Detectives plan to follow up 1,400 leads tied to Peter Tobin, who boasted of killing 48 women in the UK
Police search for victims of killer who may have murdered dozens of women
LONDON // Detectives yesterday launched a massive, nationwide inquiry in a bid to find out how many more women a convicted serial killer had butchered over the past 40 years. On Wednesday afternoon, it took a jury just 13 minutes to convict Peter Tobin of the kidnap and murder of 18-year-old Dinah McNico lin 1991.
It was the third time in as many years that Tobin, a convicted rapist originally from Scotland, had been convicted of killing a young woman and he will spend the rest of his life in prison. Police, though, believe that the 63-year-old drifter may be responsible for dozens more murders, making him one of the UK's most prolific serial killers. Yesterday, forces in Scotland and England reopened Operation Anagram in a bid to follow up 1,400 outstanding leads, many of them involving young women who have been missing since the late 1960s.
Tobin, who travelled extensively throughout the UK during his adult life, using up to 40 aliases, reportedly bragged to a prison psychiatrist last year that he had killed 48 women and then sneered: "Prove it." He was also found to have a collection of 37 items of women's jewellery in his possession, which police believe were "trophies" from other victims. Det Supt David Swindle, a Strathclyde detective heading up Operation Anagram, said yesterday he "strongly, strongly" suspected that Tobin had been involved in a string of other attacks and killings but he warned that the passage of time might make it difficult to prove.
But he added: "Anagram will continue until every action [following up leads] has been completed. If this takes years, so be it. "If Peter Tobin dies, it will not mean that the investigation ends. It is vital that we continue for the sake of the victims' families." Tobin, who was jailed in 1993 for drugging and raping two 14-year-old girls, was not connected with any murders until his arrest in 2006 when the body of 26-year-old Angelika Kluk, a Polish student, was found badly beaten and repeatedly stabbed beneath the floor of a church in Glasgow where she worked as a cleaner.
Detectives' conversations with Tobin's family - including his first wife Margaret who told how Tobin had beaten her, locked her in their home and even cut off her dog's head when it annoyed him - led them to believe he might have killed before. They dug up the garden of a house in Margate, Kent, where Tobin had lived during the early 1990s and discovered the body of McNichol, who had disappeared as she hitchhiked back to her home in Essex after attending a rock concert.
Nearby, they found the body of 15-year-old schoolgirl Vicky Hamilton, who had vanished as she walked back to her Scottish home, also in 1991. Both teenagers had been strangled. Now police are re-investigating dozens of unsolved murders and disappearances, the oldest dating back to 1968 when a killer dubbed "Bible John" strangled the first of his three victims in Glasgow. South of the border, detectives have reopened the 1969 disappearance of 13-year-old April Fabb, who was last seen near her home in the Norfolk Broads, where Tobin loved to holiday.
Among dozens of others are the "Babes in the Wood" murders of Karen Hadaway, aged 10, and Nicola Fellows, nine, who were found strangled in a park in Brighton in 1986, where Tobin had moved with his second wife. Tobin himself is refusing to speak to detectives, but Mr Swindle said: "We will continue to scrutinise his movements throughout his lifetime. "No stone will be left unturned and every piece of information gathered will be investigated to establish if he was responsible for any other crimes."