The murderer’s tale
Evening Standard | 9 Aug 1993
DOUBLE-killer Norman Parker, 48, was freed last week after spending more than half his life in jail. In 1963, aged 18, Parker, who is Jewish, shot dead his Nazi girlfriend who was two-timing him. He might have hanged, but pleaded self-defence and was jailed for manslaughter. In 1971, he was convicted of a gangland killing – the sensational Body in a Trunk murder – in which his victim was hammered, shot six times and disposed of in the New Forest.View transcript
DOUBLE-killer Norman Parker, 48, was freed last week after spending more than half his life in jail. In 1963, aged 18, Parker, who is Jewish, shot dead his Nazi girlfriend who was two-timing him. He might have hanged, but pleaded self-defence and was jailed for manslaughter. In 1971, he was convicted of a gangland killing – the sensational Body in a Trunk murder – in which his victim was hammered, shot six times and disposed of in the New Forest.
During 28 years in more than 20 jails, Parker rubbed shoulders with notorious criminals like the Great Train Robbers and the Krays. He was also befriended by tycoon Gerald Ronson in Ford open prison, where Ronson was serving his sentence for his part in the Guinness scandal.
While inside, Parker gained an Open University degree and wrote Parkhurst Tales, a harrowing book about prison life. When Ronson left prison, he got Parker an agent to help him sell the book for television. ‘I’ve seen Gerald three times since he’s been out,’ Parker says in his Cockney accent. ‘I met him in schule (synagogue). We treated each other as equals. We’re both proud men.’
Parker is short with strong features and a prison gym physique. He is tough, lucid, looks you in the eye and never laughs. He wears jeans, and a chain around his neck.
He shot 18-year-old Susan Fitzgerald one afternoon in Notting Hill. She admired Adolf Hitler and kept guns and books on concentration camps. ‘It was strange for a Jewish boy to pick up with a Nazi. Both her brothers were guards to Sir Oswald Mosley and her family was deeply involved in armed robberies. She was a violent and unbalanced girl who slept with a gun under her pillow. It was a tempestuous relationship.
‘One day we had a hideous argument. She pulled out a gun. I thought she was going to shoot me, so I pulled out my gun and fired one shot,’ he says, matter-of-factly. ‘It hit her in the head.’
Parker then talks about his second killing, clenching his wrist with his hand. He was in his office with his co-defendant, David Woods, and Edward Coleman, a violent robber from Glasgow. ‘We had an argument about the way we wanted to hijack a lorry. Edward pulled a gun on me. I struggled for it, David hit him with a hammer, he fell to the ground and I killed him with his own gun. I killed a man who seconds before was trying to kill me. ‘At worst it was manslaughter. (This is the subject of a current judicial review.) That’s what I’ve done 23 years for. I don’t think the public lose much sleep when violent criminals kill one another. I covered up the murder. But we bumped into a policeman when we were trying to dispose of the body, and I assaulted him.’
How does he feel about having terminated two lives? ‘That’s something you can’t put into words. When you’re young and unfeeling, you can’t empathise. Now I’ve had quarter of a century of suffering. I feel diabolical about Susan. I loved her deeply. I visit her grave and pray for forgiveness.’ What drove him to murder? ‘I used to experience intense rages and a deep sense of frustration. I was emotionally unstable. I don’t think the roots were in my childhood, though. I just wasn’t happy with my lot in life.’ (His father was a bookkeeper, his mother a post office worker. He went to grammar school, did well academically and left aged 17.) Was he a psychopath? ‘That’s a catch-all term. I lacked empathy for people, so it was true in that sense.’ His last psychiatric report said he had high self-esteem and a sense of responsibility.
He’s changed in prison. ‘My first prison sentence definitely made my rage worse. But it is a corrosive emotion and I’ve learned to chill out. Things no longer touch me. I’ve become almost totally self-sufficient. I didn’t have any emotional relationships in prison. I pulled up the drawbridge and retreated into the castle.’
His Judaism also grew. ‘It’s rare to have a Jewish murderer. Anything related to crime is frowned on by rabbis more than ministers of any other denomination. I’ve been in jails where the rabbi has refused to talk to me or even shake hands.’
Does he believe in divine retribution and punishment when he dies? ‘I believe in God. So almost certainly.’
He doesn’t know whether he might re-offend. ‘Nobody can know. Emotional violent crimes are unpredictable. I could show you priests and bank managers who have committed or attempted murder. I’m not going to get involved in crime again.’
The world Parker has re-entered is different and shocking. He’s astonished at the dirtiness of London, powerful cars and the number of foreigners. ‘I can’t believe the homeless people on the streets. People actually sleep in cardboard boxes.
‘I’m also shocked by sex and promiscuity. Take these phone lines where people talk dirty to you. If someone had come out with that 23 years ago, he’d have been dragged into a psychiatric hospital.’ (He says when he went into prison he read The Daily Telegraph. ‘Now I’d describe myself as a radical socialist.’) He has returned to his 82-year-old mother. ‘Waiting for me kept her alive. She’s the only person in the world that I’m close to. I’ve had to get to know her again. She’d become a stranger.’
His father has gone into a rest home and his sister, an ex-bunny girl and model, disappeared. ‘She attempted suicide and turned to drink. Nobody’s seen her for 15 years.’
Parker thinks he’ll ‘adapt easily’ to life outside. ‘I’m ready to work for two or three years. I hope I’ll be able to get enough money to buy myself a nice place in Portugal and sit in the sun for a few years. I hope I’ll do something with my writing.’
His book, Parkhurst Tales, bears his pen name ‘Fred Barabbas’. ‘Barabbas was crucified on the cross next to Christ, not just any old criminal. In case that was grandiose, I added Fred …