TRANSCRIPT - Michael Sams: Killer Of Julie Dart And Kidnapper Of Stephanie Slater
[MUSIC] Hello and welcome to the Six O’Clock Knock. I’m Simon Ford, a journalist and broadcaster…
...and I’m Jacques Morrell a former major crime detective who just can’t hang up his boots!
Put us together and what have you got? A series of insightful, provocative and challenging new ‘takes’ on cold cases and landmark investigations. Jacques spent 30 years on the force, and I’ve spent as long chasing scoops and scribbling in courtrooms.
About a year ago we shook hands, sat down and started comparing notebooks. And I can honestly say that deciphering Simon’s shorthand is the most difficult piece of detective work I’ve ever done.
Thanks for that, ‘Inspector Calligraphy’!
Some scenes and names in this podcast have been changed for the purposes of dramatisation.
Today’s investigation is a news story I covered thirty years ago; when mobile phones were still a rarity; car crime and ‘joyriding’ were rife; and the music scene was dominated by artists like Bryan Adams, Cher and The KLF.
I was a reporter in Leeds and loved it. One hot summer’s day I went to a police press conference. Detectives were concerned for the welfare of a missing teenager, Julie Ann Dart. The officer in charge was Detective Superintendent Bob Taylor. We’d met on jobs once or twice before. He was a straight-talking man who gave little away, but there was something about the press call that suggested this was no ordinary MISPER, or missing persons enquiry.
We trooped out and I found a phone box to file my ‘voice piece’ for the next news bulletin. With my notepad resting on the parcel shelf and the receiver tucked under my chin I told Clive Settle, the news editor, I had a bad feeling about this one. He’d been watching the agency wires and agreed. Julie Dart’s disappearance was one to watch. I was to stay at police headquarters and gather as much information as I could, off the record.
That afternoon, as the temperature soared, my story went cold. The police were giving nothing away and I’d been asked, politely but firmly, to let them get on with their work. No interviews for me, on or off the record. But I was now infected by the same anxiety that was palpable in the press briefing. What I didn’t know at the time was that we were all under the spell of The Troll.
On the way up was a bridge over a cascading stream they had to cross; and under the bridge lived a great ugly troll, with eyes as big as saucers, and a nose as long as a poker.
So, first of all, came the youngest Billy Goat Gruff to cross the bridge. "Trip, trap, trip, trap! " went the bridge.
"Who's that tripping over my bridge?" roared the troll. "Oh, it is only I, the tiniest Billy Goat Gruff, and I'm going up to the hillside to make myself fat," said the billy goat, with such a small voice.
"Now, I'm coming to gobble you up," said the troll.
Like the Norwegian folk tale, this is a story about greed. Green and hubris. In this story, evil lurks among us, ready to exploit the vulnerable. It hides in plain sight, unnoticed as we go about our busy lives. Malevolent; brooding, it bides its time. And then it strikes.
Julie Dart dreamed about joining the army, but like most teenagers, life wasn’t that simple. Mainly, her mum, Lynn, didn’t approve of her boyfriend, Dominic Murray.
Julie was 18. She was clever and athletic and pretty – the apple of Lynn’s eye. But she’d started telling lies. That night she told her mum she was staying over with a girlfriend, when in fact she was at Dominic’s place. She told Dominic she was going to work at a local hospital; the job didn’t exist.
And there was something else. Julie had forged her GCSE results. Taken together, these secrets and lies had put Julie in a perilous position.
Julie had started doing something else to make money. The kind of loveless thing that was over quickly if you were lucky, and ended with a black eye, or worse if you weren’t. Vodka numbed the pain and took the taste away. Until the next time.
While I was discussing the day's events over a pint with my editor, Detective Superintendent Taylor was in the police incident room, poring over a letter that had been sent to Dominic Murray. Lynn Dart had confirmed it was Julie’s handwriting.
Help me please I've been kidnapped and I am being held as a personal security until next Monday night. Please go and tell my Mum straight away. Love you so much, Dominic.
Mum phone the police straight away and help me. Have not eaten anything but I have been offered food. Feeling a bit sick but I'm drinking two cups of tea per day.
MUM - DOMINIC HELP ME.
Dominic my mum will be in at 5.00 every night or phone yes phone her. If not there leave a message. If not working go to her house.
Love You all
West Yorkshire CID had received their own, rambling, two-page letter, in which the writer demanded a ransom of £140,000. The extortionist threatened to kill a prostitute and firebomb a major city centre store (not necessarily in Leeds) unless West Yorkshire Police paid out.
“All phone calls will be pre-recorded and no communication will be possible or answered. No negotiations will be entered into. Any publicity or apparent police action will result in no further communication. The money is to be in equal quantities of £50, 20 and 10 used notes … [the cash] to be wrapped in polythene of at least 1220 microns … then the package wrapped in brown paper and tied as in the diagram at the end of this message. The whole package to be no more than 350 mm by 350 mm by 90 mm.”
It was surreal. Detective Superintendent Taylor read it again, ignoring the poor spelling and grammar. There was no doubt in his mind the author meant business.
The letters reached Dominic Murray and the police on Friday 12 July. But, it turned out, Julie was already dead.
Julie Ann Dart. You never got to tell your story. I’ve often wondered if you could tell us, what would you say?
Mum. Can you hear me, Mum? I can see you. Can you see me? If you can hear me, Mum, just let me know. OK?
Mum, I’m sorry I lied about my GCSEs. I’m sorry I lied to you and Dominic and everyone. I know I let everyone down, Mum. I just wanted to stand on my own two feet.
He picked me up on Spencer Place and we were going round behind the health centre, but he said, ‘no I want to do it in the car’, and I said, ‘well, that’s extra’, and he said, ‘OK’. So I got in and we drove to the car park beside the big college.
He put this tape on – the kind of music you like at karaoke – and turned it up dead loud. That’s when he pulled a knife and said, ‘shut up’ and he tied my wrists and put tape over my mouth and blindfolded me. The seat was down flat already, like, for — you know. Then he put a coat over me and just drove and drove.
After what felt like ages, we turned in somewhere and he led me into a shed or something. It smelt like a shed or a garage – all oil and stuff. It was dark and he had a torch and he took off the blindfold and told me to write that letter.
And then, Mum, the worst bit, he made me get into the box. God! I thought I was going to die there. It was worse than going in lifts – much worse. I was crying and told him I couldn’t stand it, but he said I had to and, ‘don’t try to get out because there’s alarms and electric wires and stuff.’
He left and locked up. I was suffocating. I was burning hot and I think I passed out through fright. When I woke up I was all pins and needles. I remember thinking, ‘He’s left me to die.’ So I went for it and managed to kick my way out. I got the blindfold off, but it was pitch dark, just this red light blinking on the ceiling.
I started shouting: ‘Help! Help!’. I untied my ankles and I was banging on the door and then I heard a car and saw the lights through the gap in the door. And I thought ‘someone’s coming’, but when I heard the key in the lock I realised it was him come back to do me in.
Early one morning a few days later, a farmer found Julie’s body wrapped in a sheet in a field gateway. Not far, in fact, from a bridge and a railway line. TROLL TERRITORY. The Troll wrote to the police:
“Words will never be able to express my regret that Julie Dart had to be killed, but I did warn you what would happen if anything went wrong, at the time of this letter there has been no publicity, if you do not find the body within a few days I will contact you as to the location, it will have to be moved as it appears to be decomposing.”
Michael Benneman Sams murdered Julie Ann Dart on the evening of Wednesday 10 July 1991. He struck her twice over the head with a hammer and strangled her with a piece of rope.
Sams rented a workshop in a disused stable block on Swan and Salmon Yard at Newark in Nottinghamshire. It was an out of the way, tumbledown place. The kind of retreat where he could keep himself to himself – and scheme.
In the back room was the troll’s lair. He’d built a coffin-like prison. At its centre was a wheelie bin laid on its side. Sams stacked bricks on top and installed passive infrared sensors to monitor movement outside it. If the prisoner escaped, Sam’s would know about it. At least, that’s what he’d tell them.
Julie battered her way out of the wheelie-bin prison. There would have been other people nearby to hear her cries on any other weekday. But on Wednesdays, the factory on the floor above was shut. The police later realised this was why Sams was active on Wednesdays in general — there was nobody to see him going about his vile business.
Michael Benneman Sams. Born on the 11th August 1941 in Keighley, West Yorkshire. Served a prison sentence in 1976 for making a false insurance claim. Two sons from first marriage to Susan Oake. They split before he went to gaol. By 1991 he was on his third marriage, to Teena. They lived in a remote house near Sutton-on-Trent, a village in Nottinghamshire. The house backed onto the East Coast railway line. It suited Sams. He was a railway fanatic. An unlikely kidnapper and murderer. But then, it’s always the quiet ones —
— Sams harboured a secret admiration for master criminals; a kind of Boy’s Own fascination he’d nurtured since his teens. Where other lads idolised Sherlock Holmes, young Michael revered Moriarty. He once told an acquaintance – it might have been a cellmate, as Sams had few friends – that he admired Donald Neilson, the British kidnapper and murderer dubbed The Black Panther. Neilson had kidnapped and murdered an heiress, Lesley Whittle, in the ‘seventies. It was a chilling foreshadowing of Sams’s journey into the darkest corners of criminality.
Mum – it’s me again, Julie. I know it’s hard for you, Mum. You need to be strong. I know you’re strong, Mum. You’re the strongest person I know. All this grief over 200 quid and my GCSEs. I’m sorry, Mum, that I’m putting you through this. I really, really am.
He’s at it again Mum, like I said he would be. I’m watching him and I know he’s up to something. He’s writing letters and sneaking around. It’s summat to do with a train. It’s all about trains with him, Mum, and bridges. Trains and bridges. Have you got that?
He lives near the railway, Mum, in the middle of nowhere. And I mean, right in the middle, where nobody would think of looking. And he’s got this lock-up and he comes and goes between this old house in the middle of nowhere and the lock-up. He gets about, too, in that same car he picked me up in. I get tired, Mum. I can’t follow him everywhere like I want to.
Here’s what I know. The workshop’s near a castle. Not a princess castle; a real proper one, all stone and stuff. They light it up at night and everything. There’s a river too, a big one, right close. I’m telling you everything I know, Mum, but I’m getting tired. I can’t see as much as I used to.
His name is Michael – Michael Sams. Don’t call him Mike: he hates that. He’s an evil bastard but you wouldn’t think it to look at him. His wife’s nice and she knows nothing. He keeps her well in the dark. Tell that Mr Taylor, Mum, that he’s planning summat with a train. Trains and bridges. It’s all about trains and bridges.
I’m sleepy now Mum. I love you. Night, night, Mum. I love you so much.
Michael Sams: trainspotter turned troll. He’d been active as a young man – a bit of a runner back in the day. He didn’t do any running after 1976. While in prison, he was diagnosed with a tumour in his left leg. Doctors amputated it above the knee. So he left prison on crutches with an artificial leg.
By then, his first wife had walked out taking the boys with her. Sams was at his lowest ebb. Some men would have turned their lives around. Others might have hit the bottle. Sams did neither: he started to scheme. He’d rubbed shoulders with a few seasoned crooks on the inside. They’d given him ideas about how Michael Benneman Sams might win the respect and admiration he was due. The money would be incidental. The transformation was underway. The trainspotter was turning into The Troll.
October 1991. Mill Meece, a village near Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands. A windswept bridge over a main railway line in the middle of nowhere. TROLL TERRITORY. The police found chunks of stone and a length of wire – the remains of a device that had been thrown at a train.
A blackmailer had written to British Rail threatening to wreck an electric train or at least cause serious damage to the power cables over the track. There were obvious similarities between the ransom note and the letters sent to West Yorkshire police back in July. For the detectives hunting the extortionist, it was an anticlimax. They’d been on a wild goose chase. He’d slipped through the net. All they could do was wait.
Dear Mr Taylor,
It’s me, Julie. I don’t suppose you can hear me. I’m not even sure my Mum can hear me, but I keep telling her stuff, just in case. I want to help.
This man you’re after is called MICHAEL SAMS. He lives in a house in the middle of nowhere and he has a workshop near a castle. Like, a ruin, a big ruin, beside a river.
I don’t know what’s happened, Mr Taylor, but he’s right pissed off with you. I’ve been watching him since he did me in and he’s been calling you all colour of bastards!
He looks like nowt special. You could sit next to him on t‘bus and never know. But there’s this stuff in his head, Mr Taylor – right scary stuff. He’s angry and calm all at the same time. He’s selfish. He doesn't care about anyone except himself. He did for me and I’m telling you he’ll do anything to get what he wants.
He’s up to something again – sneaking about, telling lies, writing letters, like before. I get very tired. I can’t follow him like I used to. Don’t give up, Mr Taylor. You’ll get him. I know you will. Always look on the bright side of life, Mr Taylor.
Thank you for everything you’re doing, Mr Taylor. If you see Mum, tell her I love her very much and I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused.
Failure. The Troll could not abide failure. But he had a brilliant plan up his sleeve. It came to him after the debacle with the train. If he was arrested (unlikely, but one had to plan for every eventuality) he’d blame an accomplice for all the rough stuff — and anything that hadn’t gone according to plan. “The other man made me do it,” was what he’d say. “I told him it was wrong, but he did it anyway. I was frightened of him. He’s a psycho.”
That part made the Troll chuckle. It was a question of reputation. There was no way they’d take him for, Michael Benneman Sams, for some thug or a screw-up. They’d recognise him for the criminal mastermind he knew he was. For once in his life, he’d get respect. It might be grudging, but it would be respect.
It took about six weeks to get everything ready. Christmas was a drab affair in the Sams household. The Troll limped around his workshop, wrapped up in his trademark duffle coat. He told himself life would be so much better when he was sunning himself on a sugar-sand beach in Thailand.
He’d learnt from the debacle in July. Even the great engineers didn’t get it right the first time, he told himself. But now he’d perfected everything. It would be a masterpiece: the Great Train Robbery combined with Moriarty’s disappearance at the Reichenbach Falls.
Mum! Mr Taylor! CAN YOU HEAR ME? (I’m right sick of this.) Mum! Mr Taylor! CAN YOU HEAR ME?
He’s going to do it again. He’s building another box. He’s going to kidnap someone and hold them to ransom. It’s in the backroom of the workshop, behind the counter.
It’s happening again. I can hear him talking to himself. He doesn’t make sense most of the time, but when he does. I’m scared, Mum. I can’t get out to follow him. I can’t leave the workshop. I’m too tired. You’ve got to stop him. WE’VE got to stop him. There’s a castle by a river – that’s all I know. His name is MICHAEL SAMS.
If you can hear me, Mum, I love you. Just let me know you can hear me. Please, Mum.
The Troll had surpassed himself. The hostage was securely locked up where nobody would find her. The courier was on his way with £140,000. He’d been sent on a paper chase across northern England, with a series of clues directing him here: to THE BRIDGE.
The Troll was lurking in the dark in the disused railway cutting. The arch of the stone bridge towered above him, disappearing into the fog. Snaking away in the darkness was the network of footpaths and trails he knew from his youth – when he had two good legs: when he could run for hours or hike for days without seeing a soul.
On the parapet of the bridge was a wooden tray with one end of a washing line tied to it. The Troll gripped the other end in anticipation. His heart was thumping as car headlights approached on the track above. Just as he’d planned. The car stopped. Now the courier was transferring the money. The Troll smiled. He knew what this brave fellow was thinking. Would he leave the bridge alive? Would he see his family again? The Troll revelled in his power to invoke fear. It was so simple; so brilliant. The car left. He waited. Ten, nine, eight...he pulled the washing line.
The tray came tumbling out of the fog and almost brained him! The holdall landed heavily a few feet away. The Troll’s gloved hands fumbled with the zip. He stifled a gleeful shriek, grabbed the bag, hauling it and himself onto his moped. For once he didn’t care about his false leg. He didn’t care about anything, except the incredible sense of elation. He was a rich man and about to join the pantheon of master criminals he so admired. ‘The Phantom of the Fog’ had a certain ring to it. He kick-started the moped with his good leg, putt-putting away down the trail, humming to himself:
“I'm pickin' up good vibrations; she's giving me excitations.”
The Troll released his hostage, a 25-year-old estate agent from Great Barr in Birmingham called Stephanie Slater. In fact, he gave her a lift home. There was no doubt that during her eight days of captivity, Stephanie Slater developed a rapport with Sams that probably saved her life. She might not have seen his face, but her recollection of her surroundings was remarkable, despite being blindfolded.
The Troll found another bridge. He knew it well. It was only a mile from where he’d left Julie Dart’s body. He split the money into two parcels and buried them along the railway embankment. Then he went home to wait until the coast was clear.
Julie’s murder had already featured on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme. Now the police were back on television, appealing for the public’s help capturing the kidnapper of Stephanie Slater.
The similarities between the two cases, and the failed British Rail extortion, were obvious. They were looking for an extremely dangerous man. Would he strike again? Or would he be satisfied with the ransom money and disappear?
Watching the TV show with his wife, Teena, Sams noted detectives were interested in a red car like his. He calmly told her to expect a visit from the police because they’d want to eliminate it. He wasn’t worried. He’d outsmarted them all the way.
Except he hadn’t. As part of the appeal, the police released a recording of the kidnapper’s voice. Also glued to Crimewatch was Sam’s first wife, Susan Oake. Horrified, she called the hotline to report her suspicions. Unbeknownst to her, one of Sams’s sons was watching and did the same.
It was only a matter of time. Former Detective Chief Superintendent Bob Taylor recalls the moment Michael Sams emerged as the prime suspect:
A little good-natured rivalry between forces, there. It was the breakthrough both West Midlands and West Yorkshire had been hoping for.
Mum, I've been trying to get hold of you. He had someone else here. A woman. A Brummie, I think. She was in the box. She was scared out of her mind. It was so dark. I couldn’t see much. I was so, so tired. I wanted to go but I hung on. He let her out in the end. I think he fancied her. It was dead weird. They ended up talking and stuff, about him not knowing his dad and her being adopted. He said he was going to kill her because she’d seen his face and that he had the wheelie bin ready. And he did, an’ all. But then he said he’d changed his mind. He right fancied her, Mum, and then he got the money and let her go. Just like that.
So here I am, just hanging around, like, and old peg-leg’s messing about at summat like he does, with the radio on, and these three blokes turn up, and they’re in plain clothes, but you can tell they’re police from their shoes. And he says, calm as you like: “I’ve been expecting you”, and they start asking him about his car and about what radio station he’s listening to. And I’m listening to all this, thinking: come on, get on with it, nick the bastard!
Sorry for swearing, Mum, but that’s what it was like.
One of the men – young, like – is poking around in peg-leg’s car and comes out with a pair of gloves and a cassette. I reckon it was the only tape peg-leg had – the one with that song you like about Good Vibrations – so it’d be the one he was playing when he kidnapped me. I was right sick of that tape, Mum, I can tell you!
Then this other bloke, calm as you like, says to old peg-leg: “Michael Sams, I’m arresting you for the murder of Julie Dart and the kidnapping of Stephanie Slater. You do not have to say anything, but anything you do say…” and the rest of it, like they do on telly. And peg-leg says, “you’ve got the wrong man”, and they put handcuffs on and he just went with them, with this look on his face, like he couldn’t believe what was happening. And I’m thinking: ‘Is that it? and ‘what happens next?’
Sams was under arrest, but he wasn’t about to roll over and confess. Bob Taylor remembers the tactics Sams used when he was interviewed...
So how did the West Yorkshire team expose Sams’s story as a tissue of lies? Well, Bob Taylor’s approach drew on psychology – and, with a canny twist – with the Norwegian folk tale we mentioned earlier in the podcast...
That’s a clever approach: building up the suspect’s sense of his own importance; appealing to his arrogance, his conceitedness. Did the team think they were dealing with a psychopath?
There’s no doubt in Bob Taylor’s mind that Michael Sams was – and is – a classic example…
Michael Benneman Sams was convicted in July 1993 and sentenced to life imprisonment for abducting and murdering Julie and abducting Stephanie Slater.
Sams admitted kidnapping Stephanie but denied Julie’s murder. A jury found him guilty of all charges. Sentencing him to four life terms, Mr Igor Judge told Sams:
You are an extremely dangerous and evil man. The jury has convicted you of murder, a murder in cold blood. You deliberately strangled her (Julie) to death while she was unconscious, when your kidnapping went wrong because she saw more than she should. Undeterred by the horror of what you had done, you tried to turn her death to your advantage. The letters you wrote make chilling reading. No qualms, no remorse, heartless at the grief you had caused. It was misplaced pride and callous arrogance.
Then came the British Rail blackmail, frightening enough and not followed through because you had returned to your idea of kidnapping an estate agent. You planned and executed that quite ruthlessly. When Stephanie Slater was kidnapped I have not the slightest doubt that she was in desperate and mortal danger. If it had seemed necessary to you she, like Julie Dart, would have been murdered in cold blood.
I’m so proud of you, Mum, how you stood there in the witness box and looked him in the eye. You told them about when I was little and how I wouldn’t go in the lift; how I was scared of confined spaces. I saw how you pointed at him, Mum, and I heard what you said. “He’s mine”, you said. You got him, Mum, you and Mr Taylor and the rest of them. I couldn’t believe how many people had been after him.
It’s much brighter here than before. I’m not tied down any longer. It’s all over now, Mum. It’s time for me to go. Bye, Mum. Love you.
Love you all.
And so we come to the unsolved aspect of Julie’s murder: why had she started selling sex on the streets of Leeds.?
Julie owed money to a male acquaintance – the princely sum of £200. Not a huge amount, but remember that Julie was 18 and unemployed. She was trying to pay the man back out of her social security cheque. But it was too little and too slow for him. So he had her working off the debt. And by working, we mean pimping her out.
The week before she was kidnapped, this man drove Julie to the red light area of Leeds, dropped her off and basically told her to ‘get on with it’. He knew Julie had forged her GCSE results and was threatening to expose her if she didn’t do as she was told.
West Yorkshire Police knew who this man was but never had enough evidence to prosecute him. Bob Taylor is convinced this man drove Julie into the killer’s arms – and we agree. We can’t name him, but our enquiries have shown that the suspect is still alive and remains a free man.
And we should state very clearly that the police eliminated Julie’s boyfriend, Dominic Murray, early on in the enquiry.
So – wherever you are in the world – if you’ve been listening to Julie’s story and you know who this man is, it’s not too late to act. You can contact Crimestoppers in the UK anonymously on 0800 555 111 [SAY ‘TRIPLE FIVE, TRIPLE ONE’]. That’s Crimestoppers in the UK on 0800 555 111.
Maybe you were frightened or intimidated at the time, but now, almost 30 years later, you feel differently. You never know: you might have that crucial piece of information that’ll draw a line under the final chapter of Julie’s story.
Jacques, is Julie’s story typical, in that she never intended to become (I’ll do that inverted commas thing) ‘a prostitute’. Was she driven to it by circumstances and then, well, it was too late?
Very much so, and yes, the way she became a sex worker is only too common.
Tragically, it was Julie Dart’s secrets and lies that allowed the fateful chain of events to spiral to her death. There was a crucial period of two or three days when nobody knew where Julie was. This wasn’t because nobody cared about her. It was because she’d created an illusion around her:
She’d lied to her mum about staying at Dominic’s (she said she was staying with a girlfriend)
She’d lied to her boyfriend, about having a job at the Leeds General Infirmary – she never worked there.
She’d also lied about her GCSE results. She’d failed her exams, but kept it secret, and forged the results.
The unidentified male ‘acquaintance’ clearly didn’t care about her. He knew her secret, and she owed him money. He was blackmailing her, using his influence over her. He was able to coerce her into sex work. He didn’t care about her GCSE results, did he. He would have said the right things to her. Praised her, made her feel good, treated her to some new clothes maybe.
The point is, none of this was actually Julie’s fault. She was just a kid. Who hasn’t lied to their parents about where they’re going for the evening? Who hasn’t covered up something embarrassing like flunking an exam? We’d call them ‘little white lies’, right?
True, but before long, those little white lies have grown into a bigger deception. I’m sounding like a parent here, I know. But it’s something that the police see time and time again.
It takes more lies to keep that pointless deception going. It’s not a deception that has any real purpose, other than to cover up for a teenager’s anxieties, to give them space to work things out for themselves.
As a cop, we meet lots of young people, made vulnerable by nothing more than their teenage anxiety and naivety. We’ve all been there, teenagers who think we know it all. Keen to get away from being a kid and away from those questions and expectations of our families and carers.
Then, out of this pressure cooker environment, comes a saviour. A person who has their own place, a person who seems to understand.
It’s not just those leaving the care system who are open to exploitation is it?
The pimp? Adding another woman to their client base?
Maybe. Let’s remember these people don’t go by a job description. Sometimes these relationships just develop.
I remember many cases, where young women (and men too) were placed in what should have been a safe environment. Before long, the ‘vultures’ and the ‘hyenas’ are circling. They sense an ‘easy prey'. I remember one young woman who moved into a new flat. She was pestered and encouraged into selling sex. She had the strength to resist. It wasn’t for her. The coercion didn’t stop though. Instead, she was recruited to use stolen cheques and cards. Even her spare room was used as a temporary store for ‘someone’ who was ‘down on their luck’. Nothing wrong in that? She wasn’t to know there was a 9mm pistol in that shoebox.
All I can say is, as a former cop and as a parent. Every young person needs someone in their life who will listen without prejudice. Someone who will understand and respect their situation. Someone who will offer a way out of it. As cops, we weren’t that person. It wasn’t our job. But we weren’t doing our job if we didn’t know someone who could help. I think the modern term for this is ‘signposting’.
One vital organisation that can help young women like Julie Dart, would have been the local Outreach Workers who defend the rights of sex workers and those at risk of being exploited. To give these people their rights to self-determination. This includes the right to remain in or leave sex work. These charities need financial support as you can imagine. Why not find out about your local Sex Worker Outreach Team and consider supporting them?
Returning to the abduction of Stephanie Slater: Was there a connection between Michael Sams and the disappearance of another estate agent Suzy Lamplugh, in 1986?
Suzy Lamplugh was 25 years old, coincidentally the same age as Stephanie. Lamplugh was reported missing after going to show someone calling himself "Mr Kipper" round a house in Fulham, London.
Bob Taylor spoke to Sams during the kidnapper's first week in prison and Sams denied any involvement in Suzy Lamplugh’s disappearance. And he's denied it ever since.
Stephanie Slater wrote books about her ordeal. She died in 2017 aged just 50.
Do we know then, why, in his fiftieth year, Sams embarked on a career of kidnap, extortion and murder?
Greed; dissatisfaction with his home life; he was never specific. When Bob Taylor asked him, Sams couldn't provide an explanation. He’d lost a leg in his mid-thirties. That must have affected him. His first wife said his personality had changed after he suffered an inflammatory brain disease.
Interesting. Some kind of head trauma. This has been featured in earlier episodes of this podcast. There was Frederick Deeming, a multiple murderer who apparently suffered from what was described as ‘brain fever’. There was Peter Sutcliffe, who, as a young man also received a head injury, in a motorbike accident. And Tom Parker, whose behaviour changed, his trial was told, after falling off a horse and hitting his head.
The American National Center For Biotechnology Information published a paper in 2018 drawing links between traumatic brain injury and violent behaviour. In fact, there are a number of articles documenting the neurodevelopmental risk factors in serial killers and mass murderers. It’s as if the ‘Mr Hyde’ element of a personality is somehow activated by trauma or illness.
So mad (query that); bad (definitely); dangerous to know (absolutely). And if you wanted more proof of that, in 1995, Sams was back in the news for terrorising a probation officer inside Wakefield maximum security gaol. Sams had secretly armed himself with a metal spike and launched himself at the 50-year-old woman in his prison cell, threatening to kill her. Prison officers soon had the situation under control.
So why did Sams do this? We have it on good authority that Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, was getting all the headlines at the time. Sams was jealous, the poor fellah. He wanted a few headlines for himself.
Well, he got what he wanted, plus another 8 years on his sentence. Sams’s minimum term has never been made public. Chances are he'll die behind bars.
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Grace Pritchard was the voice of Julie Dart and Paul Bradshaw was the voice of Michael Sams. Now it’s time for Jacques me to say ‘goodbye’. And we hope to have the pleasure of your company again very soon for another Six O’Clock Knock.