Local government officials in Basingstoke have been celebrating following the recent conviction of local resident Richard Markham for the brutal slaying and dismemberment of his best friend. Bizarrely, it is not the fact that a dangerous psychopath has been put behind bars, thereby making the streets of the Hampshire town once again safe for honest citizens to walk after dark that is the cause of their celebration, but rather the potential commercial benefits this gruesome crime might bring. “This is really going to put us on the map,” Mayor Tom Milt told a press conference following the verdict at Winchester Crown Court. “With a killing as grotesque as this, I’m certain that Basingstoke is now firmly in the frame to become Europe’s next ‘City of Bizarre Murder’!” Indeed, Markham’s killing and dismemberment of his drinking companion in 2002 was the second bizarre killing to occur in the town in a six month period. “With the ‘Body in a Suitcase’ slaying the previous Christmas, and now this ‘Dismembered Body Parts’ killing, we feel that Basingstoke can finally shake off its tag of being a ‘boring and grey’ London overspill town blighted by an ugly 1970s redevelopment,” enthuses Milt. “Critics will no longer be able to laugh at our crumbling concrete town centre, characterless ‘modern’ buildings and vast number of roundabouts. Instead, they will be forced to acknowledge Basingstoke as a centre for innovation in the art of murder! This title will be the perfect complement to our new Festival Place shopping development!”

The title of ‘City of Bizarre Murder’ is, of course, one of the highest accolades that can be awarded by the European Union, and recipients must show a sustained history of unusual homicides. Currently held by Frankfurt – following a rash of werewolf killings, a mass murdering of nuns and an unsolved series of deaths by poisoned knockwurst – the title is administered from Strasbourg by a panel of distinguished criminologists, retired police officers, criminal psychologists and celebrated murderers. “Quantity is not in itself a qualification – Dortmund, for instance had a far higher homicide rate than Frankfurt last time the title was awarded, but they were mainly either drug-related or the result run-of-the-mill domestic disputes, dull one-off bludgeonings and suffocations – ultimately we look to reward artistic merit,” explains Professor Leon Van Neck, current chair of the awarding committee. “The killings must be utterly bizarre in execution and motivation and dramatic presentation is of the utmost importance – bodies stuffed carelessly into wastebins, for example, simply will not do! Perhaps if the bin is then set on fire, or filled with acid, that would be an improvement. However, we do prefer inventive dismemberments, or even cannibalism, if possible!”

Basingstoke Mayor Tom Milt is confident that the recent murders in the town are sufficiently bizarre to make it a serious contender to become European ‘City of Bizarre Murder’. “It is rare for a town of this size to produce two nationally reported killings in such a short space of time, let alone as sensational as these two! We’re very proud of the sheer level of bizarreness in both cases – the first was apparently committed by a Tibetan Buddhist priest, whilst the most recent featured body parts strewn around a housing estate, hints of cannibalism with arms being baked in ovens, and the prime suspect’s midnight escape to New York! I’d like to see any other contender for this title beat that!” he says. The local council hopes becoming the European ‘City of Bizarre Murder’ will generate new employment opportunities in the Borough. “The local police’s Murder Squad will have to be expanded, not to mention cleaning services to clear up the mess left after these incidents – and then there’s the potential tourist trade, murder tours around the town, Black Museums, and the like,” enthuses Milt. “We’re already planning a themed weekend break with the local tourist board, which will feature fun family activities such as a ‘spot-the-body-part’ hunt in the actual park where the real dismembered body was dumped! Participants can score maximum points if they discover the carefully hidden rubber head! There will also be a competition to guess which suitcase the body is in at the local railway station’s lost property office – the prize, of course, being a full set of leather luggage! Perfect for your own body disposals!” Milt also promises that if Basingstoke was to win this coveted accolade, the town would not rest on its laurels. “I can guarantee may more murders of quality,” he asserts. “We’ve been recruiting potential bizarre murderers throughout mental health institutions and prisons nationally and are actively encouraging psychopaths, sociopaths and violent offenders to relocate to Basingstoke – we’re even offering relocation grants.”

Indeed, the mayor revealed that the council was currently interviewing several notorious serial killers due to soon be released on licence, with a view to bringing them to Basingstoke. “I’m confident of signing a very exciting prospect from Russia, who has been chased by several of the other cities in the title race. However, we’re offering him a very generous relocation package, including a two-bedroomed flat near the town centre and guarantee that he’ll be allowed to commit at least three grisly murders before he is caught by the police,” Milt confides. “We’re even willing to help him out in selecting suitable victims – it is a perfect opportunity to eliminate some of our persistant nuisance neighbours and council tax dodgers!” However, the council’s plans could yet be derailed by a technicality. “Basingstoke does not have, nor is it likely to gain, City status. It is merely a town and therefore ineligible for this title,” points out Ronald Justum, Mayor of the City of Winchester, Basingstoke’s bitter rival in the race to become ‘European City of Bizarre Murder. “Whilst at present we cannot match Basingstoke for the bizarreness of its murders, we feel sure that with our greater level of prosperity, cultural heritage and large numbers of foreign students, we can produce sufficient killings of ingenuity and sheer class to take this title with ease.”

Milt begs to differ, pointing out that Winchester hasn’t had a significant outbreak of mass murder since a series of anti-Jewish pogroms in the Middle Ages. “They may have a fancy cathedral and County Council Head Quarters there, but that genteel middle-class facade conceals some of the worst council estates in the County! Their recent history of homicide has been a sordid catalogue of grubby drug-related murders,” he retorts angrily. “Our lack of City status is simply a technicality, a matter of mere semantics – the fact is that we have the superior record in murder and we’re not afraid to advertise that fact! It is about time that Basingstoke got the recognition it truly deserves for this vital contribution to our culture and heritage!”