New squad to tackle serial killer cases

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The Independent Online
A new national crime unit is being set up to investigate a series of unsolved 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, who were beaten to death while walking near home in Kent last July.

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

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

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

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

Janine Downes, 22, also a prostitute, whose half-naked body was found in a hedge near the Wolverhamton to Teford Road, in February 1991.

The team is hoping to find links between the serious crimes and help police forces catch serial offenders.

The move follows growing concern that a number of multiple rapists and murderers are operating in the UK. The new Bureau will incorporate the findings of an on-going 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 30 strong Enigma team has gone back ten 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 a number of 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, in an attempt to identify common links. Eventually the Bureau, which should be operational by the end of the year, will build up a vast 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, the 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 greater cross-references and liaisons between forces was illustrated in the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry during which Peter Sutcliffe was interviewed nine times before he was identified as the key suspect.

In the case of Frederick and Rosemary West, although the couple were repeatedly questioned by police, 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 into killers who prey on women, particularly prostitutes.

The operation's co-ordinator, Jim Dickenson, the Assistant Chief Constable of Essex police, said yesterday that the inquiry was making good 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."