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Box of clues found in late cop's home may help solve cold cases 0

By Jane Sims, The London Free Press

LONDON, Ont. -- In a cardboard box deep in the back corner of his basement, Dennis Alsop kept what could be the keys to solving some of London's most troubling murder mysteries.

Nestled beside his Second World War memorabilia, the late OPP superintendent hid away a personal time capsule -- memoirs and news clippings chronicling his best efforts to solve a string of horrifying, still-unsolved sex killings more than 40 years ago.

That discovery by Alsop's son, after his father died in 2012, now has the potential to finally solve the murders in the late 1960s and early '70s of at least three young women -- Jackie English and Soraya O'Connell, both 15, and 19-year-old Lynda White -- and maybe more.

A celebrity sleuth who got wind of the clues and hunches the retired cop left behind has come up with an even more sinister theory -- that a sexually motivated serial killer with an erotic attraction to corpses, who's already been convicted of murder, was lurking around Southwestern Ontario, randomly picking off young women to satisfy his sick urges.

That theory is outlined in a private investigative report, obtained by QMI Agency from a police source.

The suspect was willing to drive long distances and may have kept souvenirs from his deadly conquests. He made sure other personal items taken from his victims were disposed of far away from the bodies.

He may have kept the corpses for days, weeks -- even years.

That suspect could be responsible for the deaths of the three young women.

It's Alsop's memoirs that sparked the new investigation.

"He left this stuff and he left it intentionally. He never forgot it was here," said Alsop's son, Dennis Jr., 63, of London, who found the cache while looking for his father's wartime mementoes.

His son is convinced his father wanted the box found. The information has proven an excellent starting point for a group of civilian investigators, led by London police officer and Western University professor Mike Arntfield. They want the OPP to followup.

The theory surrounding English's death will be shown March 22 on To Catch A Killer on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Arntfield leads the TV show that applies modern science and investigative techniques on unsolved cases.

While not tipping his hand to what's been uncovered, Arntfield said the Alsop memoirs have the potential to put many old mysteries to rest.

"I think it's one of the most important criminal artifacts in this region, if not the province, that's still available in its original form and context," he said.

Arntfield is already working on a book that points to London as prime ground for serial killers in the 1960s and 1970s, largely because of its location along the then-new Hwy 401, which allowed easy access in and out.

Arntfield said he's convinced there were at least seven serial killers, including known murderers Russell Johnson, Gerald Archer and Christian Magee, who saw London as a hunting ground for vulnerable young prey.

What Alsop's memoirs reveal is a meticulous search for killers without modern investigative tools such as surveillance cameras, DNA testing and routine information-sharing by police forces.

Alsop was an expert finger-printer and quickly moved up the OPP's ranks. As detective-sergeant from 1963 to 1972, he and a team of officers were on the front lines of a terrifying time in the area's history when at least seven young people vanished, then turned up dead.

His son believes the national outcry from the controversial murder conviction of teenager Steven Truscott in 1959 loomed over OPP investigations for at least a decade, hampering cases for fear of insufficient evidence.

English disappeared Oct. 4, 1969. Her nude body was recovered five days later in a creek near Tillsonburg, Ont. Some of her clothing was found scattered in Oxford and Elgin counties.

White, a Western University student, had disappeared a year earlier. Her body was found in Norfolk County, Ont.

In his memoirs, Alsop makes a connection between the two homicides.

O'Connell vanished from London in August 1970. Her remains weren't found until 1974 near Stratford, Ont.

Alsop continued to ferret out clues, especially in the English case. After he retired as a superintendent in 1979, he threw himself into charity work but was haunted by the cases that went cold.

English’s sister, Anne English-Cremers, said she’s grateful for the late officer’s doggedness and the private investigation.

“I want people to remember Jackie and I would like to see an arrest,” she said.

The ball is now in the OPP's court, but it says the independent probe has little bearing on its investigation.

"It's still an open case," OPP Sgt. Dave Rektor said of the English homicide. "When information and evidence comes forward, we certainly do follow that.

"But our response in this instance is the show has no connection to the OPP and our ongoing investigation."

THE VICTIMS

  • Lynda White, 19
  • Western University student from Burlington, Ont., disappeared Nov. 14, 1968, after a French exam. Skeletal remains found May 9, 1973. in Norfolk County.
  • Jackie English, 15
  • Vanished Oct. 4, 1969, after getting into a car at a Hwy. 401 overpass in London. Her nude body was found Oct. 9, 1969, in Big Otter Creek near Tillsonburg. Some clothes found in Oxford and Elgin counties.
  • Soraya O'Connell, 15
  • Disappeared Aug. 14, 1970, after leaving a youth drop-in centre in London. Skeletal remains found just outside Stratford on May 26, 1974.

jane.sims@sunmedia.ca

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