Rahul Sharma

Hammersmith nude murders

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Other names  Ann Phillips
Occupation  Sex worker

Born  24 March 1938 (1938-03-24) Bebington, Cheshire
Died  17 June 1959(1959-06-17) (aged 21) London
Cause of death  Asphyxiation due to manual strangulation
Body discovered  Duke's Meadows, Chiswick
Similar  Servant Girl Annihilator, Axeman of New Orleans, Cleveland Torso Murderer, Harold Jones, Charlie Chop‑off

The Hammersmith nude murders were a series of murders committed in London, England, between 1964–1965. The victims were all female sex workers, whose bodies had been undressed and disposed of in or near the River Thames, leading the press to nickname the killer Jack the Stripper (a wordplay on Jack the Ripper). Two earlier murders, committed in 1959 and 1963, have also been linked by some investigators to the same perpetrator – possibly "practice runs", early crimes committed by a killer who, in the words of Michael Newton, "had yet to hit his stride."

Contents

Despite "intense media interest and one of the biggest manhunts in Scotland Yard's history" the identity of the killer or killers remains unknown. All forensic evidence gathered at the time is believed to have been destroyed or lost in the intervening years.

Elizabeth Figg

Figg was found dead at 5:10 am on 17 June 1959 by police officers carrying out a routine patrol of Duke's Meadows, Chiswick. The park, situated on the north bank of the River Thames, had a reputation as a lovers' lane used by courting couples. Prostitutes were also known to take their clients there, leading to it being known locally as "Gobbler's Gulch".

Figg's body was found on scrubland between Dan Mason Drive and the river's towpath, approximately 200 yards (180 m) west of Barnes Bridge. Her dress was torn at the waist and opened across the chest to reveal her breasts. Pathologist Donald Teare examined the body and found marks around the neck consistent with strangulation. He concluded that death had occurred between midnight–2 am on the 17 June. Figg's underwear and shoes were missing, and no handbag, identification or other personal possessions were found in the vicinity. A post-mortem photograph of her face was taken and distributed to the press to assist in identification. Following publication of the photograph of "Miss X" in newspapers, Figg was identified by Pauline Mills – her flatmate, and also a prostitute – on 18 June, and by her mother on 19 June 1959.

Extensive searches of the area – including the river bed – failed to recover Figg's underwear, black stiletto shoes or white handbag. At her inquest, held at Ealing on 13 August 1959 by coroner Harold Broadbridge, Detective Superintendent James Mitchell suggested that she had probably been murdered by a client in his car, after voluntarily removing her shoes and underwear, and that these and her handbag had then remained in the car after the body was disposed of at Duke's Meadows. Ben Hutton, the licensee of "The Ship" public house on the opposite side of the river to where Figg was found, said that on the night of the murder he and his wife had observed a car's headlights as it parked in that area at 12:05 am. Shortly after the lights were switched off, they heard a woman's scream. The jury returned a verdict of murder by person or persons unknown.

Gwynneth Rees

The body of Gwynneth Rees was found on 8 November 1963 at the Barnes Borough Council household refuse disposal site on Townmead Road, Mortlake. The dump was situated 40 yards (37 m) from the Thames towpath, and approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) from Duke's Meadows. Council workmen who were leveling the dump with a mechanical shovel excavated the body and called Richmond police station when they saw Rees's legs hanging from the digger's shovel.

A team of officers, led by Detective Chief Superintendent Jack Mannings and Detective Superintendent Fred Chadburn, carried out a meticulous examination of the scene. Rees was naked except for a single stocking on her right leg, rolled down to the ankle. The body had been decapitated by the shovel of the digger.

Hannah Tailford

Tailford was found dead on 2 February 1964 on the Thames foreshore below Linden House – the clubhouse of the London Corinthian Sailing Club – west of Hammersmith Bridge. She had been strangled and several of her teeth were missing; her underwear had also been forced down her throat.

Irene Lockwood

Lockwood was found dead on 8 April 1964 on the foreshore of the Thames at Corney Reach, Chiswick, not far from where Tailford had been discovered; their two deaths, along with that of Elizabeth Figg, were linked and police realized that a serial murderer was at large. Lockwood was pregnant at the time of her death.

Helen Barthelemy

Midlothian-born Barthelemy was found dead on 24 April 1964 in an alleyway at the rear of 199 Boston Manor Road, Brentford. Barthelemy's death gave investigators their first solid piece of evidence in the case: flecks of paint used in automobile manufacturing. Police felt that the paint had probably come from the killer's workplace; they therefore focused on tracing it to a business nearby.

Mary Fleming

Fleming's body was found on 14 July 1964 outside 48 Berrymede Road, Chiswick. Once again, paint spots were found on the body; many neighbours had also heard a car reversing down the street just before the body was discovered.

Frances Brown

Brown was last seen alive on 23 October 1964 by her friend, fellow sex worker Kim Taylor, before her body was found in a car park on Hornton Street, Kensington, a month later on 25 November. The cause of death was asphyxiation by strangulation. Taylor, who had been with Brown when she was picked up by the man believed to be her killer, was able to provide police with an identikit picture and a description of the man's car, thought to be a grey Ford Zephyr. Brown had testified as a witness for the defence, along with Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, at the trial of Stephen Ward in July 1963.

Bridget O'Hara

O'Hara was found dead on 16 February 1965 near a storage shed behind the Heron Trading Estate, Acton. She had been missing since 11 January. Once again, O’Hara's body turned up flecks of industrial paint which, incredibly, were traced to a covered transformer just yards from where she had been discovered. Her body also showed signs of having been stored in a warm environment. The transformer was a good fit for both the paint and the heating.

Investigation

Chief Superintendent John Du Rose of Scotland Yard, the detective put in charge of the case, interviewed almost 7,000 suspects. He then held a news conference, falsely announcing that the police had narrowed the suspect pool down to 20 men. After a short time, he announced that the suspect pool contained only 10 members, and then three. There were no further known Stripper killings following the initial news conference.

According to the writer Anthony Summers, Hannah Tailford and Frances Brown, the Stripper's third and seventh victims, were peripherally connected to the 1963 Profumo Affair. Some victims were also known to engage in the underground party scene in addition to appearing in pornographic movies. Several writers have postulated that the victims may have known each other, and that the killer may have been connected to this scene as well.

Kenneth Archibald

On 27 April 1964, Kenneth Archibald, a 57-year-old caretaker at the Holland Park Lawn Tennis Club, walked into Notting Hill police station and voluntarily confessed to the killing of Irene Lockwood. Archibald was charged with the murder and stood trial at the Old Bailey in June 1964. When asked to plead, he retracted his confession and pleaded not guilty. There was no other evidence to link him to the crime and on 23 June 1964, he was found not guilty by a jury and acquitted by the judge, Mr. Justice Neild.

Mungo Ireland

For Du Rose, the most likely suspect was a Scottish security guard called Mungo Ireland, whom Du Rose first identified in a BBC television interview in 1970 as a respectable married man in his forties whom he codenamed "Big John". Ireland had apparently been identified as a suspect shortly after Bridget O'Hara's murder, when flecks of industrial paint were traced to the Heron Trading Estate, where he worked as a security guard. Shortly after this connection was made, Ireland committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning, leaving a note for his wife that read: "I can't stick it any longer", and finished, "To save you and the police looking for me I'll be in the garage". Whilst seen by many as a strong suspect in the killings, recent research suggests that Ireland was in Scotland when O'Hara was murdered, and therefore could not have been the Stripper.

Freddie Mills

In 2001, reformed gangster Jimmy Tippett Jnr. said that during research for his book about London's gangland he had uncovered information suggesting that British light heavyweight boxing champion Freddie Mills was responsible for the murders. Tippett said: "I have spoken to famous figures in the underworld and senior police officers in Scotland Yard, and I am convinced Freddie Mills was the killer. Contrary to his public image, Mills was a sexually warped sadist who enjoyed inflicting pain." According to Tippett, Kray-era gangsters, including Charlie Richardson and Frankie Fraser, had long suspected Mills of being the murderer.

Mills had previously been linked with the murders by Peter Neale, a freelance journalist from Balham, south London, who told police in July 1972 that he had received information, in confidence, from a serving chief inspector that Mills "killed the nude prostitutes". He also said that this was "common knowledge in the West End. Many people would say, 'Oh, Freddie did them in...'"

Mills was found shot dead, apparently by suicide, in July 1965.

Metropolitan Police officer

David Seabrook, in his book Jack of Jumps (2006), wrote that a former Metropolitan Police detective was a suspect in the opinion of several senior detectives investigating the case. Owen Summers, a journalist for The Sun newspaper, had previously raised suspicion about the unnamed officer's involvement in a series of articles published by the newspaper in 1972, and Daily Mirror journalist Brian McConnell followed a similar line of inquiry in his book Found Naked and Dead in 1974. He was also considered by Dick Kirby, a former Metropolitan Police detective, in his book Laid Bare: The Nude Murders and the Hunt for 'Jack the Stripper' (2016), in which Kirby referred to him only as "the Cop".

Tommy Butler

In their book The Survivor (2002), Jimmy Evans and Martin Short allege the culprit was Superintendent Tommy Butler of the Metropolitan Police's Flying Squad. Butler died in 1970.

Harold Jones

The Crime & Investigation channel's Fred Dinenage: Murder Casebook put forward the theory that the killer could have been Harold Jones, a convicted murderer from Wales. Jones killed two girls in 1921 in the town of Abertillery. Because he was 15 at the time, he was not liable for the death penalty, instead receiving a life sentence. He was released 20 years later for exemplary behaviour. In 1941, at the age of 35, after being released from Wandsworth prison, he is believed to have returned to Abertillery, and visited the graves of his early victims. By 1947, Jones was living in Fulham, London. All the Stripper murders had similar features to his early murders: no sexual assault, but extreme violence was inflicted on the victims. Due to poor record-keeping, he was never considered as a possible suspect by the police.

The writer Neil Milkins, in Who was Jack the Stripper? (2011), also concluded that Jones was the perpetrator. While researching Jones for his book Every Mother's Nightmare, Milkins had traced the murderer's movements: "[H]e turned up in Fulham in the late 1940s calling himself Harry Stevens, and stayed at that address in Hestercombe Avenue until 1962, at which point he disappeared again. I came across the Jack the Stripper case on the internet and realised that in the same three years Jones' whereabouts remained unknown - 1962 to 1965 - a number of prostitutes had been murdered in the same west London area."

Jones died in Hammersmith in 1971.

In the media

The murders have been the subject of several television documentaries:

  • 24 Hours – Chief Superintendent John Du Rose was interviewed about the case for this BBC magazine show, broadcast in the UK on 2 April 1970.
  • "The Hammersmith Murders" – part of the Great Crimes and Trials documentary series, first broadcast in the UK by BBC in 1993.
  • "Murders That Shocked a Nation: The Welsh Child Killer" – part of the Fred Dinenage: Murder Casebook documentary series, first broadcast in the UK by CI in 2011.
  • In fiction

    The crime novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square (1969), written by Arthur La Bern, is loosely based on the case. The book was adapted for the Alfred Hitchcock movie Frenzy (1972). The case also inspired The Fiend (1972), in which a misogynistic serial killer leaves his naked victims across London.

    The crime novel Bad Penny Blues (2009) by Cathi Unsworth is closely based on the case.

    References

    Hammersmith nude murders Wikipedia


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