New squad to seek out serial killers

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The Independent Online
A national unit is being set up to investigate a series of unsolved crimes and to establish whether serial murderers and rapists are operating in Britain. The 26-strong Serious Crime Bureau, which has a pounds 1.7m annual budget, will also examine unsolved gay murders, missing people where foul play is suspected, and serious sex attacks.

Among the cases likely to be investigated are the murders of:

Rachel Nickell, 23, stabbed to death on Wimbledon Common, south London, in July 1992 as she walked with her two-year-old son and their dog.

Lin Russell and daughter Megan, aged six, beaten to death in Kent last July.

Clare Taltman, 16, sexually attacked and stabbed to death in Kent in 1993.

Vicki Thompson, 30, hacked and bludgeoned in Oxfordshire in summer of 1995.

Carolyne Jackson, an antiques dealer, 50, bludgeoned to death at home in Buckinghamshire.

Heroin addict prostitute Marina Monti, 27, whose body was found in January 1987 on waste ground in west London. She had been strangled and beaten.

Janine Downes, 22, also a prostitute, found in a hedge near the Wolverhampton- to-Telford Road, in February 1991.

The move follows concern that multiple rapists and murderers are operating in the UK. The bureau will incorporate the findings of an investigation called Operation Enigma, which is examining possible links between more than 250 unsolved murders of women and killings involving prostitutes.

The inquiry includes all the undetected murders of women since January 1992. For cases involving prostitutes the Enigma team has gone back 10 years. They are using an analysis technique devised by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to identify the crimes of serial killers. But it was revealed yesterday that a more wide- ranging inquiry is to be established at the National Crime Faculty, in Bramshill, Hampshire. Information will examined by teams specialising in detective work: crime analysts, statisticians, psychologists and sexual- offence experts. They will examine different aspects of cases, such as the cause of death and injuries, the victim's background, DNA samples, suspects, and the location of attacks, to try to identify common links.

The bureau, which should be operational by the end of the year, will build up a database which it hopes to use to identify suspect multiple killers and serial attackers at an early stage. As well as head-office staff there will be eight regional bureau members who will collect data and help forces with investigations. Detective Chief Superintendent Doug Smith, head of the bureau, said: "We will be looking at all sexually orientated murders, including children, stranger rapes, offences of abduction where there is a sexual involvement, and unsolved murders of gay men. We will eventually look at all murders."

The importance of having more cross-references and liaison between forces was illustrated in the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry, in which Peter Sutcliffe was interviewed nine times before he was identified as the key suspect.

In the case of Frederick and Rosemary West, although they were repeatedly questioned, they abducted and murdered a number of women before being caught. The decision to set up a specialist unit to examine serial criminals follows the work of Operation Enigma on killers who prey on women, particularly prostitutes.

Its co-ordinator, Jim Dickenson, Assistant Chief Constable of Essex, said the inquiry was making progress but would take about three more months before any positive trends could be identified.

Although he refused to speculate on whether there were a number of serial killers operating in the UK, he said: "I think it's probable that we have a person who has committed more than one crime."