Son of the railway murders detective pens tribute to his father’s work
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
Bridget Galton talks to Simon Farquhar whose book on the grim railway murders helped him understand his Detective father who worked the case
As a boy Simon Farquhar would win playground kudos by telling everyone his father was in the real life Sweeney.
But it was only when he delved into Detective Chief Superintendent Charlie Farquhar’s final, most high profile case that he finally understood the grim reality of what his dad faced every day.
A Dangerous Place (The History Press £9.99) is both a tribute to his father’s decency and discretion and an account of the notorious railway murders.
The playwright and broadcaster, who had unprecedented access to those who worked the case, says: “It was a great opportunity to go on a journey to find out more about my dad. I never saw him at work so it was an extraordinary experience to walk the same places, talk to his colleagues and see his name on old paperwork. I’ve read things I wished I hadn’t but it’s been disturbing and humbling to understand his resilience, mental discipline and remarkable ability to compartmentalise it from family life. I was a teenager in the 80s and probably a complete pain yet he would come back from doing this stuff and never let it show.”
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A former Flying Squad chief, Charlie’s last posting was as head of Romford’s murder squad where he headed up the search for missing Upminster teenager Alison Day in December 1985.
But the origins of the case date back to 1970 when John Duffy and David Mulcahy met in the playground at Haverstock School and formed what the Old Bailey would later hear was a “unique and wicked bond”.
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Together they carried out multiple rapes mostly around North London – then as the net closed in and their violence increased, they roamed further to kill three times.
When Alison’s body was found more than two weeks later in the canal at Hackney Wick, almost all evidence apart from some clothing fibres were destroyed.
“They had nothing on the case and with resources drained by the Wapping dispute it was going to be shut down, but my father’s determination to keep it open helped save lives”.
Simon learned of Charlie’s promise to Alison’s parents: ‘I’ll do everything in my power to find whoever did this but I can’t give you your daughter back’.
“That was borne out of years of experience with victims’ families.”
Irish-born Duffy who grew up in, Lawn Road, Hampstead and attended Rosary Catholic Primary in Haverstock Hill, was bullied at school and turned for support to the stockier more confident Mulcahy.
Together they roamed Hampstead Heath where they would later commit several rapes.
“They explored it inside out while truanting from school they knew all the escape routes.”
Leaving school with no qualifications, Duffy worked as a carpenter and Mulcahy as a painter and decorator. But their petty crime, stealing cars, shooting airguns and jumping out on gay men on the Heath, would escalate to breaking into womens’ homes.
When those attempted rapes failed they began targeting lone females around railway stations. From 1982 to Duffy’s arrest in 1986 they terrorised North London; raping a 20-year-old au pair walking home at midnight on North End Way, abducting a woman in Golders Green and driving her to Westbere Copse West Hampstead. Dragging a 17 year old off Arkwright Road and raping her.
Duffy later told police they called it “hunting” and played Michael Jackson’s Thriller to psyche themselves up, taking balaclavas a knife, tissue and matches with them.
While living in Barlow Road, Kilburn, Duffy attacked a woman in nearby Burton Road on her way home from a party. Another woman was abducted from the waiting room of West Hampstead station, assaulted and forced to walk along the tracks to the next bridge.
In July 1984 their attacks included two 18 year old Danish au pairs on Spaniard’s Road and a 23 year old au pair in Church Row.
Early computer cross referencing helped police to link 27 cases and in an era pre DNA, they started working through a database of sexual offenders with A secretor blood group. Having assaulted a female family member, Duffy was 1,500 on the list. But when artists’ impressions appeared in the Ham&High and police put out posters of the North London rapists, they started to travel further afield.
Their next two victims were 15-year-old Surrey schoolgirl Maartje Tamboezer in April 1985, and ITV secretary Anne Lock in Hertfordshire that December.
Simon praises detectives who cracked these cases aided by a behavioural psychologist who gave them an accurate profile, good old fashioned shoe leather and perceptive links between three murders in different jurisdictions.
“There are bad policemen but this is about some good ones. My dad always said the problem with the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry was they all wanted to solve it on their own. He thought there was no room for that on something as serious as this.
“There was overwhelming pressure knowing these people were going to strike again, but it was a careful enquiry, they never ran away with preconceptions and kept an open mind. There’s always interforce rivalry but unlike the Yorkshire Ripper they strengthened their case enormously by coming together. Not one of them knew everything but joining up the different things their MO the blood group the fibres, they got there.”
Duffy was tried and convicted in 1986 and for a decade never incriminated Mulcahy, who equally didn’t visit him in prison.
By the time he started to confess, police were already looking to reopen the case and with the help of DNA, and Duffy’s evidence Mulcahy, who lived off Adelaide Road, was convicted in 2001 on twelve counts of rape and three of murder. He continues to protest his innocence.
“Police knew there was a second man and always wondered what a few years in prison would do to Duffy,” says Simon. “He started to have nightmares, to be torn apart by what he had done and became infatuated by his psychiatrist. Possibly to impress her or feel important or just because he was bored he started to talk. There was no reward for him - he didn’t need to provide all the details which didn’t make him look good - but perhaps there were psychological benefits from it. Police tested every single word of his confession. One lie would have shattered the whole case but it all checked out.”
Simon says both men’s parents were “decent hardworking people” and speculates that their crime spree was a ‘folie a deux’.
Once separated, Mulcahy’s he settled down as a family man. “Mulcahy managed to behave himself for so many years. He chose to explore cruelty towards people and then he chose to stop. When I saw him at the Old Bailey in his 40s he wasn’t extraordinary, he was a non entity.” Chillingly a 1976 rape on North End Way reported in the Ham&High bears all the hall marks of a Mulcahy attack from the photofit to the location. Simon says there are likely to be others.
“What these victims went through was horrendous it must have been terrifying. I wanted them to be at the forefront of the story rather than those two. How they had the courage to give evidence and how the police did an amazing job to get them there.”