When it comes to famous movie killers, few are as notorious as the Saw franchise’s Jigsaw. First making his big-screen debut in 2004, the twisted killer’s inoperable cancer inspired him to truly test people’s willingness to live in a series of terrifying games.
In the movies, John Kramer was nicknamed “Jigsaw” because of his penchant for cutting a jigsaw-shaped piece of skin out of his victims. This sick symbol represented his victim’s lack of the necessary survival instinct to survive his tests.
But while the plot of the Saw franchise is fictional, few people know that in 2009, some years after the world was first acquainted with Jigsaw, a man committed a crime so horrific that the police initially did not initially divulge its full details to the public to avoid mass panic.
The then 38-year-old Stephen Marshall was a bodybuilder, personal trainer and former bouncer who lived in London with his girlfriend Sarah Bush, a former prostitute. Marshall had been one of her clients, and, despite being convicted of assaulting her, they remained together.
The couple rented a room in a flat owned by 49-year-old Jeffery Howe, who was described as “a jovial, charming character who had a heart of gold and would get on with anyone.” Howe’s heart was so good that he allowed Marshall and Bush to stay with him rent-free after falling on hard times. 
However, it was Howe’s good nature proved to be his eventual undoing. Pictured below is the bathroom where he was cut into a jigsaw.
The couple’s relationship with their live-in landlord turned sour when he eventually tried to get them to pay rent. The 49-year-old had clearly cottoned onto their dubious past, and he was reportedly reluctant to press the issue because of what they might do.
Then, on either March 8 or 9, 2009, the kitchen salesman mysteriously went missing.
A friend of the landlord, Shehrya Khan, had arrived at Howe’s house on March 15 after failing to contact him by phone that week and was told by his tenants, Marshall and 20-year-old Bush, that he had simply “packed up and left”.
Law enforcement arrived the next day to investigate and were told the same story by Marshall and Howe that their landlord had moved out.
Little did anyone know at the time, but Marshall and Bush had already begun to use Howe’s bank account – buying a laptop, shoes, takeaways, and a number of other items. The pair even had the audacity to sell their landlord’s belongings. To all extents and purposes, they wanted to steal his life.
However, it wasn’t long before the gruesome reality of what happened came to light when a severed leg was found on a farm some distance away.
Investigators soon realized that they were dealing with a murder case. The leg in question had been found in a lay-by in Hertfordshire wrapped in a blue plastic bag, and it was clear that it had not been removed in a medical amputation.
Another piece of the ‘jigsaw’ turned up a week later in Wheathampstead – a left forearm which had been dismembered at the wrist. While identifying the victim was a priority, it was initially difficult to do because of what remains had been found.
But the police got the breakthrough that they were looking for on the March 31, when a head was discovered, once again in a different place, in a field in Leicestershire. It, however, hadn’t just been severed, it had been mutilated beyond all recognition.
Howe’s eyes had been removed, his tongue carved out and what remained was simply a skull with some remnants of human flesh attached.
The torso eventually turned up in a different Hertfordshire location on April 11, and, to this day, the hands have never been recovered.
The victim was eventually identified as Jeffrey Howe using dental records and then the hunt for what the media dubbed “The Jigsaw Killer” began.
What made The Jigsaw Killer’s crime so unbelievable was how perfectly it had been carried out. Dismembering a human body is no easy task, and the incisions on Howe’s remains showed that he had been cut up with a surgeon’s precision.
“The dismemberment of victims isn’t that rare. It isn’t as rare as you’d maybe expect,” a specialist said of the case. “But dismemberment with this degree of skill is and that is one thing that struck us very quickly when we viewed the remains.”
Marshall was first linked to the case when police discovered that he had lived in the area close to where Howe’s torso was found.
He and Bush were subsequently arrested on suspicion of murder on April 21.
The arresting officer said that “[Marshall] was very, very nervous, jittery, his leg was shaking. Sarah Bush was uncomfortable.”
Despite there being no suspicious evidence in Marshall’s flat when officers first investigated in March, a more detailed investigation revealed that there were substantial quantities of blood in one of its two bedrooms, the bathroom and under the carpet.
It subsequently transpired that Howe had been murdered by two stab wounds to the back before being dismembered in the bathroom.
When initially questioned, Marshall said “no comment” to every single one of the officers’ questions, and Bush began to open up about how abusive he had been to her, claiming that her lover suffered from “mood swings” and that she was going to leave him.
To put the scale of the scattered ‘jigsaw pieces’ into context, the map below details how far apart they were found.
The Jigsaw Killer murder trial kicked off on January 10, 2010. To begin with, Marshall tried to claim that Bush had murdered Howe and that he had simply helped her to cut his remains up. Bush denied all of the charges which were made against her.
However, because of the overwhelming evidence linking them to the case, Marshall eventually admitted that he had murdered Howe and that Bush had helped him. He also revealed how he was able to dismember the body with such skill and it added an even darker element to the case.
Marshall had reportedly boasted to Bush that he had “considerable experience of disposing of bodies”.
Pictured above is an anatomical specialist explaining just how difficult it would be to precisely cut a body like Marshall did.
The Jigsaw Killer had gained this knowledge while working for London’s notorious Adams Family, a gang which still operates today, and claimed that he had previously used a meat cleaver, meat knives, a hacksaw, or a chainsaw to dismember bodies.
Marshall was ordered to serve a minimum of 36 years behind bars, and Bush was sentenced to three years and nine months for perverting the course of justice.
So the next time you sit down to watch the Saw franchise, remember that what you’re seeing on screen is not just fiction, it’s a direct reflection of the barbarity that some people are capable of inflicting on their fellow man.

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