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.

Murder by the Sea on CBS Reality

Crime author Geoffrey Wansell presents Murder by the Sea

Originally posted on robinjarossi.com  1 5 18

Oh, we do love to be beside the seaside. Beaches, piers and perhaps a summer romance…

But Britain’s resorts do have a dark side, and this is explored in a series starting this month. Murder by the Sea is a six-part documentary on CBS Reality.

I got a bit of an insight into the series and the cases featured when I was invited to be interviewed on it.

Crimewriter Geoffrey Wansell

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.

Murder by the Sea is CBS Reality series

Filming day with BBC documentary team

Underneath the arches of Hammersmith Bridge

Originally posted on robinjarossi.com 12 2 18

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.

BBC documentary talks to geo-profiler Kim Rossmo about Nude Murders

Criime Scene in Brentford where the body of Helene Barthelemy was found earlier today 24th April 1964.  Pictured: Police surround alley in Swyncombe Avenue Brentford.   Helene Barthelemy 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 Brentford where the body of Helene Barthelemy was found on 24 April 1964. © Mirrorpix

Originally posted on robinjarossi.com 6 11 17

The BBC producers of the new documentary about the 1960s Nude Killer have asked me to put them in touch with an investigative expert I know.

Dr Kim Rossmo is a former detective inspector with Vancouver police. It was his most recent work as a geographic profiler that fascinated me. He provided me valuable analysis for The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper.

The personal geography of criminals can be what condemns them.

We all have our own network of routes and paths – to work, the tube, pub, school. The areas we cover are a giveaway about our habits and routines.

Rigel software helps to expose criminals

Geographic profiler Kim Rossmo

Similarly, the movements of serial criminals – burglars, rapists, murderers – can reveal patterns about them and where they may be based. Rossmo uses a sophisticated piece of software he has developed called Rigel to analyse a sequence of crime scenes to guide detectives.

Geographic profiling does not identify a serial criminal or solve a case, but it can be vital in pointing police in the right direction.

The analogy Rossmo uses to explain how geographic profiling works is that of a rotating lawn sprinkler. You can’t predict where the next drop will land, but when enough have fallen the pattern will reveal where the sprinkler is.

Comfort zones

We all have comfort zones where we spend most of our time – home to work to home to pub to home. Criminals operate within their comfort zones.

This is a very simplified outline and the success of a geographic analysis lies in the expertise of the profiler. They will spend a lot of time at crime scenes noting factors such as the weather, nearby bus stops, types of housing and businesses.

They will know that robbers tend to travel a greater distance from their home than burglars, that adult criminals travel further than juvenile criminals. Meanwhile, murderers often dispose of their victims further away from home than where they meet them. Continue reading

Voice of a Killer Special: The Colonel

Voice of a Killer Special CBS Reality

Michael Brookes and David Wilson on Voice of a Killer Special

I was lucky to holiday in Burgundy this summer. Every afternoon I ignored the heatwave and pool outside, however. I was watching killers being interviewed on my laptop.

This was homework for the new series of Voice of a Killer Special, on which I am a contributor. This CBS Reality programme takes an intriguing look at how the police interview murderers.

Using real-life interviews, lip-synched by actors, the episodes bring to life the psychologically twisting encounters between detectives and suspects.

Voice of a Killer Special

Professor Mike Berry has studied the Williams case

Sex offender Colonel Russell Williams

These are nothing like TV cop dramas. They tend to be low-key, very long and sometimes a little dull.

But, if you watch closely, there is always something going on beneath the surface.

The series’ opener is about a particularly chilling and unpleasant killer, Colonel Russell Williams of the Royal Canadian Airforce. He graduated from burglarising homes, stealing female underwear, which he photographed himself wearing, before moving on to rape and murder.

Continue reading

Written in Blood: Karin Slaughter

I became a fan of author Karin Slaughter when I was a judge for the Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award a couple of years ago.

This is for the year’s best thriller and her entry in 2015 was Cop Town. The story is set in Atlanta in 1974, a time when the police force is segregated on racial and gender lines.

Karin Slaughter appearing on Written in Blood

I was one of the judges who loved the book and was delighted when it was chosen as the winner.

Written in Blood

When I saw that Karin Slaughter was to be featured on CBS Reality’s Written in Blood series, I dropped everything to watch a preview.

The premise for Written in Blood is a clever one. Crime writer Simon Toyne meets six  renowned fellow authors to discuss the influence of true-crime cases on their books.

Karin and Simon Toyne

In this episode, Simon travels to Karin’s home city of Atlanta, Georgia. The case she discuses is that of a vicious travelling spree killer called Paul John Knowles, known rather luridly as the Casanova Killer.

What influenced Karin Slaughter

He was certainly no romantic figure. He was a kidnapper, rapist and murderer. His violent moves between states made him hard to catch for law enforcement agencies back in the 1970s.

Karin, who’s sold something like 35million books, talks about his hatred of women and how the case made an impact on her.

Karin Slaughter’s home city of Atlanta

Though I found the pace of the episode a little plodding in places, it’s certainly an interesting snapshot of a superb author. It goes out next Tuesday, 13 November, on CBS Reality at 10pm.

Other writers featured in the series include Peter Robinson and Tess Gerritson.

By the way, Cop Town is a fascinating period thriller. It follows two young women who join Atlanta’s police force at a time when it has just started to accept women officers in numbers. Ostracised by the men, Kate and Maggie struggle to fit in, while a cop killer stalks the streets. It evokes a time and place I knew little about, and it’s a gripper.

Dark Son promo

Harold Jones at the time of his trial and imprisonment

An industry promo for Dark Son: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is doing the rounds.

It’s a good insight into the forthcoming BBC documentary. This will be a fascinating investigation into Harold Jones’s child murders in Wales in 1921 and his potential links to the unsolved 1960s Nude Murders in west London.

As the author of The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper, which deals with the case, I have been involved with the filming. I was struck by the new leads and witnesses the producers have uncovered.

Who was Jack the Stripper?

The west London Jack the Stripper killings, as they became known, taunt us today. Between 1964 and 1965 someone murdered six women and left their naked bodies at various locations in the capital.

Because the victims were sex workers, the crimes faded from the headlines after the last murder, that of Bridie O’Hara, in February 1965. However, at the time it was Scotland Yard’s biggest ever investigation.

Suspects included a disgraced detective, underworld figures and almost anyone reported to favour unorthodox sexual practices. Police never charged anyone for the killings.

Criminology and law-enforcement experts

Neil Milkins was the first writer to cite Harold Jones as a suspect. Jones murdered two little girls – Freda Burnell and Florence Little – in Abertillery in 1921. I discovered when writing The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper that Jones was later living in an area of Hammersmith that would have been of major interest to detectives had they had modern-day profiling techniques available to them.

The makers of Dark Son approached the possibility of Jones’s involvement with an open mind. Enlisting criminology and law-enforcement experts, they have delved into this mystery and made some powerful connections.

Several writers have convictions that they know who did it – some of which are ludicrous. Dark Son will definitely add a wealth of new insights into these infamous crimes.

This post first appeared on robinjarossi.com

Voice of a Killer Special

David Wilson presents Voice of a Killer Special

Welcome to the new home of this blog, covering true-crime writing, books and other subjects.

I moved it on Guy Fawkes day in the hope that it would arrive with a small bang at least – which is this trailer. It highlights a new series I took part in call Voice of a Killer Special on CBSReality.

It is a fascinating look at killers under the pressure of police interrogation. I have a cameo at the end of the trailer, and did a little filming with the production team in Wales during the summer.

The first killer covered, on Tuesday November 27 at 10pm, is Colonel William Russell of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The series is presented by Britain’s leading criminologist Professor David Wilson, looking pretty stern here but he’s friendly and approachable in real life.

More to come on this series soon…