Did Sid Vicious Kill Nancy Spungen? Everything We Know...

Music | January 2, 2020

Sid Vicious, of punk rock group the Sex Pistols, with his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, outside Marylebone Magistrates court after being charged possessing the drug methamphetamine. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

In January 1978, the Sex Pistols called it quits. Bass player Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen were nursing serious heroin habits, so what better place to go than New York City. The two wreaked havoc on the scene until October 12th, when 20-year-old Spungen bled to death on the bathroom floor of a room in the Chelsea Hotel. Months later, while awaiting trial for her murder, Vicious died from an overdose.

After Vicious died, the NYPD dropped their investigation into Spungen’s death. In all likelihood, a gacked-out Vicious was the person who put an end to his girlfriend’s life, but there are some in the punk community who believe that Vicious was set up and that someone else was brandishing the knife. There’s no way to have a crystal clear understanding of exactly what happened that night in 1979, but here’s everything we know.

Sid and Nancy were on course set for destruction

source: The Hollywood Reporter

In another life, Nancy Spungen could have done something great. A gifted young woman, she graduated high school at the age of 16 and enrolled into the University of Colorado but dropped out in 1975 after she was arrested for buying pot from an undercover cop. Upon leaving college she went to New York City and go thrust herself into the burgeoning punk scene: she hung with the New York Dolls and The Cramps before establishing herself as the scene’s most well known groupie.

When Nancy went to London in 1977 she met Sid Vicious (born John Simon Ritchie) and from that moment on the two were inseparable. Their mutual addictions intertwined, they fueled one another and drove each other to madness. Even though Sid was losing it while he was in the Sex Pistols he could at least be controlled by the group’s management, but left to their own devices the two were heading down a road towards mutual destruction.

Sid found Nancy dead on their bathroom floor

source: flashbak

Sid and Nancy were staying at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City in the fall of 1978. Sid was ostensibly trying to get a solo career going, but for the most part he was just doing a bunch of drugs. He and Nancy’s hotel room was a hot spot for junkies and hangers-on. People were coming and going at all hours of the night. It was bad news.

When Sid woke up on the morning of October 12, he found Nancy dead on the bathroom floor. She had a knife wound in her abdomen and the coroners determined that she bled to death. Police determined that the knife used to kill Nancy was identical to the “007” flip knife that Sid purchased on 42nd street. After his arrest Sid gave conflicting stories as to what happened on the night Nancy died. Initially he said that the two fought and that while he stabbed her he never meant to kill her. He later said that Nancy fell on the knife, and finally he said that he didn’t remember what happened.

No one knows who really killed Nancy

source: pinterest

Because Sid was so out of his head on drugs when he was arrested, his recollection about what happened on the night of Nancy’s death was less than helpful. It’s more than likely that Nancy’s death was as simple as Sid stabbing her while the two fought, but there are some people in the punk community who believe that there was foul play involved.

There’s no concrete evidence pointing to anyone committing the murder other than Sid, but there’s a belief that Nancy was killed in a robbery by drug dealers when a friend of Sid and Nancy’s noted that a large bankroll was missing from the hotel room. This claim was never investigated in a substantial way by the NYPD, leaving many people to wonder whether Sid was actually the perpetrator of her death.

In his book Pretty Vacant: A History of Punk, journalist Phil Strongman suggests that New York character actor Rockets Redglare was responsible for Spungen’s death, something that Redglare denied until he passed away in 2001.

Sid attempted suicide after Nancy’s death

source: The Smoking Gun

On 22 October, ten days after Spungen's death, Vicious tried to kill himself by slitting his wrists with shards from a broken light bulb. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital for observation and while he was there he tried to jump to his death from a window. After orderlies pulled him from he window they reported that he shouted, “I want to be with my Nancy.”

While he was out on bail, Vicious gave an interview where he said that Spungen’s death was inevitability and that it was “meant to happen.” He went onto say that “Nancy always said she'd die before she was 21.” In the same interview Sid continued his suicidal line of thinking when he said that he wanted to be “under the ground.”

Mick Jagger paid for Sid's legal representation

source: Salon

Even though he was a former Sex Pistol, Vicious didn’t have a lot of money to throw around for legal fees. It was never reported at the time, but Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger paid for Sid’s legal representation. Decades later John Lydon finally tipped his hat to Jagger when he said, “Mick Jagger got in there and brought lawyers into it on Sid’s behalf…He never used it to advance himself publicity-wise.”

With Jagger’s lawyers on the case all Vicious had to do was lay low, but that’s not something he knew how to do. On December 9, 1978, Vicious attacked Patti Smith’s brother Todd at a concert in New York. He was arrested and sent to Riker’s Island for a 55 day detox program. When he got out on bail on February 1, 1979 he was placed in the custody of Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren.

Sid died before Nancy's death could be solved

source: allthatsinteresting.com

After making bail on February 1 Vicious threw himself a going away party -- it’s just that he didn’t know it at the time. Members of the New York punk scene all stopped by while Vicious took copious amounts of drugs in spite of his recent detox. On February 2, 1979 he was ruled dead by heroin overdose. As he was the number one suspect, his death put an end to the investigation into Nancy’s murder leaving the end of her life up to speculation. If Vicious had survived the night and gone to trial, maybe the NYPD would have discovered a different suspect, or they would have thrown the book at Vicious. Either way we’ll never know exactly what happened.

Tags: Crime In The 1970s | Nancy Spungen | Sex Pistols | Sid Vicious

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Jacob Shelton


Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.