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.

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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.

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Keeler and Thorpe – the great British scandals return

Hugh Grant playing Jeremy Thorpe in BBC1’s A Very English Scandal Jeremy Thorpe

Interesting news – the Beeb has announced a new six-part drama called The Trial of Christine Keeler. It is going to focus on the young woman ‘whom the powerful, male-dominated establishment sought to silence and exploit, but who refused to play by their rules’.

Amanda Coe, the award-winning novelist, is writing the script. She said, ‘I’m excited to have the opportunity to bring a fresh lens to a story that has become a powerful fable of our national identity. The astonishing story of Christine Keeler and the so-called Profumo Affair is the Salem Witch Trial meets OJ Simpson. It’s a perfect storm of gender, class, race and power that resonates into the world we’re living in today.’

The other victim of the affair was Stephen Ward. He was the society osteopath who took his own life in 1963 after being hounded by the legal and political establishment.

Profumo Affair and the Nude Murders

The Profumo Affair is tangentially connected to the Nude Murders of the mid-1960s. While researching The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper I read about the scandal. Police and legal figures manipulated Ward. Keeler and her friend Mandy Rice-Davies were portrayed as prostitutes to trap him as someone living off immoral earnings and other crimes.

If anyone wants an insight into how bent the establishment was back then, and the extent of the cover-up, read Geoffrey Robertson’s short but shocking book Stephen Ward Was Innocent, OK.

But Christine Keeler’s story is not the only scandal being explored again. BBC1 is making a three-part dramatisation of events surrounding the fall of former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe, called A Very English Affair.

Hugh Grant as Thorpe

This will star Hugh Grant and is written by Russell T Davies, here a long way from his Doctor Who success. Thorpe in the 1960s was the young Liberal leader who had a secret he was desperate to hide – his lover Norman Scott, who could destroy his brilliant career. Continue reading

Freddie Mills rumours

Mail Online coverage of the Freddie Mills suspicions

Mail Online’s report

I only devote a page or so to the theory that British light-heavyweight boxer Freddie Mills was the Nude Killer in The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper. The reasons for my scepticism? Mills never appeared in any police reports as a suspect and there are simply no facts connecting him to the crimes.

But there have always been rumours. In the past week newspaper reports have brought these back with a vengeance. A former Sun reporter, Michael Litchfield, has written a book called The Secret Life of Freddie Mills. He claims Mills admitted his guilt to Detective Chief Superintendent John du Rose.

Du Rose was running the biggest manhunt in British criminal history. But this new book suggests du Rose let a potential self-confessed serial killer go free to get his affairs in order because he and Mills were Freemasons and trusted each other.

Apparently, the two men agreed that Mills would hand himself in and du Rose would somehow assist in his plea to have charges dropped from murder to manslaughter. That’s manslaughter six or seven times…

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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.’

Pictured: Policeman standing at spot where body was found, in between fence (on left) and brick hut near embankment. Bridget O'Hara was a confirmed victim of serial killer known as 'Jack the Stripper' who was operating in London 1964-1965 and killed 6-8 women prostitutes & dumped their bodies around london or in the River Thames. The serial killer has never been caught.
Crime Scene in Acton where the body of Bridget O’Hara was found on 16 February 1965. Mirrorpix
Mary Fleming's body was found by George Heard (34) from his bedroom window this morning. Her death was attributed to the work of a serial killer known as Jack the Stripper. Also known as, The Hammersmith Murders case 1964-1965, when a serial killer was operating in London and killed 6-8 women prostitutes & dumped their bodies around london or in the River Thames. The serial killer has never been caught. *** Local Caption *** George Heard (34) of 53 Berrymede Road
Murder victim Mary Fleming was found, in Berrymede Road, Chiswick, July 1964. Mirrorpix
Jack the Stripper murder case in London 1964 -1965. Between six and eight nude bodies were discovered around London and in the River Thames in the unsolved case, also known as the "Hammersmith murders" or "Hammersmith nudes" case. His six confirmed victims, prostitutes Hannah Tailford, Irene Lockwood, Helene Barthelemy, Mary Flemming, Margaret McGowan, and Bridget "Bridie" O'Hara, were all killed by asphyxiation, strangulation or drowning and were all found naked, except with stockings. The two other women prostitutes Elizabeth Figg and Gwyneth Rees had uncertain cases as there were differences with the other women. Both were manually strangled, but both were found naked except for their stockings with their underwear lodged in their throats. Picture shows: Police detectives Inspector Oxford and Chief Inspector John Durose at 182a Hammersmith Grove during the police investigation. February 1964.
Police detectives Inspector Oxford and Chief Superintendent John du Rose in Hammersmith Grove during the police investigation:February 1964. Mirrorpix