Killing words: inside a murderer’s mind

Irish-born Mark Papazian wanted to go down in history as a serial killer. But he was caught after writing a diary about the murder of his first victim, a gay pensioner, writes Paul Kelly in the first of a two-part series.

THE detectives who caught Mark Papazian are in no doubt they stopped a would-be serial killer in his tracks.

Their reason is Papazian’s own diary — a sick handwritten journal that reveals him to be a predatory killer. Take this sample entry from June last year: “I am a genius. I have thought of everything.”

What he had, in fact, thought of — and carried out to the letter days earlier in London — was the brutal murder of a harmless and lonely 65-year-old gay man Gerard Hendra.

In an astonishing entry about the murder on June 3, Papazian confesses: “It was a struggle. He had some fight left in him. I brought him to the ground. He started to scream but I covered his mouth which finished his (word illegible). He tried to beat me so I cut his throat.”

Having bludgeoned Mr Hendra with a hammer and then slit his throat, Papazian then reflects on what he needs for his next murder.

“The knock on the head isn’t the only thing for a quiet death. You have got to use the knife.

“It was not good enough (this time) because the blade broke but I had another one.

“Also I know now I need the knife and hammer together for an easy death,” he wrote.

Papazian was born and bred in Cork but lived in London where, being homosexual, life was a lot easier than back home.

Aged 49, he was a nurse and led a dull life in a rundown hotel in Hampstead, north-west London.

But, as his A5-size diary shows, he clearly decided he wanted to achieve the kind of notoriety that comes with being a serial killer.

Take his entry for May 3, a day after he met Mr Hendra on Hampstead Heath, a well-know pick up place for gay men.

He declared: “Called to Gerard’s. Wanted to strangle him then.”

Over the coming month, he meticulously plotted how he would kill Mr Hendra — and even revealed one failed attempt.

On May 28, he wrote: “Wanted to do some mischief but the floors were so thin the neighbour would hear. Then I realised if I did him on the heath (instead) that would be the end of the heath.”

The mindset of the would-be serial killer is clear: a murder on Hampstead Heath would deprive him of future victims.

Echoing the style of London’s most famous serial killer, Jack the Ripper, Papazian then continues: “I thought of a plan to do him (Gerard). I will buy a hammer, do him in one blow while he is sitting in his chair. I have it down to a fine art. I have decided I want to do it, his time is up.”

Two days later, Papazian wrote: “I am going to buy a hammer and am having more thoughts about Pond Street.”

Pond Street, in the posh London district of Hampstead, was where Mr Hendra lived in an attic flat, a mile from Papazian’s residence in the Aviva Hotel on Finchley Road.

Papazian made another chilling reference to Pond Street in his diary, in which he revealed another bid for infamy — as a crime writer.

“I’m going to start some fiction about number 19,” he wrote, referring to Mr Hendra’s house number.

Papazian was hooked on crime thrillers by writers like Dublin-born John Connolly as well as PD James and Patricia Highsmith.

After referring to his favourite authors in one diary entry, he coldly states: “Always wanted to commit, or as I say, do a murder, ever since last summer, but lost my bottle and it’s a bit depressing.”

Understandably, finding Papazian’s diary was a great stroke of luck for the detectives who investigated the murder of Mr Hendra, a retired English teacher.

Detective Chief Inspector Mick Broster, who led the investigation, said: “The only reason he killed Gerard was because he wanted to do it. As Papazian says in his diary: ‘I have always wanted to do one.’

“He decided to do one and wrote: ‘I decided my first candidate will be Gerard’ and talks about how he is going to do it. Having done it, he talks about returning to Gerard’s flat and getting his compact discs, and talks about cleaning the place and wiping down fingerprints and taking stuff away.”

His June 5 entry talks about doing his “bloodied laundry” and tells how he had stolen CDs from Mr Hendra’s vast collection and given them to an (innocent) friend in south London for safe-keeping.

Papazian’s diary also reveals the steps he took to evade detection and, if that failed, the answers he would give to police.

Det Broster said: “He talks about how he may have forgotten to do something and whether he should go back to the flat. He also talks about what his excuses are going to be to the police about any particular item should he forget it.

“He talks about how his fingerprints (which were on file for a petty crime in 1998) would have been destroyed after three years. He wrote: ‘I hope that’s right’ and he writes down what he was going to say to the police if it was not.

“On the day of the murder, Papazian used a phone box to call Gerard. He knew we would check the last calls in and out of Gerard’s phone,” said Det Broster.

“He did write: ‘I am a genius and have thought of everything’. But unfortunately for Papazian, we thought of more things.”

Backed by evidence like the diary, the senior detective is convinced that Papazian would have become a serial killer.

The judge who sentenced Papazian to life last month told him: “I have no doubt, if you had not been apprehended, that you would have carried out further murders.”

Judge Christopher Wood said the diaries made it clear that the murder was “as premeditated as it can get, ruthlessly planned and remorsefully executed”.

In June, with the first murder out the way, Papazian turned his attention to his next victim, a man known simply as Jeremy.

By now Papazian clearly felt he had murder down to a fine art.

He wrote: “Jeremy will be next. I will have to do it in the open, which will be more of a challenge and I may have to do a run for it.

“This signals the end of the heath, at least for this season. They will never survive the penetrating blow to the brain like the blow I gave to Gerard.”

Just like his May 28 entry, he is fully aware of the effect Jeremy’s murder would have on the gay men who flocked to Hampstead Heath for illicit sexual liaisons.

America’s Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has done research into what makes a serial killer. One kind follows his crimes in the press and is also prepared for police questioning, just like Papazian reveals himself to be in the diary.

In the week commencing June 6, he wrote about looking forward to reading about the crime in the area’s weekly paper, the Hampstead and Highgate Express.

“This week’s Ham & High should be interesting,” he noted.

On a further occasion, he made another reference to the paper to mock police in Camden, the London borough containing Hampstead.

“The Ham & High claims only 21% of crimes get solved in Camden. I assume this also applies to murder,” he wrote.

Papazian was an avid consumer of newspapers, including the Irish Examiner. In July 2004, he was living in Sunday’s Well Road, Cork, when he wrote to the Examiner.

In his first letter, published July 12, he wrote about straight women who went to gay bars in Ireland.

With an air of giggly high camp, he wrote: “As far as I am concerned, the women are most welcome.

“They are usually well-dressed, well-behaved, and best of all, leave their hooligan straight boyfriends at home so they can enjoy a ‘girly’ night out in a gay bar. If only they would stop trying to ‘convert’ us!”

Just over a fortnight later, he was back in touch, this time spouting forth about the benefits of working out in the gym.

He also wrote to the London Independent (the sister paper of the Irish Independent) about a headline concerning gay men.

He was, it seems, a man compelled to commit to paper his feelings, thoughts and deeds — a compulsion which ensured his downfall when police got hold of his diary.

Ironically, it was another person’s diary that first put police in London on Papazian’s trail. That diary belonged to Papazian’s first and only victim, Gerard Hendra.

Det Broster said: “Part of our initial investigation centred around Gerard’s own diary. It took us some time to decipher the words but in his diary for June 3, Gerard wrote: ‘Mark coming round, bringing wine’ or words to that effect.”

Papazian had used his own diary to declare himself a genius of a killer, saying he had thought of everything.

Everything, that is, except Mr Hendra’s own diary.

MARK PAPAZIAN’S diary reveals the extraordinary depths of his depraved desire to kill again.

Below are extracts from the months of May and June last year, when Papazian plotted and carried out a gruesome murder of retired teacher Gerard Ossian Hendra:

MAY 3

“Called to Gerrard (sic)Osian’s. Wanted to strangle him then.”

MAY 28

“Wanted to do some mischief but the floor were so thin the neighbour would hear. Then I realised if I did him on the heath that would be the end of the heath. I have thought of a plan to do him.

“I will buy a hammer, do him in one blow while he is sitting in his chair. I lust after his CD collection. I have decided I want to do it. His time is up.”

MAY 29

“Thought of a plan to do him with a hammer while he is in his chair. I have it down to a fine art.”

MAY 30

“I am going to buy a hammer and am having more thoughts about Pond Street.”

JUNE 3

The day of the killing:

“It was a struggle. He had some fight left in him. I brought him to the ground. He started to scream but I covered his mouth which finished his (word illegible). He tried to beat me so I cut his throat.”

Reflecting on what he had to do next time, he wrote: “The knock on the head isn’t the only thing for a quiet death. You have got to use the knife. It was not good enough (this time) because the blade broke but I had another one.

“Also I know now I need the knife and hammer together for an easy death.”

EARLY JUNE

Subject: The next victim

“I have selected Gerrard as my first candidate and then Jeremy will be next.

“I will have to do it in the open, which will be more of a challenge and I may have to do a run for it.

“This signals the end of the heath, at least for this season.

“They will never survive the penetrating blow to the brain like the blow I gave to Gerard. The crucial 10 seconds of struggle that can make all the difference.”

JUNE 10

Subject: A day after the body is found, he reflects on the contents of the local weekly paper, the Ham & High.

“This week’s Ham & High should be interesting.”

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