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KAPPEN: A PROVEN KILLER; 12 years after Joe died, DNA reveals he was the man who raped and murdered three girls in 1973.

Byline: JASON LAMPORT

A FORMER nightclub doorman was yesterday unmasked as a Ripper-style serial sex killer - 12 years after his death.

Dad-of-three Joe Kappen brutally raped and strangled three teenage girls almost thirty years ago.

He went to his grave in 1990 with the crimes unsolved. But police never gave up hope of catching the killer and exhumed Kappen's body for fresh DNA tests last month.

And yesterday police revealed samples from his remains matched those taken from his victims.

They now fear the long distance lorry driver may also be responsible for a string of other unsolved sex crimes.

Police forces across the UK have been told to check their archives and Interpol are looking for matches on their database.

Kappen was a prime suspect in the hunt for the "Saturday Night Strangler" who killed three 16-year-old girls in 1973.

Sandra Newton, Pauline Floyd and Geraldine Hughes were raped and strangled in south Wales.

More than 30,000 people were quizzed during the inquiry but Kappen was never arrested.

He died from lung cancer, aged 49, with his wife and family still convinced he was innocent.

Police yesterday said that while they were relieved to have caught the killer they were frustrated that he cannot be brought to justice.

Det Chief Supt Wynne Phillips said: "While these results are conclusive the suspect can never stand trial.

"If the suspect was alive today he would have been arrested and charged with these offences.

"We are not looking for anyone else. These murder investigations will now be closed."

The news came as a relief for one of the victim's families.

Geraldine Hughes' dad Denvar, 72, said: "We have been through so much - we just couldn't stand anymore."

A team of four detectives trawled the national DNA database looking for clues to his daughter's killer.

They found a near match belonged to one of Kappen's relatives who was on their forensic files.

They then asked the Home Secretary for permission to dig up Kappen's body last month.

It is the first time a body has ever been exhumed after DNA tests.

Det Chief Supt Phillips, added: "The samples taken matched those from the crime scene where Sandra, Geraldine and Pauline died.

"We suspect there may be further crimes which he may have been responsible for. We are looking at sex attacks, rapes and murders during the 1970s and early 1980s.

"We need to know about Kappen's lifestyle, movements and what made him tick."

Police are now probing the death of Maureen Mulcahy, 22, who was throttled in 1976 in Port Talbot to see if Kappen was responsible.

They are also concentrating their inquires in the Humberside area where Kappen also lived.

Sandra, 16, was murdered after leaving a club in Briton Ferry, south Wales, on a Saturday night.

Three months later best friends Geraldine and Pauline, also 16, were found strangled in woods at Llandarcy near Swansea.

Kappen was 32 at the time of the murders and married to his first wife Christine, who has since remarried.

Christine and Kappen's three grown-up children Paul, Beverley and Deborah have been told of the DNA results.

Just weeks ago Christine said: "Joe was a loving family man.

"He lived on the wrong side of the law and was no angel - but he was no sex monster either."

Police said when he was interviewed 29 years ago Kappen had a 'water-tight alibi'.

They also praised the victims' families for never giving up hope.

Det Chief Supt Phillips said: "They have lived a life of turmoil. Their lives stopped in 1973.

"Our thoughts are with them and we now hope they can finally find some peace." Geraldine's mother Jean, 69, said: "You know there are evils out there but you never believe it will touch on you and yours.

"When it does it is a lifetime's sentence of hell.

"We now hope we can close the book on the most horrific chapter of our lives."

Husband, Denvar, added: "We have relived what Geraldine must have gone through every night for nearly 30 years.

"Now we know for certain who killed our daughter and we can find some peace.

"When we heard about the police breakthrough we couldn't believe it at first. We were so shocked my wife and myself broke down and cried all night.

"It really is wonderful that technology has moved on to give police these vital new tools of detection.

"The area has been tainted with these murders for years and hopefully the stigma hanging over it will be removed once and for all."

CAPTION(S):

UNMASKED: DNA tests showed Kappen was the killer; HORROR ACT: Tragic Geraldine's body was found in woodland; SICKENING: Pauline was raped and strangled on way home; SO SAD: Sandra was 16 when she was attacked; GRAVE: Kappen died of lung cancer; RELIEVED: Det Chief Supt Phillips; NEW CLUE: Killer Joe Kappen's body is exhumed for DNA testing
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 7, 2002
Words:820
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