Gordon Frederick Cummins
|Died||25 June 1942 (aged 28)|
|Other names||The Blackout Ripper|
The Blackout Killer
|Occupation||Royal Air Force serviceman|
|Conviction(s)||27 April 1942|
|Penalty||Death by hanging|
Span of crimes
|9 February 1942|
–14 February 1942
Gordon Frederick Cummins (18 February 1914 – 25 June 1942) was a British spree killer, convicted for the murder of one woman in London and charged with the murders of three more. The murders took place over a six-day period in February 1942, during the Second World War. Cummins, a Royal Air Force serviceman during the war, was known as the Blackout Killer or Blackout Ripper due to a comparison to Jack the Ripper, as both killers mutilated their victims.
Gordon Frederick Cummins was born in York, England, the son of John Cummins and his wife Amelia, née Lee. He married a theatre producer's secretary in 1936, and was a leading aircraftman in the Royal Air Force (RAF), where he was nicknamed The Duke because of his claims to have noble heritage.
Cummins had volunteered to retrain for aircrew duties and had been posted to the RAF ACRC (Aircrew Reception Centre) in Regents Park, London. There, serving members of the RAF and new recruits were assessed for training, and 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.
While in London for the Royal Air Force training course, Cummins took advantage of the city's night-time blackout conditions to kill four women and attempt to murder two others over six days in February 1942.
- Evelyn Hamilton
- On Sunday 8 February 1942, the body of 40-year-old pharmacist Evelyn Hamilton was discovered in an air raid shelter in Montagu Place in Marylebone, where she had been strangled to death and her handbag stolen.
- Evelyn Oatley
- On Monday 9 February, the naked body of 35-year-old Evelyn Oatley (also known as Nita Ward) was discovered in her flat on Wardour Street. Oatley had been strangled and her throat had been cut, and she had also been sexually mutilated with a can opener. Fingerprints found on the can opener confirmed earlier suspicions that the strangler was left-handed.
- Margaret Lowe
- On Tuesday 10 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 poker. Bernard Spilsbury, the pathologist examining Lowe's body, after seeing her injuries commented that they were "quite dreadful" and that the murderer was "a savage sexual maniac".
- Doris Jouannet
- On Wednesday 11 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 in a similar fashion to the bodies of Oatley and Lowe the days before. 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, a London serial killer who mutilated his victims.
- Greta Hayward
- On Friday 13 February 1942, a young woman named Greta Hayward was attacked in a doorway near Piccadilly Circus by an unknown man in an RAF uniform whose sexual advances she reportedly had previously rejected. She managed to escape as her attacker was interrupted by the arrival of a delivery boy making his rounds, and the attacker then ran off.
- Mrs. Mulcahy
- Shortly after the attack on Greta Hayward, a prostitute named Mrs. Mulcahy (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.
Arrest and trial
When the attacker of Greta Hayward was scared off by the arrival of a delivery boy, he left behind his RAF-issued gas mask case. The gas mask container had the service number 525987 on the side, identifying it as belonging to Cummins. He was arrested on 16 February, two days after the last attack, and when his quarters were searched various items belonging to his victims were found. His fingerprints were also found in two of the flats where the killings took place, and his fingerprints also matched those found on the can opener used to mutilate Evelyn Oatley.
Cummins's trial for the murder of Evelyn Oatley began on 24 April 1942 at the Old Bailey, with Denis Nowell Pritt KC, the Member of Parliament for Hammersmith North, acting in his defence. However, due to a legal technicality, the trial had to be restarted with a new jury on 27 April, the defence now being undertaken by Mr J Flowers. The evidence against Cummins was conclusive and, after a one-day trial, the jury took just 35 minutes to find him guilty of murder, and he was sentenced to death by hanging. An appeal in early June 1942 was dismissed, and he was executed by Albert Pierrepoint on 25 June 1942 at Wandsworth Prison, during an air raid.
Charges for the other three murders remained on the file, and Scotland Yard later claimed that Cummins had probably murdered two more women during air raids in London earlier in October 1941. The foremost fingerprint expert of the day, Detective Chief Superintendent Frederick Cherrill, was instrumental in proving the case against Cummins.
- Choate, Trish (14 March 2007). "Recalling the 'Blackout Ripper' of Second World War London". Scripps News. Archived from the original on 25 March 2007. Retrieved 10 August 2007.
- Stratford, Stephen. "British Military & Criminal History in the period 1900 to 1999, The 1940s - Gordon Cummins". stephen-stratford.co.uk. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 10 August 2007.
- Births England and Wales 1837-1915
- "Crime in Wartime". Spartacus Educational. Archived from the original on 7 August 2007. Retrieved 10 August 2007.
- "Murder Appeal Dismissed". The Times (49258). London. 10 June 1942. p. 2. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
- "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.
- "Gordon Cummins". britishexecutions.co.uk.