Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jack The Stripper

A Scandalous Death?

Hammersmith Bridge, London
Hammersmith Bridge, London

When the body of 30-year-old Hannah Tailford was found by rowers on the Thames shore near Hammersmith Bridge on February 2, 1964, the similarities to Rees and Figg's corpses were uncanny. Naked apart from a pair of stockings, she had also been strangled, several teeth were missing, and her semen-stained underwear had been stuffed in her mouth.

It was an ugly end to a life that had seen precious little beauty.

Hanna Tailford
Hanna Tailford

Born to a mining family in the Northeast of England, Hannah was excluded from several schools as a child due to disruptive behavior. As a teenager she ran away to London, where she was soon "on the game", gaining convictions for soliciting and theft into the bargain. She became so desperate that on one occasion she even placed a classified ad in her local newspaper, offering her unborn baby for sale to the highest bidder.

The last confirmed sighting of Tailford was on January 24, and pathologists estimated that she could have been in the water for a week or more. As with Rees, there were several lines of enquiry that appeared to present themselves.

Tailford was said to have connections in a murky world of underground sex parties and "stag films" She frequented a coffee stall near Trafalgar Square where she was known to have been offered money to have sex on camera. One individual connected to these activities committed suicide a few days before Hannah Tailford was found.

In his book on the case, Found Naked And Dead, Brian McConnell reports that Tailford told friends of being paid to participate in bizarre orgies at the homes of aristocrats. Such stories tallied with the lurid tales of high society sex parties revealed during the Profumo Scandal of 1963, in which a British government minister's affair with a call girl was exposed.

John Profumo
John Profumo

Tailford told a friend she had attended an orgy at the home of a French diplomat named Andre, and on another occasion had been paid 25 (roughly $45) and taken by a limousine to a house where a man in a gorilla costume had sex with her while a crowd of upper-crust revellers cheered him on.

Could Tailford have been silenced by someone with connections to this sleazy world? Tempting though the theory may have been, it seemed unlikely. Nevertheless, during the investigation police interviewed hundreds of people who they knew to have consorted with prostitutes, among them an international soccer player, and several clergymen.

Yet the possibility that Tailford had fallen victim to a "maniac," as the newspapers put it, was shortly to become even more terrifyingly plausible.

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