It was fascinating to chat with Portobello Radio host Aidan McManus last night. He’s a walking encyclopaedia of rock music, local history and unsolved crimes.
He is also a guide for the highly rated FlipsideLondon Tours, which explore London as home to David Bowie, Joe Strummer and the Clash, the punk scene and gangsters. His enthusiasm for music and local history is absolutely infectious.
The 1960s Nude Murders case, which occurred on his Notting Hill manor, is one of his interests. Which was why he got me on his show to talk about the case and how London has changed – check out the broadcast here.
I popped into the Castle on Portobello Road before heading over to meet Aidan. This was formerly the Warwick Castle, which was used a lot by a couple of the killer’s victims at the time, Mary Fleming and Frances Brown.
Prince Buster and The Beatles
In a grim show of gallows humour, no doubt fuelled by a few drinks, several women involved in the sex trade even had a sweepstake in the pub one night on who would be the killer’s next victim.
I was surprised and delighted to be contacted recently by Frank Quinn, the son of one of victims in the Hammersmith Nude Murders case.
This was, of course, the unsolved serial-killer investigation from the 1960s that I cover occasionally on this blog, having first written about it in The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper.
Frank is the son of Frances Brown, who was the fifth of six women to be murdered.
The killer, who successfully eluded what was then the biggest police manhunt in history, picked up the women in his car or van, strangled them and left their bodies at public spots around west London. Dubbed Jack the Stripper by newspapers, he removed their clothing and jewellery, and sometimes their teeth, leaving few forensic clues for police.
‘The case has dominated my life,’ Frank told me. He feels it has been shrouded in mystery for too long, and is encouraged now that ‘things are coming out’.
Dark Son: The Hunt for a Serial Killer
The BBC4 documentary,Dark Son, followed up the findings in my book earlier this year. This pointed to convicted child killer Harold Jones as the man who should be considered the number-one suspect.
‘I found it an excellent documentary,’ Frank said when we spoke by phone. ‘It’s something I’ve been waiting for a long time. I never thought in my lifetime I’d ever see it happen.’
He is hoping the Met will make a serious attempt to reopen the case. In particular, he thinks they should look into Jones’s employment and driving records.
It is thought the killer may have used a grey Hillman Husky and that he worked on the Heron Trading Estate, where the bodies were stored before being dumped.
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.