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