Off the Map: The case of Dean Reddy

We added the case of 25 year-old Dean Reddy after detectives arrested his father on suspicion of murder.

Since then police have said they are no longer treating the death as suspicious and revealed that further tests established the cause of death was ‘sudden adult death syndrome’. (See the report in Edgware Today on April 25, 2013).

Here is the case page as it read before deletion:

Dean Reddy, 30, died after being found unconscious at a flat in Mill Hill, northwest London, on 23 February 2013.

Police were called to the address in Bittacy Hill following reports of a disturbance at around 11pm. Mr Reddy was pronounced dead at 11.51pm.

His 57 year-old father, who had suffered cuts to his face and neck, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder and later released on bail until April.

Following further investigation, detectives from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command decided the death was no longer suspicious. No further action was taken.

The Fall in Violent Crime and Murder

The release of the ‘UK Peace Index‘ (pdf link) has again highlighted the decline in violent crime (including murder) since 2003. “This is the fastest decline in violence of any country in Europe,” the report concludes.

It notes that the homicide rate (murder, manslaughter and infanticide) has halved over the last ten years to 1 per 100,000.

The bad news is that London scores badly with the capital’s boroughs occupying the top 17 ‘least peaceful areas’ of the UK – with Lewisham at the top. See Murder Britain – How does your area compare (Indy Voices).

But the cause of this decrease in crime and murder over the past decade is still unclear (fall in UK crime baffles experts)- particularly as the fall has continued in the face of a major recession. The explanations have varied from the reduction in the use of lead in paint and petrol) to cultural changes.

Here are some of the suggested reasons (feel free to add more in the comments):

  1. A ‘symptom of a new morality‘ as people become less tolerant of criminal behaviour.
  2. Lead poisoning. ‘Studies between cities, states and nations show that the rise and fall in crime follows, with a roughly 20-year lag, the rise and fall in the exposure of infants to trace quantities of lead.’ 
  3. The decline in illegal drug use, particularly among the young. Drugs play a part both in petty crime (shoplifting etc to get money to feed the habit) and in violent crime (disputes between drug dealers / turf wars etc).
  4. Legalised Abortion (The Donohue-Levitt hypothesis) – It is argued that unwanted children are more likely to become criminals.
  5. Feminism – ‘Strong, autonomous feminist movements were the first to articulate the issue of violence against women and the key catalysts for government action, with other organizations sidelining issues perceived as being only important to women.
  6. Policing – the targeting of specific types of homicide and violent crime, such as teenage knife crime (which reached a height in around 2007), gang violence (Operation Trident). In a recent statement, the Met highlighted its ‘series of high visibility ‘Big Wing’ operations engaging staff right across the MPS in joint action to target specific areas of crime, ranging from car crime to burglary.’ The ‘detection rate’ for homicide (number of cases where a suspect is charged) has remained high, meaning killers are less likely to get away with it. Improvements in technology (e.g. DNA, CCTV, mobile phones) also make it easier for police to identify suspects, resulting in more convictions and fewer unsolved cases.
  7. Harsher sentencing – The 2003 Criminal Justice Act brought in set ‘tariffs’ or ‘minimum terms’ for life sentences, ranging from 15 years to whole life. For example, gun murders have a starting point of 30 years. In 2010, the minimum term for some knife murders rose from 15 years to 25 years.
  8. The internet – are we more content with our lives due to social media? Perhaps young people are now too busy on their iPhones and game consoles to become involved in criminal behaviour. (On the other hand, mobile phone thefts/robberies have increased massively)
  9. Improvements in medical care – see our blog on Emergency Medicine and the murder rate
  10. Dodgy statistics – Are the police ‘cooking the books’ under pressure to beat targets? (This seems much more unlikely in the case of homicide – a crime that is harder to conceal).

So will it last? Some fear that the effects of the recession will result in rise in homicide (even if it hasn’t happened yet).

The latest homicide figures for London do show a slight increase for the financial year 2012/13 (106) compared to 2011/12 (103), with the lowest 12 month rolling figure being achieved in the summer of 2012 (96).

What happens next may give us a better indication of the factors behind the recent decrease in homicide and violent crime.

How safe is London?

We were recently sent an email by a worried student asking about the likelihood of being murdered in London. This is perhaps not surprising given the prominence given to reports of teenagers being stabbed to death or shot.

As we’ve repeatedly demonstrated, the number of homicide cases (both murder and manslaughter) has been going down steadily from a peak in 2003. Last year there were less than 100, which is returning to the levels last seen in the 60s and 70s.

London may have more crime than any other area, but this is mainly because there are more people in London (approximately eight million). As you can see, if you rate different police forces by the number of murders per 100,000 people, London is only tenth highest, with the worst being West Yorkshire. Having said that, it is higher than the avarage for England and Wales.

And if you look at it by country, then ‘England in Wales’ is doing better than both Scotland and Northern Ireland, although it’s some way behind Austria and even Italy.

The country with the highest ‘murder rate’ is Lithuania – which is of interest given the increase in the number of people from that country now living in London and the rest of the UK. According to the Office of National Statistics, there were 74,000 Lithuanians in the UK in 2010 compared to 4,000 in 2001.

According to the 2011 census there were just under 40,000 Lithuanians in London, although some believe the true figure may be double that. In some areas like Newham Lithuanians make up 2.7 per cent of the population.

Two Lithuanians were allegedly murdered in London last month alone (January 2013) but this is rare – there were two Lithuanian murder victims in the whole of 2012, none in 2011, two in 2010 and three in 2009. Generally the victims seem to die at the hands of fellow Lithuanians, in temporary accommodation or squats, and involving the excessive consumption of alcohol. (see the cases of Rolandas Vosylius, Paulius Riepsa and Alvydas Miksys.)

The recently-released figures for Homicide in England in Wales for the financial year 2011/12 (around 540 homicides in total) also contained a breakdown for gender and weapon (by percentage). As in London, most victims are male.

Apparent method of killing (percent) Male victims
(367 offences)
Female victims
(172 offences)
Sharp instrument 39 38
Blunt instrument 10 9
Hitting, kicking etc. (without a weapon) 23 5
Strangulation, asphyxiation 4 26
Shooting 9 4
Burning 3 5
Poison or drugs 2 3
Other 11 10

It should also be pointed out that ‘stranger’ murders are actually quite rare. Most cases involve gang-related violence, domestic violence or fights at pubs or clubs. And while it’s always advisable not to walk alone in the streets at night, the likelihood of being murdered in London is very low indeed.

Review of 2012

The number of homicides in London fell by nearly 20 per cent from last year – with 97 victims compared to 117 in 2011 (Note this was later increased to 99 – see update below).

This continuing decrease in the murder rate – despite budget cuts in the police force – brings it down to levels not seen since the 1960s.

Nearly four out of five victims were male (75 out of 97). Only eight of the 97 were teenagers, compared to 15 in 2011.

Six victims were killed with guns (down from 13 in 2011) and 43 with knives (down from 57 in 2011). Most of the remaining victims were killed with no weapon (i.e. manual strangulation, punches, kicks). One victim was stabbed with a broken glass and another died after being mauled by a dog.

Here’s a chart of the homicides for each month – the average was just over eight.

The borough with the most homicides in 2012 was Croydon with seven. Of the ‘improving boroughs’, Lambeth went from 11 in 2011 to four in 2012, while Tower Hamlets decreased from nine to three and Bexley from five to one. The City of Westminster’s total jumped up from one to five.

At present only 12 of the 97 cases (12.4 per cent) remain ‘unsolved’ in the sense that nobody has yet been charged (or arrested overseas on a warrant).

This pie chart gives the totals for each borough (including the City of London):

Asked by murdermap for a comment on the decrease in homicides, DCS Hamish Campbell, head of homicide investigations at Scotland Yard, said: “It is always encouraging to see a drop in the number of homicides and serious crime. We liaise with many agencies in the course of our work, and the co-operation we receive from the community is vital in driving down these types of offences.

“The Metropolitan Police will continue to be rigorous in the detection and investigation of murders in the capital.”

UPDATE: On January 23 DCI Campbell gave a fuller response to the Evening Standard giving the official Met Police figures of 99 homicides in 2012.

Read Safe London – murder rate hits 42 year low – Evening Standard

NOTE: We had originally counted 95 homicides: Since then we have added the case of Delores Smith (December 27) and Douglas Hutchinson (December 13, suspect originally charged with attempted murder).

NOTE UPDATE (Jan 2014): Two further homicides for 2012 were later added, making a total of 99.

Unsolved Homicides 2012

The following cases of murder and manslaughter for 2012 remain unsolved. Can you help?

One of those victims was Pamela Wheeler, a 76 year-old widow found dead at her home in Thamesmead, south London, after a suspected burglary.

In total there are 11 victims where nobody has been charged by police or detained overseas on a warrant. This number is highly likely to decrease as investigations continue.

Contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

This post is updated when cases change status (last update January 30, 2013)

Domestic Violence part 2

Last month we looked in detail at the issue of domestic violence homicides in London by looking at the cases for 2011. In part two, we compare the figures for previous years.

So what are the trends in ‘DV’ homicides in London over the last five years?

In brief, over 2008 to 2011:

  • The proportion of DV cases increased from around 11 per cent to 13 per cent.
  • The number of DV cases remains relatively constant each year
  • The percentage of female victims fluctuates over time but is usually around 20 to 22 per cent

However the preliminary figures for 2012 (subject to change) are 19 female victims out of 93 total, or 20.4 per cent, of which 10 appear to be DV cases, or 10.8 per cent).

Obviously dealing with such a short time frame and relatively small numbers makes the identification of any real trends difficult. However, it seems that the decrease in homicide over the last five years does not really apply to female victims or domestic violence.

 

Year 2008 2009 2010 2011
Total victims 145 131 123 117
Female victims 32 23 30 26
Percentage Female 22.1 17.6 24.4 22.2
DV (both sexes) 16 14 15 15
Percentage DV 11 10.7 12.2 12.8

Note: For the category ‘Domestic Violence’ we have included all cases that involve men or women being killed by their partners or ex-partners. Some cases involve little or no history of violence and a small number of others are often described as ‘mercy killings.’

The full case listings are below (click on name to read summary in new window).

2008: Total number of ‘domestic violence’ cases: 16 (out of total 145 homicides, or 11.0 per cent)

Yvonne Barlow, 44, stabbed to death by her partner.

Emma Forrester, 34, stabbed to death by her husband.

Michael O’Brien, 43, stabbed to death by his girlfriend.

Graham Boyne, 41, stabbed to death by his wife.

Arsema Dawit, 15, stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend.

Samantha Boyden, 36, stabbed to death by her partner.

Abiodun Ilumoka, 40, stabbed to death by her partner.

Rahmona Ahmedin, 23, stabbed to death by her partner.

Ashley Reynolds, 23, thrown to her death by her partner.

Jusna Sabit, 36, battered to death by her husband.

Dina Sharpe, 39, battered to death by her partner.

Marilyn Leslie, 49, stabbed to death by her partner.

Shireen Khan, 41, strangled by her husband. (He was cleared of murder on the basis he was provoked).

Tara Reeves, 35, stabbed to death by her partner.

Kate Ellerbeck, 46, killed by her husband.

Tatiana Konalova, 47, stabbed to death by her husband.

2009: Total number of ‘domestic violence’ cases:  14 (out of total 131 homicides, or 10.7 per cent)

Lakhvinder Cheema, 39, poisoned by his ex-lover.

Varsha Champaclal, 43, stabbed to death by her husband.

Kulvir Kaur, 22, strangled by her husband.

Gloria Laguna, 48, killed by her husband.

Camille Mathurasingh, 27, stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend.

Darryl Phillips, 39, stabbed to death by his lover.

Elif Oruc, 42, stabbed to death by her husband.

Maleha Masud, 15, killed by her ex-boyfriend in a house fire.

Leah Questin, 37, killed by her boyfriend.

Lisa Beverley, 30, was battered to death by her ex-partner.

Olga Pleguezuelos, 35, was stabbed to death by her husband.

Geeta Aulakh, 28, was hacked to death on the orders of her husband.

Aysel Djevdet, 38, strangled by her husband.

Julie McKinley, 40, strangled by her husband.

There is also Natalie Correa, 27, who was battered to death at her home. Her boyfriend was acquitted of murder. Ayodele Akinsiku, 32, was stabbed to death by her brother-in-law.

2010: Total number of ‘domestic violence’ cases: 15 (out of total 123 homicides, or 12.2 per cent of total)

Maria Colaco, 50, battered to death by her partner.

Maria Coelho, 37, battered and suffocated by her partner.

Carmen Stanescu, 30, stabbed to death by her partner.

Czarina Baker, 21, strangled by her partner.

Donna Drepaul, 50, set on fire by her partner.

Sandra Voicehovska, 47, stabbed to death by her partner.

Svetlana Zolotovska, 40, stabbed to death by her estranged husband. Her mother was also killed.

Amanda Beresford, 36, set on fire by her partner.

Ghada Habib, 55, battered to death by her ex-husband.

Beata Slomiana, 33, suffocated by her ex-partner.

Indra Tharmananthan, 70, strangled by her mentally ill partner.

Jacqueline Barrett, 34, battered and strangled by her partner.

Joan Mungall, 69, smothered by her husband in what was described as a mercy killing.

Winifred Crowther, 83, stabbed to death by her husband.

Joan Chopping, 84, killed by her husband.

See the previous blog for the list of 2011 cases

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is said to account for 40 per cent of all female homicide victims in England and Wales. The other frequently reported statistic is that two women are killed by a male partner or ex-partner every week (from the Home Office analysis carried out in relation to the financial year 2003/4).

Amina Adan was beaten and stabbed to death by her partner Zakaria Mohamed in November 2011.

But how does this compare to London? We decided to look at the homicide cases in the capital during 2011 to see how they compare to the quoted statistics.

In summary, 26 out of out of the 117 homicide victims (22.2 per cent) in our database for last year were female. Fourteen of those 26 (57.7 per cent) were women killed by their husband, partner or ex-partner. In six of the 14 cases there was a definite history of domestic violence in the relationship, and in a seventh the suspect was on bail as a result of a previous incident.

Two of the 14 are commonly referred to as ‘murder-suicides’ where the killer committed suicide before they could be arrested.

Here is a list of the victims we’ve identified (click the link to read the case summary):

January 1: Jitka Nahodilova, 27, stabbed to death by her partner, who committed suicide.

February 2: Lorna Smith, 45, stabbed / suffocated by her ex-boyfriend.

April 20: Zandra Maxwell-Nelson, 24, stabbed to death by her estranged husband.

April 26: Lucinda Port, 29, stabbed to death by her partner, who committed suicide. Previous involvement of police.

June 20: Sarwat Malik, 60, stabbed to death by her husband.

July 5: Mumtahina Jannat, 29, strangled by her husband. History of domestic violence.

September 12: Sashana Roberts, 24, stabbed to death by her ex-partner. History of domestic violence.

September 26: Charito Cruz, 37, battered to death by her partner (suspect awaiting trial)

October 8: Gaynor Brockwell, 46, strangled by her husband.

November 11: Amina Adan, 32, beaten and stabbed to death by her partner. History of domestic violence.

November 19: Carmel Charles, 20, stabbed to death, believed to be domestic (the suspect is awaiting trial).

December 20: Jasmin Chowdhury, 33, beaten to death by her husband. History of domestic violence.

December 23: Desirie Thomas, 35, stabbed to death by her husband. History of domestic violence.

December 25: Ruby Love, 23, strangled by her partner and dumped in a canal. History of domestic violence.

But not every case is clear cut – for example Fiza Asif, 27, was murdered by her brother-in-law on January 4. Her husband was charged with murder but was acquitted.

Only one case out of 117 involves a male victim being killed by their female partner: Winston Sinclair, 73, fatally stabbed by his wife on January 16. 

Additionally there is the case of Mohammed Zillur-Rahman, stabbed to death by his stepson – who claimed the victim was violent towards him and his mother.

In one or two other cases the nature of the relationship between victim and killer is unclear (see for example Siobahn Kelly).

We have not included cases of homicide involving relatives, even though they occurred in a domestic setting.

In our next blog we will look at the cases for 2008, 2009 and 2010 and see how they compare.

Note: Earlier this week the Metropolitan Police launched an operation targeting ‘domestic abusers‘.

The Jack the Stripper Files: Closed until 2050

The police report which might shed light on the unsolved murders carried out by ‘Jack the Stripper’ in London in the 1960s is currently locked away in the National Archives, marked not to be opened until 2050.

If you were wondering why this is necessary nearly 50 years after the killings, then a recent Freedom of Information request reveals the reasons for the decision:

  • Releasing the document might impair a future ‘cold case investigation’ into the murders.
  • It could cause distress to families of the victims
  • It might cause damage or distress to a ‘third party’

Another interesting point is the policy that details of any investigation into an unsolved crime should remain confidential until the ‘hypothetical suspect’ reaches the age of 85 (assuming he or she is at least 16 at the time of the offence). This explains why the date of 2050 is chosen in the Jack the Stripper case, as the report is dated September 1965.

Links to a summary of the Jack the Stripper case and the police report held at the National Archives.

The full response is:

Disclosure of the information contained within this record would demonstrate how the police go about investigating serious crime, in this instance a series of murders of prostitutes in West London during the mid 1960s.

The police service is accountable to the public it serves and it is in the common interest that information that demonstrates how it performs across the range of its duties is made available. However, this comes with the following caveats; such disclosures of information must not impede the police from discharging their lawful duties to detect and prevent crime, and identify, apprehend and bring offenders to justice; nor should disclosure infringe the rights of individuals.

Disclosure of information, especially that relating to issues of public safety, could act to reassure the public and engender a sense confidence in the police, which would be in the public interest. However, this record contains information relating to the investigation of a series of murders that remain unsolved.  This record also contains information, which, if put into the public domain, could cause substantial distress to the immediate, surviving families of the victims.

The information contained in this record is directly relevant to the investigation of a series of murders as yet unsolved.  As such the Metropolitan Police Service would desire that the details of the investigation remain confidential until any hypothetical suspect reaches the age of 85 years, after which point, in common with CPS policy, a prosecution is unlikely to be pursued.  This closure period would be based on an assumption that the suspect(s) would have been at least 16 years old at the material time.  The rationale for this is that there remains a possibility that these murders could still be investigated and that a suspect could be identified, charged, brought to trial and convicted.

It is not possible to identify particular information that might be released into the public domain without the risk of compromising any future police actions; information that appears innocuous may have significance to an experienced investigator that is not immediately obvious to the lay reader; or may assume a new significance in the light of newly discovered evidence or developments in forensic or investigative techniques.  The evolution of new scientific techniques, especially the technology of DNA, means that cases hitherto considered unsolvable, are being examined afresh.  Increasingly police services throughout the country are setting up ‘cold case’ teams to review their case files on unsolved murders; in some instances these unsolved murders date back to the 1940s.
The premature release of this record into the public domain might, therefore, be detrimental to any future investigation and subsequent prosecution. Such an outcome would not be in the public interest.

This record comprises of a report that links together a series of prostitute murders in West London in 1960s.  The report contains information a graphic and disturbing nature the disclosure of which is likely to cause substantial distress to the victims’ surviving, immediate families to the point where their welfare could be significantly harmed.  Such an outcome would not be in the public interest.

A section 40 (2) exemption also applies to some of the information contained in this document. Section 40 (2) exempts personal information about a ‘third party’ (someone other than the requester), if revealing it would breach the terms of the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998. The DPA prevents personal information from release if it would be unfair or at odds with the reason why it was collected, or where the subject had officially served notice that releasing it would cause them damage or distress.

In this document the exemption applies because it contains discussion of personal information relating to the deceased’s family and aspects of their own private lives. The individuals concerned would have no reasonable expectation that this information would be released into the public domain during their lifetimes, and to do so could cause them a considerable level of distress.

Researching Old Murders

As well as covering every new murder in London, we are also trying to expand the database backwards in time to the 19th Century. How do we go about it?

Some cases are so famous that vast amounts of information can be found easily online or in countless books, blogs and newspaper articles (Jack the Ripper, for example).

Many others are mostly forgotten, for a variety of reasons. But even then there is still plenty of information which can be dug up without a vast amount of effort. To illustrate this we looked at an unusual case of cyanide poisoning dating back to 1968.

The search began with an email from a visitor to the site:

Can anyone help me find out case and details of Murder of barmaid in Beehive Public House St Johns Road, Battersea London SW11. The barmaid was named Helen Enright commonly called Eilleen. A customer poisoned her with cyanide. this happened about 40 years ago.

At the time there was nothing in the Google search results for a Helen or Eileen Enright in connection with the Beehive pub in Battersea. The breakthrough came with a search on the Times Archive of newspaper reports between 1785 and 1985.

This revealed that there was a report of a murder case involving an Eileen Pooley at the Beehive pub in the Times of September 6, 1968.

Now we have full names for both the victim and defendant we could start searching other online newspaper archives such as the British Newspaper Archive, or the The British Library‘s online collection of newspapers from the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries (also available to search at the London Metropolitan Archives and other institutions). Users of the British Library can also access the online archives of the Daily Express and Daily Mirror.

The British Library Newspaper archive at Colindale also has copies of nearly every newspaper ever printed (both the actual paper and on microfilm) which can be examined by anyone with a reader’s ticket.

Another vital source of information (at least for cases dating to prior to 1913) is the Proceedings of the Old Bailey website, which often contains a fascinating amount of information including the evidence given by witnesses.

But for our case, which took place in 1968, the best place to look is at the National Archives in Kew. A search of their online catalogue for Eileen Pooley or Clifton Stofile reveals two files of interest:

1) The case papers of the Director of Public Prosecutions at DPP 2/4566 – unfortunately this file is closed until 2052 because it ‘contains sensitive personal information which would substantially distress or endanger a living person or his or her descendants.’

2) The records of the Central Criminal Court at CRIM 1/4966. This contains the statements of the witnesses and Clifton Stofile himself, together with a plan of the Beehive and photographs of the scene. It even contains an unsettling picture of the victim lying dead in the morgue (not reproduced here for obvious reasons).

All of this information was pulled together for our story Guinness and Cyanide: The tragic death of Eileen Pooley. What was the result of the trial? Read and find out.

Talking to Killers

The first thought of any writer covering a murder case is naturally the victim and their grieving families. But that is only one half of the story. What of the murderer and his or her parents, children, close friends and relatives?

One man who has built a career on this other side of the coin is Ian Hitchings, a true crime author who claims to have talked to hundreds of convicted killers during his 36 year career.

Although the 1967 prison rules banned journalists from using any material gained by visiting inmates, this is now allowed ‘if their purpose is to assist a prisoner who claims he has been wrongfully convicted.’

Perhaps surprisingly, Ian believes that there is nothing to distinguish between convicted killers and the general public other than the crimes they have committed. He says: ‘We are all human beings who are totally responsible for our own actions, each and every one of us are capable of committing the ultimate crime of murdering another.’

The mind of a killer is a very complex and dangerous thing. Know the ins and outs of the mind with a forensic psychology online masters.

In this interview with murdermap Ian Hitchings gives us an insight into his work:

How do you go about getting an interview?

Initially, I contact the killer directly by letter where we would then exchange brief correspondence. Prior to embarking on interviewing them face to face, I spend hours carefully sifting through literally all the evidence which had been placed before the court and trial transcripts with a fine toothed comb in order to familiarize myself with the possible motive and circumstances surrounding their heinous crime.

Once, I am satisfied I have seen all the relevant documentation  only then do I make the necessary arrangements to visit them at their prison so to build up a good rapport, before eventually settling down to put – pen to paper – and take comprehensive notes of their particular version of events surrounding the incident.

Who was the first killer you interviewed?

Donald Neilson
Donald Neilson

Its public record this was Donald Neilson, serial killer and armed robber, following three murders committed during robberies of sub-post offices from 1971 to 1974, his last victim was 17 year-old Lesley Whittle, an heiress of Whittle Coaches from Highley, Shropshire, whom he kidnapped. The teenager’s body was later found hanging in an underground drainage system, where Neilson had secured her by the neck with wire in 1975. Neilson was responsible for about 400 burglaries during a 10-year criminal career, the killer was dubbed “The Black Panther” as a result of witness descriptions of his dark clothing and powerful physique. He had been suffering for some years from motor neurone disease, was taken to hospital from HMP Norwich and died on 18 December 2011 after suffering from breathing difficulties.

The first female murderess I had the opportunity to interview was Linda Calvey, a notorious gangster’s moll, jailed for killing her lover Ronnie Cook in 1990. She was commonly known as the “Black Widow” because every man who’s fallen for her has ended up dead or in jail. When Myra Hindley died a few years back, Linda her prison hairdresser, oddly enough assumed the title of the longest-serving female prisoner in the country. Calvey was released from prison in 2008 after spending a 28-year stretch behind bars for murder.

What is your most memorable interview?

This has got to be my numerous interviews I had in 2005, with one of Britain’s most notorious murderess Tracie Andrews, a former model and barmaid, who was convicted at Birmingham Crown Court in 1997 of terrifyingly stabbing to death her beloved fiance Lee Harvey in Alvechurch, Worcestershire. She had originally blamed the murder on a “fat man with staring eyes” in a road-rage attack.

Andrews was a trusted prisoner enabling her to work outside the normal prison surroundings as a driver unbelievably collecting visitors from Guildford Railway Station, ferrying them to and fro in the prison minibus. Little did they know who was at the wheel!

Tracie Andrews
Tracie Andrews

During the course of our many amiable conversations Andrews confided in me that having officially been refused anonymity upon her eventual release, she had changed her name by “Deed Poll” to Tia Carter and was awaiting plastic surgery to correct her bottom jaw from protruding over her top jaw.

This was completely out of the ordinary and I was somewhat taken aback, because astonishingly here I had come face to face with a killer who had been meticulously planning years head in anticipation for when they released.

Don’t get my wrong, all prisoners have pipe dreams which seldom become reality, but when you’ve got a killer whose quite prepared to endure major plastic surgery to change their facial appearance, then that’s something else.

It wasn’t until much later such revelations were leaked to the media by a former discharged female inmate. The fact that the operation was paid for by the NHS was the cause of some controversy.

Andrews was released in July 2011 from Askham Grange open prison, near York, where she has spent the last part of her 14-year term. She is banned from travelling within 25 miles of her victim’s family without supervision.

Have you ever felt in fear for your safety while talking to a convicted killer?

Strangely enough there hasn’t been any real incidents of significance where a killer has ever personally had the audacity to neither threatened or intimidate me.

Obviously, I cannot ignore arguable issues so there will always be a time when we might differ in opinions and should they throw an immature temper tantrum then the killer soon comes to realise whose playpen they are in. Overall, they are generally courteous towards me.

Shamefully the same cannot be said for a small minority of convicted killer’s weirdo campaigners who are proclaiming their innocence and by way of their own irresponsible actions unbelievably subject me to either frightening blackmail threats or find myself bombarded with maliciously insulting emails, whereby I am called every vile name imaginable.

Have any of your interviews left you certain that the convicted killer was innocent?

Andrew Evans
Andrew Evans (via www.innocent.org.uk)

One in particular prominently sticks out like a sore thumb. In the 1980’s I had occasion to visit Andrew Evans at HM Layhill open prison in Gloucestershire. Evans a 17 years-old teenage soldier at the time he was convicted of murdering 14 year-old Judith Roberts. The girl was battered to death near her home in Tamworth, Staffordshire, in 1972.

For more than 20 years, Evans had accepted his guilt after being told that there were no reasonable grounds for an appeal against his conviction.

Nevertheless, Andrew Evans strenuously began a campaign in 1994 to prove his innocence by contacting the organisation Justice. Consequently, he was moved without any reasonable explanation from the open prison to a high-security jail – HMP Long Lartin.

In December 1997, Evans was freed after his conviction was held to be unsafe by the Appeal Court after spending 25 years in prison.

What proportion of the convicted killers you have spoken to maintain their innocence?

The vast majority of convicted killers within our prison system continue to protest their innocence and are in “denial” of the senseless murder which they have ultimately been convicted of committing. Neither do they show one flicker of remorse, genuine or crocodile tears, no matter how horrifyingly gruesome the loss of life would have been. They will always foolishly try their utmost to put on the “I’m innocent” facade as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth and strut along without a care in the world.

They will strenuously exhaust the criminal appeals process, in an attempt to wriggle of the hook, despite the overwhelming damning evidence which assisted in securing their conviction. Rarely do you find any convicted killer who freely admits their heinous crime at the first opportunity and really shows genuine remorse for their actions.   

Can you remember interviewing any London-based murderers in particular?

In recent years, the names of three cold and callous pure evil killers immediately spring to mind: Mark Dixie, Sarah Anderson and Robert Stewart. Whilst Dixie and Anderson need no introduction, Stewart on the other hand is relatively unheard of yet he’s Britain’s most dangerous psychopathic prison killer.

Robert Stewart first made the headlines in relation to the murder of 19 year-old Zahid Mubarek in March 2000 at HM Prison Feltham – more commonly known as Feltham Young Offenders Institution. It was Zahid’s first time in prison serving a sentence for stealing a set of razor blades worth £6, interfering with a motor vehicle and going equipped for theft. These were petty crimes. Stewart had already been suspected of inciting a riot, stabbing another prison, implicated in a murder, planning to take a prison cookery teacher hostage and helping to organise a murder. He committed his first offence at just eight years old and had 18 convictions for 71 offences by the age of 17.

Every prison has its fair share of monsters who we seldom hear about one they have been brought to justice and removed from society. Yet, it’s extremely difficult to bring this particular monster to justice as Stewart carries out his heinous acts from within, where prisoner on prisoner killings, assaults, self-harm and hangings are an everyday occurrence.

He has complete disregard for authority and commands utmost  respect from his fellow prisoners. Seldom is he questioned. Only when his rage explodes and he commits such unspeakable crimes does the Prison Service realise they hold this evil monster within their midst.

See Robert Stewart: Portrait of a Prison Killer by Ian Hitchings.

During the course of my interview with Mark Dixie at HMP Long Lartin, I can best describe his whole entire demeanour has a Jekyll and Hyde character. On times, Dixie could certainly be very chatty and friendly – as cool as a cucumber. But, there’s no doubt in my mind whatsoever he also had another more sinister extremely manipulative and arrogantly dangerous side to him.  This was evident when Dixie took the view that he didn’t want to answer any particular questions I posed to him, strangely, without saying a word he would slouch back in his chair, arms folded and oddly just stare intently at me with his piercing eyes.

Do you speak to the families of the convicted killer? How do they describe the experience of having a loved one in prison?

On average once a month I am contacted by a devastated family member of a convicted killers, as more often than not it’s unbearably hard for them to comprehend or come to terms with what heinous crime their loved one has unbelievably committed.

It’s even more difficult for them when their loved one has created a remarkably convincing entire pack of lies, deliberately deflecting the blame for the heinous crime. A theme to which I often refer – “Oh what a tangled web they weave when they practice to deceive.”

You only need to look at the case of convicted killer Adrian Prout to actually see how manipulatively convincing these killers really are. Having been in total denial of his estranged wife’s disappearance and murder since 2007, and it wasn’t until only after Prout had failed a lie detector test undertaken at HMP Garth, in Lancashire, that he eventually come clean and made a full confession to the police and his fiancee Debbie Garlick. She was convinced Prout was the victim of a miscarriage of justice and had been leading a campaign for his release.

The person who has been killed is not the only victim: the pain of the both families endures, and I am sensitive to this by holding certain responsibilities to heart.