Playland – a shattering memoir

Playland by Anthony Daly

Posted originally on robinjarossi.com 22 3 18

I do some work as a book editor. This month has seen the publication of a memoir I helped to prepare that was one of the most shocking and disturbing I have ever read.

Playland: Secrets of a Forgotten Scandal is by Anthony Daly. It recounts how as a young man in Ulster of the 1970s he fled the Troubles and came to London.

A book lover, he got a job in Foyles. Then his story took a dark turn.

He was swindled out of his money and found himself in Playland, a notorious games arcade on Piccadilly Circus. Here he was befriended by two men, one posh, one not.

Playland exposes the seedy side of the 1970s

They were charming and concerned about him. Accepting their offer of a meal and a loan, he joins them. However, he is drugged and raped, and then blackmailed into becoming a male prostitute.

He is beaten, abused and forced to gratify high-ranking politicians at sordid parties. It is a brutal and terrifying existence. Daly drowns out the trauma of it by taking all the drugs and drink he can get.

Despite the squalor and cruelty he depicts, the author writes tenderly and evocatively about the period and the lads he befriended on the Dilly. In particular, his friendship with the reckless Damie is painfully moving.

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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.

Freddie Mills rumours

Originally posted on robinjarossi.com 30 8 17

I only devote a page or so to the theory that British light-heavyweight boxer Freddie Mills was the Nude Killer in The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper. The reasons for my scepticism? Mills never appeared in any police reports as a suspect and there are simply no facts connecting him to the crimes.

But there have always been rumours. In the past week newspaper reports have brought these back with a vengeance. A former Sun reporter, Michael Litchfield, has written a book called The Secret Life of Freddie Mills. He claims Mills admitted his guilt to Detective Chief Superintendent John du Rose.

Du Rose was running the biggest manhunt in British criminal history. But this new book suggests du Rose let a potential self-confessed serial killer go free to get his affairs in order because he and Mills were Freemasons and trusted each other.

Apparently, the two men agreed that Mills would hand himself in and du Rose would somehow assist in his plea to have charges dropped from murder to manslaughter. That’s manslaughter six or seven times…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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