Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jack The Stripper

New Year, New Victim

Mary Fleming
Mary Fleming

By the beginning of 1965, despite having interviewed thousands of people and examined hundreds of possible leads, the killer was still at large, and detectives were privately preparing themselves for the killer to strike again. His previous victims had been found at intervals of no longer than three months apart, suggesting he would be looking to feed his murder lust once more. Yet it wasn't until February 16, 1965 that the naked body of 28-year-old Irish prostitute Bridie O'Hara was found behind a storage shed on an industrial estate in Acton, less than a mile from where Mary Fleming had been found.

Bridie O'Hara
Bridie O'Hara

As the news hit the headlines, the head of Scotland Yard's murder squad, Detective Chief Superintendent John Du Rose, was recalled from holiday to take charge of the investigation. He was nicknamed "Four Day Johnny" for the speed with which he had solved cases in the past, and he immediately doubled the force of officers working on the case.

O'Hara's body is found dumped behind the shed.
O'Hara's body is found dumped behind the shed.

Every vehicle travelling around West London during the hours of darkness had its details logged, and any car found "kerb crawling" for prostitutes was put on a special interview list. Many a red-faced family man found police on his doorstep, ostensibly making inquiries about a "traffic accident", before being led somewhere more private where more specific questions were asked about his night-time habits.

John Du Rose
John Du Rose

Since Bridie O'Hara's body had been found with the tell-tale paint specks on it, Du Rose also focussed his attention on the mammoth task of finding the origin of the paint. After an extensive search over 24 square miles, a matching paint sample was finally found beneath a covered transformer at the rear of a building on the Heron Trading Estate, mere yards from where the body of O'Hara had been found. The premises were found to face a paint spray shop, tallying with detectives initial deductions. Another significant fact was noted in that O'Hara's body had been partially mummified, which suggested it had been stored near a source of heat. The transformer fitted the bill perfectly. The killer's hideout had been found, and it seemed it had been right under the noses of detectives all along.

Convinced they were inching ever closer to finding their man, over 7000 people on the trading estate were questioned, cars were logged, and police made a series of upbeat statements to the press. Du Rose claimed they had whittled down their "list of suspects" to three, and that figure would soon shrink to one.

He privately expressed the hope that the killer would panic at this news and give himself away.

His optimism didn't prove entirely unfounded. After these new developments became public, no more bodies were found. Could the murderer have suddenly curbed his terrible urges, in the knowledge that police would now be scrutinizing every single individual setting foot in West London? It was possible. But John Du Rose would later claim that he knew otherwise.

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