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.

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?

Did Michelle McNamara help crack the case?

I’ve just finished the fascinating I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara.

What an amazing coincidence that California police finally nabbed a suspect for the Golden State Killer crimes so soon after its publication. Finding the perpetrator is the subject of McNamara’s book.

Or was it a coincidence?

Joseph James DeAngelo

It looks as if McNamara’s investigation may have inspired Joseph James DeAngelo’s capture. The cops somehow surreptitiously got his DNA from something he threw away and came up with a match.

What is not clear at the moment is how they latched onto DeAngelo, a former cop. However, the book contains a couple of ideas about he could be caught one day.

It has some geographic profiling of where his murders and rapes, carried out between 1976 and 1986, were committed. He was linked to 50 rapes, 12 murders and many burglaries.

The purpose of this kind of profiling is to indicate where a predator may live or work. The geo-research by a detective McNamara was talking to and by Kim Rossmo, the leading geographic profiler (whom I interviewed for The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper), both pinpoint the area around Citrus Heights. This is precisely where DeAngelo lived and was arrested last week.

Using DNA to catch DeAngelo

The use of ancestral DNA to unmask the serial killer was another feature of McNamara’s theories for trapping the GSK. McNamara died in 2016 before finishing the book. However, her researcher, Paul Haynes, and journalist Billy Jensen pieced her notes together to finish it.

Continue reading

The Ruth Ellis Files BBC4

Programme Name: The Ruth Ellis Files: A Very British Crime Story - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 3) - Picture Shows: Andre (SCOOTER CRICK), Ruth (EMMA MOORE) - (C) Wall to Wall Media Ltd - Photographer: Matt Broad

Actors portray Ruth’s son Andre (Scooter Crick) and Ruth Ellis (Emma Moore). Pics: BBC

I was pleasantly intrigued to see two experts I know in a forthcoming BBC4 documentary about Ruth Ellis, starting on Tuesday 13 March, 9pm.

Brian Hook and Andy Rose are highly experienced former detectives. They generously devoted their time to give me a modern perspective on the Nude Killer investigation. I used their input extensively in The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper.

In The Ruth Ellis Files: A Very British Crime Story, Brian and Andy help documentary maker Gillian Pachter to re-examine this notorious case.

Last woman to be hanged

Eillis shot her lover David Blakely outside a pub in Hampstead and in July 1955 became the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

It was, and still is, a shocking case is. Pachter, with insights from experts such as Michael Mansfield QC, along with Brian and Andy, reveals how Ellis was treated brutally by the legal system and prejudices of the time.

Programme Name: The Ruth Ellis Files: A Very British Crime Story - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: (L-R) Brian Hook, Louise Cherrington, & Andy Rose (Ex Police Officers) discussing Ruth’s trial. - (C) Wall to Wall Media Ltd - Photographer: Screengrab

Former police officers Brian Hook, Louise Cherrington and Andy Rose discussing the Ruth Ellis case

She was beaten often by Blakely. On one occasion she punched by Blakely and lost a baby she was pregnant with. Pachter also shows how Ellis may have been encouraged to kill Blakely by an admirer who was jealous of her boyfriend.

Desmond Cussen supplied Ellis with the gun she used, showed her how to shoot and drove her to the Hampstead pub. None of this came out at the trial.

Forensics and investigation of the Ellis case

Episode one delves into the police investigation, which is Andy and Brian’s area of expertise. Both have experience of murder scenes and evidence-gathering. Today they teach these subjects at West London University.

My one quibble with the series is the irritating style in which it is made. B-movie footage of cowboys and gangsters are ludicrously inserted into Pachter’s narration. This is distracting and irrelevant.

And insights from the likes of Mansfield are interrupted by endless shots of Pachter entering buildings or looking through files.

These points aside, this is still a fascinating close-up look at a tragic case.

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.

BBC documentary talks to geo-profiler Kim Rossmo about Nude Murders

Hammersmith Nude Murders Jack the Stripper Helene Barthelemy

Crime Scene in Brentford where the body of Helene Barthelemy was found on 24 April 1964 © MirrorPix

The BBC producers of the new documentary about the 1960s Nude Killer have asked me to put them in touch with an investigative expert I know.

Dr Kim Rossmo is a former detective inspector with Vancouver police. It was his most recent work as a geographic profiler that fascinated me. He provided me valuable analysis for The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper.

The personal geography of criminals can be what condemns them.

We all have our own network of routes and paths – to work, the tube, pub, school. The areas we cover are a giveaway about our habits and routines.

Rigel software helps to expose criminals

Similarly, the movements of serial criminals – burglars, rapists, murderers – can reveal patterns about them and where they may be based. Rossmo uses a sophisticated piece of software he has developed called Rigel to analyse a sequence of crime scenes to guide detectives.

Geographic profiler Kim Rossmo

Kim Rossmo

Geographic profiling does not identify a serial criminal or solve a case, but it can be vital in pointing police in the right direction.

The analogy Rossmo uses to explain how geographic profiling works is that of a rotating lawn sprinkler. You can’t predict where the next drop will land, but when enough have fallen the pattern will reveal where the sprinkler is.

Comfort zones

We all have comfort zones where we spend most of our time – home to work to home to pub to home. Criminals operate within their comfort zones.

This is a very simplified outline and the success of a geographic analysis lies in the expertise of the profiler. They will spend a lot of time at crime scenes noting factors such as the weather, nearby bus stops, types of housing and businesses.

They will know that robbers tend to travel a greater distance from their home than burglars, that adult criminals travel further than juvenile criminals. Meanwhile, murderers often dispose of their victims further away from home than where they meet them. Continue reading

Exploring True Crime in Salford

Just wanted to say thank you our hosts at the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences at Salford University on Saturday. I was invited along by Ian Cummins to take part in the all-day event on the subject of True Crime: Fiction Is Far More True than Any Journalism. 

The process of writing, why people read crime and various ways writers have explored real crimes were all covered. Ian and his colleagues Marian Foley and Martin King were terrific hosts.

We went for a delightful drink in Manchester the night before – my first time in the city – before meeting at the university in Media City on Saturday, which is a rather strange jumble of modern architecture.

Ripper tours and female psychopaths

Mark Blacklock, author of I’m Jack, about Yorkshire Ripper hoaxer John Humble, was great company.

Caroline Jones gave us a tour of, well, Ripper Tours and what a strange entertainment they are. And Caroline Logan, a consultant forensic clinical psychologist, was really interesting in discussing the subject of female psychopaths in fiction.

Beastly subjects, convivial company. I hope their plans to expand the event in future work out…