“Interest in serial killers has never been greater with books, newspaper articles, films and all manner of memorabilia appearing – one manufacturer is even planning to bring out a series of ‘Great Mass Murderers’ lunchboxes, flasks and backpacks for kiddies, featuring the likes of Fred West, Jeffrey Dahmer and Dennis Neilsen.” declares Hugh Numpty, managing editor of top tabloid The Shite, defending the newspaper’s decision to run a serial killer themed competition. “To say that we’re cashing in on a tragedy is ludicrous – we’re simply capitalising on the reading public’s current interest in an aspect of crime in order to inform and entertain them.” The competition, described by politicians and media commentators as ‘tasteless’, has also attracted criticism from the police, who fear that, by glamourising the activities of serial killers could actually encourage crime. “What concerns us most is that the competition appears to be based around the activities of an actual killer who is still at large,” Metropolitan Police Assistant Deputy Commissioner Neil Crucklestone told a press conference yesterday. “By giving this individual such publicity, the competition could encourage him to kill more. It could also encourage copycat killings by others seeking to influence the outcome of the competition.”

Numpty has dismissed such fears, pointing out that the competition doesn’t require readers to successfully predict the so-called ‘C-List Strangler’, who has already claimed the lives of three minor celebrities, next victim. “This has nothing whatsoever to do with that lunatic, we’re merely asking people to name – from the list we’ve printed – which minor celebrity they think deserves to be murdered by a serial killer and in what manner,” he explained. “We’re giving people additional chances to win prizes by putting our named celebrities into the order in which they believe a serial killer would murder them. For both parts of the contest, the first five answers matching that of our expert, (condemned US killer Dick Lance, the ‘Meat Cleaver Maniac’ of Old Baltimore, responsible for at least seven dismemberments), will each receive a fabulous prize!” The editor maintains that The Shite‘s competition is no way connected to the ‘C-List Strangler’. “All of his victims so far have been former reality show contestants,” he says. “I mean, they aren’t real celebrities at all, are they? Our list is full of proper minor celebrities, like Jeremy Kyle and Anthea Turner. The ‘C-List Strangler’ would literally kill for victims of that calibre.”

According to the newspaperman, even if any serial killer was inspired to murder any of the celebrities on their list, it could be construed as a public service. “Let’s face it, nobody would actually miss any of them if they were murdered,” Numpty opines. “Besides, people are always complaining that there are far too many so-called ‘celebrities’ around today, so if someone was to off a few of those on our list, well, they’d be doing us all a favour really, wouldn’t they?” He has also claimed that the paper had agents clamouring for them to include their clients on the list when it was being drawn up. “Believe me, we had them on the phone constantly, offering up names – not just C-listers, either, there were plenty of B-listers they were keen to get on that list too,” he reveals. “The kind of publicity the apparent risk of being murdered by a serial killer can give a minor celebrity is priceless. In fact, if they actually were murdered then, arguably, it would be even better for them in terms of fame, conferring a kind of morbid immortality on them. With all the news coverage and televised memorials, they’d find themselves getting more air time than they’d ever get when they were alive. Not to mention the amount their estates and agents could rake in from the memorabilia!”

The prizes being offered by The Shite have also caused controversy, with readers being offered the chance to ‘become the envy of your friends by winning a genuine body part taken from the notorious Moors Murderess Myra Hindley’. Whilst most commentators have described such prizes as ‘sick’, others have questioned their authenticity. “I can assure readers that these are the genuine article,” Numpty claims. “ By special arrangement with a team of crack grave-robbers, we have obtained her skull, brain, heart, right hand and left foot, to offer as prizes in this fantastic competition!” This revelation has drawn further criticism from Assistant Deputy Commissioner Crucklestone, who fears it could encourage an outbreak of grave robbing. “If these artefacts really have been obtained from the grave of a notorious criminal then I fear that offering them as prizes in a tawdry competition could encourage other ghouls to go around digging up murderer’s graves and trying to sell their remains to newspapers,” he told BBC’s Newsnight. “Even worse, we could see a spate of victims graves being dug up to provide souvenirs for the kind of sick people who enter these kinds of competition.”

However, Numpty maintains that Hindley’s body parts are appropriate prizes for his newspapers readers, even claiming that they could serve an educational purpose in helping readers to understand the motivations of the evil killer. “Imagine, you could be using the brain-pan of one of Britain’s most reviled killers as an ashtray! Or you could have the chance to examine the warped brain that masterminded some of this country’s most sickening child murders!” he enthuses. “Or perhaps it is her heart which is the true source of Hindley’s evil. Is it truly black, (actually it is, and shrivelled and decomposed, but you know what we mean)? You can judge by seeing it yourself! Feel the thrill of caressing yourself with one of the hands that committed brutal child killings! Wonder at the foot that undoubtedly stamped down the earth over her victims’ graves!” He added that all would be delivered with a complementary jar of formaldehyde.