England

Former homes of Peter Tobin searched in Brighton

Police investigating the crimes of serial killer Peter Tobin have begun a search of two of his former homes in Brighton.

Tobin, 63, is serving three life sentences for murdering Angelika Kluk, Vicky Hamilton and Dinah McNicol.

Police are searching the back gardens of properties in Station Road, Portslade, and Marine Parade, Brighton.

Detectives said they would not divulge the nature of the information which has led to the search of the properties.

The search is part of a nationwide investigation, dubbed Anagram, to see if Tobin is responsible for any more murders.

'Not crime scenes'

Officers said they were using ground-penetrating radar equipment to discover if any bodies or other evidence were buried at the homes.

Police said the searches could take up to four weeks.

Image caption Tobin was told last December he would die in jail

Speaking at a press conference, Ch Insp Laurence Taylor, of Sussex Police, said: "At the moment these are not crime scenes.

"We do not know what is going to be there."

The search is being carried out by members of the Home Office's scientific support branch and officers from the Metropolitan Police.

They are being supported by experts from Sussex Police and archaeologists from University College London.

A Sussex Police spokesman said a substantial excavation would only take place if further evidence emerged that something could be buried in the gardens.

He said: "We are not prepared to divulge the nature of the information which has led to the gardens of these properties being searched and it would be inappropriate and insensitive to be drawn into speculation about missing individuals."

Image caption Specialist officers have been searching a garden of a house in Brighton

The garden being searched in Station Road is behind two hair salons.

It is believed that Tobin ran a cafe in the shop, which is now Essential Hair And Beauty, and lived in the flat upstairs in the early 1980s.

Residents received letters from police informing them they had warrants to search the properties.

People living nearby described Tobin as "an ordinary person" who used the property to sell antiques and then tea.

Tony Shoesmith, 70, said: "He was an ordinary person like any of us. We said hello, that's all, nothing else."

Mr Shoesmith's housemate Pauline Howlett, 76, said Tobin was living at the property when they arrived in 1988 and moved out a year later.

'Seemed bit cowed'

She said Tobin was living with a woman and a small boy, aged about 18 months.

She added: "He wasn't the sociable type. She seemed a bit cowed by him."

Officers have appealed to any residents who used to rent 67 and 67a Station Road, Portslade, who have not already spoken to detectives to contact Sussex Police.

The force also wants to trace a building company who converted the property in Marine Parade, Brighton, from a hotel into bedsits.

Police said Tobin worked as a caretaker or handyman at the then Seafront Hotel at 152 to 154 Marine Parade during the late 1980s. The Marine Parade site was converted into bedsit accommodation in 1992.

Image caption The bodies of Dinah McNicol and Vicky Hamilton were found in 2007

Tobin was told last December he would die in jail after he was convicted of strangling 18-year-old Miss McNicol.

The former church handyman was already serving life terms for the murders of Miss Hamilton, 15, and Miss Kluk, 23.

Miss McNicol vanished in August 1991 while hitchhiking to her home in Tillingham, Essex, after leaving a music festival in Liphook, Hampshire.

Six months earlier, Vicky Hamilton disappeared while waiting for a bus close to Tobin's then home in Bathgate, near Edinburgh.

In 2007 Tobin was convicted of killing Miss Kluk, a Polish student staying at a room in a Glasgow church, the previous year.

Also in 2007, detectives discovered the remains of Miss Hamilton and Miss McNicol buried in the garden of a house in Margate, Kent, where Tobin moved to in March 1991.

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