The 5 Most Notorious Irish Serial Killers Of All-Time

These are the most brutal Irish serial killers ever.

“I am down on whores and I shan’t quit ripping them till I do get buckled. My knife’s so nice and sharp I want to get to work right away if I get a chance. Good luck.”

The above lines were reportedly written by the worlds most notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper.

While Jack the Ripper was London based the Island of Ireland has also been plagued by serial killers and many of the worlds most notorious killers had strong Irish roots down through the centuries and even in more contemporary times.

In this feature, journalist Ger Leddin looks at five of them.

1. Geoffrey Evans and John Shaw

Along with his partner John Shaw, Geoffrey Evans came to Ireland from the UK in 1974. They were both wanted by the British police on rape charges.

They were arrested by Gardaí in Cork and served eighteen- months in Prison thus avoiding British prosecution.

On their release in 1976, they vowed to commit one murder a week and began their sick adventure in August of that year with the abduction, repeated rape and murder of Elizabeth Plunkett, a twenty-three-year-old foreign exchange clerk from Ringsend in Dublin.

The pair had met Elizabeth at Brittas Bay County Wicklow and offered her a lift home.
.They drove the girl her to Castletimon Wood where they raped her repeatedly before strangling her to death.

During the following month, September, the pair travelled to Castlebar County Mayo abducted Mary Duffy, a 24-year-old cook who was trying to arrange a lift home.

Mary was brutally beaten and raped in the back of the car before the two men drove to Ballynahinch in Connemara, where she was tied to a tree for a number of hours while again being repeatedly raped before being murdered.

Unknown to Evans and Shaw, their car had been seen at the scene and was later identified by Gardaí. Shaw and Evans were later found and arrested and after full confessions, committed to prison on life sentences.

Evans suffered ill health while in prison and after a long illness died behind bars in 2012.

2. Shankhill Butchers

The Shankhill Butchers was the name given by the press and by the security forces to a notorious Loyalist paramilitary gang which operated outside the law in Northern Ireland during the late seventies up to 1985.

Based in the Shankhill area of Belfast they are said to have been responsible for the horrific deaths of twenty-three people, mainly Catholic but including at least six Protestants.

Many of the victims were targeted in Catholic areas of the city and snatched from the streets before being cruelly tortured and killed, often hacked to death with hatchets.
On some occasions, a black-taxi was used as a mode of transport by the killers in their abductions.

In 1979 several of the gang members were identified, caught and faced court for their actions but the reputed gang leader, Lenny Murphy escaped prosecution.

Murphy was later targeted by the IRA and killed in November 1982. Some sources say that the IRA were given information on Murphy’s location and habits by sections within loyalist groupings who were growing tired of Murphy’s sick acts.

A Trial Judge at one of the cases said “the killings brought a new level of paramilitary and sectarian violence to Northern Ireland and was a lasting monument to sectarian bigotry.

You can watch a great documentary about the Shankill Butchers here:

3. Darkey Kelly

Dorchas Kelly was more commonly known by her working name Darkey and she is considered to be Ireland’ first serial killer.

Darkey ran what was known as the Maiden Tower, a brothel on Dublin’s Fishamble Street.
During 1760 she was suspected of killing a local shoemaker, John Dowling and investigating police found the bodies of five men hidden in the basement of her brothel.

It wasn’t a straightforward case, however. Rumours abounded around Dublin that Kelly had, in fact, become pregnant with the child of the then Dublin Sheriff Simon Luttrell, 1st Earl of Carhampton, who was a well-known member of the Hellfire Club. The rumours stated that Kelly had demanded money from Luttrell who is said to have abducted the baby and killed it during a Hellfire Club Satanic ritual.

Kelly was charged and convicted of witchcraft, partially hanged then burned at the stake on what is now called Baggot Street in the city.

4. Jane Kelly Toppan

Jane Toppan was an Irish/American nurse nicknamed Jolly Jane.

She was arrested in Massachusetts in 1901 and subsequently confessed to the murders of 31 people.

Toppan who worked as a private nurse would alternate between giving her elderly patients injections of morphine which slows the body and atrophine which wakes it up and keeping them in a state between life and death. It was mentioned during her trial that she would often climb into her victim’s bed with them as she carried out her “Angel of Mercy” murders.

She confessed that he enjoyed as she put it “the back and forth” between life and death and that her ambition was “to have killed more people—helpless people—than any other man or woman who ever lived.”

On June 23, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed for life in the Taunton Insane Hospital. She died on October 29, 1938, aged 84.

5. Timothy McVeigh

Timothy McVeigh is better known as the Oklahoma City bomber, he planned and planted the bomb which killed 168 people and injured over 680 others at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States on April 19, 1995. McVeigh was added by an accomplice, Terry Nichols.

McVeigh, while American born had very strong Irish connections and ancestry. He was the only son and the second of three children of Irish Americans Mildred “Mickey” Noreen (née Hill) and William McVeigh.

After the divorce of his parents when he was ten years old he was raised by his father in Pendleton, New York.

McVeigh was obsessed with firearms and believed that the American Government totally misused its power over the common people.

A Gulf War veteran who while in the military used much of his spare time to read about firearms, sniper tactics, and explosives. He was once reprimanded by the military for purchasing a “White Power” T-shirt at a Ku Klux Klan protest against black servicemen who wore “Black Power” T-shirts around a military base.

McVeigh spoke of his experiences during Operation Desert Storm where he admitted to decapitating an Iraqi soldier with cannon fire on his first day on active service, he later said he was shocked to be ordered to execute surrendering prisoners and to see carnage on the road leaving Kuwait City after U.S. troops routed the Iraqi army.

On leaving the army McVeigh took up a job working at a lakeside campground near his old Army post, where he and Nichols constructed an ANNM explosive device mounted in the back of a rented Ryder truck. The bomb consisted of about 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane.

On April 19, 1995, McVeigh drove the truck to the front of the Federal Building where at 09:02, a large explosion destroyed the north half of the building killing168 people, including nineteen children who were in the day care centre on the second floor.

The bomb was fuse ignited leaving the bombers plenty of time to escape.

McVeigh later claimed that he had no knowledge that the federal offices ran a day-care centre on the second floor of the building, Nichols said that he and McVeigh knew there was a day-care centre in the building, and that they did not care.

McVeigh was traced from the original truck rental documentation, arrested and stood trial. He was found guilty on several charges on June the second 1997. He later received the death penalty and was executed by lethal injection at 7:14 a.m. on June 11, 2001, at the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.