Friday, 1 August 2014

The Contract Killers - Fred Burke

Fred "Killer" Burke was one of the alleged participants of the infamous St Valentines Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929.  Other participants were thought to be Jack McGurn, Fred Goetze, John Scalise & Albert Anselmi.  The last two were later killed by Al Capone at a banquet by smashing their heads in with a baseball bat.  Burke did not enter the murder business until much later in his life, and his real name was not Burke.  He was born Tom Camps on 29th May 1893 in Mapleton, Kansas.  His criminal career began at the age of 17 when he was charged with committing a land fraud, along with a salesman.  He fled to Kansas City in Missouri to avoid the charge, and it was there that he changed his name to Fred Burke.

    He soon gravitated to St Louis in Missouri and joined the Egan`s Rats gang in 1915, where they engaged in fraud and forgery.  But Burke faced charges and so he volunteered to enlist in the army to fight in Europe, where he served as a Tank Sergeant.  Once out of the army, he returned to his ways and was jailed for a year for land fraud in Michigan.  Then when he came out, he received another year in Missouri over the charges he would have faced in St Louis.  After this stint in prison, Burke upped the stakes and he and his associates were responsible for armed robberies.  In Detroit, they joined up with the notorious Purple Gang, but some months later, there was a falling out with the Detroit mob so they moved to Chicago and into the world of Capone.  There, they carried out robberies and murders without hesitation, culminating in the infamous slaughter, carrying out jobs in New Jersey, New York, and Kentucky.

    But Burke did not have self control.  He had already killed one Police officer in Toledo, Ohio before the massacre in Chicago and now, whilst drunk, he was involved in a car accident and he shot dead officer Charles Skalay.  Burke hid out in various locations in Missouri, and used various names.  He was captured after a reader of a crime magazine recognised his picture and informed Police.  He was sentenced to life for the killing of Officer Skalay and died in Marquette State Prison in Michigan on 10th July 1940 from a heart attack.  He was linked to the massacre through witnesses seeing him near the scene of the crime, and guns seized in a raid, forensics matched them to the cartridges at the crime scene.