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Canal murders accused John Sweeney 'cut up girlfriends'

image captionMelissa Halstead (left) and Paula Field's bodies were both found in canals

A "hateful, controlling and possessive man" murdered and cut up two girlfriends then threw their bodies into canals, a court has heard.

Melissa Halstead and Paula Fields were killed 10 years apart and disposed of in London and the Netherlands, but they were linked by their friendship to John Sweeney, an Old Bailey jury was told.

The prosecution said Mr Sweeney, 54, also tried to kill a third girlfriend.

He denies two counts of murder and perverting the course of justice.

Mr Sweeney is originally from Merseyside, but lived in Camden and Hackney in London.

Brian Altman QC, prosecuting, said the heads and hands of US citizen Miss Halstead, 33, and Miss Fields, 31, had never been found.

Mr Altman said this was a deliberate attempt to prevent them from being identified and Mr Sweeney being exposed as the killer.

Police found a series of sketches and poems by Mr Sweeney, which they said were relevant to the case.

Mr Altman said: "Police discovered amongst his possessions often lurid and demonic sketches, paintings as well as pages of verse which reveal an obsessive and virulent hatred of women and a preoccupation with dismemberment.

"It is a picture of a hateful, controlling and possessive man... prone to outbursts of rage and murderous feelings."

Miss Fields' body was found in the Regent's Canal, Camden, in 2001. The remains of former American model Miss Halstead were recovered from the Westersingel canal in Rotterdam in 1990.

Both women were found wrapped in bin liners and placed in bags.

Mr Altman told the jury: "You may conclude that by butchering and disposing of bodies in this way, the killer had intended that neither they should be identified, or he should be.

"There was one significant feature in common - both women had been in a relationship with this defendant at the time they were killed and went missing."

Hit with hammer

The court heard Miss Halstead had often predicted "with chilling accuracy" that Mr Sweeney would end her life.

Mr Altman added: "She told her sister 'If anything happens to me, if ever I go missing, then you'll know that he did it. He will see to it that nothing is left of me'."

Mr Sweeney interrupted throughout the proceedings, at one stage applauding sarcastically.

Miss Halstead's sister, Chance O'Hara, told the court that Mr Sweeney had harmed her sister on several occasions.

Ms O'Hara described how on one occasion Mr Sweeney was arrested for hitting her sister on back of the head with a hammer.

He spent four months in custody before being convicted over the attack and given a suspended sentence.

After the attack, Miss Halstead spoke to her sister from hospital, where she told her she was going to pick him up from prison.

Miss O'Hara told her she was "crazy" and "falling back into the same pattern", the court heard.

Miss Halstead would later petition a judge for Mr Sweeney's early release, jurors were told.

The case continues.

More on this story

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