TWO heavily armed guards opened the door of our interview room at the high-security Florida prison and Bernard Giles walked slowly inside and shook my hand.
He was 5ft 11in, balding, bespectacled, unshaven and in regulation blue jail uniform.
We exchanged small talk for several minutes. He seemed an articulate, intelligent and rational man.
I knew he is about as far from “average” and “harmless” as any man could possibly be.
Giles, 65, is one of America’s worst and most notorious serial killers, and the most dangerous human being I have ever interviewed.
As we sat just two feet from each other, our eyes locked and I felt a shudder down my spine. I imagined him staring in the same emotionless way at his terrified young female victims just before he killed them. Over a frenzied 12 weeks in late 1973, Giles embarked on a horrific killing spree.
His victims — he has confessed to five but there may be more — were all local girls, hitchhikers that he picked up, drove at gunpoint to remote orange groves where he shot and sexually abused them.
They included Paula Hamric, 22, Nancy Gerry, 18, Carolyn Bennett, 17, Sharon Wimer and Krista Melton, both just 14.
Showing no mercy, he delighted in snuffing out their innocent young lives in the most despicably violent and depraved manner.
Now here he was, 45 years later. Much older, and without the long dark hair and thick moustache he had then. But the cold eyes remained the same. As one of his former neighbours told me: “He had the darkest eyes I had ever seen.”
My chilling encounter with Giles will air on ITV this Thursday. It is the fourth of my Serial Killer documentary series and by far the most unnerving. Unlike the others, Giles didn’t spend hours trying to persuade me of his innocence.
“You’re serving five life sentences for killing five young women,” I began, “So my first question is, did you kill those women?”
That deathly stare bore into me again: “Yes, sir, I did.”
The big question that has gone unanswered for 45 years is WHY did Giles kill those women? I was hoping to get an answer, not least for the victims’ families.
The extraordinary thing about Bernard Giles is how unextraordinary his background was. He was one of four children from a stable family who enjoyed a happy, loving childhood. (His siblings are all successful, well-adjusted people.)
At the time he began his murderous rampage, he was a 20-year-old electrician with no criminal record.
He lived in a trailer park in Titusville, Florida, with his wife Leslie, 18, and their five-month-old daughter Heather.
Nobody around him had any idea that he was a ticking timebomb of such horrifying proportions. Nobody, that is, except Giles himself.
Since the age of six, he had harboured a sinister craving for sexual violence against women. It first manifested during a game with a girl neighbour.
He told me: “I remember straddling her and strangling her. Playing . . . but that was my initial sexual imprint. From that point on, anything I saw or read that had anything to do with sexual violence against a woman was a sexual impulse. Growing up, I became obsessed with this.”
Over the next decade, this obsession grew until at 16, having failed at school and dropped out, it reached fever pitch. Giles saw a young woman in the street and felt a sudden urge to kill her. “It was an opportunity that had presented itself to me,” he told me, as if he was a businessman discussing a potential new deal. “This woman was getting in a VW and I had a knife. I went past the car and fortunately I kept going.”
If he hadn’t kept going? “She’d have been murdered.”
Giles knew he would one day act on his urges, saying: “It was my life’s passion. To murder . . . to murder women.”
That moment came three years later, after he picked up bar singer Nancy Gerry, a local girl.
He drove her to woodland, ordered her to get out of the car, walked her over to a tree and shot her dead. He sighed as he relived his emotions after that first killing and said: “I was very stimulated, very provoked. I mean, what is your passion in life?
“What is the thing you like to do more than anything else? And you’re doing it and you are so there you can almost see the atoms vibrating.”
As his eyes lit up when he relived that “atom-vibrating” thrill I saw the full horror of the man in front of me expose itself with evil, shuddering reality.
Giles spent the next 12 weeks hunting and killing women. Did it matter what they looked like? “Generally speaking, no.” So what was his criterion for selection? “Access.”
To any woman? “Yes, sir.”
That made you unbelievably dangerous for any young woman. “Yes, sir. I’m not defending my position, I’m describing the position. It was what it was and where I was at.”
At this point, I realised I was talking to a real-life Hannibal Lecter — a highly intelligent, articulate, self-aware man with a forensic memory for his victims and the way he murdered them, and a horrifying ability to talk about them in a detached, almost casual manner.
During the interview he insisted: “I wish I hadn’t killed any of my victims.” But I think he relished killing them, and relishes the memories of killing them.
When I asked if he felt any remorse after killing Nancy Gerry, he shook his head: “No, sir. Nothing.”
He remembers the appearance of all his victims but not their names.
Giles said: “Why would someone embrace the names of their victims? I saw these women as objects.”
He revealed that he decided not to kill at least another three young women he held at gunpoint because they talked to him, thus humanising themselves to him.
Giles is escorted to court for sentencing after being convicted of murdering Nancy Gerry[/caption]
Did he ever get an urge to kill his wife Leslie?
“No, I knew her. I never killed anyone I knew. The objectification of the victims, for me, was an important element.
“I did love her, but I was completely obsessed with this other thing. I didn’t realise how much I did love my wife until the last time I ever saw her, through half an inch of bulletproof glass.”
An hour into the interview and this was the first moment of any real emotion from Giles. I tried to provoke more emotion by showing him a photograph of his daughter Heather as an adult.
As he stared intently at it I asked him what he would feel about a man who snatched his daughter and terrorised, raped and killed her?
Giles: “I certainly wouldn’t appreciate it.”
He got caught because, in his words, he became “off the chain” in his crazed lust for murder.
Twelve weeks after starting his murderous spree, Giles slipped up. He picked up two girls at the same time, and when he tried to shoot one of them his gun jammed and they fled. Crucially, they had seen an electrician’s manual in his car with his name on it.
Giles is set to spend the rest of his life in Brevard County high security prison in Florida[/caption]
Giles avoided the death penalty by admitting all five murders. He will never come out of prison.
He has never apologised to the families of his victims. I suggested he look at the camera and do so. He shrugged: “What do you say to somebody that you murdered a member of their family . . . Of course I’m sorry. The fact we’re having this conversation, yes, I’m sorry.”
I don’t think he’s sorry at all. I’ve interviewed a lot of nasty people for my crime series Killer Women and Serial Killer. But none has left me feeling so repulsed as Giles.
At the end of the interview, I asked him how he felt about it.
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Giles: “It unsettles me that you have such a monstrous view of me.”
I have a monstrous view of Bernard Giles because he is a monster. Yet the true reason for his monstrosity remains a mystery.
When I asked him why he did it, he half-smirked and said: “If you like chocolate, you like chocolate. You cannot eat chocolate, but you can’t deny that you like chocolate.”
- Confessions Of A Serial Killer With Piers Morgan, Thursday, ITV, 9pm.
- Confessions Of A Serial Killer With Piers Morgan, Thursday, ITV, 9pm.
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