Exploring true crime in Salford

Originally published on robinjarossi.com 13 11 17

Thank you to our hosts at the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences at Salford University on Saturday. Ian Cummins invited me along to take part in the all-day event on the subject of True Crime: Fiction Is Far More True than Any Journalism.

The process of writing, why people read crime and various ways writers have explored real crimes were all covered. Ian and his colleagues Marian Foley and Martin King were terrific hosts.

We went for a delightful drink in Manchester the night before – my first time in the city – before meeting at the university in Media City on Saturday, which is a rather strange jumble of modern architecture.

Ripper tours and female psychopaths

Mark Blacklock, author of I’m Jack, about Yorkshire Ripper hoaxer John Humble, was great company.

Caroline Jones gave us a tour of, well, Ripper Tours and what a strange entertainment they are. And Caroline Logan, a consultant forensic clinical psychologist, was really interesting on the subject of female psychopaths in fiction.

Beastly subjects, convivial company. I hope their plans to expand the event in future work out.

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

Wantage Betjeman Literary Festival

Originally posted on robinjarossi.com 31 10 17

I met an interesting group of readers when I went to speak to the Wantage Betjeman Literary Festival, which concluded over the weekend.

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.

Catching a Serial Killer by Stephen Fulcher

Originally posted on robinjarossi.com 13 9 17

Catching a Serial Killer by Stephen Fulcher

This book will leave you wondering at the injustice dished out to a detective trying to bring a vile killer to justice.

You may remember Stephen Fulcher’s story from recent headlines. He was the detective superintendent who breached Police and Criminal Evidence rules in an effort to find abducted Sian O’Callaghan. Sian, 22, disappeared after a night out in Swindon in 2011.

When Fulcher’s investigators closed the net on taxi driver Christopher Halliwell, the detective ignored the requirement to make the familiar ‘You do not have to say anything’ speech. Instead, he acted in the hope that Sian was still alive somewhere and he could appeal to Halliwell to confess where. The alternative was to arrest Halliwell, in which case the suspect might clam up and Sian could perish.

Meeting Christopher Halliwell

It was a career-risking move. Fulcher’s reasoning? Sian’s life took priority over rules designed to protect the rights of a suspect.

His encounter with Halliwell is the extraordinary fulcrum of the book. In the countryside, overlooked by a posse of police cars, he shared cigarettes with Halliwell and got him talking.

Sadly, he had murdered Sian. Halliwell took the police to the place he left her. However, Fulcher had another shock in store – Halliwell revealed the whereabouts of a second victim.

Continue reading

The Ripper’s London and how it’s changed

Crime scene: view across the Thames from Dukes Meadows, where Elizabeth Figg was found in 1959

Originally posted on robinjarossi.com on 11 7 17

London is special. Beautiful, ugly, intimate, sprawling.

The capital fed my interest in writing about the 60s’ Nude Murders, to explore how the place has evolved. I was a child at the time and my memories are vivid of a Highbury still shattered by the war, paraffin heaters and markets thronging with shoppers.

To say nothing of the pop songs on transistors all around, the TV – Corrie hairnets in black and white – even the way old relatives used to talk. Oh, do give over!

From squalor to £4m houses

The contrast between then and now is jarring. Living conditions, for example. One of the victims of the Nude Killer, Helene Barthelemy, lived in a bedsit in Willesden.

The house was crammed. Helene was in one room on the ground floor. A Jamaican nurse, who became her friend, lived in the back room. On the first floor were two young couples with a single child each, both families living in one room. One room! Toilet and kitchen facilities were shared.

Mary Fleming, another victim, lived in similar conditions in Lancaster Road, Notting Hill. What was once a squalid, overcrowded house in a slum area is today worth £4 million.

London crime scenes

Researching The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper led me to visit all the crime sites in the company of two recently retired detectives, Brian Hook and Andy Rose. They were generous in their efforts to explain to me the contrast in policing methods from the Sixties with those of today.

Swyncombe Avenue then and now: police inspect where Helen Barthelemy has been found in 1964, left ©Mirrorpix

One of the areas we toured was Chiswick, by the Thames. It was on the foreshore that two victims were found in 1964, Hannah Tailford and Irene Lockwood.

At the time the area was a bustling commercial neighbourhood of factories and warehouses, dealing with goods coming up the river and transported through wharves. Today it is a collection of dull private flats and gated estates. No doubt expensive, but gentrified and ‘improved’ to within an inch of its life.

Continue reading

Ripper book featured in Mirror

Originally posted on robinjarossi.com 17 7 17

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.’

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

Reopening Swinging London’s Nude Murders case

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 was found, in Berrymede Road, Chiswick July 1964.  Her strangled body was found by George Heard (34) (pictured) from his bedroom window this morning (0450am).  Her death was attributed to the work of a serial killer known as Jack the Stripper.  Also known as, The Hammersmith Murders case 1964-1965, when a serial killer was operating in London and killed 6-8 women prostitutes ; dumped their bodies around london or in the River Thames.  The serial killer has never been caught. *** Local Caption *** George Heard (34) of 53 Berrymede Road

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.

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