On 3 December 1993, the naked body of 20-year-old Samo Paull was found in a ditch near Swinford, Leicestershire less than a mile from the M1 motorway connecting the cities of London and Leeds in England. A prostitute last seen in the red light district of Birmingham’s Balsall Heath almost 40 miles away, she had been strangled before being dumped.
Three months later, in March 1994, another prostitute was found dead, stripped naked and strangled. 32-year-old Tracy Turner was found dumped, again near the M1 just six miles away from where Samo Paull was discovered. Both murders had striking similarities in victimology, the locations they were found and in how they had been killed.
Police quickly believed both had been murdered by the same killer, fearing other unsolved female murders could also be the work of the same man. British criminal profiler Paul Britton was brought in to provide a profile of the individual responsible. His profile described a male, very familiar with the area who was most likely a driver of some form, a manual worker, and a loner.
It was a profile which drew parallels with the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe who had been caught and convicted in 1981 of the murders of 13 women which he carried out while working as cross-county lorry driver. This new possible serial killer was nicknamed “The Midlands Ripper.” As the years went by, the murders of Samo Paull and Tracy Turner remained unsolved.
Prostitutes are unfortunately a common target for those who aim to abuse and kill. Their lifestyles are often dominated by addiction and a resulting need to earn money, putting them on the streets late at night and getting into the cars of strangers. Sex workers are sadly not missed. Frequently out of contact with family and friends they are not expected to be anywhere and it is not noticed when they are not heard from for days or even weeks. Their movements prior to their death and the people they have been in contact with can be difficult to establish for police, making solving their murders that much harder.
It is this which attracts serial killers along with a method to get a woman on their own with no questions asked. The Ripper moniker is one that has been given to a number of serial killers both in the UK and abroad. The French Ripper, Joseph Vacher who murdered eleven people between 1894 and 1897. The infamous Jack the Ripper of Whitechapel, London who murdered at least five women throughout 1888. The 60s Ripper who murdered women and left their nude bodies around the Hammersmith area of London across 1964 and 1965 and the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, a killer who police now feared had a copycat.
The man uncovered to be the Midlands Ripper was Alun Kyte. A man who used his travel and solitude along with his knowledge of the roads, to abduct and kill two women and get away with it for year after year.
Alun Kyte grew up in Stafford in the West Midlands. A quiet boy from a loving family with no history which could later be taken into account when he faced trial for two murders. Alun Kyte didn’t settle into education and a career, he was a drifter, staying in cheap guesthouses and moving to place to place doing odd jobs for money, usually involving cars and mechanics.
In December 1997, at 30-years-old Kyte was arrested for rape in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, after his victim managed to escape and went straight to the police. As part of this investigation, police took a DNA sample from Kyte. It was this DNA sample which would provide a match to DNA analysed from Tracy Turner’s body one year later, confirming that Alun Kyte was the man who had killed her in March 1994.
While awaiting trial for rape, Kyte was charged with both the murder of Tracy Turner and Samo Paull. In January 1999, he was convicted of rape at Bristol Crown Court and sentenced to eight years behind bars.
By now 33-years-old, Alun Kyte went on trial for murder at Nottingham Crown Court on 28 February 2000. The DNA evidence along with testimony from a number of serving inmates, who told the court Kyte had confessed the murders to them while on remand, ensured his conviction. The jury was unaware of his prior conviction for rape and current prison sentence when they made their deliberations. “You clearly despised these women, but it is also clear that it is you who should be despised,” the judge told him as he sentenced him to life in prison.
A year before Kyte’s arrest, in 1996 Operation Enigma was launched at the National Crime Faculty in Bramshill in Hampshire with the purpose of examining 200 murders going back as far as 1986 which may be linked and the work of a serial killer. Specialist officers worked to find ‘common features’ in the crimes identified and seek to retest any physical evidence available.
The police task force working on the Midlands Ripper case worked closely with Operation Enigma, fearing that Alun Kyte was responsible for a series of unsolved murders across England. To date, he has not been charged with any further offences and remains in prison serving a minimum of 25 years.