A crime expert reckons he has cracked the biggest unsolved serial killer case in British criminal history.
The murderer known as Jack the Stripper claimed more victims than his Victorian namesake Jack the Ripper during a grisly spree in the 1960s – but the monster was never caught.
Now, new information could lead to the identity of the man behind the Hammersmith nude murders.
David Wilson, a former prison governor and professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, has handed evidence he collected to the Met Police, who are considering it.
After a 15-month probe – detailed in a BBC4 documentary tonight – Prof Wilson is convinced Jack the Stripper was Welsh child killer Harold Jones.
He says he found crucial links between Jones and the murder of at least six sex workers in the then red light district of West London around Shepherd’s Bush.
The sadistic crimes, in which the killer strangled and stripped his victims before removing their teeth, sparked one of the biggest manhunts in history.
“Lots of people put forward different theories about the identity of the killer,” says Prof Wilson.
“But, frankly, only one really stands out. And if we could prove this theory, it has every possibility of delivering to the Met something they didn’t have 50 years ago, and that’s a genuine prime suspect.”
Jones died of bone cancer in Hammersmith in 1971, and the children of Jack the Stripper’s victims still await justice.
One of the first victims, 30-year-old prostitute Hannah Tailford, originally from Northumberland, was found dead on February 2, 1964, her body fished out of the Thames at Hammersmith.
She had been strangled, several of her teeth were missing and her underwear had been forced down her throat.
Her son Steven Sloman, 61, said: “The general attitude then was just, ‘Well, it’s just a prostitute’.
“At the end of the day, whatever happened, she was a mum.
“Justice was not done and I would like them to open to case, find evidence and maybe come up with closure, and say, ‘It could have been this person here’.”
By the time of the killings – the other victims were pregnant Irene Lockwood, 25, Helen Barthelemy, 22, Mary Fleming, 30, Frances Brown, 21, and Bridget O’Hara, 27 – Jones was already a convicted double child killer.
When he was 15, Jones murdered Freda Burnell, eight, in Abertillery, Monmouthshire, but was acquitted due to lack of physical evidence.
Just 17 days later, he murdered 11-year-old Florence Little, hiding her body in his parents’ attic, and confessed to murdering Freda after his second trial. He escaped hanging due to his age and was instead got 20 years’ jail.
After his release from Wandsworth Prison in 1941, he joined the Merchant Navy.
Then, according to Prof Wilson in documentary Dark Son: The Hunt for a Serial Killer, Jones changed his name to Harold Stevens and moved to Fulham, near Shepherd’s Bush – putting him in the area when the murders took place in 1964 and 1965.
Prof Wilson also found a link between Jones and an industrial estate where police think bodies were kept before being dumped.
There is also evidence he worked as a panel beater, giving him access to paint found on four victims.
And like Jack the Stripper, Prof Wilson presents evidence of Jones storing his victims’ bodies and having sadistic tendencies.
“These women were sadistically murdered and because of that sadism – which had a sexual overtone – they lost their lives,” he said.
“Sadism doesn’t dissipate over time, sadism always finds some way of expressing itself in terms of the killer’s life and lifestyle.
“There is an uncanny mirroring of these early murders in the 1920s and how aspects are reappearing in those murders in the 1960s.”
- Dark Son: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is on BBC4 at 9pm on Tuesday night and it’s available on BBC iPlayer now.