Hotel worker's killer linked to six murders: Drifter's suicide leads to new inquiry into 33 unsolved crimes

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The Independent Online
A MAN who hanged himself after confessing to the rape and murder of a hotel worker may be responsible for up to 33 other sex attacks, including six murders.

Police yesterday said genetic testing had shown that Alan Conner, 32, was responsible for killing Sandra Parkinson, 22, whose body was found in undergrowth below a clifftop path at Salcombe, south Devon, on 20 July.

Conner was found hanging from a tree in Brampton, Cambridgeshire on 6 August after writing a suicide note confessing to the killing. Con firmation of his involvement came as it was revealed that he had been convicted of rape in 1986 and released after four years of a six-year sentence.

John Evans, Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall police, which initiated the genetic testing, said the case highlighted the need for a national DNA database to hold genetic fingerprints of sex offenders. He said that if DNA testing had been compulsory, with the information held nationally, 'we would not have had a murder, because we may have detected this man 19 months ago'.

Three genetic tests enabled a team from the Forensic Science Service to identify Conner to within a 1 in 70 million certainty as the killer of Miss Parkinson, from Stevenston, Strathclyde. In addition to the DNA tests, genetic testing also confirmed he was responsible for the rape of Muriel Harvey, 67, from Ludlow, Shropshire. Mrs Harvey, a former magistrate and church warden, was attacked after attending midnight Mass on Christmas Day 1992. She waived her right to anonymity to help police find her attacker.

Devon and Cornwall police are now liaising with other UK police forces with similar unsolved murders and sex attacks in their files. It was revealed by the National Criminal Intelligence Service that Conner's movements since 1980 are being investigated for potential links with 33 other crimes, including six murders, 22 rapes and five other sex attacks. The list refers to crimes committed throughout the country.

Detectives said they hoped to have evidence within days that could confirm Conner's possible involvement in a long list of crimes. But Detective Chief Superintendent, John Essery, head of the Devon and Cornwall CID, said: 'The reality is that we will probably never find out everything he has done.'

Conner was described by police as an unemployed drifter. Also known as Alan Gadd, he was given a six-year sentence at Sheffield Crown Court in 1986 for the rape at knifepoint of a 16-year-old girl near a disused railway line at Hickleton Main Colliery near Thurnscoe, South Yorkshire. The girl, who was tied up, was found by her father, screaming with pain.

The victim helped police produce a photofit picture which bore a striking resemblance to Conner. She also identified him from 700 pictures shown to her by police and picked him out at an identity parade.

(Photograph omitted)