Before he gnawed on a man’s bones and “chucked” portions of the dismembered body in the Thames, Stefano Brizzi led a life that might be described as normal.
He lived in south London and worked as a Web developer at Morgan Stanley, making 70,000 pounds (about $89,000) a year.
He was active on Grindr, the popular gay dating app.
And he was a huge fan of the American crime drama, “Breaking Bad,” according to the Guardian. How big of a fan? So much so, prosecutors said, that Brizzi copied techniques used by the show’s main character, Walter White, to dissolve body parts in a bathtub full of acid – one of the signature moments of the TV series.
Those body parts Brizzi attempted to dissolve were of Gordon Semple, a 59-year-old police constable whom Brizzi, an Italian national, met on Grindr in April, the Guardian reported.
Brizzi was found guilty last month of murdering Semple, a three-decade veteran of London’s Metropolitan Police Service. On Monday, a judge sentenced Brizzi to life in prison with a minimum of 24 years served, the Guardian reported.
The 50-year-old also faces a concurrent seven-year sentence for obstructing a coroner.
“Regret you express now for Mr. Semple’s death has to be seen against what you did over a number of days to his body,” Judge Nicholas Hilliard told him, according to the Guardian.
Semple had recently completed 30 years with the Metropolitan Police Service, where he worked with the antisocial-behavior team, his brother told the Sunday Post.
“We couldn’t walk past any big pub or club without them stopping him and shaking hands,” Ronnie Semple said. “He was well known and well respected.”
Brizzi is the second British man in recent months to kill someone he met on Grindr. Last month, Stephen Port – who denied all charges against him – was found guilty of murdering four men after luring them to his London flat, according to Sky News. Port drugged his victims with fatal doses of GHB and raped them after they had fallen unconscious, according to the BBC.
What Brizzi’s crime lacked in the number of victims he made up for in sheer horror. What exactly the convicted killer did to Semple’s body and how he did it is not entirely clear, but the judge noted that the case included “terrible features.”
According to the Guardian, Semple went to Brizzi’s flat after the pair made contact on Grindr. Semple was supposed to be working when he messaged Brizzi that he was “free now for [a] hot, dirty, sleazy session,” the paper reported.
Grindr did not respond to a request for comment.
The company’s safety tips urge users to be cautious, noting that people should be careful about revealing personal information to strangers and should remember to let a trusted person know where they’re going if they plan to meet someone.
“If you start out lying, you will eventually get caught,” the company says. “Don’t bait and switch – it’s the surest way for things to end badly. Grindr is not the venue for you to explore your fantasies of being a different person. That’s not fair to the Grindr community, which thrives on honest representations.”
In the United States, the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings about romance scams perpetrated through such apps and dating sites.
“Millions of Americans visit online dating websites every year hoping to find a companion or even a soul mate,” the FBI said just before Valentine’s Day, adding that “the FBI wants to warn you that criminals use these sites, too, looking to turn the lonely and vulnerable into fast money through a variety of scams.”
Brizzi claimed Semple was accidentally killed during a “sex game gone wrong,” one that involved the constable being accidentally strangled by a dog leash, according to the BBC.
But a jury decided that Semple’s death was no accident.
Prosecutors maintained that the accidental strangling would have taken much longer than Brizzi’s story suggested it did, the BBC reported.
Adding to suspicion surrounding the death, prosecutors said, was that the two men had been hoping to bring more people to their sex party – but that when a third man showed up, Brizzi sent him on his way.
“I was right in the middle of strangling Gordon and I said to him, ‘Look, this is not the right time now, people are falling ill and it’s a mess,'” Brizzi said, according to the Independent.
In reality, investigators said, Semple had been killed.
Days later, as Semple’s partner at work desperately called his phone and reported him missing, Brizzi was trying to dispose of his victim. He was captured on camera buying tools that he would use to get rid of the body – heavy-duty scissors, knives, plastic buckets, cleaning products and a perforated metal sheet, according to the Guardian.
Those tools were used in horrific fashion to remove the flesh from Semple’s body, the paper reported. Some parts of the body reportedly were found in the bathtub, others in the buckets Brizzi had purchased.
In addition to trying to dissolve the body using acid, Brizzi dismembered other parts. Investigators also found teeth marks on a rib discovered in Brizzi’s kitchen, though he denied attempting to eat his victim’s body, according to the Independent.
There were also “pools of human fat in the oven,” the paper reported. And investigators found blood on the oven handle and Semple’s DNA on chopsticks and a cooking pot, the Guardian reported.
A human foot was later found in a nearby neighborhood, but many of Semple’s remains were never found. What remained of the body was eventually discovered by police after neighbors reported a putrid smell emanating from Brizzi’s apartment.
More than 400 people attended Semple’s funeral, the Sunday Post reported, and his fellow officers served as his pallbearers.
“Gordon was obviously involved in things we knew nothing about but to us, he will always be the Gordon we knew,” Ronnie Semple said of his brother. “We were very proud of him.”
Of his brother’s killer, he added: “I hope he rots in jail; the guy is a monster.”
British media labeled Brizzi a “Satanist” and said his life began to unravel after he developed a severe addiction to crystal meth that cost him his career at Morgan Stanley.
During his trial, jurors were shown footage of Brizzi being interviewed by detectives after his arrest in April. Asked about his drug use over the previous 24 hours, he admitted that while disposing of Gordon Semple’s body, he thought he was “getting away with it,” the Guardian reported.
“Yes, I took crystal meth yesterday when I was thinking I should get rid of the corpse. . . . Four days have passed by and nobody had seen or said anything. I thought I was getting away with it. I had nearly finished but I took a shot, I was going to finish the job today,” the Guardian quoted him as saying.
Investigators found a copy of the satanic bible downloaded on Brizzi’s computer, as well as notes he’d written to the devil. He confessed to police that he killed Semple, noting that “Satan told me to,” the Independent reported.
The Independent reported that Brizzi cried and said “I’m sorry” throughout his trial. Yet, he told jurors that his victim died in a “state of erotic bliss.”
(This post was originally published on Washingtonpost.com)