Wednesday, March 7, 2001

Reuters News Agency

Ripper fear grips London

LONDON — The discovery of a third body in less than three months in a London waterway has sparked concern that a Jack the Ripper-style serial killer is on the loose, killing prostitutes before dumping their bodies in the water.

The gruesome finds include the discovery of a severed female torso floating in the Thames, bags filled with female body parts in a canal and the latest victim found tied up and wrapped in a carpet. The first two victims have been identified by police as prostitutes.

Scotland Yard said on Wednesday that it had launched a murder inquiry after the discovery of the third body, a black woman about 40, in the Thames near Lambeth Bridge in central London.

The body had not been dismembered like the previous victims, but investigators in the three cases will be discussing whether the cases are connected, a Scotland Yard spokeswoman said. A post-mortem established the cause of death as compression of the neck.

"We have yet to establish an identity for the deceased (found this week)," the spokeswoman said. The body is believed to have been in the water for less than a week.

"As is normal, those leading the separate inquiries will work with each other, but at this stage there is nothing to link the three cases," the spokeswoman said.

Even though police are refusing to speculate about any links at this stage the similarities in the three cases bring back memories of Jack the Ripper, who murdered at least seven women, all prostitutes, in London's East End in a three-month period in 1888.

In each instance, the victim's throat was cut, and the body was usually mutilated. The case remains one of the most famous unsolved mysteries in English crime and has kept its grip on the popular imagination.

Last month, police found body parts of 31-year-old Paula Fields, a prostitute, dumped in the Regent's Canal in north London. Ms. Fields, a crack addict, was last seen getting into a red car in December.

The killer cut her body into several parts, wrapped them in garbage bags, placed them in sacks weighted with bricks and threw them in the canal. Despite an extensive search by police divers, some body parts are still missing.

Detective Inspector Mike Smith, leading the investigation, warned last week that Ms. Fields's killer could be keeping some of her body parts as "trophies."

In December, the upper torso of Zoe Parker, a 24-year-old prostitute, was found floating in the Thames near Chelsea Harbour in west London. The lower part of her body has not been found.

Police said that after she was slain, her body was cut in half at the waist, possibly by a sword.

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Created: March 7, 2001
Last modified: September 1, 2001
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