3 out of 5 stars
Over the course of six years from the late 1950s the bodies of eight prostitutes were found murdered close to the River Thames. It took the police a while to realise that they had a serial killer on their patch, but the similarities between the murdered girls and the way that they had been killed and left meant that there was no speculation. What the motives of the killer were, puzzled the police and as to his identity, they had no idea at all. The media at the time called him Jack the Stripper and there was no end of speculation as to who he was.
The last murder was committed in 1965 and that was the last time that he was thought to have killed. Five years later the detective in charge of the case claimed that as they closed the net on the suspected killer he committed suicide. The Police then declined to reveal his identity and it was this act that prompted further speculation as to who it was. This book is David Seabrook’s take on who that person was, based on interviews with surviving police officers, witnesses, and others who knew the victims personally.
I first discovered David Seabrook when Granta kindly sent me a copy of All The Devils are Here. It was one of the strangest books that I read last year, and in it, he mentions these murders. As my library had a copy, I thought I’d give it a go. Seabrook peers into London’s dark seedy underbelly and the underclass of people who inhabited the bedsits of this world. Naturally, he comes across the Krays and many other unsavoury types and slowly reveals who he thinks is behind the deaths of these poor girls.
There is almost too much detail at times in his profile of the victims and I felt that this spoilt the flow of the narrative a little. This crime has never been solved. There were various conspiracy theories as to who the man was from security guards, police officers and even a murderer who had escaped the gallows. This is the time before DNA analysis and the essential clues that would be found now were not recoverable then and it wasn’t helped by all the evidence being either lost or destroyed. That said, it was still a compelling read.