All dedicated Nobody Zone listeners can construct a clear picture of Irish serial killer Kieran Patrick Kelly. From his physical profile to his victim type and psychological makeup. They've even heard him confess to his most heinous deeds in episode 4. However, how well do listeners know this hot-headed vagrant with a penchant for murder?
Relationships play a formative part in character development, in particular, if you are a budding serial killer. In this episode, RTÉ's Documentary On One, in association with Third Ear Productions, invites listeners into the world of an off-duty killer.
However, before you get to know Kelly on more intimate terms narrator, Tim Hinman warns "You will need to have heard the first four episodes before this one" - so do not continue reading unless you've done your homework...
A Case Of Christy
Throughout the series, the story keeps coming back to Kelly's first murder, that of Christy Smith. In 1983 the police were unable to confirm the crime even occurred. Could it have been a product of Kelly's imagination? "So here's the question. Christy Smith, can we prove that he existed and in so doing prove that Kelly's confessions are indeed true". In his confession tape, Kelly makes reference to a Kathleen; she was a sex worker and Smith's Girlfriend. She was in London with the duo when the murder took place. In his omission of guilt, Kelly reveals Kathleen "knew Christy Smith's mother and all. She knew Paul Smith". And with this tiny seemingly insignificant detail journalist and documentary maker Nicoline Greer can unravel the mystery of Christy Smith. Greer cross-references everything from birth certificates to maiden names in an attempt to find a Smith family who matches this mould.
Who was Christy Smith?
The podcast illustrates each victims' history to ensure they are more than an addition to Kelly's body count. Smith was born in December of 1933 to a poverty-stricken family of seven. Paul was his younger brother, Smith would have been 19½ in 1953 the time of his (alleged) murder. While records of him are few, Greer unearthed a Newspaper article from 1951 in which details a 17-year-old Smith is accused of stealing from a car". This portrait of Smith as a troubled youth veering towards a life of crime matches the company Kelly would keep, and the dates match too. So he wasn't another Kelly fabrication - but why was he so significant? And why out of all his crimes did this act haunt him most?
Unlike the majority of his victims, Kelly had a personal connection to Smith, so how did he explain his friend's disappearance? How could he commit such a vicious, impulsive and personal murder without consequence? Greer explains it is a combination of poverty and the immigration culture of the 50's - "You know, there was a huge amount of shame involved as well, that they had gone away and maybe life hadn't panned out the way they had wanted it to. So, you know, it's not unthinkable that a man would go to the UK, go to England or London and that the family wouldn't necessarily hear from them again and that they mightn't think that that was unusual". Smith set the tone for Kelly's future crimes "he'd killed someone who didn't count, somebody who wasn't missed. As far as the victim's family knew, he'd just disappeared".
Journalist Rob Mulhern needed a builder, and so he hired Brian Slyman. Unbeknownst to Rob, Slyman was the former employer of Kelly. "He was like, How do you know Kieran Kelly? And I was like, "How do you know about Kieran Kelly?" I was like I'm making a documentary about him. I've been searching for years for somebody who knew him, and he was like, "well, I knew Ken. He worked for me for four years."
In the episode, Slyman recounts a man who was an explosive, dishonest drunk, but also a hard worker, who was "charming" and great with kids. "He was polite when he was sober, but when he had a drink or two, he was a different human being altogether. You know, chalk and cheese. Or, what's the other phrase people use? Jekyll and Hyde. He was a typical Jekyll and Hyde". Or as true crime aficionados would call it the Ted Bundy effect. Slyman offers a three dimensional perspective on Kelly, which the podcast lacked up to this point.
Kelly was not conventionally attractive, nor was his personality sparkling, yet according to Slyman, he was somewhat of a Casanova. "Kelly would charm his way in somewhere. He'd shack up with someone, and then before long there'd come a time when it was time for Kelly to leave again". However, unsurprisingly he did not handle breakups too well…. "They had a big falling out. She wouldn't let him in. So he took the hosepipe off, pushed it into the letterbox".
Who is Kelly?
This week's episode sheds some light on the youth of Kieran Kelly. Kelly was born in Rathdowney, Co. Laois, but his family soon relocated to Dublin. At 18 he joined the British army - The Irish Guards Regiment. However, this experience was short-lived, and in 1951 he was dismissed for being absent without notice - for a year. After the murders of Smith in 1953, his life begins a downward spiral. A newspaper article published in the Evening Herald perfectly illustrates a young Kelly's struggle with the law, his family, and himself.
25-Year-old Kieran Kelly, no business, of 43 Harcourt Street was charged with stealing a violin cello, a bow and a violin valued at 75 pounds. Describing the arrest, Det Officer Lang said that they went to the defendants house and saw him some distance away on the other side of the street. He apparently recognised them as police officers and ran away. In so doing he was struck by a motor van on the leg. Fortunately he was not injured but Kelly then ran in to the Charlemont street area, after a chase of about 4 or 500 yards they lost him. Det Officer Dorris found him in a tenement building later and it was there that he resisted arrest. Kelly was remanded in custody on bail of 50 pounds. The defendants father said he would like to have him medically examined. He had been acting strangely of late, and the father did not wish to pay bail for him at present.
The Family Tree
In episode 5, we meet Kelly, the husband, and father. In 1961 he married a single mother of five. The couple would go on to have two more children. And for four years Kelly supported his family and obeyed the law. However, domestic bliss was fleeting, and in 1964 his marriage fell apart along with his white picket fence ambitions. Kelly rarely saw his children after he left the family home. In 1969 he ended up in Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital for attacking a woman with a knife. He would spend two years here. The podcast creators reached out to his daughter, but she declined to be interviewed. Kelly's son died when he was 25. He was murdered in a bar brawl, near the location where his father murdered Hector Fisher.
How did Kelly, a man with rage issues, who enjoyed drinking methylated spirits and murdering people, manage to stay a free man? As Millenials know - it's all about the aesthetic... "When appearing in court, Kelly would still brush up pretty well. Sober, clean-shaven, with neatly combed hair. In fact, it was said he'd stand to attention, in the dock, always saying yes sir, and no sir, like the soldier he was in his youth. The witnesses, one of whom was the unfortunate Mickey Dunn who he later tracked down and try and poison, would turn up in court after having drunk a bottle of methylated spirits. And as we know, the case against Kelly fell apart. By the time Kelly turns 50, he will have murdered as many as 12, 13 or 14 people and he has disappeared deep into the Nobody Zone…"
A Cold Case Heats Up
For weeks, The Nobody Zone has teased listeners with the prospect of new evidence, something to reinvigorate this cold case. Well, the wait is over - in 1993 someone literally dug up new evidence - in a garden in Co. Laois. What! I hear you cry - let's just say it involves Kelly's childhood home, a decomposed skeleton, and a somewhat discombobulated homeowner...