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 killer – more filming

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 at the scene where the naked body of prostitute Helene Barthelemy, one of the victims of Jack The Stripper, was discovered near a sports field on Swimcombe Avenue in Brentford. 24th April 1964.

CID at the scene where the naked body of prostitute Helene Barthelemy, one of the victims of Jack The Stripper, was discovered near a sports field on Swyncombe Avenue in Brentford, 24 April 1964  © Mirrorpix

In February I spent a fascinating day with the production team for Dark Son, the BBC documentary about the 1960s’ Nude Murderer.

This, of course, is the west London serial killer case that remains unsolved today. I wrote about it in The Hunt for 60s’ Ripper (Mirror Books), detailing the huge manhunt for the killer of six women.

I’ve now been invited back to do more filming, this time in Wales rather than London. There have been very interesting developments in the case, thanks to brilliant research by the production team.

West London base of the killer

I won’t reveal what these are because that would be a disservice to what looks like being a landmark documentary in this case. A chain-reaction of new information has been sparked, however, by one bit of research leading to new connections being made.

The geographic profile featured in my book has been an important piece of the jigsaw. This was the work of leading expert Kim Rossmo. It pinpoints two areas of west London where the calculating killer was probably based.

Kim has been interviewed for the film. He should offer compelling insights into his work and the problems detectives have in attempting to catch serial predators.

Rumours and legends have grown around this appalling series of crimes. From what I hear, Dark Son – being made by Monster Films – should shed valuable light on the mystery.

Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills?

Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills? on BBC4 and iPlayer

‘To this day, the case has puzzled me.’

These are the words of Professor Brian J Ford during BBC4’s Murder in Soho: Who Killed Freddie Mills? (catch it on iPlayer). And the death of Britain’s former boxing hero has certainly attracted rumour, legend and some wacky theories since his apparent suicide in 1965.

I was pleased that this documentary took a fairly sober approach to the case. It is far better than the recent irritating and overlong Ruth Ellis Files on BBC4.

It did not focus much on the outlandish claim that Freddie Mills was the serial killer known as Jack the Stripper or the Hammersmith Nude Killer. However, it does make space for author Michael Litchfield, whose book on the case made such assertions. These are unfounded, as far as I am concerned. Author and former police officer Dick Kirby says succinctly the idea is ‘ludicrous’ during the programme.

Mills: suicide or murder?

The film does make a convincing case that Mills probably did not shoot himself in the eye – a very rare method for a person to use when committing suicide.

Various theories are explored to support the idea that Mills was the victim of criminals. The boxing world and West End nightclub land where Mills was a part-owner of a night spot were heavily linked to the underworld.

Does the programme clear up the puzzle once and for all? I don’t think it makes a conclusive case. But it is a fascinating portrait of a much-loved personality – perhaps Britain’s first celebrity and the David Beckham of his time – who seems to have crossed paths with the wrong people.

Murder by the Sea: Steven Grieveson

This first series of Murder by the Sea has featured several men who started killing at a young age, including Stephen Akinmurele and Mathew Hardman. The series finishes with another – Steven Grieveson.

He became known as the Sunderland Strangler. The case is distressing because his four victims were also young. Thomas Kelly was 18, David Hanson and David Grieff both 15, and Simon Martin was 14.

Grieveson had a chaotic and abusive upbringing, some of it in care. His murders showed elements of abuse as well as violence towards his victims.

It is curious that the Sunderland Strangler case is not better known

He carried out his crimes between 1990 and 1994. It was a while before the police realised they had a serial killer on their hands.

Murder by the Sea David Holmes

Dr David Holmes

In tomorrow night’s final report, criminal psychologist Dr David Holmes says, ‘It is curious why Grieveson’s case was not more in the public eye. Perhaps this is one of those cases where something was tucked away on the coast, out of sight and out of mind.’

Well, Murder by the Sea puts that right. It gives an insight into this sad and horrendous series of killings – and how the murderer was caught.

CBS Reality: Monday 25 June 10pm; Tuesday 26 June 2am; Sunday 1 July 9pm

Murder by the Sea: Paul Longworth

Paul Longworth

Paul Longworth thought he had committed the perfect crime.

He strangled his wife, Tina, with a rope and left her dangling from the banisters. He then left the scene of the crime, their home. He went to Southport Sailing Club, where he was the commodore, to celebrate his 37th birthday party.

Back at home, he left his two young children asleep in their beds, while their dead mother was downstairs. No one at the party suspected he had just committed murder.

CBS Reality

On returning home, he called the police, alerted his neighbours to the death and told everyone Tina had committed suicide. At first detectives believed him.

As former detective – and role model for Prime Suspect‘s Jane Tennison – Jackie Malton says during the next edition of Murder by the Sea, ‘What makes this crime particularly unpleasant and horrific is that he risked that his two children could have got out of bed and found their mother, which would have traumatised them.’

The series, on CBS Reality, has so far dealt with psychopaths and gangsters. This episode is different. It explores a story of domestic abuse, about the darkness behind respectability and the cold-bloodedness of this killer.

Thought he was cleverer than the police

Like the other talking heads on this episode, I found it hard to work out how somebody, even a man in a failing marriage, could have had such a void of feelings inside.

I was filmed in a Cardiff boatyard for Murder by the Sea

‘He came across as very much an arrogant man, says Professor Mike Berry. ‘He thought he was cleverer than the police, he thought he was going to get away with it.’

To find out why he didn’t, watch Murder by the Sea on CBS Reality (Monday 18 June 10pm, Tuesday 19 June 2am, Sunday 24 June 9pm).

And for an insight into how devastating Longworth’s crime was, see this interview with his grown-up daughter in the Daily Mirror.

Murder by the Sea: Mathew Hardman

Mathew Hardman’s murder of his 90-year-old neighbour on Anglesey in 2001 was extremely disturbing.

Why? Because, as presenter Geoffrey Wansell says in tonight’s Murder by the Sea, it was so ‘unfathomable’. Hardman, aged 17, was an art student who had delivered newspapers to Mabel Leyshon, who lived up the road from him.

Hardman, of course, had his reasons, unfathomable as they are to us. He had become obsessed with vampires and latched onto the elderly pensioner to be his victim.

An ‘unheard of’ crime

He stabbed her 22 times and cut out her heart. He then drank her blood. Be warned, it is a horrific story and certainly one detectives found perplexing.

This is the second of the cases in this series that I was invited to appear on. Having studied this grim, depressing crime, I still found Hardman’s state of mind off-limits to my comprehension.

On the programme, however, there are some insights from the likes of clinical forensic psychologist Professor Mike Berry. ‘If I was faced with this case of a 90-year-old woman being stabbed 22 times, I would not have been looking for a fantasist who was into vampires,’ he says.

‘I would probably have thought more of either robbery or some sexual behaviour. Seventeen-year-olds don’t normally kill old people. They’re more likely to kill someone their own age and it’s likely to be impulsive or sexually based, that kind of stuff.

‘To kill somebody because you want their blood is extremely rare. For a 17-year-old, it’s unheard of. That made it difficult for the police.’ Continue reading

Murder by the Sea starts tonight on CBS Reality

Murder by the Sea

Murder by the Sea is presented by author Geoffrey Wansell

Just a quick reminder that Murder by the Sea begins on CBS Reality this evening (10pm).

I’m one of the talking heads on this episode, which is about the little-known serial killer Stephen Akinmurele. I think this is a strong opener to the series because of the strength of experts and witnesses the film team uncovered.

These include clinical forensic psychologist Profressor Mike Berry, who I met in February during filming of the Nude Murders documentary that the BBC is currently making. He is very knowledgeable about serial killers.

He talks about how unusual it was that such a young man – Akinmurele had killed five elderly people by his early twenties – should be active so early in life.

A sad and disturbing case that finally gets some attention in this revealing programme.

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