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.
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.
It is almost a year since publication of The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper, but the uncovering of new insights into this unsolved series of murders continues.
The BBC documentary about the London serial killer of at least six women is likely to reveal new information about a possible culprit when it’s broadcast later this year. I was lucky enough to take part in this for a day’s filming in February and heard of several intriguing new areas of inquiry being made.
Now I have been put in touch with a scientist at Queen Mary University of London. He has been doing new research of his own.
Steve Le Comber of Queen Mary University
Steve Le Comber is a mathematical biologist at Queen Mary University, London. He specialises in using geographic profiling to trace sources of disease outbreaks, such as malaria. He has occasionally worked alongside Dr Kim Rossmo, an investigator who helped me with my book.
Kim works on behalf of law enforcement agencies around the world by using his own geographic modelling to pinpoint areas where serial criminals may be based. He conducted an analysis of the Nude Murders for me. These were, of course, committed in west London in 1964-65. Put simply, geographic profilers analyse crime-scene locations using a computer algorithm to calculate where a perpetrator might live or work.
Such a technique was not available in the Sixties to Scotland Yard’s detectives. They were flummoxed by this careful, calculating killer.
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.
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.
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.
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 →
Among those asking me questions about the Nude Murders case were a couple of retired police officers and a former nurse. The latter had come to London as a young woman in the 1960s and spoke about the appalling poverty she encountered when making house calls.
Home of Betjeman
Why are the series of murders now so little known? How did the investigation compare to that for the Yorkshire Ripper in the 1970s? Why did the investigation, the biggest manhunt ever seen in Britain at that time, fail to unmask the killer? All these questions came up.
Wantage itself, where former Poet Laureate John Betjeman once lived, is a delightful market town and a lovely setting for a book festival. It was great to be involved in an event supporting books of all genres, along with the town’s independent bookshop.
This is a double-page spread devoted to The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper that was featured in the Daily Mirror.
The early reviews on Amazon were also encouraging, including this one from an Amazon Top 500 reviewer: ‘This new book, which caught my eye on a supermarket shelf yesterday via it’s excellent front cover, gave me what I can only describe as a complete account of these terrible happenings, and true crime buffs are in for a real treat. Author Robin Jarossi has done his research very well, drawing from the original case files, reading all of the contemporary news items that were published in the newspapers, as well as every other book that has written about the “60’s Ripper”, not to mention actually conducting fresh interviews with several reporters from the era, as well as some of today’s police experts.’
This was originally posted on robinjarossi.com on 2 7 17
It started as a suggestion for a new true crime magazine. Working as a freelance journalist at Mirror special projects, I wondered if there was a case we could cover that had not been written about a thousand times already.
Resident George Heard points to where he found the body of murder victim Mary Fleming, in Berrymede Road, Chiswick July 1964. Mirrorpix
I came across the Nude Murders of the early 1960s. This was a horrific series of killings in London that, despite the biggest ever police manhunt, was never solved. I had not heard of this shocking case. Most people I mentioned it to, apart from a couple of crime-fiction authors, had not come across it either.
Why had the killing of six, possibly eight, sex workers in Swinging London been largely forgotten? The killer could still be alive, walking the capital’s streets, despite having murdered more women than Jack the Ripper.
Notting Hill and Shepherd’s Bush
Between February 1964 and February 1965 one man cruised west London’s streets in his vehicle, particularly around Notting Hill and Shepherd’s Bush. He picked up and asphyxiated six women, leaving their unclothed bodies in various public places.
Two other similar murders, in 1959 and 1963, were possibly linked to this killing campaign.
I researched the case, spoke to former detectives to get their take on the investigation carried out 50-odd years ago. It turned out there were a lot of photos in the Daily Mirror‘s immense archive in Watford. It looked as though there would be plenty of material for a magazine piece.
Stephen Ward trial, Profumo, the Krays
The investigation gave an unusual and fascinating insight into Britain during that vibrant decade. It touches on major scandals and notorious figures. These include Stephen Ward’s trial, Profumo, the Krays – while exposing just how widespread and degrading the street sex trade was.