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 the capture of suspect Joseph James DeAngelo. 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

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