Dark Son: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is now available to view on BBC iPlayer.
I have been talking about this documentary for a while now. It was almost a year ago that I got involved with filming some sequences for this re-examination of the unsolved Hammersmith Nude Murders.
My involvement was sought because of findings in my book The Hunt for the 60s Ripper. This employed some modern policing theories to understand why Scotland Yard’s biggest ever manhunt failed to unmask the killer of six women in London in 1964-65.
I consulted Dr Kim Rossmo, one of the world’s leading geographic profilers. He produced an analysis and map for my book that revealed two areas of west London where the killer was probably based.
Harold Jones lived in the middle of the murder area
It is this data that is used in Dark Son. One of the problems the original investigation had was that it was thinly spread over 24 square miles of London.
The geo-profile would have allowed detectives to focus resources on two hotspots around Hammersmith and Notting Hill. Had they done so they would have crossed paths with Harry Stevens.
This man, living in Aldensley Road, Hammersmith, never featured in the original investigation. As Dark Son explains brilliantly, Stevens was actually Harold Jones, a murderer of two children in his youth in 1921.
This new series about how police question suspected killers begins on CBS Reality on Thursday 3 January.
I am a contributor to it and had to do a lot of research on the six cases included. Watching or listening to lengthy questioning sessions was tedious at times. Unlike TV dramas, there usually isn’t much drama.
At the same time it requires patience for those vital moments when a callous killer may give themselves away.
They vary considerably here, from chilling psychopath Israel Keyes in the US to UK killers Nathan Matthews and Shauna Hoare, who killed teen Becky Watts. The latter tragic case starts the series.
Some of the killers are hard to pin down because they are psychopaths who lie easily and feel no guilt. Others are stupid and incompetent, and soon outfoxed by detectives.
The series, presented by Professor David Wilson, gives rare insights into the reality of all types of homicide and the challenges facing police. But be warned – the cases are generally sad and chilling.
Last Tuesday saw the conclusion of evidence being presented and filmed for Dark Son, the forthcoming BBC documentary about 1960s serial killer Jack the Stripper.
It a was a big day’s filming: for me 12 hours long, but for the Monster Films’ team much longer.
I was interviewed in the morning and was later on hand for a long session of afternoon-evening filming. Fascinating research from contributors, former police officers and others was explored.
It was a brilliant day. It was also a treat to be again working alongside criminologist Prof David Wilson and ex-detective Jackie Malton. David Howard (director) and Rik Hall (producer) from Monster ran the production calmly and superbly.
The venue was the Ebenezer Baptist Church Centre in Abertillery, Wales. The significance of the setting will become clear when the film is aired.
It has been in production throughout this year. I was initially involved for a chilly day’s filming in February on the Thames (two victims were found on the river foreshore).
From magazine feature to book to TV
I could not imagine how all this would unfold when I signed a contract to write The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper in October 2016 (Mirror Books). The idea grew out of a feature I proposed for a true-crime magazine that Mirror Syndication were developing.
My argument was that the case – and victims – were largely forgotten today and it should be reviewed and remembered.
The magazine was eventually shelved, but I was able to develop the research I had for the article into a book. Following its publication, my research sparked further new findings about the unsolved 1960s murders of six women in west London.
The documentary team assembled high-quality experts to delve further into the case. I can’t talk about the film’s content, but anyone who thinks they know everything there is to know about the case should think again.
These are the words of Professor Brian J Ford during BBC4’s Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills? And the death of Britain’s former boxing hero has certainly attracted rumour, legend and some wacky theories since his apparent suicide in 1965.
I was pleased that this documentary took a fairly sober approach to the case. It is far better than the recent irritating and overlong Ruth Ellis Files on BBC4.
It did not focus much on the outlandish claim that Freddie Mills was the serial killer known as Jack the Stripper or the Hammersmith Nude Killer. However, it does make space for author Michael Litchfield, whose book on the case made such assertions. These are unfounded, as far as I am concerned. Author and former police officer Dick Kirby says succinctly the idea is ‘ludicrous’ during the programme.
Mills: suicide or murder?
The film does make a convincing case that Mills probably did not shoot himself in the eye – a very rare method for a person to use when committing suicide.
Various theories are explored to support the idea that Mills was the victim of criminals. The boxing world and West End nightclub land where Mills was a part-owner of a night spot were heavily linked to the underworld.
Does the programme clear up the puzzle once and for all? I don’t think it makes a conclusive case. But it is a fascinating portrait of a much-loved personality – perhaps Britain’s first celebrity and the David Beckham of his time – who seems to have crossed paths with the wrong people.
Paul Longworth thought he had committed the perfect crime.
He strangled his wife, Tina, with a rope and left her dangling from the banisters. He then left the scene of the crime, their home. He went to Southport Sailing Club, where he was the commodore, to celebrate his 37th birthday party.
Back at home, he left his two young children asleep in their beds, while their dead mother was downstairs. No one at the party suspected he had just committed murder.
On returning home, he called the police, alerted his neighbours to the death and told everyone Tina had committed suicide. At first detectives believed him.
As former detective – and role model for Prime Suspect‘s Jane Tennison – Jackie Malton says during the next edition of Murder by the Sea, ‘What makes this crime particularly unpleasant and horrific is that he risked that his two children could have got out of bed and found their mother, which would have traumatised them.’
The series, on CBS Reality, has so far dealt with psychopaths and gangsters. This episode is different. It explores a story of domestic abuse, about the darkness behind respectability and the cold-bloodedness of this killer.
Thought he was cleverer than the police
Like the other talking heads on this episode, I found it hard to work out how somebody, even a man in a failing marriage, could have had such a void of feelings inside.
‘He came across as very much an arrogant man, says Professor Mike Berry. ‘He thought he was cleverer than the police, he thought he was going to get away with it.’
To find out why he didn’t, watch Murder by the Sea on CBS Reality (Monday 18 June 10pm, Tuesday 19 June 2am, Sunday 24 June 9pm).
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 →
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.
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.
Presented by crime author Geoffrey Wansell, the first case looked at is Stephen Akinmurele. It’s an intriguing but chilling story.
Akinmurele is a little known case, because he killed himself before he could be tried. He is Britain’s most prolific young serial killer, having been charged with murdering five elderly people between 1995 and 1998. Some of these were committed in Blackpool.
I’ve seen the opener and will preview it in full shortly.
Saturday was a fascinating glimpse into the world of documentary making – and the progress of the BBC team’s investigation into the 1960s Nude Murders.
I spent three chilly hours on the Thames between Chiswick and Hammersmith, talking to forensic psychologist Dr Mike Berry. Victims Hannah Tailford and Irene Lockwood were found on this stretch of water in 1964.
Blast from the past – Masonians Bowls Club
We were then filmed under Hammersmith Bridge before setting off to Masonians Bowls Club on Dukes Meadows. This is an old pavilion clubhouse (bowls lovers, they are in urgent need of new members), suitably stuck in the past.
It was full of old pennants from the 1960s and portraits of former club officials. A perfect setting for an episode of Endeavour – or a documentary about a 1960s serial killer.
Child killer Harold Jones
In the afternoon Dr Cheryl Allsop interviewed a detective who was on the 2006 review of the case. Finally, Prof David Wilson, the film’s main presenter, spent an hour being interviewing me.
He asked about the urban legends surrounding the Nude Murders, how I became interested in this strangely forgotten case, and the police investigation.
We talked about the geographic profile produced by Kim Rossmo for The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper. This placed child killer Harold Jones in one of the hotspots where the killer was most likely based. Scotland Yard would certainly loved to have known this back in 64-65.
It was a long day, but full of interesting insights into the documentary’s progress with the case. It was also hard not to be impressed by the calibre of the experts assembled by the producers, Monster Films.
Excellent investigators and experts
A couple of ex-policemen are also in the investigative team. Jackie Malton, former senior detective who was the inspiration for Prime Suspect‘s Jane Tennison, is among them.
It should not be forgotten that Monster Films is an award-winning team. Director David Howard and producer Rik Hall won a 2017 Royal Television Society award. This was for Interview with a Murderer.
There are intriguing interviews still to be done. This cold case could yet be blown open.