Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The UK Hammer Murders

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Suspect in the McDonnell case
Suspect in the McDonnell case
The composite sketch was the first big lead in the investigation. It depicted a man in his mid-to-late 40s with short dark hair, a prominent nose and dark eyes framed with bushy eyebrows. The suspect was described as being approximately 59 with a heavy build, and was believed to have been wearing a thigh-length Barbour-style jacket, Nick Hopkins reported in a March article in The Guardian. The composite was publicly released in the hopes that someone would come forward with new information about his identity and whereabouts. In response, the police received hundreds of tips, some of which were useful in the ongoing investigation. None, however, led directly to the assailant.

In the meantime, the investigation took an unlikely turn when the only known male victim of the hammer attacker was arrested for wasting police time. The police treated the 18-year-old mans story with skepticism after repeated questioning, likely because of inconsistencies concerning the alleged assault. Consequently, the young mans case was no longer linked with the other two attacks, which bore marked similarities to one another.

The 18-year-old man was not the only one to be arrested in connection with the hammer attacks. In fact, several men and a 16-year-old boy were also detained and questioned by police. All of the suspects, with the exception of the 16-year-old, were released on bail. There was simply not enough concrete evidence linking any of them to Marshas murder or the attack on the 17-year-old girl in Strawberry Hill.

Although the teenager was never charged with the attacks, police decided to keep him in custody under the Mental Health Act. Despite an exhaustive investigation and search for the serial offender, police were unable to identify any suspect in relation to the cases. They were concerned that if they didnt find the suspect soon, hed strike again. It didnt take long for their fears to become a reality.

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