5 stars for The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper

Aside

Delighted by today’s review on Breakaway Reviewers

The book meticulously goes through each crime, each victim and each investigation, making it easy to follow the time line. The story is told with compassion for the victims and does not cross the line of thrill seeking. The author has quite obviously researched this crime well and taken time to tell this very sad story. The book is well written and edited and a pleasure to read. There were no grammatical errors or spelling mistakes that I noticed which made a lovely change and made it a pleasure to read. I look forward to the next book by this author; hopefully another true crime as he seem to have a talent for this genre.

Mindhunter on Netflix

Netflix’s forthcoming series Mindhunter looks interesting. It is based on a 1997 book by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker about the early years of criminal profiling.

The period is the 1970s. It sees actors Jonathan Groff, Anna Torv and Holt McCallany as FBI agents who interview serial killers – to scepticism from colleagues – to gain insight into their natures.

It was during the Seventies, a time when mass killers such as America’s Ted Bundy emerged, that the FBI and various criminologists/psychologists began to study such predators in earnest.

Mindhunter has an intriguing premise

When the Nude Murders occurred in London during the 1960s the term serial killer was unknown. Criminal profiling was in its infancy. This was one of the questions about the huge investigation that intrigued me when researching The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper. To what extent did that lack of profiling expertise behind the failure to catch this devious killer?

Netflix series Mindhunter

Mindless? The series is about FBI men trying to get into the head of serial killers

FBI instructor Robert Ressler is credited as the first person to call the murderers of strangers ‘serial killers’. It was while he was lecturing British officers at the UK’s Bramshill police academy that he heard mention of crimes being in a ‘series’.

The definition is open to interpretation, but it is generally accepted that a serial killer murders, often with premeditation, at least three people over a period of more than 30 days. The FBI would eventually produce its Crime Classification Manual with broad categories for such killers – organised, disorganised and mixed.

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Sex trade – a recurring story

Programme Name: Sex, Drugs and Murder: Life in the Red Light Zone - TX: 23/10/2016 - Episode: Sex, Drugs and Murder: Life in the Red Light Zone - Ep1 (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Sammie Jo working in Holbeck, Leeds. - (C) BBC - Photographer: Ben Blackall

Street life: Sammie Jo working in Holbeck, Leeds, as seen in BBC 3’s Sex, Drugs & Murder: Life in the Red Light Zone

One of the saddest parts of researching the 1960s London sex trade – the background to the Nude Killings of that time – was realising how little sympathy there was for the victims.

They were all prostitutes, young women who left what were often unhappy or broken homes, got into dead-end jobs in factories or as domestic servants, finally ending up soliciting in London. If they started life with little self esteem, what they had was badly trashed by the harsh street trade.

And yet the News of the World called them ‘scrubbers, cheap little tarts’, while the Daily Mail labelled them ‘good-time girls’. If there was one thing they were not having, it was a good time.

Jack the Ripper

Being murdered in such grim circumstances was not enough to evoke compassion from many in authority at the time.

The murders, which occurred mainly in 1964-65, were often compared to Jack the Ripper’s crimes, some 77 years before. Once again the victims were desperate women working the streets, and once again the culprit was never caught.

It was poverty that drove Jack the Ripper’s second victim, Annie Chapman, for example, into an encounter with the serial killer. Following the death of her ex-husband she tried to support herself by selling matches or flowers, eventually having little alternative but to prostitute herself.

Sex, Drugs & Murder

BBC 3’s current online documentary series, Sex, Drugs & Murder: Life in the Red Light Zone, is sobering proof that poverty and a poor start in life can still badly harm young people’s prospects and self-esteem. Continue reading

Ripper book featured in Mirror

Enjoyed opening the Daily Mirror today to see a double-page spread devoted to The Hunt for the 60s' Ripper.

I was asked to write the piece a couple of weeks ago and the Mirror's features people have been working on it over the weekend. And it looks terrific.

The first couple of reviews on Amazon have been encouraging, too, including this one from an Amazon Top 500 reviewer: 'This new book, which caught my eye on a supermarket shelf yesterday via it's excellent front cover, gave me what I can only describe as a complete account of these terrible happenings, and true crime buffs are in for a real treat. Author Robin Jarossi has done his research very well, drawing from the original case files, reading all of the contemporary news items that were published in the newspapers, as well as every other book that has written about the '60's Ripper', not to mention actually conducting fresh interviews with several reporters from the era, as well as some of today's police experts.'

The Ripper’s London and how it’s changed

The Nude Murders: Jack the Stripper victim Elizabeth Figg Copyright R Jarossi
Crime scene: view across the Thames from Dukes Meadows, where Elizabeth Figg was found in 1959

London is special. Beautiful, ugly, intimate, sprawling.

The capital fed my interest in writing about the 60s’ Nude Murders, to explore how the place has evolved. I was a child at the time and my memories are vivid of a Highbury still shattered by the war, paraffin heaters and markets thick with shoppers.

To say nothing of the pop songs on transistors all around, the TV – Corrie hairnets in black and white – even the way old relatives used to talk. Oh, do give over!

From squalor to £4m houses

The contrast between then and now is jarring. Living conditions, for example. One of the victims of the Nude Killer, Helen Barthelemy, lived in a bedsit in Willesden.

The house was crammed. Helen was in one room on the ground floor. A Jamaican nurse, who became her friend, lived in the back room. On the first floor were two young couples with a single child each, both families living in one room. One room! Toilet and kitchen facilities were shared.

Mary Fleming, another of the women killed during the murderer’s campaign of death, which lasted through 1964, lived in similar conditions in Lancaster Road, Notting Hill. What was once a squalid, overcrowded house in a slum area is today worth £4 million.

London crime scenes

Researching The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper led me to visit all the crime sites in the company of two recently retired detectives, Brian Hook and Andy Rose, who were generous in their efforts to explain to me the contrast policing methods from the Sixties with those of today.

Swyncombe Avenue then and now: police inspect where Helen Barthelemy has been found in 1964, left ©Mirrorpix

One of the areas we toured was Chiswick, by the Thames. It was on the foreshore that two victims were found, Hannah Tailford and Irene Lockwood.

At the time the area was a bustling commercial neighbourhood of factories and warehouses, dealing with trade coming up the river and transported through wharves. Today it is a collection of dull private flats and gated estates. No doubt expensive, but gentrified and ‘improved’ to within an inch of its life. Continue reading

Reopening Swinging London’s Nude Murders case

It started as a suggestion for a new true crime magazine. Working as a freelance journalist at Mirror special projects, I wondered if there was a case we could cover that had not been written about a thousand times already.

Nude Murders Irene Lockwood

Police at the scene of the murder of 20 year old Irene Lockwood, after her naked body was discovered floating in the Thames Pic: Mirrorpix

I came across the Nude Murders of the early 1960s, a horrific series of killings in London that, despite the biggest ever police manhunt, was never solved. I had never heard of this shocking case. Most people I mentioned it to, apart from a couple of crime-fiction authors, had not come across it either.

Why had the killing of six, possibly eight, sex workers in Swinging London been largely forgotten? The killer could still be alive, walking the capital’s streets, despite having murdered more women than Jack the Ripper.

Notting Hill and Shepherd’s Bush

Between February 1964 and February 1965 one man cruised west London’s streets in his vehicle, particularly around Notting Hill and Shepherd’s Bush, picked up and asphyxiated six women, before leaving their unclothed bodies in various public places.

Two other similar murders, in 1959 and 1963, were possibly linked to this killing campaign.

I researched the case, spoke to former detectives to get their take on the investigation carried out 50-odd years ago. It turned out there were a lot of photos in the Daily Mirror‘s immense archive in Watford. It looked as though there would be plenty of material for a magazine piece. Continue reading