Friday, July 07, 2000

ARE THERE SIX SERIAL KILLERS AT LARGE IN BRITAIN TODAY? Crazed beasts could be responsible for more than 70 unsolved slayings

by Gary Ralston

THEY are the invisible murderers who often operate from the very heart of society.

They sit next to you on the bus, work beside you in the office or factory and may even live under the same roof.

Yet under cover of darkness they prowl pubs and clubs, motorway service stations and red light areas, ready to pounce when they spot vulnerable prey.

Now an American author is claiming there could be up to six serial killers stalking potential victims in Britain today.

Antonio Mendoza reckons at least four operate along an M6 corridor from Birmingham to Liverpool, and he is also convinced that a serial killer is on the loose in south Dublin.

Los Angeles-based writer Mendoza even believes one serial killer could be responsible for the deaths of several prostitutes in Glasgow, seven of whom have been murdered since 1991.

Mendoza, 39, also accuses the British police of a conspiracy of silence. He claims they have refused to publicly accept the truth for fear of sparking terror throughout the country.

But while there is reluctance in this country to consider the fact, the FBI have already admitted that serial killing has reached an "almost epidemic proportion" in the United States, with between 35 and 50 killers currently on the loose.

The Yorkshire Ripper, Fred West and Bible John are names that strike terror into the heart of every sane-minded citizen, but it was not until three years ago Scotland Yard pooled police resources to tackle the problem of serial killers.

Operation Enigma reviewed 207 unsolved murders of women since 1986, most of them prostitutes, using up to the minute technology, including profiling techniques used by the FBI.

After a year, it identified 70 unsolved murders that could be grouped into 21 clusters, each possibly the work of a serial killer.

Last year, Operation Enigma wound up with the conclusion that 14 of the murders bore the hallmarks of four serial killers. They passed their findings back to the regional forces to be re-investigated.

In the last six months, two beasts have been jailed for life for murdering prostitutes and police believe they have may have killed many more.

But Operation Enigma has been notoriously secretive and police will not even reveal the location of the clusters they have identified.

Mendoza said: "Scotland Yard have been downright stingy about releasing any information about Enigma and the investigations that have spawned from it.

"They have not even identified the locations and characteristics of the four suspected serial clusters, though at least three of them seem to centre around the Midlands."

Police suspect that Alun Kyte, given two life sentences in March for the murder of Birmingham prostitutes Samo Paull and Tracy Turner, could be the notorious Midlands Ripper, responsible for the deaths of 20 women in the last two decades.

They also re-opened the files on murders of prostitutes in Glasgow and Liverpool when lorry driver David Smith was jailed for life at the Old Bailey in December for murdering Londoner Amanda Walker.

However, Mendoza believes there are several more serial killers still at large in Britain's towns and cities today.

He said: "You try to deny a lot of things. No one wants to admit there are serial killers on the loose. No one is proud because it reflects badly on the police and society.

"If you cannot say for certain there's a serial killer out there, it's best to keep quiet about it. However, you're never certain that he's not out there and there's evidence to suggest he is. I estimate there are between four and six on the go in Britain at the moment.

"A lot of the times the police know about the cases, but not about the guy committing the crimes.

"I don't know why the police are being so secretive, they haven't even explained the conclusions of Enigma.

"We know there are four clusters of killings but I could only work out the location of three of them along the M6 corridor.

"It's mostly prostitutes being killed at truck stops and these women need help and attention paid to them. It's better to let people know what's going on.

"Sometimes it makes sense to keep evidence secret, but other times it's good to talk with the public as it generates tips and helps a lot of women know they are being hunted, especially those in vulnerable professions such as prostitution."

Strathclyde Police have steadfastly refused to accept that the deaths of seven prostitutes in the city since 1991 could be the work of one man.

However, call girls plying their trade in the city's red light area believe one man was responsible for at least two of the murders. Yet police have refuted their claim.

So far in Glasgow, only the killer of Margo Lafferty in 1998 has been caught and convicted.

Privately, the police claim they know who is each responsible for the murders of Jackie Gallacher, Dianne McInally, Karen McGregor, Leona McGovern, Marjorie Roberts and Tracey Wylde, but have been unable to prove it.

The last prostitute killing in Glasgow was two years ago and Mendoza, who has spent six years studying multiple murderers, is not convinced each death is the work of a different man.

He said: "It would seem from experience that there is a serial killer at work because all the women have died within the same period of time and in roughly the same way.

"However, after a two year absence I think the person responsible is either dead, has moved on and is killing elsewhere, or has been arrested for another crime.

"Serial killers don't just stop, it's not a stage of mental development. Once you're in, you're in.

"That's why the case of Bible John has always baffled me. He killed three and it's after murdering that number the FBI classify you as a serial killer.

"He could have stopped, but I think it most likely he died in a car crash or ended his life in prison.

"Someone who preaches at women is holding in a lot of anger, that's not the behaviour of a man who will stop at three victims."

The world's most notorious and most prolific serial killer is Pedro Alonso Lopez - The Monster of the Andes. He confessed to killing 300 women in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia in the late Seventies and is currently serving life imprisonment.

Mendoza has examined 18 case studies in his book, Killers on the Loose, including the killer who operates in Wicklow and Dublin and who has murdered six women since 1993. There are currently four serial killers on the loose on the south side of Chicago, while police are hunting the killer of 29 prostitutes in Vancouver.

The Cape Town strangler, who has killed 20 women, is one of five multiple murderers in South Africa. In Costa Rica, a madman has killed at least 19, most of them courting couples in quite parks.

Italian detectives also believe there is a serial killer on the loose in Rome who targets rich and powerful gay men after the killings of 20 homosexuals.

Serial killers are the stuff of nightmares, but the vast majority of us will never come into direct contact with one of them.

Mendoza added: "I came across the same type of victim continually in my research. It's almost always prostitutes and usually those who are drug addicts.

"It's horrifying that no one cares for them and they have so few support systems.

"Everyone's greatest fear is the involvement of children, but in all of my research I only came across two active cases - in Virginia and Belize. Thankfully, it's unlikely."

Father of two Mendoza is both repulsed and fascinated by serial killers. He said: "They are the most horrifying people but there is a certain fascination in looking at the most extreme forms of human behaviour.

"My mother was shocked when she read I was writing a book about serial killers, but she knew about almost every case I discussed as they are such high profile news. People are repulsed, but they are curious, too. My four-year-old daughter Gala started pre-school recently and I went to a meeting with all new parents.

"We had to introduce ourselves and say what we did for a living.

"I thought long and hard and then told them I was writing a book on serial killers.

"There was total silence at first, but they like me now that they know me."

Killers on the Loose is published today by Virgin, priced pounds 6.99.

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