The CBS Reality series continued to rake through the dark side of our seaside towns this week. This time it was the sad case of Swansea landlord Alec Warburton, who was murdered by his callous tenant, David Ellis.
Ellis had a number of grubby convictions behind him, including sexual offences against a girl. He was also a liar and seems to have lied about his financial situation to convince Mr Warburton to rent a room to him.
Swansea is a pretty safe community, so what ensued shocked the locals. Ellis plotted to kill Warburton, who was 59, having arranged for the other tenants to forward their rent to him, Ellis.
He then launched a horrendous hammer attack on the unsuspecting landlord. As Home Office pathologist Dr Brian Rodgers says in the programme, there were no defence injuries on Mr Warburton. Ellis’s attack was a cowardly assault from behind.
The third episode of Murder by the Sea on CBS Reality is about a case that is 100 years old. The murder of Mamie Stuart was all made all the more unhappy because this was a crime in which the killer escaped justice.
Mamie, a 26-year-old chorus dancer, disappeared in 1919. She had married to a man called George Shotton in 1918.
They met soon after Mamie had finished a tour on stage and she had returned home to Sunderland. Shotton, something of a charmer and 13 years older than Mamie, was a marine surveyor. He was in Sunderland on business when he encountered Mamie in 1917.
Marriage turns violent
Once they were married Mamie went to live with Shotton at his home in Swansea. Having led what was probably a precarious but lively existence as a dancer, Mamie soon found domestic life with Shotton a living hell.
When I was on the last day of filming for BBC4’s Dark Son back in August, the film’s presenter and top criminologist David Wilson was chatting about the Jack the Ripper documentary he had just made with Emilia Fox.
He was talking about how the programme shed new light on the case. Let’s face it, the Ripper industry of books, conventions and fansites can be tawdry. Many new publications are boring and often exploitative.
However, having read David’s A History of British Serial Killing, I knew this new take on the case would be more sober and have something new to say. David said one new aspect of the BBC1documentary was that they had been allowed to run the case files through the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System (HOLMES).
I remember as a student being woken by the radio alarm to news that police had finally arrested the Yorkshire Ripper – after long six years of hunting him.
That was 1981. Big news. The murderer had spread fear across the North of England with his cowardly, obscene hammer attacks on women.
The media had started by loyally reporting police efforts to catch the culprit, but this switched to doubts and criticism. Politicians turned on the police. The Reclaim the Night campaign was launched in Leeds in 1977 by women angry that police were telling them to stay home at night.
This intriguing documentary is now scheduled for next Tuesday (12 Feb) at 9pm on BBC4.
Dark Son: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is a 90-minute look into one of the most appalling and unsolved serial killer cases in British history.
In 1964-65 a kerb-crawler murdered six women in west London. He left their naked bodies in the River Thames or various outdoor secluded spots. Scotland Yard mounted its biggest ever manhunt but could uncover no strong suspects.
The killer stopped his murder campaign in February 1965. The public and media largely forgot the crimes.
As described elsewhere on this blog, the producers at Monster Films have pulled together a team of experts to reinvestigate the case. Child murderer Harold Jones is the prime suspect the police overlooked, the film argues.
John Cooper was a man with a powerful streak of badness in him. A bully, a psychopath and a vicious killer, he terrorised an area of Pembrokeshire for two decades.
He is the subject of a forthcoming episode of CBS Reality’s Murder by the Sea (Tuesday, 29 January, 10pm). As a contributor to the series, I must say Cooper made the biggest impression on me for the heartless, chilling nature of his crimes.
He was jailed for 30 counts of burglary in 1998. By this time, however, he had also committed two double murders.
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.