Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Blackout Ripper

This latter day "Ripper" committed four murders and two attempted murders in just a week in early 1942.  This assailant earned his monicker due to it being blackout conditions in London, and some mutilations he carried out on his victims.  The first victim was 42 year old teacher Evelyn Margaret Hamilton.  Her body was found in an air raid shelter on February 9th.  She had been strangled, and the possible motive was robbery.  The next day, February 10th, prostitute Evelyn Oakley, 35, was found in a Soho flat.  She was nude and had been strangled.  Other injuries were plain to see.  Her throat had been slashed and a tin opener had been used to mutilate her body after death.  She had also been raped.  The tin opener was found with bloody prints on it.  Legendary Scotland Yard detective Ted Greeno, was leading the hunt.  It was discovered that the killer was left handed.

    The next victim was Margaret Frances Lowe, mother of a 14 year old daughter and a prostitute.  She was found nude, had been cut with a razor blade and knife, and had a stocking tightly bound around her neck.  The wounds were determined to be post mortem.  The next attack was on February 14th, the victim being Doris Jounannet, aged 32.  She was found murdered in a flat in Sussex Gardens in Paddington.  She too, had been strangled and mutilated.  Witnesses had earlier seen her with a man in uniform.

    Police appealed to prostitutes to come forward with anything about any clients that worried them.  The natural mistrust of Police was still in evidence with the streetwalkers but newspaper reports of what the victims had suffered, persuaded two to come forward.  Margaret Heywood told of a polite man she had met and went for a meal and drink with him in a hangout for prostitutes.  When they left, he attempted to drag her into a doorway and then tried to strangle her.  Luckily for her, a delivery man was nearby and heard her screams.  The assailant ran off as the delivery man approached.  He had dropped a gas mask with a serial number on it.  Next to speak to Police was prostitute Cathleen Mulcahy.  She took a prospective client to her flat in Southwark Street.  As she undressed, he attacked her and attempted to strangle her.  But she fought back and he fled.  He had left behind a military belt with a serial number on it.

The numbers were traced to Gordon Cummins, but he claimed to have been in his billet at the time of the attacks.  Greeno discovered, however, that other men would sign people back into their barracks in return for cigarettes or booze.  A search of his locker revealed items he had stolen from his victims.  He was found to be left handed, and his fingerprints matched those on the tin opener.  He was arrested and charged with murder.  He was convicted and sentenced to death.  He was executed at Wandsworth Jail on June 25th 1942 by Albert Pierrepoint.  Why he went on a murder spree is unclear.  Was it hatred of women?  He was married and initially tried to convince his wife that he was innocent or may have not been in his right mind, possibly to spare her from the thought that she had married a madman.  That rules that out.  Did he commit them during blackouts?  Well, that is mighty convenient to have blackouts at the time you are committing multiple murders!  Who will ever know the true reason.  After his execution, it emerged that a body that had been found in October 1941, that of a Mrs Church, which had prints of Cummins all over her body.  Did he commit others one would think?