Jack of Jumps by David Seabrook
|Jack of Jumps by David Seabrook|
|Category: True Crime|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: An exhaustive an interesting look at the murder of eight prostitutes in London between 1959 and 1965 is marred when it strays from fact into speculation about the identity of the murderer and points a finger at a living person who could be identified from the wealth of detail provided.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 400||Date: May 2007|
|Publisher: Granta Books|
Some true crime has never been far from the public consciousness. There are quite a few people still trying to solve the Jack the Ripper murders nearly a hundred and twenty years later. Other crimes have slipped from the public memory despite the fact that they were equally horrific and it's difficult to understand why, given the similarities. One such case is the murder of eight prostitutes in a relatively small area of London between 1959 and 1965. The bodies were all naked when they were found and they came to be known as 'the nude murders'. It was also inevitable that the killer would be known as 'Jack the Stripper'.
David Seabrook's Jack of Jumps is an exhaustive look at the cases. He pieces together the final days of each of the eight prostitutes and looks at the reasons why they were on the streets. He's occasionally judgemental but the backgrounds are as fascinating as the investigations into their deaths. The murders are taken in chronological order and the full story told, the place where the body was discovered visited, witness statements analysed and post mortem reports pored over in minute detail.
This might sound boring and rather gory, but it's not. Occasionally the details read like an excerpt from the actual post mortem report. Whilst it might be interesting to know that some teeth were removed I didn't necessarily need to read precise details of which teeth were present and which were not for the entire mouth. That's a minor quibble though. There are some interesting links to the Profumo scandal, which had us all reading the papers at the time and the death of boxer Freddie Mills, written off as suicide but which was probably murder. It's also the London inhabited by the notorious Kray twins and Peter Rachman, the man who gave a bad name to landlords. If you want to know about the dark under-life of London then this book can't be bettered for social commentary.
In the way that is common with serial killings the gaps between the murders began to decrease and in 1965 with the death of Bridget O'Hara the police were fearful that the murderer would strike again before long, but it didn't happen and there was press speculation about why. Was the murderer dead? It is possible that this is true as one man, who might have had the opportunity to commit the murders, gassed himself, but Seabrook has an alternative suggestion and this is my major quibble with this book.
Seabrook argues that the murderer is still alive and was at one time a detective in the Metropolitan Police Force. He admits that the police investigated this man as a suspect and 'failed to build a case... ' but this doesn't stop Seabrook from providing so much detail about the person he suspects that it should be relatively easy to identify him. It seems unreasonable to effectively accuse someone of being a serial killer when they may well not be in a position to sue for libel and when the police have failed to make a case. Their files on these murders remain closed to the public, yet Seabrook was granted access and given the wealth of detail he provides I think it's safe to assume that there is no prospect of a prosecution based on the available evidence.
Whilst the book was factual I found it enjoyable - if 'enjoyable' is the right word with regard to so much gruesome and grubby detail - but once it strayed into speculation I felt as though I was reading the worst excesses of tabloid journalism. It's a pity that a few pages should mar an otherwise good book.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Jack of Jumps by David Seabrook at Amazon.com.
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