A man who murdered three women in four days and mutilated their bodies almost beyond recognition was jailed for life by a judge at Leicester Crown Court on Wednesday.
Police are now investigating whether Philip Smith from Birmingham, who was unemployed and has three children, can be linked to unsolved murders dating back 20 years.
Smith, a 22-stone odd job man, changed his pleas to guilty half way through giving evidence after initially denying murdering Jodie Hyde, 21, Rosemary Corcoran, 25, and Carol Jordan, 39, who had six children, in November last year.
Smith, 35, a former fairground worker from the Sparkbrook area of the city, had no previous convictions for violence, but police say a lack of sexual relationships may have been a factor.
His trail of devastation was first discovered by two patrolling police officers on 9 November when they found the smouldering body of Jodie Hyde. She had been strangled before being rolled in a carpet, set alight and dumped on recreation ground in Sparkbrook.
Three days later Smith battered Rosemary Corcoran, who had three children. Her body was found in a wooded lane.
He knew both women from a pub where he worked on a casual basis. He also operated an unlicensed taxi for customers. As Smith returned from dumping Mrs Corcoran's body he ran over his third victim, Carol Jordan, in his car as she walked to work at a care home. Smith beat her so severely she could only be identified from her dental records.
Sentencing him, Mrs Justice Rafferty said: "You robbed three innocent ladies of their lives. I suspect that their families will suffer the more as they simply don't understand why you did it.
"The brutality of these ladies' deaths, designed by you to evade discovery, showing the coldness with which you despatched them, is appalling."
Relatives of the victims say Smith should never be released. They said that he had shown no signs of remorse.
Carol Jordan's brother, James Taylor, said: "The last eight months have been a nightmare for all of us, especially Carol's husband and children. The hurt is now over but not forgotten.
"We are all hoping that Philip Smith will never, and I mean never, be allowed into the outside world again.
"Our sympathy goes out to the families of Jodie and Rosemary. Like us, they have to try and pick up the pieces and start to rebuild their lives in peace."
Detectives declined to say how many crimes Smith could be linked with, but said their investigations would go back two decades and across several forces.
The investigation to catch Smith involved more than 100 detectives from West Mercia and West Midlands Police. Codenamed Operation Green, it was led by the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Sir Edward Crew.
In a statement, Sir Edward described Smith as evil and dangerous. He said: "I would like to record my thanks to all those involved in this inquiry and hope that its success in putting an evil and dangerous man behind bars for life will bring some comfort to the victims' families."Reuse content