Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills?

Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills? on BBC4 and iPlayer

‘To this day, the case has puzzled me.’

These are the words of Professor Brian J Ford during BBC4’s Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills? (catch it on iPlayer). And the death of Britain’s former boxing hero has certainly attracted rumour, legend and some wacky theories since his apparent suicide in 1965.

I was pleased that this documentary took a fairly sober approach to the case. It is far better than the recent irritating and overlong Ruth Ellis Files on BBC4.

It did not focus much on the outlandish claim that Freddie Mills was the serial killer known as Jack the Stripper or the Hammersmith Nude Killer. However, it does make space for author Michael Litchfield, whose book on the case made such assertions. These are unfounded, as far as I am concerned. Author and former police officer Dick Kirby says succinctly the idea is ‘ludicrous’ during the programme.

Mills: suicide or murder?

The film does make a convincing case that Mills probably did not shoot himself in the eye – a very rare method for a person to use when committing suicide.

Various theories are explored to support the idea that Mills was the victim of criminals. The boxing world and West End nightclub land where Mills was a part-owner of a night spot were heavily linked to the underworld.

Does the programme clear up the puzzle once and for all? I don’t think it makes a conclusive case. But it is a fascinating portrait of a much-loved personality – perhaps Britain’s first celebrity and the David Beckham of his time – who seems to have crossed paths with the wrong people.

Bodkin Adams

‘Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility.’

Darcy’s words to Bingley in Pride and Prejudice perfectly sum up the notorious Dr John Bodkin Adams. Not only was the Eastbourne doctor devious and deceitful; he was probably a psychopath.

I’ve just read Jane Robins’s The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams. It’s a fascinating profile of the creepy GP who was tried for the murder of one of his patients, Edith Morrell, in 1957.

Can you prove it was murder?

The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams by Jane Robins

When charged he said, ‘Murder… murder… Can you prove it was murder? I didn’t think you could prove it was murder. She was dying in any event.’

Unfortunately, they couldn’t prove it was murder. And because the case failed Adams was never charged with any further cases – 160 of his patients died in suspicious circumstances. Of these, 132 left him legacies in their wills.

Jane Robins beautifully evokes the postwar era in which Adams thrived – he drove round Eastbourne in a Rolls-Royce – and explores how he operated. Eastbourne during this period was a wealthy town full of rich widowers.

Solicitous Adams inveigled his way into his patients’ lives

It was a time when such women would not queue at the GP’s but expect to be called upon. Adams inveigled his way into their lives under the guise of selfless devotion to their health and well-being.

Continue reading

Murder by the Sea: Steven Grieveson

This first series of Murder by the Sea has featured several men who started killing at a young age, including Stephen Akinmurele and Mathew Hardman. The series finishes with another – Steven Grieveson.

He became known as the Sunderland Strangler. The case is distressing because his four victims were also young. Thomas Kelly was 18, David Hanson and David Grieff both 15, and Simon Martin was 14.

Grieveson had a chaotic and abusive upbringing, some of it in care. His murders showed elements of abuse as well as violence towards his victims.

It is curious that the Sunderland Strangler case is not better known

He carried out his crimes between 1990 and 1994. It was a while before the police realised they had a serial killer on their hands.

Murder by the Sea David Holmes

Dr David Holmes

In tomorrow night’s final report, criminal psychologist Dr David Holmes says, ‘It is curious why Grieveson’s case was not more in the public eye. Perhaps this is one of those cases where something was tucked away on the coast, out of sight and out of mind.’

Well, Murder by the Sea puts that right. It gives an insight into this sad and horrendous series of killings – and how the murderer was caught.

CBS Reality: Monday 25 June 10pm; Tuesday 26 June 2am; Sunday 1 July 9pm

Murder by the Sea: Paul Longworth

Paul Longworth

Paul Longworth thought he had committed the perfect crime.

He strangled his wife, Tina, with a rope and left her dangling from the banisters. He then left the scene of the crime, their home. He went to Southport Sailing Club, where he was the commodore, to celebrate his 37th birthday party.

Back at home, he left his two young children asleep in their beds, while their dead mother was downstairs. No one at the party suspected he had just committed murder.

CBS Reality

On returning home, he called the police, alerted his neighbours to the death and told everyone Tina had committed suicide. At first detectives believed him.

As former detective – and role model for Prime Suspect‘s Jane Tennison – Jackie Malton says during the next edition of Murder by the Sea, ‘What makes this crime particularly unpleasant and horrific is that he risked that his two children could have got out of bed and found their mother, which would have traumatised them.’

The series, on CBS Reality, has so far dealt with psychopaths and gangsters. This episode is different. It explores a story of domestic abuse, about the darkness behind respectability and the cold-bloodedness of this killer.

Thought he was cleverer than the police

Like the other talking heads on this episode, I found it hard to work out how somebody, even a man in a failing marriage, could have had such a void of feelings inside.

I was filmed in a Cardiff boatyard for Murder by the Sea

‘He came across as very much an arrogant man, says Professor Mike Berry. ‘He thought he was cleverer than the police, he thought he was going to get away with it.’

To find out why he didn’t, watch Murder by the Sea on CBS Reality (Monday 18 June 10pm, Tuesday 19 June 2am, Sunday 24 June 9pm).

And for an insight into how devastating Longworth’s crime was, see this interview with his grown-up daughter in the Daily Mirror.

Murder by the Sea: Mathew Hardman

Mathew Hardman’s murder of his 90-year-old neighbour on Anglesey in 2001 was extremely disturbing.

Why? Because, as presenter Geoffrey Wansell says in tonight’s Murder by the Sea, it was so ‘unfathomable’. Hardman, aged 17, was an art student who had delivered newspapers to Mabel Leyshon, who lived up the road from him.

Hardman, of course, had his reasons, unfathomable as they are to us. He had become obsessed with vampires and latched onto the elderly pensioner to be his victim.

An ‘unheard of’ crime

He stabbed her 22 times and cut out her heart. He then drank her blood. Be warned, it is a horrific story and certainly one detectives found perplexing.

This is the second of the cases in this series that I was invited to appear on. Having studied this grim, depressing crime, I still found Hardman’s state of mind off-limits to my comprehension.

On the programme, however, there are some insights from the likes of clinical forensic psychologist Professor Mike Berry. ‘If I was faced with this case of a 90-year-old woman being stabbed 22 times, I would not have been looking for a fantasist who was into vampires,’ he says.

‘I would probably have thought more of either robbery or some sexual behaviour. Seventeen-year-olds don’t normally kill old people. They’re more likely to kill someone their own age and it’s likely to be impulsive or sexually based, that kind of stuff.

‘To kill somebody because you want their blood is extremely rare. For a 17-year-old, it’s unheard of. That made it difficult for the police.’ Continue reading

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

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.

Hammersmith and Holland Park

Kim’s analysis revealed two hotspots where the police might have valuably devoted resources back then. One was around Hammersmith/Chiswick High Road, and the other encompassed parts of Holland Park.

This was an interesting find for two reasons. First, though the squad devoted to finding the Nude Killer was huge, it was stretched thinly across 24 square miles of London. Knowing of these two hotspots might have enabled them to focus their manpower more effectively.

Second, we now know that a convicted killer of two young girls – Harold Jones – was living in one of these hotspots. Detectives were completely oblivious to his presence.

Steve Le Comber’s geo-profile of the Nude Murders. The brightest-coloured zone has the highest likelihood of an association with the killer, and the Windmill pub is dead centre. Body deposition sites are in red, suspect sites are blue.

New analysis

Now we come to Steve Le Comber’s research. Using a slightly different mathematical model, he replicated Kim’s analysis.

The result? His outcome closely resembles Kim’s. So, two different expert analyses of the murder-scene locations point to the strong possibility that the killer lived, worked or had a connection with Holland Park or particularly Hammersmith/Chiswick High Road.

Of course, more data from the time might improve these profiles, but on the basis of what is known they offer an insight into the killer’s likely base of operations.

Windmill pub

Steve’s profile also reveals a new factor. The Windmill pub on Chiswick High Road, where Irene Lockwood was seen on her last night, 7 April 1964, is right in the centre of the Hammersmith/Chiswick hotspot. A perfect bullseye.

‘There’s a strong east-west signal,’ Steve told me. Aldensley Road in Hammersmith was where Harold Jones lived under a pseudonym at the time of the final two murders. It is a 10-15 minute walk west to the Windmill.

Steve is quick to caution against jumping to conclusions about the Windmill itself. While it could have been a haunt of Jones or someone else if Jones was not the killer, it is also possible that a nearby premises, say a bookies’ or garage, was actually the place frequented by the killer.

Incidentally, Steve has also run the analysis excluding Elizabeth Figg (1959) and Gwynneth Rees (1963). Their murders were discounted by police from the sequence of six between 1964 and February 1965 (Hannah Tailford, Irene Lockwood, Helen Barthelemy, Mary Fleming, Bridie O’Hara).

While the hitscores change slightly, the pattern stays the same. ‘The model mostly assigns all of the crimes to the same source,’ Steve says, ‘so broadly speaking we would be looking at approximately the same area whichever crimes we drop.’

Geo-profile with Figg and Rees not included

Chiswick High Road-Hammersmith ‘is vital’

However, the route along Chiswick High Road to nearby Hammersmith appears to be vital. ‘That area is the most important part of the profile,’ says Steve, who has analysed other notorious cases with Kim Rossmo, including Jack the Ripper (they pinpointed Flower & Dean Street as his likely residence).

Of the Nude Killer, Steve concludes, ‘Something in the centre [Chiswick High Road] has an association with the guy.’

Geo-profiling cannot identify a killer. But it is adding insights Scotland Yard did not have at the time. Could it yet provide a vital indication to the murderer’s identity… a murderer who could still be alive?

Murder by the Sea starts tonight on CBS Reality

Murder by the Sea

Murder by the Sea is presented by author Geoffrey Wansell

Just a quick reminder that Murder by the Sea begins on CBS Reality this evening (10pm).

I’m one of the talking heads on this episode, which is about the little-known serial killer Stephen Akinmurele. I think this is a strong opener to the series because of the strength of experts and witnesses the film team uncovered.

These include clinical forensic psychologist Profressor Mike Berry, who I met in February during filming of the Nude Murders documentary that the BBC is currently making. He is very knowledgeable about serial killers.

He talks about how unusual it was that such a young man – Akinmurele had killed five elderly people by his early twenties – should be active so early in life.

A sad and disturbing case that finally gets some attention in this revealing programme.

Murder by the Sea on CBS Reality 21 May

CBS Reality series Murder by the Seaside

Last resort – crime author Geoffrey Wansell presents Murder by the Sea

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 starts on CBS Reality on 21 May at 10pm