Jack the Ripper – The Case Reopened BBC1

Programme Name: Jack the Ripper: The Case Reopened - TX: 04/04/2019 - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: with Anatomage table. Professor David Wilson, Emilia Fox - (C) BBC - Photographer: Hugh Campbell
Professor David Wilson and Emilia Fox (C) BBC

When I was on the last day of filming for BBC4’s Dark Son back in August, the film’s presenter and top criminologist David Wilson was chatting about the Jack the Ripper documentary he had just made with Emilia Fox.

He was talking about how the programme shed new light on the case. Let’s face it, the Ripper industry of books, conventions and fansites can be tawdry. Many new publications are boring and often exploitative.

However, having read David’s A History of British Serial Killing, I knew this new take on the case would be more sober and have something new to say. David said one new aspect of the BBC1documentary was that they had been allowed to run the case files through the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System (HOLMES).

Five or six victims?

It is generally accepted that during the 1888 reign of horrible murders, someone killed five women in Whitechapel. Hallie Rubenhold’s excellent new book The Five is now challenging the orthodoxy that all the victims were prostitutes.

Along with the Silent Witness actor Emilia Fox, David has been able to use HOLMES as the police would do today, to find patterns in a complex series of crimes. In the film they argue there is strong evidence that there were actually six victims. Martha Tabram is cited here as the first one.

They then consult a geographic profiler with this news. Geo-profiling is another modern technique used to analyse a series of crimes to create a pattern. This pattern can then reveal where a perpetrator lives or works.

New pattern of crimes

This is a subject I became interested in when writing The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper and some of my research ended up in February’s documentary Dark Son.

For this new film, they use the fresh geographic pattern of six victims including Tabram to reveal a possible suspect.

Does this mean it’s case closed for David and Emilia? I doubt it. But when there is so much nonsense and prurience circulating about this sad and tragic series of deaths, it should be intriguing to see a more measured and forensic approach being taken to this elusive case.

Jack the Ripper – The Case Reopened BBC1, Thursday 4 April, 9pm

The Yorkshire Ripper Files

I remember as a student being woken by the radio alarm to news that police had finally arrested the Yorkshire Ripper – after long six years of hunting him.

Milgarth Police Station, Leeds. By Mtaylor848

That was 1981. Big news. The murderer had spread fear across the North of England with his cowardly, obscene hammer attacks on women.

The media had started by loyally reporting police efforts to catch the culprit, but this switched to doubts and criticism. Politicians turned on the police. The Reclaim the Night campaign was launched in Leeds in 1977 by women angry that police were telling them to stay home at night.

Film-maker Liza Williams

A new three-part BBC4 documentary, The Yorkshire Ripper Files: A Very British Crime Story, revisits these events. It evokes well the horror and tragedy of the time

The opening episode begins with the murder of mother-of-four Wilma McCann in 1975. Her son Robert, then just a little boy, recalls going to look for her with his siblings early in the morning.

The series, made by film-maker Liza Williams, places the victims at the heart of its account. She meets survivors of Peter Sutcliffe’s attacks as well as other relatives.

Sutcliffe interviewed nine times

It’s an atmospheric documentary, a thought-provoking look at an investigation that went badly wrong.

As far as I can see in episode one there are no great surprises. The bias and disbelief shown by police towards some of the victims, the fact that Sutcliffe eluded serious suspicion despite being interviewed nine times, and the blunders are fairly well known.

However, with it use of archive footage and telling interviews, the series is a powerful depiction of a case that changed the way police investigations are conducted for good. It also makes the point strongly that societal prejudices helped Sutcliffe to evade justice for so long.

He killed at least 13 women and attacked eight others. I say ‘at least’ because some observers suspect he killed more than that.

The Yorkshire Ripper Files: A Very British Crime Story BBC4 Tuesday 26 March

Dark Son on BBC4

Dark Son: The Hunt for a Serial Killer on BBC4
Re-enactment from Dark Son

This intriguing documentary is now scheduled for next Tuesday (12 Feb) at 9pm on BBC4.

Dark Son: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is a 90-minute look into one of the most appalling and unsolved serial killer cases in British history.

In 1964-65 a kerb-crawler murdered six women in west London. He left their naked bodies in the River Thames or various outdoor secluded spots. Scotland Yard mounted its biggest ever manhunt but could uncover no strong suspects.

The killer stopped his murder campaign in February 1965. The public and media largely forgot the crimes.

As described elsewhere on this blog, the producers at Monster Films have pulled together a team of experts to reinvestigate the case. Child murderer Harold Jones is the prime suspect the police overlooked, the film argues.

Will the Met re-investigate the case?

I’ve heard that senior Scotland Yard figures have seen the film and been in touch with the producers. The Met could sanction a new review of the crimes and Jones’s possible connection.

This could be vital. While the programme’s experts, including criminologists and former detectives, have done a fine job in delving into the past, the police can access old records that are out of bounds.

These include witness statements, and old employment and driving records. It is unlikely there will be conclusive proof condemning Jones, a very devious character, but a powerful circumstantial case could emerge.

Anyone who can’t wait until Tuesday to see the film can catch it on BBC iPlayer until next Monday.

Guesswork and the release of murderer Harold Jones

Harold Jones in jail in 1921

Thanks goodness deference to authority largely gets the middle finger today.

This means we can give short shrift to claptrap like this: ‘Sadistic crime is probably more rare in England than in any other country in the world. Curiously enough, even the few known exponents in our English records are apt to bear an alien name.’

So, just to be clear – sadism is a vice of foreign blighters. The English do not stoop to such shameful behaviour.

This view, voiced in 1941, was not that of some loudmouth in a pub after one too many. It was the opinion of the Commissioner of Prisons, Alexander Paterson.

Sadism and cruelty

The problem he faced was what to do with Harold Jones, who had been convicted of murdering two little girls when he was 15. In 1941 Jones had served 20 years, considered a ‘life’ term at the time.

During his incarceration, the consensus had been that Jones was a sadist who showed no remorse. Senior medical officer W Norwood East reported that for Jones ‘the sexual act reaches its highest gratification when accompanied by cruelty’.

In 1936 the governor of Maidstone prison, B Grew, was damning, ‘Sad as it may seem I can see no hopeful prospects for Jones in the future.’

But by 1941 Paterson was effectively muddying the waters. The medical profession really knows little about sadism, he suggested. 

Continue reading

Murder by the Sea

First posted on robinjarossi.com 2 4 18

I spent Good Friday working on a documentary being made for CBS Reality called Murder by the Sea. The setting was a chilly boatyard in Cardiff.

The premise of this 12-part series is fascinating. It is about how the seaside has been the setting for a spectrum of homicides down the years.

Coastal towns can be quiet and idyllic, faded and in decline, or well-off and socially conservative. But they are often shaken by shocking crimes.

From Blackpool to Pembrokeshire

Blackpool is a pleasure resort that attracts holidaymakers, but also dodgy types. The high turnover of visitors makes it a transient destination – ideal for criminals or those with predatory designs on unsuspecting strangers.

Quiet resorts can also be exploited by the ruthless. Morecambe is a pleasant seaside town at the foot of the Lake District national park. Birdwatchers and hikers love the area. It was not prepared for a brutal double murder of Tony Marrocco and Paul Sandham that hit the town in 1995.

What is it about the seaside? Do these places have a feeling of anonymity? Or, as Murder by the Sea‘s opening sequence suggests, is it that some people associate them with the ‘end of the line’.

Serial killer John Cooper

So I found myself in a yard full of wooden boats, many antique, all being rebuilt or repaired. I’d been asked to comment on some of the cases being covered. These ranged from the Morecambe murders, committed by Terry Clifton, to a particularly chilling case on the Pembrokeshire coast.

John Cooper committed two double murders with a shotgun. The first was in 1985 when he raided the isolated farmhouse of siblings Richard and Helen Thomas, both in their 50s.

Four years later he ambushed Oxfordshire couple Peter and Gwenda Dixon on the coastal path. He forced Mr Dixon to give him his bank details, and brutally shot the couple. He later took about £300 from his victim’s account.

Life without parole

Cooper was a horrible man. He brutalised his young son, and later tried to implicate him

in his own crimes. He was suspected of having committed around 70 burglaries and sexually attacked two teenage girls when he pounced a group of youths in 1996.

While Cooper thrived on the reckless thrill of terrorising all those around him, he was also calculating and cunning.

He was finally arrested in 2009 and went to jail for life without parole in 2011. Continue reading

Documentary puts Harold Jones on trial for Jack the Stripper crimes

Criime Scene in Acton where the body of Bridget O'Hara was found earlier today 16th February 1965.  Pictured: Policeman standing at spot where body was found, in between fence (on left) and brick hut near embankment.  Bridget O'Hara was a confirmed victim of serial killer known as 'Jack the Stripper' who was operating in London 1964-1965 and killed 6-8 women prostitutes & dumped their bodies around london or in the River Thames.  The serial killer has never been caught.

Crime Scene in Acton where the body of Bridget O’Hara was found on 16 February 1965. © Mirrorpix

First posted  1 10 17 on robinjarossi.com

Despite the huge difficulties in unmasking the man who got away with the murder of at least six women in 1960s London so long after the event, efforts are still ongoing in 2017 to unravel this chilling mystery.

Since the publication of The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper in July, I’ve been in touch with author Neil Milkins. In his 2011 book Who Was Jack the Stripper? he makes an interesting case for Harold jones, a child sex killer, having been the guilty man.

My own feeling is that the case against Jones is circumstantial. However, in researching my book I did come across one tantalising new connection between Jones and the 1960s investigation.

This has helped to spur Neil into pushing on with more research on the case and assistance in a new documentary,

Harold Jones teenage killer

As a 15 year old, Jones had callously murdered two girls in his home town of Abertillery in the 1920s. He eventually pleaded guilty because he would have turned 16 by the time of his trial and been eligible for hanging.

A ludicrously indulgent prison governor decided to release Jones from prison in 1941, despite his lack of remorse for his crimes. 

Kim Rossmo

Thanks to Neil’s research, it seems Jones turned up in west London, where he married and had a daughter. During the height of the manhunt for the Nude Killer, who murdered six prostitutes in 1964-65 and left their unclothed bodies in locations around west London, Jones was living under the noses of detectives.

For my own book, I was lucky enough to interview Dr Kim Rossmo, a leading geographic profiler. He had created a computer program that can analyse data based on a series of crimes, travel routes and other local information to produce geographic hotspots revealing where a perpetrator lives, works or has some connection.

Geo-profile hotspots in west London

He conducted such an analysis for me in The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper (Mirror Books). This suggests two hotspots in west London where he thinks the killer may have had a base.

A geographic profile by Kim Rossmo revealed this area around Hammersmith where the Nude Murderer may have been based

One is around Hammersmith and the other covers Holland Park/Notting Hill.

The significance of this is that Harold Jones – as Neil Milkins has shown – was living in Aldensley Road. This is right in the middle of the Hammersmith hotspot. But Jones never came under suspicion during what was the biggest manhunt in police history up to that time.

What would detectives have discovered about Jones?

Again, this doesn’t prove Jones was the killer. But it does raise the question… What if detectives had been able to narrow their focus to these hotspots?

Instead of being spread so thinly across 24 square miles of west London, they might have realised they had a cold-blooded psycho right in the murder zone.

They could have interviewed and checked out his movements and lifestyle very closely. So, he may or may not be Jack the Stripper… but on the other hand we know nothing at all about him at this time.

Did Michelle McNamara help crack the case?

Originally posted on robinjarossi.com 29 4 18

I’ve just finished the fascinating I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara.

What an amazing coincidence that California police finally nabbed a suspect for the Golden State Killer crimes so soon after its publication. Finding the perpetrator is the subject of McNamara’s book.

Or was it a coincidence?

It looks as if McNamara’s investigation may have inspired the capture of suspect Joseph James DeAngelo. The cops somehow surreptitiously got his DNA from something he threw away and came up with a match.

Joseph James DeAngelo

What is not clear at the moment is how they latched onto DeAngelo, a former cop. However, the book contains a couple of ideas about he could be caught one day.

It has some geographic profiling of where his murders and rapes, carried out between 1976 and 1986, were committed. He was linked to 50 rapes, 12 murders and many burglaries.

The purpose of this kind of profiling is to indicate where a predator may live or work. The geo-research by a detective McNamara was talking to and by Kim Rossmo, the leading geographic profiler (whom I interviewed for The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper), both pinpoint the area around Citrus Heights. This is precisely where DeAngelo lived and was arrested last week.

Using DNA to catch DeAngelo

The use of ancestral DNA to unmask the serial killer was another feature of McNamara’s theories for trapping the GSK. McNamara died in 2016 before finishing the book. However, her researcher, Paul Haynes, and journalist Billy Jensen pieced her notes together to finish it.

Continue reading