Search for serial killer's victims leads to Brighton

Police investigating suspected murders linked to the serial killer Peter Tobin began digging up two back gardens in Brighton yesterday.

Officers used ground-penetrating radar to examine if bodies or other evidence, such as clothing, are buried at two addresses in East Sussex. The excavations are part of a nationwide inquiry into whether Tobin is responsible for any more killings.

The move marks an escalation in a behind-the-scenes police inquiry, dubbed Anagram, focusing on Tobin's lifetime of crime. He was told last December that he would die in jail after being 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 Dinah and Vicky buried in the garden of a house in Margate, Kent, to which Tobin had moved in 1991. Detective Chief Inspector Nick Sloan, of Sussex Police, said his officers must "satisfy themselves" that no crimes were committed at either property. "It does appear that Tobin was fairly active at those addresses at those times," he said. But Chief Inspector Laurence Taylor added: "At the moment these are not crime scenes. We do not know what is going to be there."

One of the addresses is a pair of hairdressing salons in Portslade, which were once a café run by Tobin with Cathy Wilson, who was later his wife. Neighbours said they recalled the serial killer doing substantial DIY at the property as he converted it from a junk shop and cleared the garden. Detective Chief Inspector Nick Sloan, of Sussex Police's major crime unit, said the searches could last for four weeks.

It is feared that Tobin killed up to 20 women during the 1970s and 1980s when he travelled the country and lived in Kent, Hampshire and Sussex. Police said it would be "insensitive" to comment on whether the development was linked to any specific deaths, but it is believed they are looking for the body of Louise Kay, 18, who vanished in 1988 from Eastbourne, while Tobin was working in a Sussex hotel.

Another possible victim is Jessica Earl, a 22-year-old art student from London whose remains were found at Beachy Head, Eastbourne, in 1989. Police confirmed that officers contacted the families of the two victims prior to yesterday's operation "as a matter of courtesy".

The Anagram inquiry is believed to be focusing on nine unsolved murders and disappearances. Possible cases include the disappearances of Pamela Exall, a 22-year-old law student who vanished in Norfolk in 1974, Patricia Morris, a 14-year-old who went missing in Essex in 1980, and Suzanne Lawrence, 14, last seen in Essex in 1979.

There may also be links to the murders of three women in Glasgow in 1968 and 1969 by a figure nicknamed "Bible John", and the deaths of Karen Hadaway, 10, and Nicola Fellows, nine, in Brighton in 1986.

Detectives tried to speak to Tobin in prison about the latest developments, but he refused to talk. They remain keen to unravel further details of his life, particularly where he lived in 1977 and 1978. The serial killer lived in several other towns and cities, including Glasgow, Margate, Kent, and Havant in Hampshire. Police said he may have owned more than 100 vehicles and used 40 aliases.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor