Inside a police investigation

The true crime book A Dangerous Place by Simon Farquhar tells the story of the rapes and murders committed by two young men in and around London in the early 1970s. The locations of most of the deaths were associated with stations or train tracks and the murders became known as The Railway Murders. I have to say that I have no recollection of these crimes and have heard nothing about them before.

This book is unusual in that it is written by the son of the chief investigating officer. This meant that the author had access to material and information that others would not have. He was able to speak to many of the police officers involved and also to access his father’s personal notes on the investigation. This gives us an insight into things which is unusual but it also means that the police work and approach is rarely challenged by the author.

No one, including perhaps themselves, can say exactly why these two young men decided to rape and then murder. You can see that once they started they enjoyed what they were doing and they worked together well. The author explains their home background and problems they had faced but is clear that there was nothing exceptional about this and that plenty of people in a similar situation hadn’t committed any crimes. At no point in the narrative does the author attempt to imagine what was going on in the head of the criminals – this makes the book a bit one sided but it does stick to what is known which I like.

Good policework uncovered the first perpetrator but it was some years later before the second could be charged. The author is clear about why that was and also about how that made the investigating officers, and the family of the victims feel.

This is a book that follows closely what is known and which gives an all-round insight into an investigation. I may not have known about these murders before but the three young women who lost their lives and those who were raped and attacked deserve to have their lives written about with respect and accuracy. This book does that and it made for an interesting read.

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