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Sid Vicious - part of God Save The Sex Pistols SOHO WEEKLY NEWS (Manhattan)

‘He Said He Was Going To Kill’ Oct. 19-25, 1978

The Not So Lonesome Death of Nancy Spungen Oct. 26-Nov. 1, 1978

‘He Said He Was Going To Kill’
David Hershkovits and Lesley Vinson

Oct. 19-25, 1978 (Neon Leon on Sid Vicious)

British rock musician Sid Vicious was arrested last week and charged with murder in the stabbing death of his girlfriend, and maybe wife, Nancy Spungen, at the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street.

The police arrived about 11am Thursday after being summoned by a phone call from Vicious. The former member of the Sex Pistols rock group had registered at the hotel with Nancy in late August as Mr and Mrs John Ritchie – his real name.

Nancy’s body lay face-up in the bathroom, her head underneath the sink. She had been stabbed in the stomach and her black lace bra and panties were drenched in blood. The room was in disarray and police found several empty syringes.

On Friday the 13th bail was set at $50,000 despite the objections of Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Schachter, who claimed that the defendant might flee because of the “strong likelihood of conviction”.

During the hearing Malcolm McLaren, former Sex Pistols manager, arrived from London to confer with the lawyers he had engaged to defend Sid. Describing the musician as “outrageous, a very passionate man,” he nevertheless maintained Vicious was “definitely not guilty.”

Sid Vicious NYPD

Cold Turkey at Rikers

While McLaren and friends worked over the weekend to raise bail, Sid was going cold turkey at Rikers Island. A severe reaction to abrupt withdrawal from methadone and heroin sent him to the prison hospital, where he was given some methadone, according to a source.

On Sunday, Sid’s 38 year-old mother, Mrs Anne Beverley, arrived from London. When an English reporter asked for an interview he was told it would cost his paper £5,000.

The same day platinum haired Nancy, 20, was buried in her home town of Philadelphia at a private service conducted by a rabbi. “There were only one or two people in her life she could really relate to - Sid was one of them” her mother told reporters.

Monday, Sid Vicious was released on bail.

The last person known to have seen Sid and Nancy together is Neon Leon, a fast talking musician who fronted a mostly black punk band that often played at Max’s Kansas City. He and his blond girlfriend, Kathy O’Rourke, lived down the hall from the couple. Both had known Nancy before she met Sid, knew of the couple’s addiction to heroin, and of the sado-masochistic tone of their love-affair.

At press time Leon was out-of-town, telling different friends different stories of where he was going – London, Philadelphia or Atlantic City.

What follows is based on an interview conducted with Neon Leon and Kathy O’Rourke at their Chelsea Hotel room the afternoon of the murder.

Chelsea Hotel
                                                             photo by Philjens

Neon Leon Talks

“Sid came in here and said, ‘Look what I’ve got. Now people can’t beat me up any more’.” He was brandishing a knife with a five and a half inch blade, said Leon. “Nancy bought it for him so he could defend himself from the beatings he was getting.”


“Sid was famous for being obnoxious. People would come up to him, ‘You’re one of the Sex Pistols’ Boom! I stopped going out with them. “

Leon’s small room has a settled look. It is crowded, but neat – records along the wall, electric guitars in and out of cases, a king-size bed that takes up most of the room. More than a dozen hang on a wall with a painting of a hand holding a gun aimed at the viewer. A TV set in the corner hums softly throughout our conversation.

“He said he was going to kill somebody” said Neon, speaking rapidly and without hesitation. “But he always says he’s going to kill somebody. ‘New York is making me violent. People are picking on me. All I want to do is to be in a band. I’m gonna get me a weapon.’” Sid told him, he said.

Strung out on heroin, methadone and barbiturates, Sid was in a sorry state, according to Leon “ ‘I have no more self-confidence. I’m ugly. I can’t play bass.’” he told Leon, who couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “The guy sat here and played almost like Jack Bruce (a well known bass player). Maybe this was easy suicide.” He suggests.

“ I’d rather die in jail then go to the methadone clinic (where he would get into fights).” Sid told him, said Leon, affecting a credible British accent.

It’s a warm fall day, and though the room in the 11 storey red-brick building has a balcony, the windows remain tightly shut and the air heavy as Leon continues his story. Though Sid was tall and rail-thin– the image of the 98-pound weakling – that did not prevent him from getting into fights. A knife, he thought, might help.

“ ‘Do you think they’ll mess with me if I have this knife’ ” he asked Leon, who shuddered. “ ‘I can’t back down from anyone, because I’m not afraid of anything.’” Sid told him, he said.

As Leon tells it, the events of the nights of the murder went something like this.

Plaque at Chelsea Hotel  - photo by Philjens‘They were kind of weird last night'

“Last night they were feeling kind of sick. They were kinda weird last night.” In the early morning hours Sid and Nancy came to Leon’s room carrying Sid’s beloved leather jacket and the Sex Pistols clippings Nancy had collected. Sid told Leon: “I want you to keep this for me.”

Sid was acting though he felt they were in danger, according to Leon. He wanted to know about Rikers Island and the New York police. Sid sat on the bed, playing with the knife, holding it up to his face. After a while they left, but Nancy returned a few minutes later. Sid had left the knife on the bed and she wanted to get it.

Around 4:30am, Leon said he received a telephone call from Nancy, asking him to come to their room if he had any pot. “Knock real hard” she told them. They were high on tuinals and it would be difficult to awaken them otherwise.

That was the last time he spoke to her, he said. Leon remembers hearing scuffling in the corridor and a loud banging on his door between 6 and 7am. Thinking it might be the police or someone else he didn’t want to talk to at that hour, he didn’t answer.

Sid and Nancy were heavily into heroin and other drugs. After the break-up of the Sex Pistols earlier this year, Sid stayed on the fringes of the punk scene. He did two gigs at Max’s, earning a couple of thousand dollars. On one occasion he collapsed and passed out upstairs between sets, and musical director Peter Crowley tried frantically to revive him. After unanimous pans by rock reviewers, Sid and Nancy became virtual recluses, holing up at the Chelsea and coming out only to go to Max’s and to his methadone maintenance clinic on Lafayette Street.

“I feel bad because he was a good person.” said Leon. Misunderstood to high heaven. He was here and he was alone. Nancy was the only person who kept him going. He said she was the only real woman on the planet.”

(photos of the Chelsea Hotel by Philjens)

The Not So Lonesome Death of Nancy Spungen
Ann Bardach

Oct. 26, 1978 The Soho Weekly News (NYC-USA)

Sid and Nancy at CourtOn Friday, October 13, this reporter happened to be at the Chief Medical Examiner's office, researching a story, when Nancy Laura Spungen's possessions were being examined. Her parents had just left after identifying the body, and the talk between Dr. Michael Baden, the chief examiner, and his associate, Dr. Geeta Natarajan, centered on the paraphernalia and drugs confiscated from the room Nancy had shared with Sid Vicious at the Chelsea Hotel.

The following reconstruction of Nancy Spungen's last 11 hours is based on interviews with people who had contact with the couple on October 11 and 12, and on information from sources at the D.A.'s office and the Third Homicide Division. Included are several statements made to me by people who testified at the secret Grand Jury hearing last Thursday, October 19, about the nature of their testimony before that body.

Countdown to Murder
9:45 p.m
. - Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen strolled down the hall from their room at the Hotel Chelsea to visit Cathi O'Rourke and (Neon) Leon Webster in Leon's room, No. 119. Cathi, who had known Nancy for several years, described the visit in these terms:

Sid sat on Leon's bed, leafing through a portfolio of old photos of himself. "I've lost my looks'' he commented ruefully. "I really used to look good.'' While Nancy paced the room, entreating the group to "come up with some drugs, good drugs," Sid sat quietly, stroking his face with one of his new knives. He said at one point that he had ''no future."

He "had the knife to his face." recalls Cathi. "….Nancy turned around to him and said 'Fuck off.' and he put the knife down." Cathi also remembers seeing Nancy bare her arm and make a muscle, admonishing Sid. "Feel my muscle. I'm strong. I carried Sid up from the restaurant. I can carry him, but he can't carry me."

Midnight -Nancy and Sid left Room 119 around midnight, recalls Leon. When Cathi went to her go-go dancing job in New Jersey, Leon claims he went to Max's, but Vicious' manager, Malcolm McLaren, "doubts that he went to Max's because nobody saw him there." According to a "friend" who requests anonymity, Leon was at the Nursery, another punk club.

12 to 12:30 a.m. -Leon states that the couple returned to their own room when they left his, but McLaren says that "Sid told me that he left the hotel around midnight."

Rockets Redglare2:30 a.m. -Rockets Redglare says he received a frantic phone call at his Queens apartment from Nancy ''begging" him to come to their room at the Chelsea and "please, bring Dilaudids," (a variety of synthetic morphine, known on the streets as D-4s). She also requested "some new hypodermics."

3:00 a.m. - According to Neon Leon and Leon's manager, Skip Wayne, Sid and Nancy were in the lobby around 3 a.m. Leon and Skip have made several conflicting statements.

3:05 a.m. -Lisà Garcia who lives next door to Sid and Nancy's room, in 103, had just come home at 3 a.m. Minutes later she heard "two or three very loud knocks at my door" and a male voice yelling. "Let me in, let me in, I'm not playing." Lisa said the voice frightened her. She did not open the door. Soon after she went to sleep and did not wake until late Thursday morning.

3:15 a.m. -Rocket arrived at the Chelsea. He claimed that he had been unable to come up with anything Nancy had asked him to bring. Nancy was "wearing a long T-shirt over black underpants….and Sid was lying on the bed in black pants and a shaggy sweater." They talked some about Rocket becoming Sid's bodyguard to protect him from street fights, but mostly about scoring Dilaudids for Nancy. (Both Sid and Rocket are on a methadone program.)

3:30 to 4:45 a.m. -The phone rang many times while Rocket was in their room. Nancy only picked it up once ''and had a brief conversation." Neither Nancy nor Sid made any outgoing calls.

''They were crazy about D-4s,'' recalls Rocket. ''She told me she would pay $40 for each D-4. She would shoot six. Sid would do four. She had a higher tolerance than Sid. It was the only thing they could shoot. I'm an ex-addict. I would shoot Sid because he's got collapsed veins, and anyway he's not too good at it."

However Rocket claims there were no D-4s to shoot up that night during the two hours he was in their room. ''I showed up there." he says, "to be comforting.''

Nancy was very agitated about not being able to score while ''Sid kept going to the door every time there was a noise. He would drag himself up. Tuinals are funny that way. One minute you're completely out of it, the next minute you're a little ambulatory.''

Sid left the room twice, briefly, and came back soon. Once ''he went to the door . . .he was so out it… he fell back."

''At one point Nancy went to her bag.'' continues Rocket, ''and some $50s and $100s spilled out on the floor. She told me that if I could get 40 Dilaudids for her she would give me twice the price. She said to me, 'Rocket, you could make$800'… Now this money, it was new money [new bills]. She tells me that she has $1400 to spend on dope that night.''

Shortly before 5 a.m. Rocket left the couple in Room 100. He says that he stopped at the front desk in the lobby to make a phone call and observed Steven C., whom he identified as Nancy and Sid's regular "Quaalude and Tuinal dealer," turning the corner and entering the elevator.

Leon's Time Clock
4 a.m.
-Neon Leon, who returned to his room at 3:30 a.m. with Kelly (a go-go dancer who lives in Room 301), says that Nancy called at 4 a.m. saying "They were very high on Tuinals and Sid was crashing out." and asking if Leon had ''some pot."

4:15a.m. - Leon and Kelly say they "heard four or five really loud knocks at his door." He ignored them. Around a half-hour later, he claims to have heard some noises coming from the hallway, something dropped on the hard tile floor, something that made a metallic, tinny sound. Maybe a knife.

5a.m. -The resident of Room 228 called the hotel desk to complain about ''some guy banging away at the door.'' Kenny, the night bellhop, went up to handle the complaint. He found a very unruly, noisy Sid Vicious meandering around the hall. "He went to hit me." remembers Kenny. "He asked me could I take him. He went at me again, so I hit him and I just kept pounding him till he went down to the floor.'' The two wrestled until Kenny was certain he had subdued Vicious. When Kenny stood up, Vicious whined. ''Is this what you do to a drunk?"

''He had a bloodied mouth and there was blood all over his face and nose and t- shirt." recalls Kenny. ''When I was leaving to go back downstairs, I saw that he was going to the stairs…I don't know if he went to his room…when I got back to the desk it was 5:15a.m.

5:30 a.m. -A resident of the hotel who refuses to be identified claims that Sid staggered into her room dripping with blood at 5:30 a.m.

Vera MendelssohnJust before 7:30 a.m. -Vera Mendelssohn lives next door to Sid and Nancy's room, in Room 102. She recalls that some time before 7:30 Thursday morning she heard a series of moans coming from a woman in the room next to her. She says she was ''very frightened.'' By the sound, which she described as ''coming from a person who was alone.'' "It didn't sound as though someone was with her,'' recalls Vera, "because she didn't call someone's name. She was just moaning."

When the sound of the moans ceased, she fell back to sleep.

9:30 a.m. -Herman Ramos, the deskman, received an "outside the Hotel" call from a male, claiming that ''There is trouble in Room100." Ramos sent Charles the bellhop upstairs to find out what was going on.

10 a.m. -Before the bellhop returned, Sid Vicious called down to Ramos, saying "Someone is sick-need help."

Between 10 and 10:30a.m. - Ramos called for an ambulance, and later for the police.

10:30 a.m. -As Rob Braden, NYU student in Room 105, left for school, he saw Sid Vicious coming up the stairs and walking down the hall towards his room.

10:45 a.m. -Ambulance and police from the10th precinct arrived. Nancy's body is discovered in the bathroom of Room 100, the 3rd Homicide Zone was notified.

11:00 a.m. -Vera Mendelssohn, awakened by the noise of the police, left her room shortly after 11:00 to see what was happening in the hallway. She was granted permission to look into room 100, where she saw the body of Nancy Spungen on the bathroom floor. In the hallway she saw Sid surrounded by policemen.

"His face looked battered," recalls Ms. Mendelssohn, a 48-year-old sculptor, "and he said many times, over and over. 'Baby, baby, baby.' " She believes he was weeping. When Sid recognized her he said. ''I killed her… I can't live without her.'' Vera says she was so stunned that she cannot recall whether she heard him say "She fell on the knife, '' or ''She must have fallen on the knife." She remembers Sid talking about being "very high on Tuinal."

Early Thursday afternoon, October 12, police arrested John Ritchie, aka Sid Vicious. After making statements to the police and the D.A., Vicious was charged with second-degree homicide in the death of Nancy Laura Spungen.

Homicide in the second degree is the most serious murder charge in regard to the death of a civilian, as first degree is reserved for the murder of a police or corrections officer in the line of duty. There is no third degree homicide charge: next is manslaughter 1 or 2. On the law books, there are two categories of 2nd degree homicide: 1. murder with intent (or premeditation) and 2. conscious participation in a person's suicide.

'Our First Punk Rock Murder'
By 1p.m., the Forensic Crime Scene Unit arrived at the Chelsea to do their job: to photograph the premises, body, and paraphernalia, and to collect all contributory evidence. All homicides and deaths of a suspicious nature are routinely investigated by one Forensic Unit, and autopsied by the Chief Medical Examiner's office. For both units, the Nancy Spungen case was, Police Sgt. Thomas Kilroy's words, "our first punk rock murder."

Forensics prize at the Chelsea, the suspected murder weapon, was a Jaguar K-11 folding knife with a 5" blade, complete with the appropriate blood stains and fingerprints. The 007 knife, frequently misreported in the press as the murder weapon was only one of several knives in Sid Vicious' collection. According to Neon Leon, the Jaguar knife ''was a gift he got that day from Nancy… to protect himself." Detective Gerald Thomas confirms that "more than one knife was confiscated."

Sometimes Forensic misses an item or two. James O'Connor, administrative asst. at the CME, recalls a case a few years back when the ME went to the premises of a murder of an old lady in the Bronx, ''We asked Forensic if they had finished with their search," recalls O'Connor, ''and they said yes - then one of our team opened a closet and out fell another dead body."

Forensic, in its zeal to find a murder weapon in Room 100, overlooked a few items lying in the middle of the room, virtually drenched in blood: three hypodermic needles, a bottle of Tuinal pills and "some brown flaky powder.'' These items were noticed by associate medical examiner Dr. Geeta Natarajan. The diminutive, Indian-born Dr.Natarajan, regarded by her colleagues as ''an ace," arrived at the hotel around 3:30 Thursday afternoon. She collected Forensic's finds along with her own and brought them with the body back to the CME's Mortuary at 520 First Av. for autopsy and toxicology and serology [bloodstain] testing at 5:30.

Aside from three large trunks, Sid and Nancy seemed to use plastic Harrod's shopping bags to store most of their possessions. One bag emptied on the CME's table contained assorted personal photos of the pair and memorabilia carefully enclosed in plastic envelopes, enough black hosiery to "leg" a convent, and Vicious' celebrated chain and lock. One of the enclosed photos showed the half-inch thick metal bike chain adorning Sid, another showed the chain around Nancy's throat. There was very little money in the room and "only pocket money" in Sid's possession.

Apprised of Sid Vicious' reputation in England - ''he's bigger than Elvis said an English observer to the proceedings - Dr. Baden and Dr. Natarajan made preparations for an extensive autopsy and testing.

The autopsy, which was not completed until 8:30 Friday evening, concluded that Nancy Spungen died of external and internal hemorrhaging caused by a 1" wide incision into the lower abdomen, deep enough to rupture the mesenteric blood vessels.
According to O'Connor, who has been at the CME for 20 years, "If the person who stabbed her wasn't so prominent, and we wouldn't have to testify in court, the autopsy would have been done in an hour, or a hell of a lot sooner." Also found on the body were track marks, contusions and ecchymoses (the medical term for bruises, black and blue marks). Of particular interest were two bruises found on Nancy's face, one the size of a quarter on the right side of the chin. The other, larger bruise on the side of her right eye corresponds with Skip Wayne's report of a fight between the two which resulted in "Sid bashing Nancy over the head with his guitar." According to Neon Leon and Cathi O'Rourke, Nancy came to their room the night before her death wearing a red beret. She removed the hat, showed the bruise and said. ''Look what Sid did to me."

Pressed for her findings, Dr. Natarajan explained that "a knife wound as opposed to a bullet wound cannot be distinguished definitely as homicidal or suicidal… but, as there was no note [written and left by the deceased], the evidence does not stand up as suicidal.''

The autopsy of Nancy Spungen was no simple matter. Although there was only one stab wound, the ME's job was compounded by Nancy's deteriorated condition - the result of her much-publicized sado-masochistic relationship with Vicious and her drug addiction. In O'Connor's words, "A person who dies with a lot of drugs on board, dies very differently than a person not on drugs.'' Until toxicology and the serology tests are completed, the exact time of the stabbing and of death are not certain. At present, tests are continuing for heroin, morphine, Tuinal, Dilaudid, methadone and Quaalude. Present speculation is that Nancy Spungen was stabbed between 6 and 7 a.m. and died between 8 and l0 a.m.


Written and researched by Phil Singleton.
This feature is copyright to and Phil Singleton and may not be reproduced without written permission.
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All material ©Phil Singleton

God Save The Sex Pistols ©Phil Singleton / 2006
All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission.

God Save the Sex Pistols

God Save The Sex Pistols ©Phil Singleton /