CSI London: Bugs and Bodies

When the body of Leah Questin was found in a suitcase on farmland in Kent in September 2009, Metropolitan Police officers investigating her murder took a tip from CSI’s Gil Grissom and his fascination for bugs.

The activity of Blowflies and their eggs at the site of the corpse was crucial in working out approximately when Leah died. In this case it was some 12 days earlier. As a result the officers could focus on a narrower timeframe when it came to collecting crucial evidence including CCTV footage and mobile phone use and prioritising lines of enquiry.

It soon became clear that someone had been using Leah’s phone and withdrawing large sums of money from her account. Detectives quickly focused on the man she had recently met through the dating section of the Gumtree website: Clinton Bailey.

Bailey had killed the 37 year-old nurse after inviting her to his home in Brockley, southeast London, on 12 September 2009. And although the decomposition of her body prevented pathologists from working out the case of death, there was enough evidence to prove it was murder rather than accidental death.

The following year Bailey was jailed for life with a minimum of 30 years before parole.

This study of insects in connection with crime – forensic entomology – gained greater recognition thanks to the lead character in the US TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Gil Grissom’s fascination with bugs may have been creepy, but it often cracked a case that had foiled the human members of his team.

Forensic entomology can not only estimate the time since death, it can also provide evidence as to whether a victim has been stabbed or shot, whether their body has been moved from another location and the type of that location and whether there was a longer period of neglect or abuse before death.

Samples taken from insects that have fed on a body can also indicate what substances were present if the remains have decomposed too much to be analysed.

The insects in question include flies, beetles, bees, wasps, ants, butterflies and moths. The most commonly used by forensic entomologists are blowflies, otherwise known as bluebottles and greenbottles. Blowflies are generally the first to arrive at a dead body and provide the most accurate means to estimate the minimum period since death.

After the eggs are laid by the female blowflies, they hatch into tiny larvae about a millimetre long which grow into maggots to feed on the body before moving away to turn into adult flies, leaving behind a brown case

The time intervals between each stage, and the size of the larvae allow the scientist to estimate the minimum time since death. However, when the body is placed in a zip-up bag – as in the case of Leah Questin – this timeframe is disrupted.

It was this issue which led MSc student Poulomi Bhadra to carry out a three-month experiment titled ‘Factors influencing accessibility of bodies to blowflies’ to determine how what delay can be caused by physical barriers like zip-up bags.

Chicken liver was placed in zipped containers of varying types and exposed to flies both in the laboratory and outdoors.

Commenting on her study, Poulomi Bhadra said: ‘The research itself has been so interesting; we have obtained some surprising results so far and there is much more to investigate.’

Her study is one of more than 100 research projects which have been carried out as part of the Metropolitan Police’s partnership with King’s College London since 2001.

No doubt her findings will be of use to the Met’s Evidence Recovery Unit and its staff of more than 100 forensic scientists and 400 crime scene examiners, who together investigate more than 11,000 crime scenes every month – that’s well over 132,000 a year.

The Unit is also responsible for blood pattern analysis, shoeprints, fingerpint enhancement, fibre analysis, crime reconstructions and DNA sampling.

Read the full case summary of the murder of Leah Questin

The Turkish Gang War

The gang-related revenge killing or ‘tit for tat’ feud accounts for a very small proportion of murders in London. It is however one of the most disturbing, conjuring up echoes of the American mafia as represented by The Godfather and other films.

This type of murder appears to flourish when when those responsible seem to be getting away with it. The intended victims or targets seek revenge outside of the justice system and potential ‘hitmen’ are emboldened by the failure of detectives to solve a case.

The worst recent example is the ‘war’ between two gangs in north London, the Hackney Turks (Bombacilar) and the Tottenham Turks (Tottenham Boys). Between March 2009 and April 2013, five men were shot dead. Although most of the victims were members of the two gangs, one of them was entirely innocent.

Strikingly, none of the ‘hitmen’ who fired the shots were brought to justice until July 2014 (see below). Up until then, any convictions were restricted to the co-conspirators who enable the gunmen to carry out the murders: getaway drivers, spotters etc.

Although there have been previous incidents involving the two gangs, prosecutors have traced the feud back to a brawl at the Manor Club in Finsbury Park, north London, on 24 January 2009.

That night Kemal Armagan, the leader of the Hackney Turks, was injured in the fight and vowed to kill anyone who attacked him, including Mehmet Senpalit, a Tottenham Turk.

The feud that followed was described in court by Edward Brown QC in this way:

This feud has resulted over the last few years in murder, attempted murder, beatings, threats and damage to shops and the like belonging to those perceived to be associated to one gang or the other. It has therefore been a bloody and lethal campaign by each side. From relatively minor origins, this feud became a dreadful sequence of revenge attacks – not just a beating here or a punch there, but determined killings and attempts to kill.

A brief timeline:

  • 8 March 2009: Kemal Armagan’s brother Ali Armagan is shot and injured, along with fellow Bombacilar Kenan Aydogdu.
  • 22 March 2009: Ahmet Paytak, 50, is shot dead at Euro Food and Wines in Hornsey Road, Holloway, a store owned by Mehmet Senpalit. Kemal Armagan, who fled the UK shortly afterwards, is believed to have ordered the hit.
  • 2 October 2009: Oktay Erbasli, a 23 year-old Tottenham Turk member, is shot and killed while driving in Tottenham.
  • 5 October 2009: Cem Duzgun, a 21 year-old Hackney Turk member, is shot dead at a social club in Upper Clapton Road.
  • 15 August 2010: An attempt to kill Kenan Aydogdu, a close friend of Ali Armagan.
  • 1 February 2012: Ali Armagan, 32, is shot dead in his car near Turnpike Lane tube station. Kemal Eren, the leader of the Tottenham Turks, is believed to be responsible.
  • 1 December 2012:  Kemal Eren is shot and seriously injured in Elbistan, Turkey.
  • 18 April 2013: Zafer Eren, 34, Kemal Eren’s brother, is shot dead in Southgate.

UPDATE: In July 2014 Jamie Marsh-Smith was jailed for at least 38 years for the murder of Zafer Eren. The judge John Bevan QC said: “The use of the streets of this city for fighting a Medieval turf war using hired hands as hit-men is as intolerable as it is unacceptable.”

See also:

North-east London’s Turkish mafia – London Street Gangs website

What lies behind murderous Turkish gang feud? – BBC Online

Other tit-for-tat feuds over the last few years have tended to involve teenage/youth gangs:

TN1 vs GAS – Zac Olumegbon (TN1) and Kwame Ofosu-Asare (an innocent victim)

GMG vs DA – Negus McLean (DA)

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.