‘My dad cracked two of Hackney’s most notorious murder cases’
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
Simon Farquhar’s book looks at the work of his late dad, a murder detective who helped solve the ‘railway murders’. He told the Gazette about it.
Two of the biggest murder cases in Hackney’s recent history have been detailed in a book written by the lead detective’s son.
Simon Farquhar has delved into the archives to look at Det Ch Supt Charlie Farquhar’s work on the notorious railway murders, which resulted in the longest murder trial in British history.
A Dangerous Place, written after his dad’s death in 2013, also looks at the case of murdered schoolgirl Keighley Barton, who disappeared from Forest Gate while walking her dog in August 1985.
For Simon it was a chance to pay tribute to his late dad, and to piece together the work he knew little about.
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While growing up in Upminster, Chalie was in the Flying Squad – which, at the height of The Sweeney, was something Simon was able to brag about on the playground.
“It was all smash and grab robberies at the time,” he recalls. “I remember him coming home with a gun in his holster.”
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Then in the mid ’80s Charlie joined the murder squad at Romford, where he was tasked with leading the enquiry into missing girl Keighley Barton, 14.
“That was a horrific case – Keighley was the same age as me,” remembers Simon. “Her stepfather Ronald Barton killed her to silence her after years of abuse.
“My dad got assigned to it but there were two big obstacles – there was no body and there were stories of people seeing her after she had gone missing. Her teacher was adamant she saw her in a market. And after she went missing several letters were sent to her mum, written by her, saying ‘I’m alright’. My dad was convinced he made her write them before he killed her.”
Ronald Barton, 46, of Mildenhall Road, Lower Clapton, was eventually jailed for 25 years on October 30, 1986, with the judge calling him an “evil, cynical and depraved man”.
Barton told Charlie he would never find Keighley’s body, but her bones and a gold ring were found more than a year after his conviction – in Abney Park Cemetery.
In December 1985, during the Barton case, Alison Day went missing on the way to see her boyfriend – a printer who was working late in Hackney Wick.
“It was just after Christmas,” says Simon. “Hackney Wick was a very different place then. It was effectively a wasteland. It was a terrible time in London. Industry was dying – it was a very unpleasant place.
“Her boyfriend called her at her parents’ and said he was working late and to come over. She got the bus to Romford, the train to Stratford and then one stop from there to Hackney Wick. And she was never seen again.”
After three weeks her body was found in the Lee Navigation Canal. Alison had been raped and murdered, but police could carry out no forensics because of how long her body had been in the water.
“Local officers took it on but they were getting nowhere,” continues Simon. “The Wapping print strike was going on and it was eating up the manpower.
“My dad was given the enquiry but told to wind it down. But his officers said they couldn’t give it up because they just hadn’t had the resources.
“He told his bosses he was keeping it going, and said to them: ‘If you want to shut it down you can tell her parents.’
“Within two weeks he’d made a connection with a string of other attacks on women near railway lines over four years and a pattern began to emerge.”
The biggest criminal manhunt since the Yorkshire Ripper ensued and serial killer John Duffy was captured in 1986.
His accomplice David Mulcahy, released at the time through lack of evidence, was evenutally convicted after a cold case review 10 years later. He was jailed for 254 years after what was, at five months, the longest murder trial in British criminal history.
Charlie came out of retirement in Scotland to give evidence, as Simon watched on from the public gallery.
“My dad is a hero of this story but he’s not the only hero,” said Simon. “Three police forces were involved in the hunt for Duffy and Mulcahy and they all played an equal part in catching them.”