Murder by the Sea

First posted on robinjarossi.com 2 4 18

I spent Good Friday working on a documentary being made for CBS Reality called Murder by the Sea. The setting was a chilly boatyard in Cardiff.

The premise of this 12-part series is fascinating. It is about how the seaside has been the setting for a spectrum of homicides down the years.

Coastal towns can be quiet and idyllic, faded and in decline, or well-off and socially conservative. But they are often shaken by shocking crimes.

From Blackpool to Pembrokeshire

Blackpool is a pleasure resort that attracts holidaymakers, but also dodgy types. The high turnover of visitors makes it a transient destination – ideal for criminals or those with predatory designs on unsuspecting strangers.

Quiet resorts can also be exploited by the ruthless. Morecambe is a pleasant seaside town at the foot of the Lake District national park. Birdwatchers and hikers love the area. It was not prepared for a brutal double murder of Tony Marrocco and Paul Sandham that hit the town in 1995.

What is it about the seaside? Do these places have a feeling of anonymity? Or, as Murder by the Sea‘s opening sequence suggests, is it that some people associate them with the ‘end of the line’.

Serial killer John Cooper

So I found myself in a yard full of wooden boats, many antique, all being rebuilt or repaired. I’d been asked to comment on some of the cases being covered. These ranged from the Morecambe murders, committed by Terry Clifton, to a particularly chilling case on the Pembrokeshire coast.

John Cooper committed two double murders with a shotgun. The first was in 1985 when he raided the isolated farmhouse of siblings Richard and Helen Thomas, both in their 50s.

Four years later he ambushed Oxfordshire couple Peter and Gwenda Dixon on the coastal path. He forced Mr Dixon to give him his bank details, and brutally shot the couple. He later took about £300 from his victim’s account.

Life without parole

Cooper was a horrible man. He brutalised his young son, and later tried to implicate him

in his own crimes. He was suspected of having committed around 70 burglaries and sexually attacked two teenage girls when he pounced a group of youths in 1996.

While Cooper thrived on the reckless thrill of terrorising all those around him, he was also calculating and cunning.

He was finally arrested in 2009 and went to jail for life without parole in 2011. Continue reading

Nude Murders – second geo-profile confirms where killer may have lived

Originally posted on robinjarossi.com 24 5 18

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

Geographic profiling

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.

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Documentary puts Harold Jones on trial for Jack the Stripper crimes

Criime Scene in Acton where the body of Bridget O'Hara was found earlier today 16th February 1965.  Pictured: Policeman standing at spot where body was found, in between fence (on left) and brick hut near embankment.  Bridget O'Hara 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 Acton where the body of Bridget O’Hara was found on 16 February 1965. © Mirrorpix

First posted  1 10 17 on robinjarossi.com

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. 

Kim Rossmo

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.

Did Michelle McNamara help crack the case?

Originally posted on robinjarossi.com 29 4 18

I’ve just finished the fascinating I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara.

What an amazing coincidence that California police finally nabbed a suspect for the Golden State Killer crimes so soon after its publication. Finding the perpetrator is the subject of McNamara’s book.

Or was it a coincidence?

It looks as if McNamara’s investigation may have inspired the capture of suspect Joseph James DeAngelo. The cops somehow surreptitiously got his DNA from something he threw away and came up with a match.

Joseph James DeAngelo

What is not clear at the moment is how they latched onto DeAngelo, a former cop. However, the book contains a couple of ideas about he could be caught one day.

It has some geographic profiling of where his murders and rapes, carried out between 1976 and 1986, were committed. He was linked to 50 rapes, 12 murders and many burglaries.

The purpose of this kind of profiling is to indicate where a predator may live or work. The geo-research by a detective McNamara was talking to and by Kim Rossmo, the leading geographic profiler (whom I interviewed for The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper), both pinpoint the area around Citrus Heights. This is precisely where DeAngelo lived and was arrested last week.

Using DNA to catch DeAngelo

The use of ancestral DNA to unmask the serial killer was another feature of McNamara’s theories for trapping the GSK. McNamara died in 2016 before finishing the book. However, her researcher, Paul Haynes, and journalist Billy Jensen pieced her notes together to finish it.

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Golden State Killer finally unmasked?

First posted on robinjarossi.com 25 4 18

I’m just reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. It’s a very readable account of her interest, or perhaps obsession, with a serial rapist and murderer call variously the Golden State Killer, the East Area Rapist or the Original Night Stalker.

He committed 12 murders, 45 rapes and 120 burglaries, particularly in a swathe of Sacramento county. Reading McNamara’s account, I have been wondering how the police failed to catch him. The crimes were perpetrated in fairly concentrated areas, suggesting that the homicidal prowler lived locally and knew the area well.

Has the Golden State Killer been caught?

Someone just contacted me with the hot news that California police are about to make an announcement of an arrest. Incredible. The man has been free all this time, apparently living in the Sacramento area.

It would be fascinating to discover who he is, how he evaded law enforcement for so long and what motive he had for his horrible crimes.

I’ll come back to this story shortly.

Murder by the Sea on CBS Reality

Crime author Geoffrey Wansell presents Murder by the Sea

Originally posted on robinjarossi.com  1 5 18

Oh, we do love to be beside the seaside. Beaches, piers and perhaps a summer romance…

But Britain’s resorts do have a dark side, and this is explored in a series starting this month. Murder by the Sea is a six-part documentary on CBS Reality.

I got a bit of an insight into the series and the cases featured when I was invited to be interviewed on it.

Crimewriter Geoffrey Wansell

Presented by crime author Geoffrey Wansell, the first case looked at is Stephen Akinmurele. It’s an intriguing but chilling story.

Akinmurele is a little known case, because he killed himself before he could be tried. He is Britain’s most prolific young serial killer, having been charged with murdering five elderly people between 1995 and 1998. Some of these were committed in Blackpool.

I’ve seen the opener and will preview it in full shortly.

Murder by the Sea is CBS Reality series

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.