Pervert-crazy police go astray - again

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED

The search continues for the killers of 13-year-old Lindsay Rimer and nine-year-old Daniel Handley.

Lindsay disappeared from her home in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, in November, after going out to buy a box of Cornflakes; her body was found earlier this month, in a nearby canal. Daniel disappeared from his home in east London last October, leaving behind his BMX bike; his remains were found in March, buried in a shallow grave in Bradley Stoke North, near Bristol.

With no apparent progress made in solving either case, last week press conferences were held in which, respectively, parents and police appealed for help

From the outside, the two cases are sadly similar: few witnesses, no arrests, unknown cause and time of death. The police, however, seem to know better.

In the case of Lindsay, they are simply looking for an ordinary "killer": "The man we are seeking could be someone's husband, son or brother," announced one detective involved in the case. "We are asking people to look round at people they know, people they live with, people they associate with, or indeed their partners and ask themselves certain questions."

In the case of Daniel, however, police imaginations appear to have gone into overdrive. "I have made appeals to the paedophile community asking for help," said a police spokesperson early on in the inquiry, going on to spend much time and effort - with no apparent return - interviewing members of this "community".

Why are the police so obsessed with the paedophile connection? The circumstantial evidence appears to be slim: a child fitting Daniel's description was seen talking to a man by the open door of a car on the day he went missing. In forensic terms, the slate is blank.

I guess the mundane, world of crime detection - compiling lists and checking numberplates, with strictly no help from Hannibal Lecter - is frustrating and dull, so the police have to sexy things up with "paedophile gang" fantasies. Almost as exciting as snuff movies and satanic abuse (both of which proved illusory, on closer investigation).

A few such gangs may exist; but why aren't the police looking for a gang in the case of Lindsay Rimer? It seems that boys are killed by sick perverts; girls are simply killed.

The case is not just a matter of imagery. As Joan Smith argues in her book Misogynies, the police's hysterical and completely unproven conviction that Peter Sutcliffe was a reincarnation of Jack the Ripper enabled him to drive his lorry around the north of England for five years, slaughtering as he went.

Meanwhile, who knows for how many years Daniel Handley's killer - ordinary, unexceptional, without the rolling eyes of a demented paedophile - will roam free.

n The police are no more defined by their own bigotry than other institutions, of course. Madame Tussauds, it was reported this week, will not be commissioning a wax effigy of Frederick West - for the time being at least.

"We would not like to capitalise on something as terrible as this," said a spokesperson, sincerely,"but it is likely that in the long term he will appear." Respect for victims' families - though, of course, West was never convicted - is the reason given for excluding modern killers from the gore fest.

Strangely, there is one exception to this rule, namely Dennis Nilsen, who is the only contemporary murderer at Tussauds. Why? "Basically because of who his victims were," a spokesperson told me. "Young rent boys who had run away from home years before."

The homophobia of this justification is disturbing enough: the implication is that the public are neither offended by the death of gay men nor worried by the feelings of their loved ones.

More sickening still is the way it places Nilsen at the top of the mass murderer league table, in a society fondly obsessed with serial killing, especially the "right" sort. Reg and Ron Kray were heroes 'cause they never touched women and children. The Yorkshire Ripper was all right as long as he killed prostitutes.

Still, only Nilsen makes it into the hall of champions, the Chamber of Horrors. Why? Because he killed gay men.

n But hey, as Brad Pitt might say, recently acclaimed by People magazine as the world's sexiest man, life isn't all serious. At a press conference in London to publicise his new film Legends of the Fall, he shared the following pearls of wisdom:

Q: If you could play any role, which would you choose?

A: "I have no idea."

Q: What do you want out of life?

A: "I don't think too hard about it."

Q: Could you try?

A: (Shake of head)

Elsewhere, Bo Derek, publicising her new film, revealed: "I live in California, where beauty is everything. It's nice to come to Europe and see women who are imperfect." Less happily, she confessed: "I wish I'd been a brunette. There's a stigma attached to being blonde."

Poor Bo! Not only has it slipped her pretty little head that she made a feature out of her blonde hair in 10. Worse, she doesn't realise that - like other "perfect" Californian girls - she could dye it brown.

Even with such stiff competition from Brad Pitt, the female dumb blonde is not dead. Stigmatising? You bet.

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