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.
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.
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.
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?