Did sicko Sid really kill nasty Nancy?
Alan Parker's documentary casts new light on the punk slaying
Their story has been called Romeo and Juliet with syringes. They've been described as the Bonnie and Clyde of punk. But there is no romanticising the story of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. She died of a stab wound at the age of 20; he died of an overdose while on bail accused of her murder. He was 21.
It was always taken as given that Sid murdered Nancy. But now as the 30th anniversary of Sid's death approaches, a new documentary asks whether he really was the killer.
In the new film, The Commitments director Alan Parker attempts to clear Sid Vicious's name by presenting a host of alternative possible suspects for Nancy Spungen's murder.
Parker was a friend of Sid's mother, Anne Beverley, who asked the movie legend to try to clear her son's name before she killed herself in 1996.
But how did it all come to such an horrific end? For someone who was described as 'childlike' by Johnny Rotten when he first joined the Sex Pistols in 1977, Sid Vicious's demise seemed dramatic. How did the young John Beverley morph into Sid Vicious -- the nihilistic, drug-addicted and violent man who stood accused of murder when he overdosed on heroin at the age of 21?
Sid was already on a fast track to self-destruction in his teens and joining Britain's most notorious punk band didn't help. Hooking up with heroin addict and occasional prostitute Nancy Spungen only precipitated the final, sordid journey.
Vicious met Spungen in 1977. It is widely believed that Spungen introduced Vicious to heroin. She certainly caused plenty of tension within the band. Johnny Rotten is quoted as having said: "We did everything to get rid of Nancy. She was killing him. I was absolutely convinced this girl was on a slow suicide mission. Only she didn't want to go alone. She wanted to take Sid with her. She was so utterly f***ed up and evil."
When her dead body was found on October 12, 1978, dressed only in her underwear and slumped beneath the bathroom sink of room 100 in New York's iconic Chelsea Hotel, it seemed almost inevitable. She had bled to death from a single stab wound to her stomach.
Vicious was the prime suspect for the murder -- he owned the murder weapon and the pair had a history of domestic violence. Before he was arrested in December that year, he was committed to a hospital for attempting suicide by cutting his arm. In December, he was sent to prison for nearly two months and was released on bail in February 1979.
On the night of his release, he went to his new girlfriend's house to celebrate and he injected some heroin, which turned out to be almost 100pc pure. Sid overdosed and died.
While it seems like a cut-and-dried case of drug addiction and violence manifesting in yet another nasty and untimely ending, Alan Parker's documentary puts forward the theory that there were other possible suspects and certainly other motives -- drugs and money, to name but two.
In the documentary, Parker raises the question as to whether or not Vicious would even have been capable of killing Spungen, given that he had taken 30 tablets of the strong sedative Tuinal. The police reports from the murder scene revealed that six sets of fingerprints had been found in the room, but police did not interview any of the people identified, despite the fact that they were known to them.
The film will also bring to light the possibility that the murder was motivated by robbery, as no money was found in the room. At the time, Sid and Nancy had plenty of cash, having earned money from Vicious's version of Frank Sinatra's My Way and some live gigs. Witnesses told of a drug addict called Michael who lived in the hotel and was later seen with a wad of cash tied up with a hairband that belonged to Nancy. In Parker's film, Steve Dior, a friend of Vicious, even draws a portrait of the drug addict from memory, saying, "This is the guy I think did it. Michael."
Parker conducted 180 interviews for the documentary, and plenty of differing theories come out of those, some believing Nancy killed herself. Howie Pyro told Parker: "To me, she just did it herself because that's what people like that do, like teenagers who cut themselves." Others thought Vicious wasn't capable of murder. In the documentary Viviane Albertine, one of Sid's former flatmates, said she didn't know where the violent behaviour he sometimes displayed came from "because he wasn't actually a physically aggressive guy".
The film will not offer any definitive answers as to who killed Nancy.
The only person who knows that is the late Spungen herself and her killer, whoever that was.
The film does open up the possibility that someone other than Sid could have murdered her, but the likelihood is we will always be left with the question 'who killed Nancy?'
'Who Killed Nancy?' is in cinemas from February 6