Worlds Worst: THE BOSTON STRANGLER - 13 Killings, 300 Rapes: Brutal Reign of Terror That Brought City to a Standstill; Serial Killers, Cold-Blooded Murderers and Gun-Toting Gangsters. Each Week Former Top West Midlands Detective JOHN PLIMMER Looks at the Most Notorious Criminal Figures of the Last Century -and How They Were Caught

Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England), January 11, 2004 | Go to article overview

Worlds Worst: THE BOSTON STRANGLER - 13 Killings, 300 Rapes: Brutal Reign of Terror That Brought City to a Standstill; Serial Killers, Cold-Blooded Murderers and Gun-Toting Gangsters. Each Week Former Top West Midlands Detective JOHN PLIMMER Looks at the Most Notorious Criminal Figures of the Last Century -and How They Were Caught


Byline: JOHN PLIMMER

FOR almost two years in the 1960s Boston was a city gripped by fear.

Police warned women not to go out alone at night because a psychopathic serial killer was on the loose.

On June 14, 1962, divorcee Anna Slesers had become the first known victim of the Boston Strangler.

The 55-year-old's naked body was discovered lying outside her bathroom door by her son. A piece of dressing-gown cord had been wrapped around her neck and tied off in the shape of a bow.

Police confirmed that the woman had also been sexually assaulted.

Little did they know the murder was to be the first in a series that would bring Boston to a virtual standstill.

On June 30, a janitor found the body of Nina Nichols, 68, in the bedroom of her small Boston apartment.

She, too, had been sexually assaulted and strangled by a stocking around her neck, tied off again in a bow.

Then three days later, the nakedbody of Helen Blake, 65, was found on the bed in her flat with a pair of stockings and a bra wrapped around her neck -tied in a bow.

A coroner said she had been dead for 72 hours and must have been killed around the same time as Nina Nichols.

Cops were immediately on high alert. Three women had been murdered by a sex maniac in just 19 days.

They issued a warning to all women living in Boston, the Massachusetts state capital with a population of half a million.

Detectives called in experts in forensic medicine, psychiatry and anthropology and even clairvoyants in a desperate bid to catch the killer before he struck again.

A profile was built up of the potential suspect. Police were told he was probably aconvicted serious sex attacker, in his 20s to 40s, who had a hatred of women.

All known sex offenders were dragged off the streets and interviewed but detectives drew a blank and Boston continued to live in the shadow of the Strangler.

On August 21, 1962, Ida Irga was found strangled to death. On this occasion the 75-year-old victim had been murdered with bare hands, although a pillowcase had been wrapped around her neck and tied off in the customary bow.

Panic returned to Boston and gun sales rocketed.

Ten days later Jane Sullivan, 67, was found in her bath, having been strangled with a pair of stockings.

The Strangler's next victim was 20year-old Sophie Clark, who was murderedonDecember 5. Shewas followedby Patricia Bissette, 23, on New Year's Eve.

Then, inexplicably, there was a period of inactivity, much to the relief of the Boston Police Department.

But the city remained on a knife edge and terrified women moved around in groups, or with adult escorts.

Daily meetings took place between detectives engaged on each of the seven murders that had already been committed, but without any real progress.

The temporary peace was shattered on May 8, 1963, when Oliver Chamberlain visited the apartment of his fiancee, Beverley Samons, a 26-year-old university student.

Hefound her nakedbody lying ona sofa inside the living room, her wrists bound together behind her back with two silk scarves. Although she had been strangled witha stocking, she also had multiple stab wounds to her throat and chest.

Such mutilation, coupled with her relatively young age, initially led detectives to believe that the Strangler was not responsible for her murder. Some psychological experts believed there were TWO Stranglers on the loose.

In August, 58-year-old Evelyn Corbin's naked and strangled body was found by a neighbour in her Boston home. Following a three-month lull another victim, Joann Graff, 23, was found strangled to death with her own leotard.

Then, in January 1964, the Boston Strangler murdered his last known victim.

Mary Sullivan was found naked by flatmates. A stocking and silk scarf were pulled tightly around her neck, in a large bow. …

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Worlds Worst: THE BOSTON STRANGLER - 13 Killings, 300 Rapes: Brutal Reign of Terror That Brought City to a Standstill; Serial Killers, Cold-Blooded Murderers and Gun-Toting Gangsters. Each Week Former Top West Midlands Detective JOHN PLIMMER Looks at the Most Notorious Criminal Figures of the Last Century -and How They Were Caught
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