Dark Son promo

An industry promo for Dark Son: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is doing the rounds.

It’s a good insight into the forthcoming BBC documentary. This will be a fascinating investigation into Harold Jones’s child murders in Wales in 1921 and his potential links to the unsolved 1960s Nude Murders in west London.

As detailed elsewhere on this blog (see below), I have been involved with the filming. I was struck by the new leads and witnesses the producers have uncovered.

Who was Jack the Stripper?

Harold Jones, 15, convicted of murdering two girls

Harold Jones in prison uniform, 1921

The west London Jack the Stripper killings, as they became known, taunt us today. Between 1964 and 1965 someone murdered six women and left their naked bodies at various locations in the capital.

Because the victims were sex workers, the crimes faded from the headlines after the last murder, that of Bridie O’Hara, in February 1965. However, at the time it was Scotland Yard’s biggest ever investigation.

Suspects included a disgraced detective, underworld figures and almost anyone reported to favour unorthodox sexual practices. Police never charged anyone for the killings.

Criminology and law-enforcement experts

Neil Milkins was the first writer to cite Harold Jones as a suspect. Jones murdered two little girls – Freda Burnell and Florence Little – in Abertillery in 1921. I discovered when writing The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper that Jones was later living in an area of Hammersmith that would have been of major interest to detectives had they had modern-day profiling techniques available to them.

Harold Jones, murderer of two girls in Abertillery

Jones as an adult

The makers of Dark Son approached the possibility of Jones’s involvement with an open mind. Enlisting criminology and law-enforcement experts, they have delved into this mystery and made some powerful connections.

Several writers have convictions that they know who did it – some of which are ludicrous. Dark Son will definitely add a wealth of new insights into these infamous crimes.

Final day shooting on Dark Son

Last Tuesday saw the conclusion of evidence being presented and filmed for Dark Son, the forthcoming BBC documentary about 1960s serial killer Jack the Stripper.

It a was a big day’s filming: for me 12 hours long, but for the Monster Films’ team much longer.

I was interviewed in the morning and was later on hand for a long session of afternoon-evening filming. Fascinating research from contributors, former police officers and others was explored.

Ebenezer Baptist Hall, where Dark Son was partly filmed

It was a brilliant day. It was also a treat to be again working alongside criminologist Prof David Wilson and ex-detective Jackie Malton. David Howard (director) and Rik Hall (producer) from Monster ran the production calmly and superbly.

The venue was the Ebenezer Baptist Church Centre in Abertillery, Wales. The significance of the setting will become clear when the film is aired.

It has been in production throughout this year. I was initially involved for a chilly day’s filming in February on the Thames (two victims were found on the river foreshore).

From magazine feature to book to TV

I could not imagine how all this would unfold when I signed a contract to write The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper in October 2016 (Mirror Books). The idea grew out of a feature I proposed for a true-crime magazine that Mirror Syndication were developing.

Abertillery, Wales

My argument was that the case – and victims – were largely forgotten today and it should be reviewed and remembered.

The magazine was eventually shelved, but I was able to develop the research I had for the article into a book. Following its publication, my research sparked further new findings about the unsolved 1960s murders of six women in west London.

The documentary team assembled high-quality experts to delve further into the case. I can’t talk about the film’s content, but anyone who thinks they know everything there is to know about the case should think again.

Dark Son is expected be broadcast in autumn 2018.

Nude Murders – second geo-profile confirms where killer may have lived

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

Geographic profiling

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.

New analysis

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.

Windmill pub

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?

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.