Law catches up with Colin
Law catches up with Colin
The police assemble a crack team but it’s hindered from the start by a lack of evidence. There is a minute speck of what’s considered at the time as organic material. But science in 1992 isn’t advanced enough to look at its DNA.
And after a month of investigation, the police can’t even categorically say whether Rachel’s killer was male or female. So they take the unusual step of calling in a profiler, Paul Britton. Britton is a renowned criminal psychologist, and has helped with the successful return of the abducted estate agent, Stephanie Slater. (He’s also the inspiration for the Robbie Coltrane TV Series, ‘Cracker’.) He provides two profiles:
Demographic: The killer is someone in their 20s or 30s, probably lives on their own, engages only in isolated hobbies, and probably doesn’t live far from the Common.
Sexual Fantasy: The killer will be interested in the occult and knives and will have sexually sadistic fantasies.
These profiles, along with a photo-fit, are featured in a national TV appeal. At least four people call in identifying the suspect as Colin Francis Stagg.
Early one morning, Colin hears a knock on the door. Next thing he knows, he’s being interviewed at a police station. Having never been arrested before, Colin finds the experience like being in ‘a different world’.
For the police, Colin is their only remaining lead. After ruling out 548 suspects, and arresting and releasing 32 other men, the fact that Colin has books on the occult seems to be the first piece of the jigsaw matching Britton’s profile.
They question him over three days as they search for past matching incidents. Catastrophically, for all concerned, Colin is matched to a complaint by a woman that he exposed himself to her.
Colin maintains he was just nude sunbathing in a secluded spot and she came across him. His solicitor advises to take the fine and Colin, desperate to leave, accepts and leaves.
The police take this as proof of his sexual deviancy and are further convinced when a female factory worker contacts them. She says she’d exchanged letters with Colin in which he’d fantasised about making love in the open air. The police join the dots between this, and the fact that Nickell was killed in the open air.
Under incredible pressure from the press and their own bosses, the police launch the fantastically misconceived Operation Edzell. An undercover officer, ‘Lizzie James’, under the guidance of Britton, starts writing to Colin. Lizzie says that she knows the female factory worker Colin corresponded with but hints to him that she is much more open minded:
‘...my fantasies hold no bounds and my imagination runs riot’
Colin, a virgin, is flattered and writes back in hope. His naive innocence is evident. As she writes of risqué fantasies, he responds with dreams of drinking parsnip wine on a veranda.
So Lizzie talks of the need to be ‘defenceless’ and ‘humiliated’. Colin, desperate for sex, responds virtually word for word to her fantasies. But desperate not to offend, he always adds that he’s sorry if he’s overstepped the mark, as he’d still really, really like to meet her.
The police decide it’s time.
Colin meets his attractive blonde pen friend in a public park swamped by undercover officers.
Over lunch, Lizzie claims her former boyfriend was into black magic and they have done a human sacrifice involving a pregnant woman and a baby. Colin first thoughts are that she’s a nutter. His second thoughts are, however, that she is very attractive, and that he still wants to sleep with her.
On one of their next meetings, Lizzie says she could only have sex with the man who did the Nickell murder. Colin actually apologises. He says he’s not that man.
Despite this, the police arrest Colin in August 1993.
In the interview room, the police read him back his letters and introduce him to ‘Lizzie’.
On his solicitor’s advice, he responds, ‘No comment’ to every question.
The murder squad celebrate that their prime suspect is in jail. In fact, one of the worst killers in British history is spending the autumn preparing for his next brutal rape and murder.