At 84, psychic Cracknell still relishes a challenge
By Nathan Morley
PSYCHIC detective Bob Cracknell turned 84 this year, but age has done little to dim his interest in mysteries, high-profile crimes and the people that commit them. “It’s a typical case of a complete psychotic,” he says, referring to the recent Nicos Metaxas murders.
In an interview with the Sunday Mail at a café opposite Limassol Castle, he says, like everyone else, he was captivated by events, especially given the gruesome details of an army officer killing seven women and girls seemed all too familiar. “So many bodies attributed to one man, so brutal,” he whispered, shaking his head.
“Well, you would not expect this kind of crime, one of this magnitude to happen here on the island, would you?” he asks. “Everybody I know – my neighbours and friends – were all discussing it with me”.
As details emerged, he was transported back to the time when he became involved in the Yorkshire Ripper investigations in the early 1980s. By his own account, that case sparked a burst of publicity and his phone never stopped ringing as police detectives and Fleet Street editors turned to him for help.
In fact, at the height of his celebrity, Cracknell was dubbed ‘Britain’s Number One Psychic Detective,’ gaining further renown during the Janie Shepherd murder enquiry. Soon after, he helped to free teenage kidnap victim Gaby Maerth, who was held in a cellar for 149 days.
His insists everybody possesses psychic ability. He soaks up pretty much everything, constantly absorbing the world around him. Hunches and ‘gut feelings’ are, he says, the most basic manifestations of psychic ability. “Everybody is psychic. The difference is that I’ve developed it,” he says.
For a while, Cracknell lived a double life. His adventures in probing cases kept him in the spotlight, whilst at the same time he operated a successful global financial investigation service. And with fame came the occasional forays into show-business, like the time he was invited to investigate a possible haunting at an old stable used as a rehearsal room by the stars of Coronation Street. During his probe, his guide was William Roache – the actor known for playing the affable Ken Barlow, “a truly charming guy, who was at the time a practicing druid,” he recalled. “We suspected that the stable had been built on top of an old orphanage and the bodies of children were buried underneath.”
As it turned out, Cracknell established that lay-lines; bands of energy within the ground were to blame for a string of unfortunate incidents, which caused staff to suffer from colds and coughs or were distracted and could not concentrate. Even star-turn Doris Speed became very ill when working in the stables.
“I did enjoy the showbiz world, to an extent,” he laughs. “Jenny had worked with Warner-Pathe, so she was used to it. We had dinner with Lindsey De Paul and James Coburn at their home; we went to film premiers and things like that.”
Towards the end of the 80s, punishing workloads prompted a move to Limassol. “Before that, I went to work every day with a suitcase in my car and I wouldn’t know whether I would end up in Australia, New Zealand or whatever,” he recalls. He smiles and speaks with brutal honesty, saying the physical wear and tear of slogging around the world equalled the immense mental pressure. “I was drinking a bottle of whisky a day, smoking 80 cigarettes and suddenly thought: this is not right. It had to stop”.
Besides, he says, the transition to anonymity was easy, and three decades out of the public eye allowed him the luxury to meditate but also become fiercely private.
That said, there have been a few lapses back into the limelight. In 1996, he joined forces with politician Marios Matsakis at the Ledra Palace to take part in a so-called Pause For Peace event, designed to break the ‘mood of cynicism and depression’ that descended on the island. “But, that was a long time ago,” he points out. And even though he is still contacted by the media, they are rarely granted interviews. “I did do one recently, but I do feel it is an encroachment on my time,” he explains.
There is certainly still interest in Bob Cracknell. His memoirs Clues to the Unknown continues to sell well and has been republished several times. In it, he reveals some harrowing memories, like surviving childhood sexual abuse from a foster father during the war. Then, in 1950, joined the RAF at the age of 15, where he had his first ‘out of body’ experience in the guardroom at RAF Gutersloh in Germany. “Germany, that is where I discovered beer as well,” he says smiling, before taking a sip of Keo.
Writing in his autobiography, he also recounted being a down-and-out on the streets of London, where he obtained first-hand knowledge of a class of people who were, by reasons not always of their own choosing, total outsiders. “I had achieved a greater awareness throughout that time than one could possibly hope for in a lifetime’s study of human behaviour – and had witnessed, and experienced, the whole gamut of emotions and sufferings of others. I learned how to con and how to cheat and, perhaps more importantly, I discovered a natural instinct for survival, which is in each and every one of us”.
When pressed about his involvement of in the Yorkshire Ripper case, he is happy to oblige, saying no man evoked more terror in the hearts of British women. Even 40 years after the Ripper was arrested, Cracknell says his evil presence still haunts the lives of those whose paths he crossed.
“He was pure evil – a ruthless, twisted person. And during the time he was on the loose, everybody was afraid,” he says with understatement.
Over a six-year period, Peter Sutcliffe carried out a series of brutal killings and attacks in the north of England, with the police seemingly powerless to stop him. “He was on everyone’s mind for a long time,” Cracknell says, telling how his involvement in the case began when the Ripper struck for the 16th time, murdering 20-year-old student Barbara Leach, whose body was found in undergrowth in Bradford. The killing deviated from the Ripper’s normal modus operandi, insomuch as his previous victims had all been prostitutes.
“His track record showed clearly that he disliked prostitutes, and women flaunting themselves infuriated him,” Cracknell told the Sunday Mail. “The student murder was completely out of character; the first time he had killed somebody that was not a prostitute”.
As it turned out, after interviewing the parents of Barbara Leach, the Sunday People sought his help. Soon after, Cracknell publicly stated that the Ripper lived in Bradford, contrary to the official police opinion. Furthermore, he led a reporter to within 100 yards of Sutcliff’s house a year before he was arrested. But, there was a slight hiccup when they came to a crossing and he chose the wrong direction.
“We came to a T-junction and I didn’t know whether to turn left or right. That was where I screwed up. In the end, we went left. Later we discovered that down the road to the right was his house. At the time, though, there was still no evidence,” he explains. He laments how had they taken the other turning they would soon have soon found themselves outside the Ripper’s front door.
Cracknell then predicted the Ripper would commit one more murder and then be caught. “Actually, I said publicly he would be arrested, but for totally different reasons – it will be traffic police that arrest him.”
His prediction was recorded with the Society for Psychic Research and just three-weeks on; everything he had said came true. “And what happened was, the Ripper picked up a prostitute – she must be the luckiest woman in the world – and traffic police came by. They clocked he had a fake number plate. And they placed him under arrest”.
To his few critics, Cracknell has usually said that he does not care what they say. “But, criticism is very important,” he admits, unperturbed. “Besides, most of the time I’ve been correct – and the evidence is there, as I’ve always put myself on record and been willing to do so,” he says.
“I have no problem with people having doubts or being dubious about what I say. My life is an open book. But I’ve been proven right time and time again”.
Nowadays, Cracknell is absorbed in meditation – but probably makes as much time for writing, given that over the past few decades he has become prolific, penning an autobiography, website and countless articles.
“Actually, I have never written a word,” he says, holding out his hands, “I just dictate, Jenny does the rest”.
Next week he is booked in for a cataract operation, in the hope of expelling the opacity that clouds his vision. And with age, he is starting to look for some new challenges, even if, for now, he describes himself as “Britain’s Number One Blind Detective.”