The Hammersmith Nude Murders
During 1964 and 1965 a series of at least six murders took place in West London, England.
It is fair to say at this early stage, I personally believe that there were two murders earlier in 1959 and 1963 that are most likely connected to the same killer. The victims as far as I am able to ascertain were all local prostitutes.
Intense interest from the national media led to the killer being nicknamed “Jack The Stripper” after the famous 19th-century killer, Jack The Ripper.
Jarad Adams, the cold case investigator believes that there is enough evidence out there to solve this case and that the killer may be still alive, although now very old. He believes that this case should be re-opened on two levels, first as an overall case but also as a case review of each murder being undertaken individually.
Unfortunately, it is believed that a great deal of forensic evidence that could be used in modern times was probably destroyed or simply lost at the time of the original investigations.
The six main murder victims were; Hannah Tailford, Irene Lockwood, Helen Barthelemey, Mary Fleming, Margaret McGowan and Bridie O’Hara. As stated earlier we are of the opinion that there were two earlier victims of the same killer, they were; Elizabeth Figg and Gwyneth Rees, they were killed earlier and it may be that there were other victims who were simply never found.
A very important part of this case is that in a very similar way to the infamous “Jack the Ripper” all of the victims were young women and were known to be prostitutes, plying in their trade in London.
Whilst the women had not been cut open or disembowelled like in the Victorian cases but they had their teeth removed. Were the teeth some kind of trophy? The women were all strangled and undressed, dumped naked by the River Thames.
Let’s take a look at the victims as individuals;
On June 17th 1959 Figg’s lifeless body was found on an area of scrubland in Duke’s Meadow on the bank of the Thames during a routine police patrol. Her dress was torn open from the waist leaving her breasts openly displayed. There were marks of strangulation around her neck.
There was no sign of any personal items such as jewellery and her shoes and knickers were missing. The pathologist reported that the victim had been killed between midnight and 2 am.
The press published a photograph of Elizabeth’s face and that prompted her mother and her roommate both to contact the police to identify her.
The local area and even the river were searched thoroughly but there was no sign of the underwear, white handbag or the stiletto shoes that she had been known to have been wearing on the night of June 16th 1959.
Police officers concluded that it was likely the 21-year-old prostitute had been murdered in the car of a client and then dumped by the river. This neatly explained the missing underwear, shoes and bag as they were probably left in the car and disposed of later.
The landlord of a pub on the opposite side of the river as good as confirmed the police predictions by giving in a statement in which he claimed he had seen car headlights across the river as it parked up and then having seen the car headlights go out the landlord and his wife recalled hearing a female screaming. Obviously, this was London and even back then the culture of “I saw nothing guvnor” existed, so the couple did not call the police.
The 22-year-old was found dead on November 8th 1963 by workers from Barnes Borough Council at the local refuse dumping site in Townmead Road, Mortlake. Gwynneth had been reported missing on September 29th 1963
The dumping site was just 1 mile from Dukes Meadow and just 40 yards from the Thames towpath.
Gwynneth was naked except for one stocking on her right leg which had been rolled down to just above her ankle. She had been accidentally decapitated by a shovel that was being used by a workman to level refuse. The cause of death was recorded as strangulation with a ligature. Several of her teeth were missing.
If the theory is that all eight murders were committed by the same “Jack the Stripper” killer, then either there was a break for some reason or there were other killings of prostitutes that went unreported as there was quite a big gap between the first killing in 1959 and the next in autumn 1963.
There could easily be an explanation for this if the killer was maybe serving a short prison sentence but it is also equally possible that other murders had taken place that were never reported if bodies were not found.
The concern is that prostitutes and addicts sadly go missing and come to harm quite a lot but are never reported missing as they are assumed to have ‘moved on to new turf’.
Miss Tailford was the next reported victim of this serial killer when her body was found on the foreshore of the Thames below linden House, close to Hammersmith Bridge on February 2nd 1964.
Hannah was naked and had been strangled, several of her teeth were missing and her knickers had been stuffed in her mouth.
Hannah Tailford was slightly older than the previous two victims, but she was still only 30. She had been washed up by the tide and from weather and tidal reports, police scientists were able to confirm that she had entered the Thames approximately 24 hours before at Dukes Meadow.
Tailford was found to have been pregnant at the time of her death and police wrote the case off as suicide.
There are often similar difficulties with police investigations when it comes to prostitutes, addicts, and similar. There seems to be a great deal
26-year-old Irene’s body was found floating face down in the Thames at Chiswick on April 8th 1964. Like the other victims, she was naked. Irene was petite at only 5 feet tall and slim, she had been strangled and was also pregnant at the time of death.
This murder seems to have been somewhat of a turning point for the police and they suddenly seem to realise that these girls had not committed suicide or been killed by accident during sexual activity.
The police announced that they were looking for a serial killer and they publicly linked Lockwood’s death with those of Gwynneth Rees and Hannah Tailford.
Of course, the police then gave the serial killer story to the media and the presses were red hot! There were hot sensationalized headlines rolling off the press. Having formed some link to the 1888 Jack the Ripper murders the press named the serial killer ‘Jack the Stripper’.
Three weeks after the murder of Irene Lockwood, Jack the Stripper had struck again. Helen Barthelemy’s body was found dumped in an alleyway in Brentford on April 24th 1964.
Helen was 22 and had moved down to London from Scotland in hope of achieving great things but had ended up working as a prostitute in order to support herself.
This killing was one of the possible turning points in this case as like all the others Helen was naked and had teeth removed but her bare skin had tiny spots of industrial paint on it.
This was a big thing for detectives and still is. Police believed that the killer may well have been some sort of industrial worker, possibly a spray painter. He may even have stored the bodies in a works vehicle or workshop between the time of killing and disposal of them.
30-year-old Mary was the next recorded victim of Jack the Stripper. She was a mother to four children, and had been born in Scotland but grew up in Newcastle.
Like many people, Mary had moved to London after her marriage ended in search of greater things and a better life but in fact, ended up working the streets as a prostitute.
Mary was found naked early on July 14th 1964, she was naked, and several teeth had been removed. Her body had been dumped on a residential street in Chiswick. Just like all of the other victims, the cause of death was recorded as strangulation.
There were several witness reports from local residents of a car having been heard reversing and then driving off at speed overnight. The minute paint flecks were found on Mary’s body too but sadly forensic science had not progressed far enough in those days to be able to identify the type of paint, where it may have been used, etc.
The end of November 1964 saw the discovery of the next victim of Jack the Stripper when Margaret McGowan’s body was discovered, the only difference being that she was not found in a back street or on a river bank, Margaret was found in High Street, Kensington. The killer had suddenly gone upper class.
It could be assumed that Margaret was not a victim of the same killer but she was also naked, some teeth had been removed and the paint flecks were all over her body.
Margaret was a little different to the previous victims in that she also hailed from Scotland and was a prostitute but, she was a different class of sex worker. She worked under the name of Frances Brown at the higher end of her trade.
The 21-year-old had clients who were politicians and high-powered businessmen and had been a testifying witness at the court trial of Stephen Ward in The Profumo Scandal. You can read about The Profumo Scandal here:
Sex, lies and spies: the real history of the Profumo Affair
Rewind two years. It's 1961 and National Service has been abolished, John F Kennedy has been sworn in as the…
Margaret had last been seen in October 1964 getting into a Ford Zodiac car owned by a client of hers. Her body was not discovered until a month later. Where had she been in the weeks preceding her death? Was she murdered by the rich powerful client? No, it seems not, so we cannot be sure how she came into the clutches of Jack the Stripper.
Bridget seems to have been the final victim of Jack the Stripper, when her body was discovered in February 1965 on the Heron Industrial Estate in Ealing.
Known as Bridie, Bridget had come to London from Ireland, found it hard to get herself a good foothold in the city and turned to prostitution.
28-year-old Bridget had been reported missing on January 11th 1965 until her naked body was discovered by an electrician at 5 am on February 16th 1965. This seemed to increase the police’s belief that the killer was storing bodies prior to dumping them.
The Cold Case Investigation
For some reason, the killings seemed to stop after the discovery of Bridget and I can’t help wondering whether the killer was trying to lead detectives to the workshop where he had hidden bodies and maybe performed the murders.
I do wonder whether the killer was either arrested for more minor crimes and locked up or whether he disappeared intentionally. There are various theories including that Jack the Stripper may have wanted to kill eight for a specific reason.
The Metropolitan Police were losing a fighting battle and after the discovery of Bridget they sent for one of Scotland Yard’s leading detectives, John Du Rose, affectionately known as ‘Five days Johnny’ for his famous ability to solve a case in just five days.
John Du Rose sent out literally hundreds of officers and had them interview pretty much every industrial worker in West London, including all seven thousand workers from the heron Industrial Estate, but to no avail.
Du rose also had officers stationed on all main roads in and out of Central London at night, noting every vehicle that passed, recording registration plates and particularly paying special attention to cars that they saw regularly.
John Du Rose decided that the killer was a small man, which explained his reason for killing small women. He believed Jack the Stripper was probably employed in a job where he was exposed to the mist of spray paints who probably worked at night and may well have had access to a secure lock-up unit.
The investigation was growing in pace and really picked up when it was discovered that O’Hara’s body displayed signs of having slightly burned and mummified skin suggesting that the corpse may have been stored somewhere pretty warm.
Police discovered a generator store which was very warm inside and directly opposite the lock-up was a paint-spraying shop. The paint on the body was identified to have come from that painting workshop.
The police had found the killer’s store and the paint shop but they had not found the killer.
John Du Rose called a press conference in which he told everyone that his officers were close to arresting the killer, but he simply wasn’t. He also claimed that he had narrowed down a list of suspects to just twenty men, he had done no such thing.
The killings stopped, no arrest was ever made and the police shelved the case, it went cold and remains cold to this day.
Part Two — Coming Soon
We are not done there, I will be back with part two of this complicated unsolved serial killer when I will examine potential suspects, and witnesses and look at the way forward with this investigation.
I hope that you will join me then. In the meantime please leave me a tip or buy me a coffee by clicking the link below:
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