John Duffy and David Mulcahy

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John Duffy and David Mulcahy (born 1959) are two British rapists and serial killers who together attacked numerous women at railway stations in the south of England through the 1980s. They are known as the Railway Rapists and the Railway Killers.

John Duffy and David Mulcahy

The first attacks[edit]

In 1982 a woman (KJ) was raped by two men near Hampstead Heath station and subsequently eighteen more were attacked over the next year. More occurred through 1984 and then three were raped on the same night in 1985 in Hendon. Police set up an urgent investigation to try to find the perpetrators, called Operation Hart.

The name of Duffy, a martial arts instructor, was touted as a suspect among thousands of other names as he was a known sex offender, having been previously convicted of the rape of his wife. Rope found in his parents' house linked him to the second murder victim. Mulcahy was also questioned due to his close friendship with Duffy, but victims were still traumatised and unable to pick him out of an identity parade. Mulcahy was released for lack of evidence.

The switch to murder[edit]

On 29 December 1985, Alison Day, 19, was dragged off a train at Hackney Wick station by Duffy and Mulcahy and repeatedly raped. She was then strangled with a piece of string.

Police further stepped up their search for the attacker who had been coined by the press as the Railway Rapist. The death of Alison Day changed this moniker to the Railway Killer, a tag reinforced by the rape and murder of 15-year-old Maartje Tamboezer in West Horsley on 17 April 1986. As well as rape and strangulation, Maartje's body was set on fire. A month later on 18 May 1986, local TV presenter Anne Locke, 29, was abducted and murdered as she dismounted a train in Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire.

New methods[edit]

Police brought in a psychologist from the University of Surrey, Dr. David Canter, to help their inquiries. There had been no previous use in Britain of "psychological offender profiling" as it was known, but something fresh was required as three women had been murdered and numerous others raped, with little progress being made. Canter examined the details of each crime and built up a profile of the attacker's personality, habits and traits. While this continued, another attack took place as a 14-year-old girl was raped in a park (David Canter was a psychologist working in the field of geographical psychology at the time). This enquiry led him to set up Investigative Psychology in which he has become an acknowledged expert in the field.

The breakthrough[edit]

As well as working together with Mulcahy, Duffy had started to rape alone and he was arrested while following a woman in a secluded park, he was questioned also about the spate of rapes and murders, and the next day charged on all counts. Police knew he had not committed the offences alone, but Duffy was not forthcoming about his accomplice.


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. A European Court of Human Rights ruling later removed the right of politicians to reset sentence tariffs, and so Duffy's stay in prison was reverted to the original 30 years. He will be in prison until at least 2018 and the age of 59.

Much was made of the psychological profile constructed by Canter after the trial, as Duffy fitted 13 of the 17 observations made about the attacker's lifestyle and habits. Such profiling became immediately commonplace in policing thereafter.

The accomplice is found[edit]

Following his conviction, Duffy revealed to a forensic psychologist what the police knew already - that he had not attacked the women alone. However, he chose to reveal no more until 1997 when he implicated Mulcahy, a lifelong friend with whom Duffy had been inseparable since their days together at school in Haverstock, North London. Duffy also admitted his involvement in the attack on Anne Locke, although he could not be re-tried for this under the double jeopardy rule.

However, Mulcahy - a married father of four - could still be implicated and following Duffy's claims, he was tracked for several months by police prior to his arrest and DNA-tests (which were not yet in use during the original investigation) also proved his involvement conclusively. In 2000, Duffy appeared at the Old Bailey as a witness against Mulcahy and gave detailed evidence over 14 days. It was the first time a highest-category prisoner had ever given evidence against an accomplice.

Mulcahy emerged through the trial from prosecution evidence as the chief perpetrator and the first to decide that sexual stimulation wasn't enough of a thrill any more, so turning to murder.

Mulcahy was convicted of three murders and seven rapes and handed 3 life sentences, with a 30-year recommendation. He was not later given a whole life tariff, as the ruling barring politically-set tariffs had been made by the time his case was due for review.

Duffy was convicted of 17 more rapes and received a further 12 years. Neither man is expected to ever be released from prison alive. Police suspect them of countless other sex attacks, some dating back to the mid-1970s, while Mulcahy is also suspected of attacks which took place after Duffy was jailed.

There has been occasional publicity for the pairing since Mulcahy's imprisonment, including newspaper claims that Duffy was paid £20,000 in return for information about his accomplice; and that Mulcahy has become a feared loan shark from his prison cell.

In 2001, a television movie Witness of Truth: The Railway Murders was released, starring Huw Higginson and Nicholas Marchie as Duffy and Mulcahy, respectively.

Further reading[edit]

  • Adler, Joanna R. Forensic Psychology: Concepts, Debates, and Practice. Willan Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-84392-009-3
  • Harrower, Julie. Crime: Psychology in Practice. Oxford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0340844973
  • Wilson, Colin and Damon Wilson Written in Blood: A History of Forensic Detection. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003. ISBN 0-7867-1266-X

External links[edit]