Police make pledge to families over killer Peter Tobin

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Detectives searching gardens linked to serial killer Peter Tobin promised murder victims' families today that they will not give up until they have exhausted all lines of inquiry.

Teams of police officers and archaeologists descended on two properties in Brighton, East Sussex, yesterday with ground-penetrating radar and shovels.

They were searching for bodies or other evidence left by the 63-year-old when he lived at the addresses in the 1980s.

The move marked a dramatic escalation in a nationwide behind-the-scenes inquiry, dubbed Anagram, focusing on Tobin's lifetime of crime and violence.

Police are convinced Tobin killed more victims as he lived across Britain under different names and trawled the motorways for vulnerable female hitch-hikers.

Tobin was told last December that he would die in jail after he was convicted of strangling 18-year-old Dinah McNicol.

The former church handyman was already serving life terms for the murders of 15-year-old Vicky Hamilton and Angelika Kluk, 23.

Police discovered the remains of Vicky and Miss McNicol buried in the garden of a house in Margate, Kent, where Tobin moved in March 1991.

Det Ch Insp Nick Sloan, of Sussex Police, said of the searches that officers must "satisfy themselves" that no crimes were committed at either property.

He said: "It does appear that Tobin was fairly active at those addresses at those times. As long as there are lines of inquiry, we will continue.

"We have to consider the families of those who may have been one of his victims and it is imperative that they find closure. We will strive to achieve this."

Police said the searches behind flats in Marine Parade, Brighton, and a hairdressing salon in Station Road, Portslade, could continue for a month.

The Station Road hairdressing salons were once a cafe, Ye Olde Tea-room, run by Tobin in 1988 with his future wife, Cathy Wilson, and their baby son.

Neighbours recall Tobin doing a substantial amount of DIY on the property as he converted it from a junk shop and cleared the garden.

Investigators said they would also like to speak to the previous tenants of 67 and 67a Station Road, Portslade.

Marine Parade is a large housing association block of flats which backs on to a small area of grass and concrete paving.

Tobin worked as a caretaker at the Marine Parade property when it was the Seafront Hotel in the late 1980s. It was converted to bedsits in 1992.

Police said they want to trace the building company which carried out the conversion work.

Investigators refused to go into detail about why police were targeting the two properties or what cases they may be linked to.

Police responsible for the Anagram inquiry are believed to have narrowed down their review of unsolved murders and disappearances linked to Tobin to nine cases.

These may include the murders of art student Jessie Earl, 22, whose body was found in 1989, and Louise Kay, 18, who disappeared in Eastbourne in 1989. Her body was never found.

There are several other possible cases including law student Pamela Exall, 22, who vanished in Norfolk in 1974, schoolgirl Patricia Morris, 14, who went missing in Essex in 1980, and Suzanne Lawrence, 14, last seen in Essex in 1979.

Other cases include the murders of three women in Glasgow in 1968 and 1969 by a figure nicknamed "Bible John" and the deaths of schoolgirls Karen Hadaway, 10, and Nicola Fellows, nine, in Brighton in October 1986.

Detectives attempted to speak to Tobin in prison about the latest developments but he refused to talk to them and they remain keen to unravel further details of his life, particularly where he lived in 1977 and 1978.

Police said Tobin used several aliases, mostly variations of the same name, during around two decades in Brighton from 1969 when he lived at homes in Dyke Road, Regency Square, Eastern Street and Chadborn Close.

The search teams include members of the Home Office's scientific support branch and officers from the Metropolitan Police as well as Sussex Police experts and archaeologists from University College London.

The itinerant serial killer lived in several other towns and cities, including Glasgow, Margate in Kent, and Havant, Hampshire. Police said he may have owned more than 100 vehicles and used 40 aliases.