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Wednesday, 8 April, 1998, 19:20 GMT 20:20 UK
Police to reopen 'Enigma' murders
Police officers
Police officers will take a fresh look at possible links between murders as a result of Operation Enigma
Twenty-six police forces across the country are expected to reopen more than 70 unsolved murder cases in order to investigate possible links.

Detectives have identified 21 potential "clusters" of connected crimes.

A two-year investigation, codenamed Operation Enigma, examined 207 unsolved murders of women dating back to 1986 and found 72 of them needed "further analysis".

Kent Chief Constable David Phillips said there were "strong grounds for some sort of potential link" between those murders.

Mr Phillips, who chairs the Association of Chief Police Officers' crime committee, said the Enigma squad would pass on their analysis of the killings to the forces who originally investigated them.

Peter Sutcliffe
The Yorkshire Ripper would have been caught sooner if separate police forces had pooled clues
Senior officers in each force would then have to decide whether to reopen the cases but it was likely to lead to fresh investigations.

He said: "That's the purpose of it."

Operation Enigma was set up in 1996 after a spate of killings in the Midlands of women, some of whom were prostitutes, during 1993 and 1994.

The murders sparked fears that a serial killer was at work.

And they highlighted long-running worries that the police might miss links between murders committed in different force areas - as happened with the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe.

Detailed analysis

Mr Phillips said that at this stage theories about serial killers remained speculation but he admitted some murderers had evaded capture by varying their methods.

He said it was rare for multiple murderers to leave obvious "signatures" such as a distinctive way of mutilating their victims.

Other, less obvious factors like where a body was dumped or the background of the victims could be more important in establishing possible links.

"This has therefore been a very painstaking process and involves reconstructing the minutiae of many different offences, crime scenes and victims," said Mr Phillips.

Detectives used advances in fingerprint and DNA analysis and behavioural science to re-examine every crime.

They also filled in questionnaires covering every aspect of both the crime and victim which were fed into a computer database for comparison.

As Operation Enigma is wound up, the database will be absorbed by the National Crime Faculty at the Police Staff College in Bramshill, Hampshire.

Officers there are already adding details of more recent rapes and abductions to try to establish patterns to help solve future crime.

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