The would-be serial killer caught after second murder

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The Independent Online

A van driver who killed two young women and disposed of their bodies so they would never be found was at the beginning of a killing spree he hoped would make him as infamous as Jack the Ripper, police have said. Derek Brown, 47, killed Xiao Mei Guo, an illegal Chinese immigrant who sold pirate DVDs, and Bonnie Barrett, a prostitute, half-a-mile from each other in Whitechapel, east London, over the course of three weeks in 2006.

Yesterday he was convicted of their murder at the Old Bailey. After the verdict, detectives said they believed they had caught Brown at the start of a spree. The court heard that, just months before the first murder, he had told a friend: "You will hear of me. I am going to be famous." And when officers searched his flat they found a book entitled Killers – The Most Barbaric Murderers Of Our Time.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Kandiah, who led the investigation, said: "He is clearly a very evil man. In my opinion, he was not going to stop."

He said he thought Brown was motivated by sex and a desire to become notorious like Jack the Ripper, who murdered prostitutes in the 19th century. "If he kept killing prostitutes from the Whitechapel area, then that link would be made," he said. "If this was a spree, it seems likely that we stopped him at number two."

Police also said they are linking Brown, who has a rape conviction from 1989, to five other sex attacks and one unsolved murder. Following his conviction, a nationwide review will be launched to establish whether Brown, originally from Preston in Lancashire, is linked to any further unsolved crimes.

The bodies of Mrs Guo, 29, and Ms Barrett, 24, have never been found, despite 800 hours of police searches and a trawl of the Thames.

But prosecutors were able to prove Brown's guilt using DNA evidence. Blood from the two women was found in every room of his flat in Laburnum Court, Rotherhithe, south-east London.

In his defence, Brown claimed the women had been murdered in his flat by intruders. Det Ch Insp Kandiah said this was fantasy. "To be a witness to a murder is quite rare," he said. "But to witness two, in your own flat, in the space of three weeks, is almost impossible. Derek Brown targeted these women because of their vulnerability – he thought no one would care."

Ms Barrett's mother, Jackie Summerford, said: "Due to the actions of Derek Brown I had to sit Bonnie's boy down and explain to him that his mum had been killed. I will never understand Brown's actions – I can only describe him as a total beast."

Ms Guo's husband, Jin, said he had not yet been able to fully explain to his sons, aged 11 and 12, what had happened to their mother. "I have tried to tell them but I really don't have the courage to tell them the truth," he said.

Brown will be sentenced on Monday.