by the man’s advances, and hit Lowe on the head several times with a camping hammer until Lowe collapsed on the floor.
He then dragged Lowe into the bathtub and washed away the blood, but realised he was dead.
However, Scripps denied dismembering and cutting up the body, or disposing of it.
He claimed that another British friend of his did the deed.
Scripps refused to name this friend because Scripps said his own family back in England would allegedly be harmed if he did.
After Lowe’s murder, Scripps had a plate of fillet steak and a bottle of white wine.
He also went on a shopping spree, using Lowe’s credit cards to withdraw nearly S$9,000 in cash, buying a video recorder, and even attended the Singapore Symphony Orchestra at Victoria Concert Hall on March 10.
Other murders and disappearances linked to Scripps
While in custody in Singapore, more details about Scripps were dug up.
He had been convicted of several crimes during his early years in Britain, including burglary, theft, outrage of modesty and drug trafficking.
Scripps learned butchery skills while in prison, and was known for his “considerable skill” as a prison butcher.
But while on home leave while still serving his prison sentences, Scripps would run away on multiple occasions.
On one such escape, he used the birth certificate of another prisoner to apply for a passport, and then traveled to Mexico and the United States.
He was linked to the disappearances of two men in Belize and Mexico, and money from their accounts were traced to Scripps.
Scripps was also wanted by the U.S. police for the murder of a gay prostitute in the U.S. in 1994, whose body was found in a dumpster, chopped up in pieces.
Judge T.S. Sinnathuray in Singapore did not believe Scripps’ story that another person had dismembered Lowe’s body, or that Scripps’ family would come to harm if he revealed their identity.
He said he was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Scripps had murdered Lowe, cut him up, and disposed of his body.
Sinnathuray also noted that the dismemberment of the Lowe’s body and the Damudes had the signs of being done by the same person.
Scripps was found guilty of murder and declined to seek a pardon from then-President Ong Teng Cheong.
On April 19, 1996, Scripps was hanged in Changi Prison.
Top image from Criminal Minds Wiki and Dark Documentaries YouTube channel.