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True Detective September 2007
Down the long line of British hangmen James Berry was one of the best, a perfectionist whose improvements to the techniques of hanging continued to be used for more than 60 years – until the abolishment of capital punishment in the UK. But in 1892 his career ended somewhat prematurely, Berry resigning, according to his own account, because of a prison doctor’s interference. However, the winds of change were blowing down Whitehall. Berry already had a track record of misbehaviour and prompted by this and his predecessor’s similar misconduct, the Home Office had been reviewing the selection and remuneration of hangmen; the ministers and civil servants’ deliberations being recorded in a series of memos and minutes.
Read them and you are looking over the decision-makers’ shoulders as they formulated how capital punishment would in future be regulated.
Richard Ramirez, Charles Manson, Bianchi and Buono, they all figure in Los Angeles’s hall of horror, but now they have been joined by a new kid on the block – 10-time killer Chester Dwayne Turner. Who? you may be asking. His name may not yet be instantly recognisable but it will grow on you. “Turner is a savage predator fixated on violence, dominance and control,” maintained the prosecutor. “In his world women are objects who are brutalised and dehumanised. Here life has no meaning. Life is thrown away like trash.” Turner’s tally has made him the most prolific serial killer ever identified in the history of Los Angeles, and our in-depth report on him and his crimes begins this month.