Letters written from jail by a notorious Lancashire killer are fetching big money on macabre websites. STEF HALL reports
To most it’s the kind of correspondence you’d never hope to get – but others are prepared to pay hundreds of pounds for the privilege.
Memorablia linked to a notorious serial killer and rapist who grew up in Lancashire is being peddled on dark websites aimed at true crime enthusiasts.
It is 16 years since Charles Chitat Ng was convicted of murdering 11 people in a death and torture spree in America with the help of accomplice Leonard Lake - a case that caused shock and horror across the world and led to a $14m trial in 1999.
The University of Central Lancashire’s Dr Phil Stone, an expert in thanatology – known as the sociology of death – says: “People are fascinated with murder and the macabre.”
Ng’s trial was one of the costliest in California’s history at the time.
People are fascinated with murder and the macabre
Ng, born on Christmas Eve 1960, was raised in Hong Kong by a Chinese family, but came to school in Lancashire in 1977.
A pupil at Bentham Grammar School near Lancaster, he spent holidays with his uncle Rufus Good and his wife Bernie at their home in Station Road, New Longton, near Preston.
They have consistently remained tight lipped about him over the years.
Ng, now 54, met accomplice Leonard Lake in 1983 and went on to commit a horrific murder and rape spree.
They filmed themselves raping and torturing their victims at a remote log cabin 150 miles east of San Francisco, butchering two baby boys, six men and three women.
A total of 45 pounds of bone fragments was recovered from the cabin site.
Lake, raised largely by his grandparents, served in the Marines and completed two tours of duty during the Vietnam War, but never saw combat. After being treated for psychological problems, both during the war and after, he attended San Jose State University and moved to a commune in the early 1970s.
In 1981, he married Claralyn Balasz, whom he met while working at a local renaissance fair.
Later that year, he met Charles Ng, who had just escaped Marine Corps jail where he was being held on charges of weapons theft.
Ng moved in with Lake and Balasz but she left her husband after tiring of his “strange behaviour.”
Lake was arrested for a firearms offence in 1982, but he skipped bail and hid in the remote cabin in Wilseyville owned by his ex-wife.
Ng moved in as well, and the duo began their campaign of terror.
The killings came to an end through chance after they broke the vice they were using to torture their victims. A clerk at a lumberyard spotted Ng trying to shoplift a vice and called the police.
When they arrived, Ng had fled on foot. Upon being arrested, Lake gave the police the name of his partner but swallowed two cyanide pills he had taped to the collar of his shirt. Ng, however, had disappeared.
When Ng was finally caught he was charged and subsequently convicted of shoplifting, felonious assault, and possession of a concealed firearm.
He was sentenced to four-and-half-years in a Canadian prison.
But after a long extradition battle, Ng was handed over to the US and was convicted of 11 murders in 1999.
Ng is being held on death row at California’s San Quentin prison awaiting execution by lethal injection.
Letters he has written from his cell are fetching hundreds of pounds online with true crime collectors.
A three-page letter and envelope set – both signed – is for sale for $49 and another one page written by the killer in 1989 and signed “Charles” is on sale for the pricey sum of $295.
Dr Stone adds: “There’s a market for death. It has always sold.
“I think its connected with the sense of ordinary and extraordinary.
“It’s trying to mediate that. There’s a fine line between human normality and abnormal evil intent.
“We are trying to connect and mediate with that abnormality during our every day lives.
“These people have gone from normal human beings to crossing the line of normality. We’re fascinated because we want a glimpse of that abnormality.
“A lot of serial killers have inspired popular culture like Hannibal, Jack the Ripper etc. It’s a fascinating subject. It’s a connection with history – and infamy has a price tag.”