In this article, NYE journalists Tim Hicks and Chris Clark cover the stunning developments in the Claudia Lawrence murder investigation.
Three Chiefs and Four Cover-ups. (Pt. 1)
by TIM HICKS & CHRIS CLARK
The authors have been systematically investigating serial killer Christopher Halliwell, who is currently in prison serving a full life sentence having been convicted of the brutal murders of Miss Becky Godden-Edwards in 2003 and Miss Sian O’Callaghan in 2011 in Swindon.
In particular, they have focussed on the murder of Miss Claudia Lawrence and have asserted, since 2018, that Christopher Halliwell is a very strong suspect for her murder.
Their deduction that Halliwell murdered Claudia has always been ignored by North Yorkshire Police (NYP). The authors believe this is because NYP believes obsessively that the key to identifying her murderer is her private life, excluding the possibility of her murder being a stranger killing.
Now, NYP has started searching fishing ponds at eight miles outside York for Claudia’s body and her brave mother Joan has publicly appealed for serial killer Christopher Halliwell to be considered as a suspect in her murder.
Ignoring Halliwell and other major serial killers as a suspect is not unique to NYP. Halliwell was unquestionably a very much more dangerous and capable serial killer than Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, but he has been largely ignored by the British Police service. The reasons for this are covered in this NYE article: “Halliwell: A Tale of Two Forces”.
Before covering the latest developments in the Claudia Lawrence investigation, the authors want to cover three other similar cases where, for reasons of police politics, prolific serial killers have been perversely ignored as suspects. Even though there was sufficient evidence to justify designating them as suspects and investigating them.
Cover–up 1: Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) ignoring Halliwell as a suspect in the 1990 disappearance of Helen Sage by classifying her as a missing person, not a murder victim.
Helen Sage was a devoted single mother who supplemented her income with sex work. She disappeared in Manchester in August 1997. She went out to work the streets one night, leaving her daughter with a neighbour, never returned and has never been seen or heard from since.
No proof of life has been discovered since her disappearance twenty-two years ago. The authors therefore believe she has been murdered and her body concealed.
However, GMP has classified Helen Sage’s case as a missing person enquiry on the basis that it uses the Detective Sergeant Carr criteria to designate a missing person as a murder victim and this requires physical evidence of a crime to declare a murder. Every other force the authors are aware of uses the proof of life criteria, which would have designated Helen Sage’s disappearance as a murder on the basis that there has been no proof of life for Helen for over thirty years. NYE article: “Helen Sage: NYE Vindicated”
Chief Constable Ian Hopkins GMP
GMP’s Chief Constable Ian Hopkins was sacked in 2020 when an HMICFRS inspection found that GMP had routinely been understating its crime figures by failing to record 80,000 (eighty thousand) crimes.
There are similarities in Helen’s murder with the murder of another Manchester prostitute, Julie Jones. Her body had been concealed under bushes at Shudehill, Manchester. It was found six days after she was reported missing on the 3rd of July 1998, only one year after Helen’s disappearance. The cases have not been linked and Halliwell has not been designated as a suspect in Julie Jones’ murder either. NYE investigation here.
The authors believe that one of the crimes it has not recorded is the murder of Helen Sage and that the refusal of GMP to recognise she has been murdered is perverse. This has conveniently helped GMP keep its crime figures low. But it has also resulted in GMP ignoring the possibility there was a serial killer attacking prostitutes in Greater Manchester and to ignore Halliwell as a suspect in both murders.
Clearly the Chief Constable of GMP is not going to be happy about declaring Helen’s disappearance a murder after his force perversely maintained she was still alive for thirty years and therefore failed to detect that there could have been a serial killer active in Greater Manchester that it was completely unaware of.
Cover–up 2: Chief Constable Jo Farrell of Durham Constabulary ignoring Halliwell as a suspect in the 1990 murder of Mrs Ann Heron
Recently the authors have investigated two of the UK’s great murder mysteries. The June 1990 disappearance of Mrs Trevaline Evans in Llangollen, North Wales and the brutal murder of Mrs Ann Heron in August 1990 near Darlington, which remains Durham Constabulary’s only unsolved murder. We concluded that the crimes were linked by the same car and that Christopher Halliwell should be considered as a suspect, because both crimes fitted with his modus operandi.
The authors wrote to Durham Constabulary with copies of the above articles suggesting that Christopher Halliwell should be considered as a suspect in the murder of Mrs Heron and suggesting four lines of enquiry to Durham Constabulary. Two days later they received this standard response from the Durham Constabulary media department:
A Durham Constabulary spokesman said:
“The murder of Ann Heron has been thoroughly investigated and subject to constant review over the last 31 years, including the use of new investigative techniques with the advancement of forensic technology.
“It is still the ambition of Durham Constabulary to convict the person responsible for Ann’s murder.
“At this time there is no new evidence that identifies new suspects, but we remain open minded.”
It appears to the authors that Durham Constabulary has dismissed the information they sent to it without even assessing it.
This BBC article here from April 2021 narrates how the family of Mrs Heron believe that Durham Constabulary is completely focussed on Mrs Heron’s husband as the killer to the exclusion of all other suspects.
The authors believe Durham Constabulary is ignoring Halliwell as a suspect is because it does not want to admit that its investigation has been bungled or that it arrested the wrong man – Mrs Heron’s husband. The same conclusion as Mrs Heron’s family came to.
Chief Constable Jo Farrell
Ignoring new lines of enquiry that Christopher Halliwell should be a suspect in the murder of Ann Heron.
Cover–up 3: Chief Constable Lisa Winward of North Yorkshire Police ignoring Peter Sutcliffe as a suspect in the 1979 murder of an unknown woman the NYE has called “Hope”.
Briefly, in 1981 a nude body was found at Sutton Bank by an unknown man who became known as the “mystery caller” and who was designated by NYP as the prime suspect. Her body had been there since about 1979. There have been three investigations into “Hope’s” murder:
- 1981 – 1982 which was led by Detective Chief Superintendent Strickland Carter which focussed on an unfounded prime suspect and the wrong victim, adopted a media strategy that ensured the key witness would not come forward, probably used the wrong date of death and ignored a very good suspect – Peter Sutcliffe. Mr Strickland-Carter had previously been the Detective Inspector commanding the CID at Scarborough Police Station and is the police officer the NYEbelieves that protected Jimmy Savile and Peter Jaconelli from arrest, although they were openly abusing children in Scarborough. The investigation identified that “Hope” was probably a sex worker.
- 2011 – 2012 led by Detective Superintendent Lewis Raw, which exhumed “Hope’s” body and extracted DNA from it. Although this was a major success, the investigation made major errors.
The first two investigations and the reason for their failure are covered in detail this NYE article here which amongst other things asserts that the mystery caller should never have been designated as the prime suspect.
In May 2018, the authors ran this article “NYP and the Ripper”, alleging that “Hope” had been murdered by Peter Sutcliffe. Appeals for information revealed new witnesses, including one, Alderman Norman Murphy, who recognised the facial reconstruction of “Hope” which we ran in this article in June 2019 Hope: New evidence.
- 2019 – 2021 led by Detective Chief Inspector (Retired) Adam Harland. Despite Alderman Murphy being a credible witness, NYP did not interview him until the 12thof July 2021, over two years later.
The authors also contacted Mr Harland indicating they had received information including a name for the “mystery caller” previously designated as the prime suspect. Because this suspect was a member of the armed forces and the reason he was in the area had security implications which Tim was aware of from his own service, he asked to pass the information using a secure video link. An extract from Mr Harland’s response is below, along with the author’s comments in blue:
“As I have previously outlined, I am not cleared to handle highly classified material. There are well established protocols for the passing information between the military and the civil police, and should you wish to pass information relating to your military service, you should follow that route.”
Clearly the Royal Military Police (RMP) is not the appropriate authority to take evidence in a murder investigation relating to a civilian. By referring me to the RMP, Mr Harland is giving me the run around, because NYP is not interested in investigating the murder of a sex worker.
“If there is information regarding the identification of the victim, or the lady in Scarborough, arising from Police contacts, I doubt those are classified, and could be passed by email, should you wish.”
I have passed this information by email, however, I have heard nothing back and it appears to have been ignored. It will be covered in a subsequent article.
“It is not the case that the ‘Mystery Caller’ is the ‘prime suspect, although it would be useful to speak to him to identify the finder, and then speak with the finder as to the finding of the remains, and any changes he or she made in the area as a consequence of their actions.”
This vindicates the deductions the authors made some time ago that the 1981 and 2011 investigations identified the wrong prime suspect and NYP is verifying the quality of the author’s investigative journalism.
However, if it would be useful to the investigation to interview the mystery caller, NYP should be pursuing this line of enquiry vigorously and it is obviously not.
It is extremely unlikely that a suspect can be identified unless and until we have identified the deceased.
If the murderer was known to the deceased, then this statement would be correct and this makes NYP’s failure to interview Alderman Murphy immediately even more incomprehensible.
However, most murders of sex workers are stranger killings where the victim is murdered by a client who is a passing acquaintance not known to the victim. If the murderer of “Hope” was a stranger killing, then identifying the body will not lead to his apprehension. Therefore Mr Harland’s statement assumes without any justification that “Hope’s” murder was not a stranger killing and indicates that Peter Sutcliffe has been excluded as a suspect.
When Peter Sutcliffe was arrested and the failures of the investigation by West Yorkshire Police were exposed, there was a furore of criticism of West Yorkshire Police. For this reason, even now, no Chief Constable would want the name of his Force connected to the failed Yorkshire Ripper investigation, or to admit that Peter Sutcliffe had been operating in his Force area with impunity and had not been detected. Hence, perhaps, the reason that NYP is not pursuing this line of enquiry.
There is another issue with the Yorkshire Ripper murders, and the murders of Helen Sage and “Hope” which it is convenient to cover at this point. Misogyny and police prejudice against lower socio economic classes.
Misogyny in the Police Service
Historically the Police response to crimes of violence against women was to ignore it, particularly assaults on sex workers. Not much effort was put into investigating murders of sex workers because the Police regarded violence as an occupational hazard arising from a lifestyle choice.
Sex workers are from lower socio-economic classes, were not articulate and their cases were not taken up by the media, their families or local politicians. So it was easy for the Police to ignore the crimes committed against them.
Both “Hope” and Helen were believed by the police to be sex workers and therefore their cases were ignored. NYP ignored witness evidence from Alderman Murphy that could have identified “Hope” and allowed her family to be notified of her fate. Helen Sage is still classified as a missing person, although she has obviously been murdered.
In the authors view the police would have prosecuted both investigations vigorously if they were not sex workers.
Cover–up 4: Chief Constable Lisa Winward of North Yorkshire Police ignoring Christopher Halliwell as a suspect in the 2009 murder of Claudia Lawrence.
NYP has consistently stated that there is no evidence linking Halliwell to the murder of Claudia Lawrence and embarrassingly has arrested nine men in connection with her murder, none of whom have been prosecuted.
In May 2014, Wiltshire Police found a cache of property in and around an eight foot deep pond in woodland in Ramsbury, Wiltshire. It comprised a shotgun and sixty items of women’s clothing including a pair of boots that belonged to Miss O’Callaghan and a cardigan that belonged to Miss Godden-Edwards. It is suspected that this may be a “trophy store” and a place Halliwell visited to obtain sexual gratification from the knowledge of the items concealed there.
Now NYP is now searching two fishing ponds in woodland at Sand Hutton Gravel Pits eight miles outside York off the A64 York to Scarborough Road for Claudia’s body. They are very similar to the pond at Ramsbury.
As a result new information has emerged. This incisive Daily Mirror article which Chris Clark contributed to has revealed that:
- A witness has come forward confirming that Halliwell tried to entice her into his car at 06.00 in the morning after she finished her shift at Rowntree’s in York.
- Claudia’s brave mother Joan has called for NYP to investigate Halliwell as a suspect in her daughter’s murder. She is quoted as saying:
“I still don’t feel the police have investigated the link between Claudia’s disappearance and Christopher Halliwell. Something has always bothered me about Halliwell and leaves me feeling very uneasy. The police may not have proved he had anything to do with my daughter’s disappearance, but they haven’t disproved it either”
- In response, NYP told Joan she should visit Halliwell in prison:
“I was horrified. I’ve lost my daughter and they told me I could go and visit a convicted murderer in prison”.
The NYP response to Mrs Lawrence of go to Halliwell in prison herself is similar to its response to the authors to contact the RMP. It is also similar to its response to some of Jimmy Savile’s victims, who when they made a complaint at Scarborough Police Station were told to “toddle off home”. All standard brush-offs. It seems NYP has not changed since the 1970s.
The NYE has run many appeals for information on Halliwell and can now reveal exclusively that:
- We have had a sighting report of Halliwell in Scarborough.
- A witness has come forward with a sighting report of Halliwell in the North York Moors at a significant location. The authors are withholding this location from the article because of its significance.
- This witness has revealed that Halliwell was working as an independent minicab driver in North Yorkshire, which corroborates the evidence of the witness quoted above.
A left-handed smoker was seen arguing with a woman that could be Claudia on her route to work on the night she disappeared. Halliwell was a left-handed smoker whose modus operandi was to pick up women in the hours of darkness, while posing as a mini-cab driver. This would explain Halliwell’s contact with Claudia and what he was doing in York.
The NYE has contacted NYP and requested a meeting to go over this evidence. However, our e mail appears to have been deliberately ignored in accordance with Chief Constable Winward’s bizarre media policy covered here.
Commendably, Chief Constable Winward is passionately loyal to the reputation of her Force. Obviously, it would be uncomfortable for her if she had to admit that NYP bungled the Yorkshire Ripper investigation, all three investigations into “Hope’s” murder, all three investigations into Claudia Lawrence’s murder – and had arrested nine innocent men.