WHEN the butchered body of Playboy Bunny Eve Stratford was discovered by police, one officer claimed he had never seen anything so horrific.
The 21-year-old was found with her hands tied behind her back and her throat slit so ferociously that she had nearly been decapitated in her flat in Leyton, East London.
Eve, whose body was discovered in March 1975, worked as a waitress in central London’s Playboy Club and mingled with celebrities including comic Eric Morecambe, actor Sid James and boxer John Conteh.
The brutal murder sent shockwaves through the London nightlife scene and, almost half a century later, it remains unsolved.
What is known is that her murderer went on to kill again, at least once.
The killer’s DNA has been linked to the rape and murder of 16-year-old schoolgirl Lynne Weedon, in Hounslow, West London, six months later.
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And it is thought the same man also killed pregnant mum Lynda Farrow, 29, four years later in January 1979.
The unsolved killings are being reanalysed in the new two-part ITV documentary The Playboy Bunny Murder, which airs tonight.
DCI Colin Sutton investigated the killings as cold cases in 2002 and worked on his own documentary, West End Girls.
He previously told The Sun that he made a huge breakthrough in the case.
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He said: “We actually found a new witness, after nearly 50 years, who was walking past when Lynne Weedon was murdered.
“She didn’t come forward at the time because her parents told her not to.
"But by speaking to her, as well as re-examining the evidence, we were able to make connections to a potential suspect.”
Eve Stratford left her home in Warrington, Cheshire, aged 19 to move to London, and became a waitress at the Playboy Club in 1973.
As one of the brand’s Bunny Girls, she was popular among the club’s regulars and proudly sent her family pictures of herself on the arms of celebrities.
But she desperately wanted to become a model and when she failed in her bid to appear in Playboy’s US magazine, she turned to its British rival, Mayfair.
Named Miss March 1975 — under the name Eva Von Borke — she posed topless on the front cover under the banner “the most classic blonde we’ve ever uncovered”.
The nine-page shoot included a full-frontal nude centrefold and an interview in which she revealed she liked to be dominated in bed but didn’t like to be “whipped or tied up”.
Playboy Club boss Victor Aubrey Lownes III was furious she had posed for a rival and suspended her from her job for three months.
Former “Bunny Mother” Erin Morris, who had given her the job, said: “She wasn’t upset, she understood what she’d done and why it had to happen.
“She told me she’d done it because she wanted to get into modelling.
“I said she could come back to work when the suspension was over.
However, she anticipated this would be her step up the ladder, therefore she wouldn’t need to come back.
“She wasn’t just going to wait on tables, she wanted to do something with her life.”
Eve went on to secure a modelling job for a South African top-shelf magazine and was also the model for a crime fiction book cover, where she was pictured looking terrified as a knife came towards her throat.
On March 17, 1975, just two weeks after her Mayfair issue hit the shelves, she had a meeting with her agent before arriving at her flat in Leyton, East London, which she shared with her musician boyfriend Tony Priest, just after 4pm.
About 20 minutes later, a downstairs neighbour heard Eve talking to a man and, at 5.15pm, heard a thud, described as sounding like a chair falling over, then footsteps coming down the stairs.
When Tony arrived at the flat with a friend ten minutes later, he was greeted with a gruesome scene.
The model, dressed in a flimsy negligee, had been tied up with her own stockings and raped.
Her face had been mutilated and her throat had been slashed 12 times in a ferocious attack.
A blood-splattered bouquet of flowers she had bought that afternoon lay next to her body.
Police, who described the scene as one of the worst they had ever seen, believed Eve’s cover shoot in Mayfair and the interview in which she said she “lived alone with my cat” could have led to the killer targeting her.
Her boyfriend Tony, Mayfair magazine editor David Brenner and Playboy Club regular and Lebanese businessman Abdul Khawaja were among those questioned by police.
Six months after Eve’s death, on September 3, 1975, schoolgirl Lynne Weedon was returning from a night out celebrating her O-level results in Hounslow. The 16-year-old decided to take a shortcut home, down a dark alleyway.
But she was hit over the head with a heavy object, which smashed her skull, before being raped.
Her attacker then lifted her over a wall and dumped her in the grounds of an electricity substation, where she was found by a caretaker the following morning.
She was taken to West Middlesex hospital but never regained consciousness, dying a week later.
A man was seen running away from the scene but the weapon was never recovered.
The murders were not linked until 30 years later, in 2004, when DNA evidence proved the two girls had been killed by the same man.
The killer is also believed to have struck again, just half a mile from Eve’s home, on January 19, 1979.
Croupier and mum-of-two Lynda Farrow had been shopping with her mother before heading home to Woodford Green, East London.
As she approached, she heard her phone ring and rushed in to answer, leaving her front door open.
Two girls walking by reported hearing a woman scream before the front door was slammed shut.
Lynda, who was four months pregnant, was badly beaten and had her throat slashed with a serrated carving knife.
Her daughters, then aged 11 and eight, found her lying in a pool of blood when they returned from school.
During a 2009 reconstruction on BBC’s Crimewatch, daughter Justine said: “She didn’t arrive to pick us up from school. We waited and waited, I think until everyone had gone home.
“You do have that horrible sick feeling in your stomach when something like that happens.”
She remembers seeing footprints in the snow and her mum’s car outside. “I went straight to the front door and knocked and knocked,” she said.
“I didn’t hear anything. I decided to look through the letterbox and there she was. There was a knife next to her.
“I just didn’t know why or how someone could do that. What could she have done?”
Although Lynda had not been sexually assaulted, and no DNA was found, Colin believes Eve’s killer was behind the crime.
He explained: “It is highly likely given the circumstances, the location and the manner of killing that it is the same killer.
“Both women were attacked in their own homes and had their throats slit.
"Also, we found out more during our investigations last summer, while we were making the documentary, which suggests it is the same man.”
Colin, who has spoken to Lynda’s children as well as witnesses and friends of the victims, says there is no way of knowing whether these three cases are the killer’s only murders.
He added: “I couldn’t possibly say if he struck again. If it had been restricted to Eve and Linda I’d probably say those were the only murders but Lynne Weedon’s murder is a real wildcard because that offence is so different in the way it was carried out.
"If there hadn’t been DNA, you would never link it to the other two.”
Despite previous theories linking the murders to known offenders, including Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, Colin says the DNA profile rules that out.
He said: “After our investigation we have a new suspect and we think the person that needs eliminating, shall we say, from the investigation is not known to police or to the authorities.”
In 2015, on the 40th anniversary of Lynne Weedon’s death, mum Margaret said: “It has been 40 years since our beautiful young daughter Lynne was violently taken from us.
"We have missed out on so much; she missed out on life, no relationship or marriage, no career or children or even just travelling the world, all taken from her.
“We are left 40 years on always wondering what it would have been like — a true life sentence.”
Speaking in 2009, Eve’s dad Albert, who has since died, revealed that his wife Liza never recovered from their daughter’s death, visiting her grave every day.
She was tormented by what was going through her daughter’s mind before her death and gave up the boutique she ran as she couldn’t bear to see the young, vibrant girls who shopped there.
He added she “died of a broken heart” in 1986.
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While nothing can take away the family’s pain over the brutal murders, Colin is now hoping he can help solve the mystery before the next big anniversary looms.
The Playboy Bunny Murder airs 9pm tonight and tomorrow on ITV1.
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