Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jack The Stripper

"I killed her."

Movie poster: Notting Hill
Movie poster: Notting Hill

Notting Hill in the early 1960s wasn't the fashionable, well-to-do suburb of London it is now. Several decades before its gentrified new image was presented to the world in the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts movie of the same name, its nickname was Rotting Hell. Back then it was a run-down, insalubrious corner of West London which housed the lodgings of Caribbean and Irish immigrants, largely because those communities were turned away from more upmarket addresses. Prostitutes and criminals also found accommodation here, the former often being put up by the latter in return for a large slice of their earnings. Since these people often kept unorthodox working hours, numerous illegal late night drinking clubs catered for them in the basements and backrooms of shops and apartments. Often the people operating such establishments were tenants themselves and landlords would turn a blind eye to their activities in return for increased rent. One such operation was run from the caretaker's quarters of the Holland Park lawn tennis club. Although by day a respectable establishment, if you knew the right people you could get an after-hours drink in the club, accompanied by a motley crew of night-owls. People would often disappear into the courts to make merry with the hostesses, hookers and good-time girls they met there.

Kenneth Archibald
Kenneth Archibald

The caretaker involved in this scheme was 57-year-old former soldier Kenneth Archibald, and he knew Irene Lockwood among many other ladies of the night. He wasn't averse to utilizing their services himself from time to time. Indeed police had found a business card with the name and number of "Kenny" on it in Irene Lockwood's apartment, leading them to interview him about her murder. He denied ever having known Lockwood and claimed the card got into her hands via a third party. But when he then returned to Notting Hill police station on April 27, 1964, his memory had suddenly been jogged.

He admitted he had known Irene Lockwood, and then dramatically confessed, "I killed her. I have got to tell somebody about it."

He led detectives to the Chiswick pub where she had last been seen, then to the spot where he claimed he had argued with Lockwood over money. "I must have lost my temper," he said, "and put my hands around her throat. I then proceeded to take her clothes off and rolled her into the river. I took her clothes home and burned them."

However, it was soon discovered that Archibald could not have been responsible for Tailford's death, or that of Rees and Figg. Police were convinced that at least one of those murders were committed by the same man.

At his trial in June of that year, he retracted his confession and pleaded not guilty, claiming he was drunk and depressed when he made it. There was no evidence against him other than his own confession, and police resisted the temptation to believe that this bumbling old fellow with a hearing aid was their man, despite their desperation to catch the killer. Police were back at square one.

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