Former Suffolk chief detective Stewart Gull, who led the hunt for the 2006 'Suffolk Strangler' who killed five prostitutes near Ipswich, told the Leveson media inquiry that newspapers hindered his investigation.
Gull cited several stories he described as "sensationalist" and said they had detracted from his attempts to find the killer.
These stories were "unhelpful, unjustified and unbalanced" he said.
"At the height of these events it was an unnecessary distraction," he added.
The newspapers misled the public that police were looking for a "fat man" or "blue BMW", Gull said - and it took him some time to get the press back on his side.
In March, Serious Organised Crime Agency investigator Dave Harrison said that the News of the World had "jeopardised" the same investigation.
But while Harrison had alleged that the tabloid hired ex-special forces soldiers to carry out surveillance, Gull said he had no knowledge of such a probe.
Serial killer Steve Wright was convicted for the murders of five women in 2008.
Earlier at the inquiry the head of the Police Federation, Paul McKeever, said that he did not consider bribery to be a widespread activity in the police.
He added that the "majority" of officers would have little or no contact with the media during their entire careers.
However he said that he would be in favour of national standards of press training for officers.
Nathan Oley, head of press at the Association of Police Authorities, said that it would be helpful for officers and journalists dealing with the police to have clear definitions of on- and off-record.