...but fear not – it’s all in the imagination of a local ex-cop turned author!
A SAVAGE serial killer is on the loose in the Dearne Valley – targeting teenage girls and leaving behind a trail of cryptic clues.
But this murderous rampage is NOT being investigated by South Yorkshire Police.
That’s because it’s all taking place in the pages of a new book written by ex-CID Inspector Michael Fowler.
Since his retirement in 2006, the 53-year-old Swinton man has spent his time penning his debut crime novel, Heart of the Demon.
And Michael was not short of inspiration, after spending 30 years investigating real murders, rapes and other crimes.
The book is set in the Dearne Valley and villages throughout the area feature heavily, which is where Michael pounded the beat during his career.
He said: “I called the main town Barnwell, a mixture of Barnsley and Wombwell, and a lot of real places are also mentioned.
“It made sense to set it in a place that I know well. I’ve always had an interest in writing – even back when I was a police officer – but obviously I was too busy to concentrate on it.
“Since I retired I decided to throw myself into it fully and it’s been really enjoyable.”
The novel begins with the murder of a 14-year-old girl near Adwick-on-Dearne, and further bodies are subsequently discovered around Manvers, all with a playing card left at the scene.
It later transpires that a serial killer has been on the loose undetected for a number of years, and the Barnwell Murder Investigation Team are brought in to track him down.
Michael said: “The main characters leading the search are Det Sgt Hunter Kerr and DC Grace Marshall.
“Some of what they come across is fiction, but there’s also a lot which is born out of my own personal experience on the job.
“I’ve got more than 30 years police experience so I’ve got a lot to call on.
“I’ve seen first hand the emotional trauma that victims of crime go through, and the dedication it takes to investigate a murder.”
Michael sees this as the first in a trilogy of crime novels.
He said: “The second book is written and is due out later this year, and I am about half way through the third.
“The third book features an unsolved case from years ago, and I was fortunate to spend half a day with the police’s Cold Case unit as part of my research.
“Fortunately I’ve not been hit with writer’s block as yet, and I’ve still got plenty of ideas for stories running around in my head.”
He added that the ultimate ambition would be to see his work turned into a TV drama – and he can even imagine the perfect actors for the main roles.
Said Michael: “I think Spooks actor Richard Armitage would be great as Det Sgt Hunter, and Angela Griffin from Waterloo Road would really fit the bill as DC Marshall.
“It would be a dream come true to see my books adapted for TV.
“But I will just keep writing and see what happens.”
Michael, who is married with two sons, started out as a police cadet in 1974 and joined the force full-time, in Mexborough.
He then worked in the vice squad in Doncaster, during the infamous Yorkshire Ripper era – which proved to be another source of background for the book.
He was later promoted to inspector, working out of Goldthorpe and Hoyland stations.
Since his retirement – and when he is not writing – Michael is also a keen painter and has a studio based at Swinton Lock Activity Centre.
He said: “I’ve always had this artistic streak in me, it’s a great way to relax.
“A lot of my experiences inform the book, and so do a lot of the people I have come across.
“Some of my former colleagues have read the book and commented that some of the characters are like them.
“I just hope people enjoy the book and are eager to read more.”
l Heart Of The Demon, from Cambridge House Publishing, is available on-line and at WH Smith travel stores.