Police end hunt and disband team that tracked killers – Leslie Bailey
Times, The (London, England)-October 23, 1992
Author: Stewart Tendler

OPERATION Orchid, the two-year police enquiry which brought Leslie Bailey to court yesterday, is being wound down. Two weeks ago, lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service reviewed the case with police and decided there should be no further action against anyone for the murder of Mark Tildesley or the deaths of Barry Lewis, 6, and Jason Swift, 14.

The decision means that a joint detective team from east London and Thames Valley will halt its search to discover whether any more boys were bought or kidnapped to be raped and killed. In the past year, the team has dug up several sites in the hope of finding bodies.

The operation was set up by Det Chief Supt Roger Stoodley, who retired earlier this month, at Arbour Square police station in east London. Its formation followed the jailing of four men, including Bailey, for the manslaughter of Jason Swift in May 1989.

Bailey, who was once a rent boy, was given 15 years for his part in the death. Taught at boarding schools for the educationally subnormal until he was 16, he was known as Catweazle because of his unkempt looks. Working from time to time as a packer, a labourer and a security officer, Bailey also earned money by mending cars and collecting scrap metal.

In prison, segregated as a sex offender, he made a string of disjointed and rambling confessions to his cellmate about the murders of 20 children. The man, disgusted at what he heard, took notes and wrote to police. In June 1991, Bailey was convicted of the murder of six-year-old Barry Lewis, who vanished from a street market in Walworth, south London, almost six years earlier.

During questioning over that case, Bailey mentioned a child called Mark. The Metropolitan Police contacted colleagues at Thames Valley who had failed to make any headway in the case of Mark Tildesley. Det Supt Mick Short, in charge of the Tildesley case, joined forces with Mr Stoodley.

Mr Short said: “Although it’s difficult to believe, I have a certain sympathy for Mr Bailey. He has admitted to a large extent what he has been responsible for. He is the fall guy. As it stands at the moment, it will never be safe to release him.”

Police end hunt and disband team that tracked killers (23.10.92)