John Duffy and David Mulcahy

John Duffy and David Mulcahy

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

Mug Shots
Background information
Birth name: John Francis Duffy
David Mulcahy
Also known as: The Railway Killers
The Railway Rapists
Born: 1959
London, England, United Kingdom
Number of victims: 3
Span of killings: 29 December 1985–18 May 1986
Country: England, United Kingdom
Date apprehended: 7 November 1986 (J.D.)
1997 (D.M.)


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The first attacks

In 1982 a woman (KJ) was raped by two men near Hampstead 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 workshop 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 on the sex offenders register following conviction for 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

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

This was the first time a victim had been killed. 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 in 17 April 1986. As well as rape and strangulation, Maartje’s body was set on fire. A month later on 18 May 1985, local TV presenter Anne Locke, 29, was abducted and murdered as she dismounted a train in Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire.

New methods

Police brought in a psychologist from the University of Surrey, Dr. David Canter, to help their inquiries. There had been no previous use of “psychological offender profiling” as it was known, but something fresh was required as three women had been murdered and numerous more 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

As well as working together 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 69.

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

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 couldn’t 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 perpetrat
or 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 pounds 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

  • 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

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