Questions posed by Scott Williams-Collier
1. Tell our readers a little about your early life. Where did you grow up and what was family life like?
I am Chris Clark, formerly Police Constable 409 of Norfolk Constabulary, I came into the world on Christmas Day in 1945 the eldest child of Tom and Stella Clark. Dad had joined the Royal Airforce in June 1939 when he was still seventeen. WW2 started in the September and in 1940 he was posted to Bircham Newton in Norfolk where he met my mum in nearby Stanhoe. The war interrupted their courtship until March 1945 when they were reacquainted and were married at Fakenham Register Office on 13th August with mum carrying a noticeable bump! It was a few months after the war when I made my appearance and the United Nations Organisation had just been born, it was also the start of the trials of Nazi Germans in Nuremberg.
In October 1952 Dad was posted to the Far east Transport Wing VIP Flight and based at FEAF Headquarters at Changi in Singapore and spent most of his time during the next two and a half years flying the Commander in Cheif around various Bases of Command including Kai Tak in Kowloon Hong Kong during the end of the Korean War and during the Malaya Emergency. During this time we again went to live with my Grandparents Jack and Florrie Stringer who in the meantime had moved to No.4 Ramp Row Cottages, Bircham Road, Stanhoe. Goodness knows how we all fitted in this small two up one down cottage, as there were three adults and by now five children, with a sixth one on the way. I remember that the downstairs was an open plan lounge kitchen and dining area.
Rationing was still in force so wild rabbit caught from Major Ralli's Farm was the mainstay of our existence; another favourite being rabbit braised in the oven with onions and gravy or jugged hare. Rationing had continued after the end of the war. In fact, it became stricter after the war had ended than during the hostilities. Bread was on ration from 1946 until 1948, potato rationing began in 1947, sweet rationing continued until February 1953 and sugar until September 1954; with meat and other food rationing continuing to July 1954.
The toilet at Stanhoe was in the little shed at the end of the garden, an original "thunder box" fitted out with a wooden bench seat with a hole cut out for one's bottom and underneath was a large metal bucket which had "Elsan" toilet disinfectant in it, the bucket was to catch the "number one's and numbers two's" and there would be newspaper cut into squares on a hook for toilet paper. When the bucket was nearly full Grandad would dig a pit and empty the contents of the bucket into it, cover it with soot and askes then refill it; at night time we had a porcelain potty under the bed which was taken down in the morning and emptied.
I was eventually one of eight children and because of dad's postings, educated at various schools in Norfolk, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Wiltshire and Singapore. We eventually settled in 1955 at "Excelsior" Brook Road in the village of Dersingham close to Sandringham, this is where I completed my education at St George's Secondary Modern at the age of fifteen. By then I had seen the insides of nine different assorted primary junior and secondary modern schools.
2. Did you have any other jobs before becoming a police officer, if so what were they?
Upon leaving school in July 1961 having excelled only in Science, Geography and Gardening I obtained a place as a Student Worker on a one year's course at Burlingham Horticultural Station near Acle in Norfolk. It took three separate trains to travel to Dersingham Station to Lingwood Station with my Cycle on board in the Guards Van, where I boarded with a retired schoolteacher Mrs Mingay in the village of Lingwood together with a fellow student from Ipswich. At Burlingham, I studied all theory and practical aspects of growing crops flowers and plants etc. I completed the course at the end of August 1962.
My Next job from 1962 to 1964 I had two years employment on a pig and poultry farm at Home Cloisters Farm in Roydon near Kings Lynn, where I cycled five miles each way, before and after work. having 500 heard of pigs and 2000 chickens to feed, water and muck out as well as frequent deliveries of animal feed was a particularly taxing task at times. It was during this time that I experienced the worst winter of my life, which started abruptly the end of December 1962 and gave the first White Christmas since 1938. There was a predominate biting easterly wind which came from Siberia. This weather continued for over three months and it was the coldest winter on record since 1740, there was still frozen snow on the ground in mid-April. And during this winter the North Sea in The Wash at Hunstanton froze beyond the Pier.
During 1964 I became a kitchen gardener to HM Queen Elizabeth 2nd at Sandringham where I grew fruit flowers vegetables and mushrooms for the royal table as well as commercially for Covent Gardens in London. I lived in "The Bothe" the single men's quarters at the gardens which had an enclosed dormitory where I had a good-sized oak-panelled room.
3. You spent nearly 30 years working as a police officer. What motivated you to join the police, and what roles did you undertake while working for the police force?
During January 1966 whilst employed at Sandringham, two workmates who had both been special constables and they knew that I was looking for a challenge in life and between them, they suggested a career in the police. I had originally intended joining the RAF but was under qualified and didn't have 20-20 vision for flying. I placed my application to be a Constable and a Sergeant at Dersingham Police Station called and discussed my application to join Norfolk Constabulary. I later at the police sat an examination consisting of an English essay, mathematics and general knowledge, somehow with several different schools and teaching methods behind me I scraped through and joined on 10th March 1966.
After 13 weeks at Eynsham Hall Police Training College in Oxfordshire, I was passed out in July 1966 and posted to the Hellesdon Section of Norfolk Constabulary where I was on foot/cycle beat patrolling on my own with no tutorship. This was the time when Harry Roberts was on the run for 3 months after the Shepherds Bush Murders of 3 police officers and there was a nationwide search out for him. I completed 7 full night shifts patrolling alone during those 3 months, not knowing where Roberts was. He was eventually arrested in Essex.
During April 1967 I was posted to King's Lynn in West Norfolk and spent the rest of my career (apart from 4 years 1978-1982 as a beat officer) there until August 1994 when I was medically retired suffering from severe PTSD (which I still suffer from). As a none-driver, I started off on foot or cycle patrol working various beats in town, which I did on and off for 9 years until 1976 when I passed my driving test. During that time I also worked in the Control Room and as Acting Sergeant.
During 1968 with the advent of Unit Beat Policing I started off the new nationalised intelligence system called The Collator (Local Intelligence Officer) and I was also Deputy Collator until I got the role in 1987.
From 1969 until 1981 ancillary to my other patrol duties, I was a Royalty Protection Officer to HM The Queen at Sandringham House, this in those days was completely unarmed.
During 1972 the Court System changed from Assizes and Quarter Sessions to Crown Court and I was the first King's Lynn Crown Court Officer.
In 1976 having passed my test I was a Panda Car driver dealing all emergency calls, etc.
In 1978 I was posted to Gayton Beat and once a month did a week night duty on Section Motor Patrol.
In 1982 I returned to King's Lynn, firstly on Section Motor Patrol and then on permanent in King's Lynn Control Room until October 1987. This included CAD Control and Deploy radio, PNC Police National Computer, CCTV.
On the 1st and 2nd of May 1985, I was at headquarters on a "MIRIAM" a Major Incident Room Course where I was trained as a Force Major Incident Room Indexer/Researcher and later in 1987 would receive training on a new computerised major crime system the first generation of "HOLMES". During 1985 and 1986, I was involved in 7 major crimes.
During October I was posted as a Local Intelligence Officer for West Norfolk and during that time built up a cross border intelligence exchange with both our neighbouring Divisions as well as our neighbouring forces, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, I also worked with various Crime Squads of 5 and 3 District and RICO Regional Intelligence Offices at New Scotland Yard and Wakefield.
During January 1991 until retirement in 1994, I returned to permanent Control Room as a main controller.
During 1993 I did apply for 3 separate posts as a Regional Crime Intelligence Officer, but my age (47) went against my applications.
Finally, at the end of August 1994, I was medically retired, suffering from burn out and severe PTSD.
4. Did you ever work on any big cases during your time with the police?
During 1985 and 1986, having been trained in the MIRIAM Major Crime system I was involved in 7 separate Major Crime Investigations, these included the attempted murder of two schoolgirls committed by Terrence Pocock: On this hot sunny but fateful day in July 1985 two young teenage girls were out enjoying themselves on a summer's day during their school holidays in Cambridgeshire. Terrence Pocock from Stetchworth near Newmarket in Suffolk was out for another reason, he was going to kidnap and rape and probably murder at least one young female on this day and at the time he neither knew nor cared who the victim(s) would be, it would be a random forcible attack to satisfy his lust then murder using an ornamentals sword before disposing of the body or bodies. However, the girls managed to survive and raise the alarm and give a description of their attacker, and Pollock was arrested by good intelligence.
The second case, just over 7 weeks later, the kidnap and sexual murder of 3-year-old Leoni Keating by Gary Hopkins. During September 1985 little blonde-haired Leoni Keating also known as Cornell, who was aged three years old (the same age as my daughter), was on holiday with her mother in Caravan K24 at Seashore Holiday Camp part of the huge sprawling complex of Vauxhall Caravan Park situated on the north side of Great Yarmouth adjacent to the golden sandy beach of this popular Norfolk seaside resort. They had escaped for a short time the inner city environment of Acton London where they lived in a battered wives hostel with a group of other women and children who they had come on holiday with. Leoni's mum had never seen the child happier as she had played all day long on the sandy beach, and paddling in the chilly North Sea surf, but now the holiday was over; tomorrow they would be going home.
On that last evening of Friday, the 13th Leoni dressed in pyjamas was tucked up in bed by her mother who went out at 10:00pm for some light relief, babysitter and patrolling baby watch had been arranged for 10:30pm and Leoni was left alone asleep in the locked static caravan, but with the window ajar for ventilation. Due to a mix up the babysitter was half an hour late and when she arrived at 11:00pm the front door of the caravan was open, Leoni's bed was empty and it was wrongly assumed that her mum must have changed her mind and taken Leoni with her. When Leoni's mum returned from the Disco Bar at 12:10am some two hours later she found neither babysitter nor Leoni, In the confusion that followed it wasn't until 3:00am that Norfolk Constabulary were alerted.
The first reaction was that Leoni had probably woken up before the babysitter arrived and had got up and wandered off. Officers with dogs and powerful torches searched the camp, the beach and seas front. Perhaps she had been found wandering by other campers who had taken her in for the night. But by dawn, there was still no sign of her.
As soon as Great Yarmouth Police received the missing person report a force-wide manpower team was set up and a search made during the night and into the next dawn of the immediate area in the belief that Leoni had awoken and being alone had wandered off and had some sort of an accident or had drowned in the sea. With still no trace of her on the Saturday morning, Norfolk Constabulary called on all Early Turn duty officers in the country to muster and go to nearby Caister Holiday Camp for briefing and deployment and I was one of the officers from Kings Lynn who was so deployed.
On arrival at Caister, I saw that there was an enormous amount of police officers and holidaymakers alike and after a briefing on the circumstances, we were tasked with going to Great Yarmouth and conducting an extensive search of The Race Course, Sand Dunes, Caravan Site consisting of approx. 1000 caravans to search together with the entire Norfolk Constabulary Police Dog Section and as many holidaymakers and local people who were available. Coastguards, two lifeboats and air-sea rescue helicopter searched offshore whilst we combed the landside but to no avail. What was not known at the time was that a little girl barley out of babyhood had been snatched through the caravan window and spirited away into the night to be sexually assaulted and murdered. The following Sunday Papers were full of the report and most carried a copy of the last photograph of the Littel Leoni playing happily with her rag doll on the beach a few days before.
Little did anyone on the enquiry know then that the little child was already dead and more than 40 miles away floating semi-naked, gagged and tied up in a water-filled drainage ditch at Mildenhall in Suffolk having been raped and murdered by being thrown in the water whilst still alive with her hands and feet tied behind her back with a yellow washing line, like one of the young victims of Robert Black; 10 year old Sarah Harper.
But as heinous as the crime was this little mite was no more than a toddler and could not have put up any fight; having expended his evil lust her perpetrator left her trussed up like a piece of meat before tossing her into water to die an agonising drowning with no chance of survival.
A Major Incident Room was set up at Great Yarmouth Police Station with everything coming in being placed on the newly formed HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System) computerised system.
The terrible news everyone had feared came; Leoni was found five days later in the manner described. Some 40 miles away from Great Yarmouth, a women motorist pulled into a picnic site on the A1065 road at Barton Mills, situated between Bury St Edmunds and Mildenhall in Suffolk. It was a pleasant site, with wooden tables set back from the road in a copse of pine trees.
It took 3 months of good intelligence work to find the perpetrator, Gary Hopkins who lived 2 counties away in Bedford.
5. What inspired you to become a writer?
I originally Researched and wrote my father's 25 year RAF Biography and further spin-off of two WW2 RAF Squadrons. Around 2012 I learned from Jeanne who had suffered in silence for some 40 years, that she had been nearly snatched as a young teen from a village in Cambridgeshire and quickly realised that it had to be Robert Black. I then set out researching his early timeline.
6. In your book, Yorkshire Ripper. The Secret Murders. You brought to the publics attention at least a further twenty-two murders possibly committed by Peter Sutcliffe. The murder victims also included some males. What were your experiences writing this book, were the police authorities helpful or did you feel certain people wanted to silence you and your investigations?
Having exhausted my quest for Robert Black, I then found a pattern of attacks and murders throughout the UK during the 1970s which indicated to me the method and motive of Peter Sutcliffe, wrongly labelled "The Yorkshire Ripper". I spent from 2012 until January 2015 researching these cases and the book was published at the end of June 2015.
I locked horns with West Yorkshire Police over an FOI Release of the withheld parts of the Byford report and Release of The Sampson Report as well as Keith Hellawell's list of possible other victims.
I contacted a number of police forces where my investigation took me and not one has looked at a single unsolved case I brought to their attention with Peter Sutcliffe in mind.
7. What is your opinion on the Fred Craven murder case in Bingley, and how the police managed to lose all the important case information of this terrible crime?
Sadly, Irene Vilder, Fred Craven's daughter and who was my friend; died last year without ever seeing justice for her father's murder.
It was quite clear from the beginning and after Peter Sutcliffe's conviction that West Yorkshire Police cynically set about getting rid of any casefiles which may have involved him that they missed in West Yorkshire. This is apparent when Desmond O'Boyle (the Officer who questioned Sutcliffe and gained his conviction) thought in 1981 that both Fred Craven's murder and John Tomey's attack were Sutcliffe's work, but was told that SOCO fingerprint evidence had been lost.
They later told Irene that the Crime Files had been lost in a move from Keighley to Dewsbury. Last year I sent an FOI and WYP state they hold a murder file on Fred Craven:
Our ref: 2545/18
Dear Mr Clark,
Thank you for your request for information received by West Yorkshire Police on 29/05/2018. You requested the following information:
You have published the unsolved murder of Fred Craven:
Date of offence 22/04/1966
Location Wellington St. Bingley
Victim Surname Fred Craven
Method Blunt instrument
Could you please confirm whether you hold a 1966 crime file for this case if so I request a copy of the Pathologist Report.
West Yorkshire Police can confirm that they hold a copy of the crime file for the murder of Fred Craven. The Pathologist report contained within this file is exempt by virtue of Section 30(1) - Investigations and proceedings conducted by the public authority.
8. Do you believe Peter Sutcliffe will ever be charged with any additional crimes or do you believe he will take his secrete murders to the grave with him?
There are a couple of documentary publications in the pipeline for release in 2020. These will be far-reaching and cover some of the unacknowledged survivors. There are 4 cases that can be progressed, the 1975 admitted attack on Tracy Browne, the 1979 admitted attack on Ann Rooney, the 1977 murder of Debra Schlesinger and the 1980 attack on Maureen (Mo) Lea. The latter two former Det Supt Chris Gregg made public in 2002 that they could charge Sutcliffe with if he were to be released under the 30-year tariff.
9. Are you currently writing anything at the moment, and if so what is it about?
I am very busy:
I ghost-wrote and provided the foreword for Stephen Downing's forthcoming book November release "The Case Of Stephen Downing" Pen & Sword.
I helped research and edit as well as a foreword for "On The Trail Of The Yorkshire Ripper" by Richard C Cobb Pen & Sword.
I am currently writing 7 books:
"The Millenium Killer" Christopher Halliwell over 20 unsolved murders, including "The East Lancs Ripper Murders" Three Teeside murders and a number of others in the West Country and Midlands.
"Exposing Jack" a new suspect for the 1960s unsolved "Hammersmith Nude Murders aka Jack The Stripper."
"Gone Fishing" 7 unsolved murders investigation aimed at Angus Sinclair/Gorden Hamilton.
"Steve Wright Revisted" The Suffolk Strangler servel unsolved cases pointing at him.
"Mark Of The Ripper" The 1972 murder of Judith Roberts, the miscarriage of justice to Andrew Evans and the likelihood of a Peter Sutcliffe crime.
Two further miscarriages of Justice based:
"The 1982 Aldershot Dog Walker Murders" Peter Fell spent 18 long years wrongly convicted. I now have a tangible suspect.
Finally: "The Pub Rapist" it covers the case of Paul Barry Taylor who committed several tapes and the murder of Sally Ann McGrath in the Peterborough area during the 1970s before going under the radar near Portsmouth for 30 years from 1982 until Justice caught up with him. Linda Cook was murdered and Michael Shirley was wrongly convicted and spent 16 years in prison before DNA proved it was not him.
10. Final question and something I like to ask is; what advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Believe in yourself and the book you want to write.
Don't just cut and paste other works but research and come up with something fresh and innovative.
Explore all avenues of what the subject matter is and try to think outside the box.
Make your story fascinating and compelling, so that the reader is compelled to explore it cover to cover.
PLEASE CHECK OUT CHRIS CLARK'S BOOKS AND WEBSITES BELOW
Website: Armchair Detective
Facebook: Armchair Detective
Amazon: Chris Clark