Gordon Cummins

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Gordon Frederick Cummins
Born 1914
York, England
Died 25 June 1942 (aged 27–28)
Wandsworth Prison, London, England
Cause of death
Hanging
Other names The Blackout Ripper
The Blackout Killer
Occupation Military serviceman
Criminal charge
Murder
Criminal penalty
Death by hanging
Criminal status
Executed
Conviction(s) 27 April 1942

Gordon Frederick Cummins (1913 or 1914 – 25 June 1942), known as the Blackout Killer and the Blackout Ripper, was an English spree killer who murdered four women in London in 1942.[1] The Ripper tag came from similarities with the Jack the Ripper murders as both killers mutilated their victims.[2]

Background[edit]

Cummins was born in York in late 1913 or early 1914.[3] He married a theatre producer's secretary in 1936. He was a Leading aircraftman in the Royal Air Force where he was nicknamed The Count because of his claims to have noble heritage.[2] Cummins had volunteered to retrain for aircrew duties and had been posted to RAF ACRC (Aircrew Reception Centre) Regents Park, London. There serving members of the RAF and new recruits were assessed for training. This intake ran from 2 to 25 February when trainees were posted to ITW (Initial Training Wing) at home for three months ground training before commencing flying training, or to Blackpool prior to going overseas for training. At the time of his arrest, Cummins had neither a previous criminal record nor a known history of violence.[4]

Victims[edit]

Over six days in February 1942, Cummins took advantage of London's night-time blackout conditions to murder four women and attempt to murder two others.[1] He mutilated the bodies of three of his victims.[2]

Evelyn Hamilton

On Sunday 9 February 1942, the body of 40 year old pharmacist Evelyn Hamilton was discovered in an air raid shelter in Montagu Place in Marylebone. She had been strangled and her handbag stolen.[1][2]

Evelyn Oatley

On Monday 10 February, the naked body of 35 year old Evelyn Oatley (also known as Nita Ward) was discovered in her flat on Wardour Street. As well as having been strangled, her throat had been cut and she had also been sexually mutilated with a can opener.[1][2] Fingerprints found on the can opener confirmed earlier suspicions that the strangler was left-handed.[2]

Margaret Lowe

On Tuesday 11 February, a 43 year old prostitute, Margaret Florence Lowe (also known as Pearl), was murdered in her flat in Gosfield Street, Marylebone. She had been strangled with a silk stocking and her body mutilated with a variety of implements including a razor blade, a knife and a candlestick. The pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury, after seeing her injuries commented that they were "quite dreadful" and that the murderer was "a savage sexual maniac".[2]

Doris Jouannet

On Wednesday 12 February 1942, 32 year old Doris Jouannet (also known as Doris Robson) was murdered in the ground floor flat that she shared with her husband. She had been strangled with a scarf and her naked body sexually mutilated.[2] It was at this point the newspapers began to describe the killer as the Blackout Ripper, in reference to the similarities with Jack the Ripper.

Greta Hayward

On Friday 14 February 1942, Greta Hayward was attacked in a doorway near Piccadilly Circus by a man in RAF uniform whose sexual advances she had previously rejected. She managed to escape as her attacker was interrupted by the arrival of a delivery boy making his rounds. The attacker then ran off.[2]

Mrs. Mulcahy

Shortly after the attack on Greta Hayward there was another attack. Mrs. Mulcahy, a prostitute (also known as Kathleen King), was attacked by a customer in her flat near Paddington Railway Station. She managed to fight off her attacker, who gave her an extra £5 before running off leaving his belt behind.[2]

Arrest and trial[edit]

When Cummins had been disturbed by the delivery boy during the attack on Greta Hayward, he left behind his RAF–issued gas mask case.[1] The gas mask container had the service number 525987 on the side, identifying it as belonging to Cummins.[2]

He was arrested on 16 February and, when his quarters were searched, various items belonging to his victims were found.[2] His fingerprints were found in two of the flats where the killings took place[4] and his fingerprints also matched those found on the can opener used to mutilate Evelyn Oatley.[2]

Cummins's trial for the murder of Evelyn Oatley began on 24 April 1942 at the Old Bailey with Denis Nowell Pritt KC[5] acting in his defence. However, the trial had to be restarted with new jury on 27 April due to a legal technicality.[6] The evidence against Cummins was conclusive and, after a one day trial, the jury took just 35 minutes to find him guilty of murder; he was sentenced to death by hanging. An appeal in early June 1942 was dismissed[5] and he was executed by Albert Pierrepoint on 25 June 1942 at Wandsworth Prison, during an air raid.[2]

Scotland Yard later claimed that Cummins had murdered two other women during air raids in London in October 1941.[4]

The foremost fingerprint expert of the day, Detective Chief Superintendent Frederick Cherrill, was instrumental in proving the case against Cummins.[1]

References[edit]

Citations
  1. ^ a b c d e f Choate, Trish (14 March 2007). "Recalling the 'Blackout Ripper' of World War II London". Scripps News. Retrieved 10 August 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Stratford, Stephen. "British Military & Criminal History in the period 1900 to 1999, The 1940s - Gordon Cummins". Retrieved 10 August 2007. 
  3. ^ Births England and Wales 1837-1915
  4. ^ a b c "Crime in Wartime". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 10 August 2007. 
  5. ^ a b "Murder Appeal Dismissed". The Times (49258) (London). 10 June 1942. p. 2. Retrieved 17 September 2013. 
  6. ^ "Trial Reopened Before New Jury, R.A.F. Cadet Accused Of Four Murders". The Times (49221) (London). 28 April 1942. p. 2. Retrieved 17 September 2013. 
Bibliography
  • Read, Simon (2006). In the Dark: The True Story of the Blackout Ripper, Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0-425-21283-7