Page last updated at 15:27 GMT, Friday, 3 October 2008 16:27 UK

Killer preyed on 'edge of society'

By Chris Summers
BBC News

A man has been jailed for life for murdering two women, although neither body has ever been discovered. Both victims existed on the "edge of society" and detectives fear he may have attacked other women.

THE KILLER - DEREK BROWN
Derek Brown
Born in Preston, Lancashire, in Oct 1960
1989 - convicted of rape and jailed for seven years
1994 - Moved to London after coming out of prison
Had three children
Habitual user of prostitutes
Aug 2007 - Murders Xiao Mei Guo
Sep 2007 - Murders Bonnie Barrett

More than a century after Jack The Ripper sought out victims in the East End of London Derek Brown trawled the same streets and killed two women.

Detectives say Brown was a "recidivist rapist" with a desire for notoriety and they believe he may have attacked other women over the years.

Brown told an acquaintance: "You'll hear of me. The press are going to be hounding you. I'm going to be famous."

Brown then chose two victims - a prostitute and a Chinese illegal immigrant - from what prosecutor Brian Altman QC described as the "edge of society".

They both lived and plied their trades in Whitechapel, in London's East End.

Brown, who lived in a small and untidy flat just across the river in Rotherhithe, worked night shifts as a van driver delivering newspapers across the capital.

The 47-year-old was overweight, saw his children only occasionally, and drank heavily.

In the summer of 2007, shortly after making the cryptic comment to his ex-wife, he snapped.

'Scratched a living'

He travelled to Whitechapel and approached Xiao Mei Guo, a 29-year-old illegal immigrant who had left her two sons with family back home in China to come to Britain in the hope of a better life.

VICTIM ONE - XIAO MEI GUO
Xiao Mei Guo selling DVDs
Born Dec 1977 in China
Married Jin Hua Guo and had two sons
Entered Britain illegally in Aug 2006
Her husband was jailed for four months in July 2007 for selling fake DVDs
She vanished on 29 Aug 2007. Last seen with Derek Brown

She had borrowed money from relatives to pay a "snakeheads" gang that had smuggled her into Britain and she "scratched a living" selling counterfeit DVDs in Whitechapel market to pay off the debt to her family.

Arrested 10 times between Jan and Sep 2007 and spoken to by police on several other occasions She rang China two or three times a week to speak to her sons and had never gone missing before.

In August 2007, her husband, Jin Hua Guo, was in prison, having been convicted for a third time for selling fake DVDs.

On 29 August, she was approached by Brown, who told her he wanted to buy a lot of DVDs but wanted her to come back to his flat so he could check them before handing over the money.

Hoping to make a big sale Mrs Guo agreed and they boarded the Tube at Whitechapel for the short journey to Rotherhithe.

She was never seen again and her body has not been found.

Vanished

Three weeks later sex worker Bonnie Barrett, a 24-year-old drug addict, also vanished. Her body has never been discovered.

Detectives investigating the two disappearances soon turned up CCTV footage of Mrs Guo entering the station, on the East London Line, with a mystery man at around 10.30am on 29 August.

Derek Brown and Xiao Mei Guo on CCTV
Brown was caught on CCTV as he led away Mrs Guo

They printed out photos of the man and discovered the pair had got off at Rotherhithe.

A policeman showed pictures to staff in a convenience store in that area and asked: "Do you know this man?"

"Yes I do," the assistant replied, and pointed: "and he's standing over there."

Brown was arrested in the shop and his flat searched.

Nothing incriminating was found initially but detectives were suspicious because the carpet in one of the rooms had been recently removed and the flat had been cleaned with bleach and freshly painted in some areas.

Police also found receipts from a DIY store showing he had bought paint, heavy duty gloves, cleaning materials, rubble sacks and a bow saw.

VICTIM TWO - BONNIE BARRETT
Bonnie Barrett
Born in Mar 1983
Became a drug addict. Arrested 37 times for prostitution since 1994
Had a son in 2001 but left him in care of her mother
Was convicted four times since 2003 for loitering for the purposes of prostitution
Forensic examination of the flat later unearthed blood spots and smears on walls and ceilings - the blood matched the DNA profiles of the missing women.

Brown chose to say nothing in police interviews, even after he was charged with both murders.

But at his trial he came up with a far-fetched story to explain away the blood.

Brown claimed Mrs Guo had come back to his flat several times and been paid 50 for sex.

He said on the last occasion she left but came back with two "mean-looking" Chinese men who began beating her, bloodying her nose. He said all three then left and he never saw them again.

Brown said he had had sex with Miss Barrett eight or nine times. He said he met her again in September when she was with two bikers, one of whom had an Australian accent.

He said he invited them back to his flat where they smoked crack before asking him to "make himself scarce" so they could have sex with her.

His motives were either sex or notoriety, or both. He was clearly a very evil man and showed no remorse
DCI Mark Kandiah

Brown said they had gone by the time he came back.

Mr Altman QC described this as "Jackanory, fiction, Alice In Wonderland" - after 30 minutes of cross-examination, Brown said he would not be returning to the witness box.

The jury were therefore free to draw the conclusion that he was lying. Detective Chief Inspector Mark Kandiah, who led the investigation, said police suspected Brown may have committed five or six rapes and they would also like to speak to him about an unsolved murder.

Buried in landfill?

Police believe the victims may have been cut up and thrown into the Thames in the rubble sacks. They searched part of the river but found nothing.

DCI Kandiah said: "He had access to communal wastebins and an industrial compactor, all of which ended up in landfill. But it's not viable to trawl landfill sites in the hope of finding a body."

Detectives also believe there is no doubt Brown would have killed again if he had not been stopped.

"His motives were either sex or notoriety, or both. He was clearly a very evil man and showed no remorse. The way he portrayed Xiao Mei as a sex worker, which she wasn't, was inhuman," he said.

Ordering him to spend at least 30 years in jail, Judge Martin Stephens told Brown: "You murdered two women. Both were vulnerable, plying their trade on the streets, in each case falling into your hands precisely because of their availability and their lack of protection."




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