Killer reveals the dark truth behind his ‘gentle’ painting of a prison tennis court

Steven Tafka’s book The Art of Crime delves into British prisons and his job as an art teacher, where he was able to teach the supposedly unteachable

The book details life in UK prisons (file image)
The book details life in UK prisons (file image)

A prisoner’s seemingly innocent tennis court painting surprised his aspiring art teacher when it was revealed to depict the spot where he’d spread his murder victim’s body parts.

The killer dismembered his female victim and placed her body in bushes at the edge of a tennis court, and he is now using the same space as the vision for his latest artwork.

The revelation came when art teacher Steven Tafka, early in his career, was helping inmates behind bars in the UK take a tour of a prison.

He told the Mirror: “I asked the student why he was painting a tennis court and discovered he buried the body parts there.

“Nothing in my training really prepared me for this.”

Mr Tafka’s book The Art of Crime looks at his work in Britain’s prisons and his job of teaching the supposedly unteachable, but he said the longer he did the job the more it seemed like he was wearing a sentence serve .

He added that writing this gritty comic gave him liberation and helped him survive.

The Art Of Crime is a new book

Writing about the encounter with the killer, he explained that a short man stood awkwardly in front of an easel holding a particularly incongruous painting of a tennis court on which the inmate was unable to get the tennis player right.

Mr. Tafka said it was a strange subject, so he asked the student why out of all the things he could draw he chose a picture of a tennis court in a park with swings and slides in the background.

But before he could reply, Greg – the teacher in charge of the class – rushed over, grabbed Mr Tafka by the elbow and led him into his larder.

“There he distributed the body parts. He chopped up a woman and put some of the pieces in the bushes by a tennis court,” he told him.

The book takes a look inside a prison


(Getty Images)

Greg added it was best not to ask the prisoner about it, fearing he might accidentally open a can of worms.

Mr Tfka added: “I was a qualified teacher, I had done my PGCE, I had years of experience teaching art and design, but nothing in my education really prepared me for it.

“And so, with an upset stomach, I returned to the odd-looking man and offered to help him make the blobs of paint look more like a tennis player.

“We had the most bizarre conversation as I struggled to transplant the tennis player’s arms and legs to the front of his body while trying not to mention the impasto patches of green and brown that the bushes were meant to be; I looked closely and fortunately I was able to. I don’t see anything lurking there.”

The book delves into stories from his first job interview and traces his journey as a rookie prison art teacher into the depths of the prison underworld.

He felt like he was serving a sentence


AFP via Getty Images)

Written in the form of a diary, it describes the often absurd everyday experiences of trying to help inmates gain a qualification against all odds.

Mr. Tafka, who wanted to be an artist since he was four, had to discover the art of teaching violent gangsters watercolors and introducing Monet to murderers.

He found himself creating swimming pool designs for an armed robber and trying to keep order in a classroom where one of the students thought he was Picasso Peppa Pig.

And all of this happened while he had to count the latex gloves in and out – so the prisoners couldn’t smoke them – and while he was watching for illegal liquor being brewed behind the classroom radiators.

Steve Hanrahan, Managing Director of Mirror Books, said: “This book gives all rodents an insight into the dysfunctionality of prison life, the often miserable conditions but, more importantly, the power of art to transform lives.

“The art that prisoners make is undoubtedly fascinating because it tells us something about the human condition and this book reveals the characters behind it.”

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