The Enigma Files; (1) This Week, an Elite Squad of Police Officers Will Start Examining Cases of 220 Women Murdered in Britain. They Are Working on a Chilling Theory- Up to Five Serial Killers Are Still at Large (2) Mail on Sunday Special Report

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), May 19, 1996 | Go to article overview

The Enigma Files; (1) This Week, an Elite Squad of Police Officers Will Start Examining Cases of 220 Women Murdered in Britain. They Are Working on a Chilling Theory- Up to Five Serial Killers Are Still at Large (2) Mail on Sunday Special Report


Byline: MARTIN SMITH

IT BEGINS with coffee at 10.30 tomorrow morning. Then, at 11 am, follows the meeting in which Britain's top detectives will launch the biggest murder investigation this country has ever seen.

The 43 men who head the CID departments of every police force in England and Wales will be told to reactivate the files on 220 women murdered since 1986.

It is an awesome undertaking. Three quarters of their violent deaths are unsolved. The rest could hold the key to solving other vicious killings which have left whole communities living in fear.

In the conference room at West Mercia police headquarters in Worcester, the extraordinary task facing the detectives will be outlined by Jim Dickenson, Assistant Chief Constable of Essex.

He will begin with the chilling revelation that has prompted this powerful gathering - that up to five serial killers have gone undetected in Britain in the past 10 years. Operation Enigma will be under way. It will mean not simply pulling out buff folders from dusty filing cabinets but reopening deep emotional scars, stirring terrible mem-ories that mothers, fathers, husbands and children have tried to suppress.

But the potential results are incalculable. Already detectives have set their concerted sights on an evil killer they now believe is responsible for beating and strangling nine women, before dumping their partly clothed bodies on waste ground.

Today he is almost certainly free. And the families of each of his victims know there can be no respite in their nightmare until he - and others like him - are caught and locked away.

It is research by criminal psychologist Professor David Canter, one of Britain's leading experts on offender profiling, that has helped alert police that there are likely to be five serial killers - defined as anyone who has murdered at least four people - on the loose today.

To track them down, the countrywide investig-ation will harness the skills of expert criminologists in Britain and America, as well as the latest computer technology, and re-examine every scrap of evidence in the tragic and terrible deaths of scores of women.

At the heart of the operation is the realisation that, in the absence of a national police force, flawed and outdated detection methods are failing to catch the modern, mobile murderer.

This was particularly exposed during the inquiry into the death of a hitch-hiker last December.

She disappeared in Berkshire, her body was found in Worcestershire, and the hunt for her killer was hampered because it involved more than one of Britain's 43 police forces.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the organisation representing the Chief Con-stables of every force in England and Wales, was stunned when the media - perhaps galvanised by revelations in the recent trial of Rosemary West - made links with other cases in which girls had gone missing.

The Association ordered the National Crime Intelligence Service (NCIS) to establish whether such links really existed. Alarm bells rang when the Service, which attempts to collate information from many sources, found nine cases of murder with uncanny similarities.

All the women had been strangled, all had been abducted late at night, all were found partly clothed; in each case no attempt had been made to hide the body and all the murders remained unsolved.

With this information, ACPO arranged top-secret meetings with the police officers who had been in charge of the nine separate murder inquiries.

They also decided that NCIS should dig deeper. It would not stop at these nine women; it would reopen the homicide files involving the deaths of `vulnerable women'. …

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