The stiletto killer

How well do you know your neighbours..?

Published by: Polly Taylor
Published on: 17th February 2011

Love thy neighbour, that’s what they say – but in reality this rarely happens. You might give them a polite wave, or invite them in for the occasional cuppa, but few of us really know the people who live next door, let alone care.
But when I split from my partner Tony and moved into a new house in Sale, Cheshire, with my kids James, 12, Faye, eight, and Oliver, six, I quickly became an exception to that rule…
Tracey Seward lived next door but one, and we met at the school gates while dropping off our kids one morning.
Like me, she had three – Jermaine, 18, Kelly, 13, and Joshua, six. In fact, Joshua and my Oliver were in the same class.
‘Fancy a cuppa?’ Tracey asked, as we walked home together.
‘I’d love to,’ I smiled.
Tracey, 35, was bright, bubbly, and kind. She’d been through her fair share of bad break-ups before meeting her husband Phil, so she understood how alone and vulnerable I was feeling.
‘Can’t be easy, starting over,’ she soothed, popping on the kettle. ‘If you need anything, call.’
Bless her. As I adjusted to life as a single mum, Tracey turned out to be a godsend. She picked the kids up from school when I was busy, gave me lifts to the shops in her red Vauxhall Frontera 4x4, and even offered to get me insured so I didn’t have to take the bus any more.
That was Tracey. She’d give you the shirt off her back, and I felt blessed to know her.
One Saturday night, a few weeks after we’d met, she invited me over for dinner.
‘Sounds great,’ I said.
The kids were with Tony for the weekend – it’d be perfect to get to know Tracey better.
‘You can finally meet Phil, too,’ she smiled.
That evening, as we sat down to the spaghetti bolognaise she’d cooked, it was obvious Tracey had met her perfect match. Phil was as sweet and caring as her.
‘How are you settling in?’ he asked, pouring the wine.
‘Great – thanks to Tracey,’ I said. ‘I don’t know what I’d have done without her.’
The wine flowed and we chatted about everything from the kids to our guiltiest pleasures…
‘Phil’s obsessed with Riverdance,’ Tracey laughed.
‘Oi…’ he laughed, turning red. ‘But what about your guilty pleasure, Tracey?’
She gave me a cheeky grin.
‘Wait here and I’ll show you,’ she winked.
God, she’d probably gone to dig out an embarrassing CD!
But when she returned, she was holding up a kinky leather corset in one hand, and a pair of six-inch killer heels in the other.
‘You wear those?!’ I giggled.
‘Oh yes. It’s a bit of a fetish!’ Tracey laughed. ‘It’s not just for me and Phil, either… sometimes I talk to people on the internet about it.’
Well, it certainly wasn’t my cup of tea, I got embarrassed walking past Ann Summers! Still…
‘Whatever floats your boat,’ I laughed nervously.
I felt flattered they trusted me enough to let me in on their secret. Whatever they did behind closed doors was up to them – so what if it was a bit saucy!
After that, it wasn’t mentioned again, and Tracey and me carried on as normal. We did the school run together, and popped in and out of each other’s houses at the drop of a hat. We even saw in the New Year together at a party I threw at my mum’s house.
‘You’ve been a star,’ I told her, as we hugged at midnight. ‘You’ve really got me through starting out as a single mum.’
I finally felt like I was moving on with my life – especially when, a month later, I met Mark. His kids went to the same school as mine, and we chatted like old friends in the playground. Before long, we were dating and, two months later, he moved in.
‘I’ll have to introduce you to my neighbours,’ I beamed, as I helped him lug heavy boxes of his stuff into my flat.
Maybe he and Phil would end up being as close as me and Tracey?
But later that week when they popped round, Mark didn’t take to them the same way I had.
‘There’s something odd about them,’ he said after they’d left. ‘I can’t put my finger on it.’
‘Don’t be daft,’ I tutted softly. ‘Unless…’
Mark chuckled as I told him about Tracey’s kinky gear. ‘Blimey!’ he whistled.
Over the next few months, Mark and me were so wrapped up in each other, I barely saw Tracey. So, when she knocked on my door in tears one day, I felt terribly guilty.‘What’s wrong?’ I gasped.
‘It’s Phil,’ she sobbed. ‘We’re having problems.’
Turned out they hadn’t been getting on for months – and I’d been too giddy to notice. ‘I’m sorry,’ I said.
‘There’s something else, too,’ Tracey said quietly, looking me in the eye. ‘I’ve met someone.’
She told me about Giona Previtali, who was 12 years her junior and lived in Switzerland.
‘How on earth did you meet him?’ I asked.
‘In a chatroom,’ she confessed. ‘He’s great. I want to be with him.’
A web chatroom! What was she thinking?! Weren’t they just packed with weirdos?
‘You’ve never met this man, you don’t know him… Don’t ruin your marriage for a fairy tale,’ I reasoned. ‘And what about the kids?’
Nothing I said seemed to have any effect, though. A week later, Tracey was sobbing on my doorstep again.‘I’m leaving Phil,’ she croaked. ‘Will you

take me to the airport?’
What?! Surely she wasn’t about to jet off to Switzerland to be with Giona, leaving Phil behind to pick up the pieces?
But one look at her told me she was – and even worse…
‘I haven’t told Phil,’ she confessed to me.
I felt torn. On the one hand, she was being irresponsible, selfish but, on the other, she was my friend, and needed my help.
Could I really turn her down after everything she’d done for me?
Besides, with everything that was going on, it was obvious she wasn’t thinking straight – she’d soon come to her senses, I was sure.
‘Okay,’ I sighed, as she tossed me her car keys. ‘But I think you’re making a mistake.’
Guilt crept over me as I dropped Tracey at the terminal. Phil was my friend, too – now I’d have to lie to him, pretend I didn’t know where Tracey was.
‘Please be safe,’ I begged her, as she got out.
‘I’ll be fine,’ she winked.
How she could up and leave her kids was beyond me.
I was certain she’d realise her mistake before it was too late.
That evening, Mark wasn’t impressed. ‘You shouldn’t have got involved,’ he scolded.
But in my heart, I felt I’d done the right thing.
The following day, Phil knocked on my door looking stricken. ‘Have you seen Tracey?’ he asked.
‘Err, no,’ I gulped. ‘Why?’
‘I think she’s left me,’ he muttered, walking off.
I felt awful. For the next month, I did my best to avoid him. Then…
‘Tracey!’ I cried, spotting her on her driveway, as I went to pick the kids up one day. ‘You’re back!’
‘I wish I’d listened to you,’ she said, wrapping her arms around me. ‘I’ve decided to try again with Phil, for the kids.’
‘I’m glad,’ I said.
Yet, just a week later, she was knocking at my door. This time, it was Phil who’d left her!
‘I’ve no idea where he’s gone,’ she said, bursting into tears.
He’d stormed out when he’d got wind of her online chats with Giona and found out she’d visited him.
‘I-I just don’t know what to do,’ she spluttered.
Six days went by, and still there was no sign of Phil.
While Tracey was convinced he’d left her for another woman, his sister Christine reported him missing.
Suddenly, there was news… very bad news.
‘They’ve found Phil’s car!’ Tracey wailed down the phone to me. ‘It was abandoned near the river, and there’s no sign of him.’
A horrible feeling crept over me. It was beginning to sound less and less likely that Phil had gone off with another woman.
Could he have killed himself in a fit of jealousy over Tracey’s affair?
‘It’ll be okay,’ I soothed, not believing myself.
Waking up the next day, I looked out of the window and reeled in shock. The street was cordoned off, and police cars were everywhere.
I bustled outside to get a better look. The door to Tracey’s house was wide open. Forensic officers in white overalls were carrying bagged items out to their vans.
My head spun. ‘What’s going on?’ I asked an onlooker.
‘They’ve found a man’s body,’ he whispered. ‘They think it’s the man who lived there.’
‘Phil?’ I gasped. ‘Oh my…’
‘Yep,’ he nodded. ‘They’ve arrested the wife on suspicion of murder.’
Shock stole my voice. Murder? Tracey? This had to be a mistake.
But it was true. It was all over the newspapers the next day. Stunned, I read out the local paper to Mark.
‘It says a joiner’s saw was used to dismember Phil’s body,’ I gasped. ‘His arms, legs and head were
all severed, and encased in concrete.’
‘Oh my God!’ Mark gasped. ‘Where did they find him?’
‘The River Mersey,’ I gulped with a shiver.
I couldn’t believe it.
Surely my sweet, loving friend wasn’t responsible for this horror?
I’d lived next door to her for three years, I knew all about her, had shared tears and laughter with her, I even trusted this woman with my children.
She was a harmless mum of three who lived in a suburban street in Cheshire, not a mad murderer.
But police thought otherwise.
Tracey was charged with murder, and further gruesome details were revealed at the trial.
Tracey and Giona had wanted rid of Phil, so they’d meticulously planned his death.
When I’d dropped her at the airport, she and Giona had flown to Ireland, where they’d planned the murder after reading a book called Unsolved Murders – Dismemberment of Bodies.
They’d hired a hitman – Christopher Cassidy, 37 – and the three of them had killed Phil.
Tracey had lured Phil to a garage where she pretended to fall over. As Phil bent down to help her, Cassidy shot him in the head four times. Giona had supplied the murder weapon, flying it over from Switzerland, hidden in the base of an ornamental candle-holder.
‘Cassidy told the court Tracey had got a perverse thrill from watching Phil as he lay dying,’ I read to Mark, throwing the local newspaper down in disgust. ‘She helped chop up his body.’
I felt sick. I’d been taken in by this woman. How could I have been so naive, so stupid? I’d consoled her while she lied to me, telling me Phil had left her, when all along she’d murdered him.
Tracey and her accomplices pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to life in prison.
After the trial, more sickening details about her emerged. She had an online alias – Stiletto. Not because she enjoyed wearing them, as she’d told me – but because she enjoyed crushing things with them.
‘Look at this,’ I spluttered, showing the paper to Mark. ‘The police found videos she’d posted on the internet of her crushing kittens, mice and hamsters under the heels.’
The videos had been filmed in her garage, and she’d even had her own website specialising in her sick fetish. I couldn’t believe anyone, let alone Tracey, could be capable of such cruelty.
I felt devastated for Tracey’s kids, who’d been left without parents and been placed with a foster family.
A year after, me and my family moved away. There were just too many bad memories.
Now, when I see my neighbours, I might give them a polite nod, exchange a few pleasantries – but I don’t get to know them.
And after what I’ve been through, I prefer to keep it that way.
Dawn Bergin, 44, Stockport, Greater Manchester