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John Francis Duffy

Crime Files
John Francis Duffy

John Duffy was a brutal rapist and killer who struck lone women at railway stations throughout the South East and mainly North and West London. He was at first thought to have carried out his heinous crimes alone and was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders. However, police were sure that he had an accomplice.Only after 15 years did the advance of forensic science allow them to arrest David Mulcahy, a childhood friend of Duffy, who was eventually convicted. This case saw the first use in Britain of 'Psychological Offender Profiling'.However, Mulcahy still protests his innocence after stating that Duffy implicated him in the murders.

John Duffy and David Mulcahy had been lifelong friends since their days together at school in Haverstock, north London. They both shared an early sadistic streak for tormenting and torturing animals starting with a hedgehog, which Mulcahy beat to death with a plank when he was aged just thirteen.As they got older the boys began to transfer their sadistic tendencies to women, fuelling each other’s dark sexual fantasies. The pair, both building workers from Hampstead, most likely got the idea to attack lone women when they realised how quiet areas were around railway stations at night.It is baffling to understand how a young friendship could have degenerated into a secret life of violence, rape and murder. One theory is that bullying, which both Mulcahy and Duffy endured as schoolboys, may have been a key factor in driving them to rape and kill.Whatever the trigger, the two boys had developed a severely psychotic side to their personalities at an early age. As he grew older, Duffy married and became a martial arts fanatic.Their brutal crimes began on 1 July 1982, when the pair attacked and violently raped a 23-year-old woman in Hampstead, North London. Over the next four years, a further 18 women were attacked.Despite John Duffy being known to the police as a violent man - after assaulting his wife and being found carrying a knife - he was still able to carry out a string of sexual assaults and commit two murders over a 15-month period.


1 June 1982 - Duffy and Mulcahy first rape of woman in HampsteadAutumn 1983 - Attacks stop while Duffy is separated from his wifeJuly 1985 - Three women raped on same night in Hampstead and HendonAugust 1985 - Duffy first arrested after assault on his wifeSeptember 1985 - Woman attacked in Barnet29 December 1985 - Alison Day, 19, raped and strangled with string17 April 1986 - Maartje Tambozer, 15, raped and killed, body is set on fire12 May 1986 - Duffy arrested for carrying knife near North Weald station18 May 1986 - Anne Locke, 29, TV presenter, raped and killed7 November 1986 - Duffy arrested stalking woman in park8 November 1986 - Duffy charged with three murders, and seven counts of rapeFebruary 1988 - Duffy trial, convicted of 2 murders and 4 rapes5 February 2001 - Mulcahy receives 24-year jail term

The Aftermath

We used to call it hunting, we did it as a bit of a joke


In 2000, Duffy appeared at the Old Bailey as a witness against Mulcahy and gave detailed and graphic evidence over 14 days. It was the first time a highest-category prisoner had ever given evidence against an accomplice.Mulcahy emerged as the chief perpetrator of the crimes and the first to decide that sexual stimulation was no longer enough of a thrill, so turning to murder. He was said by a former employee at a cab firm he worked at to despise women. "He liked women to be at the kitchen sink where they should be, or in bed", said Lola Barry, a controller at the cab firm.She said Mulcahy had once crept up behind her in the office, "He actually got me round the neck, saying 'How does that feel - are you scared?'”Mr Mark Dennis, prosecuting, told Mulcahy's trial, "As they fed their new-found predilections they treated their victims as objects rather than persons." It was "only a comparatively small step" between the violence of the rapes and the murders - and Mulcahy was the first to take it. "He was the instigator and prime mover in the murders, and the one for whom the sexual abuse had become insufficient to satisfy", said Mr Dennis.Duffy, in the witness box catalogued their heinous campaign of rape and murder describing how the two friends would go out on 'hunting parties' in the 1980s searching for women. Duffy, used his knowledge of the rail network to target his victims and drag them into concealed areas where they could be attacked.“We would have balaclavas and knives", Duffy claimed. "We used to call it hunting. We did it as a bit of a joke. A bit of a game."

Mulcahy protested his innocence but on 5 February 2001, was given three life sentences for murdering three women. He also received 24-year jail terms on each of seven counts of rape and 18 years each for five conspiracies to rape, to run concurrently.The police believed that the two men were probably responsible for more deaths and sexual attacks and reinvestigated the 1980 murder of Jenny Ronaldson, 19, who was sexually assaulted, strangled and thrown in the Thames.Apart from the level of ferocity associated with this case, the Duffy/Mulcahy casebook is one of the most significant criminal cases for its first use in Britain of 'Psychological Offender Profiling'.

The Trial

standing trial

Duffy went on trial in February 1988 and was convicted of two murders and four rapes, although he was acquitted of raping and killing Anne Locke. He was given a minimum tariff of 30 years by the judge, later extended to a whole life tariff by the Home Secretary. This however was to be rescinded by a European Court of Human Rights ruling, that later removed the right of politicians to reset sentence tariffs.Duffy kept silent about having an accomplice until he decided he wanted to clear his conscience while undertaking a counselling session. He chose not to reveal any more information about his partner-in-crime until nearly 15 years later, in 1997, when he implicated Mulcahy. The police had suspected Mulcahy for years but had no evidence on which to convict him until Duffy’s confession.Duffy also admitted his involvement in the attack on Anne Locke, although he could not be re-tried under the double jeopardy rule.However, Mulcahy, a married father of four, had been tracked for several months by police prior to his arrest. DNA-tests, which were not yet in use during the original investigation, finally proved his involvement conclusively.

The Arrest

Duffy is exposed

In October 1986, a 14-year-old schoolgirl miraculously managed to get away with her life after she was raped by both men.After this attack, on 21 October 1986, Duffy’s luck began to run out. While stalking a woman in a park on 7 November 1986, he was discovered and arrested. The next day, Duffy was charged with three murders, and seven counts of rape.Mulcahy was also arrested, but later released due to lack of evidence. It was to be two years before Duffy would speak out and admit that he carried out the attacks with an accomplice.

The Crimes

Hell in Hampstead

On 1 July 1982, Duffy and Mulcahy attacked and raped a woman close to Hampstead Station in London’s Hampstead village. The assault gave the two psychopaths a taste for terrorising women in similar scenarios and for the next twelve months women were assaulted across London and the outer counties. In all, eighteen women were raped near various train stations as well as in an area close to Duffy's Kilburn house.The police set up an urgent workshop to try to find the perpetrators, called ‘Operation Hart’ which was the largest investigation to take place in the UK since the Yorkshire Ripper enquiry a few years before.In autumn 1983 the attacks suddenly stopped. Police later found out that this coincided with Duffy’s separation from his wife.Early in 1984 the attacks began again, this time in West London and North London. The police had no evidence to link the crimes and were unsure as to whether they were committed by the same man, or two different individuals.Then, in July 1985, three women were raped on the same night, all in the Hendon and Hampstead area. Duffy and Mulcahy were pulled in for interrogation, but were eventually released. However, in August 1985, due to a bout of domestic violence at his home when he attacked his wife, Duffy was arrested.

He was interviewed and eventually added to the ‘Hart’ computer system as one of many thousands of men being investigated. Unfortunately Duffy was far down the list of suspects. Mulcahy, who was Duffy’s accomplice in the rape attacks, was also questioned and eventually released.At this time a new concept in crime investigations evolved with the innovative ‘Psychological Offender Profiling’.Professor David Canter from Surrey University was called in to aid the police investigation and it was his ‘profiling’ system which made its debut during this particular case. Canter drew up a list of seventeen personality and characteristic traits, including environmental clues that the offender may display. When Duffy was finally caught it transpired Canter was proved correct with at least twelve of these traits.In September 1985, a woman was attacked in Barnet. The description of the attacker fitted Duffy and the police pulled him in for questioning and placed him in an identity parade. However, the victim, still traumatised from the assault, failed to pick him out.Mulcahy was also questioned but eventually released. It was to be a grave mistake, costing the lives of several women.On 29  December 1985, Alison Day, aged 19, was dragged off a train at Hackney station by Duffy and Mulcahy and repeatedly raped. She was then strangled with a piece of string.This was the first time the victim had been killed. Police further stepped up their search for the attacker. The death of Day changed the attacker’s moniker from the Railway Rapist to the Railway Killer. There was still no evidence at this time to suggest that two men were carrying out the attacks.In the spring of next year the two men attacked another helpless young victim. Fifteen-year-old Maartje Tambozer was abducted from Horsley station in East Surrey on 17 April 1986. After being raped and strangled, the teenager’s body was set on fire, most likely as a grisly attempt to destroy any evidence.Less than a month later, on 12 May 1986, Duffy was arrested near North Weald station after been found carrying a knife. However, there was not enough evidence to charge him and he was released - only to kill again six days later.On 18 May 1986, the victim was local TV presenter Anne Locke, 29, who was abducted as she alighted from her train in Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire.

The Key Figures

David Mulcahy - Duffy’s accomplice in rape and murderProfessor David Canter - developed Psychological Offender Profiling system at Surrey UniversityThe Victims (named only):Alison Day, 19 - raped and strangled 29 December 1985Maartje Tambozer, 15 - raped and killed 17 April 1986Anne Locke, 29 - raped and killed 18 May 198618 unnamed rape victims