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

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.