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.

Nude Murders update

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: CID Chiefs heading the investigation, left to right: Det. Supt. John Du Rose and Det. Supt. Bill Baldock at Shepherds Bush Police Station 25th November 1965.

John du Rose and Bill Baldock, Scotland Yard’s leading detectives in the Nude Murders case © Mirrorpix

The BBC Wales documentary on the 1960 Nude Murders that is currently in production sounds as though it has excellent, thought-provoking experts taking part.

I mentioned in an earlier post that they were filming in Abertillery last month. This little Welsh town was, in the 1920s, the setting of a couple of heartbreaking child murders.

Harold Jones, then aged 15, was convicted of these ghastly crimes and has since become the focus of author Neil Milkins, who suspects he was responsible for the 1960s killings in west London. This is partly down to the fact, unearthed by Neil, that Jones was living in Hammersmith when they occurred. My book, The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper, highlights that Aldensley Road, Jones’s property, was in a hot spot where the killer of at least six women may have lived.

Experts on the Hammersmith Murders

One or two cheapo documentaries have been made about the case in the past. However, the one currently being filmed looks like it will be of a far higher quality.

Among those taking part are Professor David Wilson, who wrote a fascinating book called A History of British Serial Killing. Jackie Malton, former Flying Squad detective  and inspiration for Prime Suspect’s Jane Tennison, was also on hand.

Forensic pathologist Professor Bernard Henry Knight and Cheryl Allsop, an academic  researching the science of cold case reviews, added further intellectual wattage.

BBC documentary

Neil told me the Abertillery venue was “full of lawyers, doctors, ex and serving police officers, archivists, Mary Fleming’s daughter and granddaughter, and a niece of Abertillery murder victim Florence Little”. 

I’ve also been contacted by the documentary’s producers. They told me they are using Jones as the starting point for the film but have not reached any conclusions about what their final angle on the case will be.

It is interesting that this grim series of murders, forgotten for so long, is now attracting serious attention. Will the Beeb’s experts solve it?

Jack the Ripper, Zodiac Killer

I doubt it. As with Jack the Ripper, the Zodiac killer and many others, too much time has elapsed. Sadly, the investigation was dropped with relief in 1965 when the murders ceased.

As the largest ever Scotland Yard manhunt was speedily wound down, the six, possibly eight, murdered prostitutes were forgotten and disappeared from the newspaper headlines.

Would this have been the case if they’d been housewives or nurses instead of prostitutes? It seems unlikely.

And then John du Rose, who had headed the investigation in its final stages, did the victims and their loved ones a disservice by pretending he had known all along who the killer was. Most writers, including me, think this was a dishonest attempt to cover his failure to crack the case despite having hundreds of officers at his disposal.

Why victims were forgotten

The unwanted effect of du Rose’s claim was that it implied the case was closed, when it certainly was not.

It’s no wonder that relatives of Mary Fleming should turn up in Abertillery to see what they could learn from the experts in the BBC documentary. The victims were largely forgotten and du Rose’s claim, and the general antipathy towards prostitutes, meant there was little public or media pressure to ensure the case was actively reviewed in the period immediately after 1965.

Those were the years when leads and suspects could still have been seriously tested.