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

Did Michelle McNamara help crack the case?

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?

Joseph James DeAngelo

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

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.

Continue reading

Golden State Killer finally unmasked?

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

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.

Murder by the Sea CBS Reality

Cardiff boatyard

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

Documentary Murder by the Sea CBS Reality

The Pembrokeshire coastline

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

Playland – a shattering memoir

Playland by Anthony DalyI 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.

Continue reading

The Ruth Ellis Files BBC4

Programme Name: The Ruth Ellis Files: A Very British Crime Story - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 3) - Picture Shows: Andre (SCOOTER CRICK), Ruth (EMMA MOORE) - (C) Wall to Wall Media Ltd - Photographer: Matt Broad

Actors portray Ruth’s son Andre (Scooter Crick) and Ruth Ellis (Emma Moore). Pics: BBC

I was pleasantly intrigued to see two experts I know in a forthcoming BBC4 documentary about Ruth Ellis, starting on Tuesday 13 March, 9pm.

Brian Hook and Andy Rose are highly experienced former detectives. They generously devoted their time to give me a modern perspective on the Nude Killer investigation. I used their input extensively in The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper.

In The Ruth Ellis Files: A Very British Crime Story, Brian and Andy help documentary maker Gillian Pachter to re-examine this notorious case.

Last woman to be hanged

Eillis shot her lover David Blakely outside a pub in Hampstead and in July 1955 became the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

It was, and still is, a shocking case is. Pachter, with insights from experts such as Michael Mansfield QC, along with Brian and Andy, reveals how Ellis was treated brutally by the legal system and prejudices of the time.

Programme Name: The Ruth Ellis Files: A Very British Crime Story - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: (L-R) Brian Hook, Louise Cherrington, & Andy Rose (Ex Police Officers) discussing Ruth’s trial. - (C) Wall to Wall Media Ltd - Photographer: Screengrab

Former police officers Brian Hook, Louise Cherrington and Andy Rose discussing the Ruth Ellis case

She was beaten often by Blakely. On one occasion she punched by Blakely and lost a baby she was pregnant with. Pachter also shows how Ellis may have been encouraged to kill Blakely by an admirer who was jealous of her boyfriend.

Desmond Cussen supplied Ellis with the gun she used, showed her how to shoot and drove her to the Hampstead pub. None of this came out at the trial.

Forensics and investigation of the Ellis case

Episode one delves into the police investigation, which is Andy and Brian’s area of expertise. Both have experience of murder scenes and evidence-gathering. Today they teach these subjects at West London University.

My one quibble with the series is the irritating style in which it is made. B-movie footage of cowboys and gangsters are ludicrously inserted into Pachter’s narration. This is distracting and irrelevant.

And insights from the likes of Mansfield are interrupted by endless shots of Pachter entering buildings or looking through files.

These points aside, this is still a fascinating close-up look at a tragic case.

Filming day with BBC documentary team

Filming BBC documentary Dark Son about the 1960s Nude Murders

Underneath the arches of Hammersmith Bridge

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. This was the stretch of river where Hannah Tailford and Irene Lockwood were found in 1964.

Filming BBC documentary Dark Son about 1960s London serial killer

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 was 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, I spent an hour being interviewed by Prof David Wilson, who is the film’s main presenter.

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 team assembled by the producers, Monster Films.

Excellent investigators and experts

In addition to David Wilson, Cheryl Allsop and Mike Berry, there are a couple of ex-policemen in the investigative team. The experts include Jackie Malton, former senior detective who was the inspiration for Prime Suspect‘s Jane Tennison.

It should not be forgotten that Monster Films is an award-winning team. Director David Howard and producer Rik Hall received 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.

BBC documentary talks to geo-profiler Kim Rossmo about Nude Murders

Hammersmith Nude Murders Jack the Stripper Helene Barthelemy

Crime Scene in Brentford where the body of Helene Barthelemy was found on 24 April 1964 © MirrorPix

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

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 profiler Kim Rossmo

Kim Rossmo

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