The British soldier who used German air raids to become a serial killer
The bravery and resilience of most who survived the Luftwaffe attacks during Germany’s World War II Blitz over London is beyond reproach. But let’s face it, some people are a–holes. Gordon Cummins is one of those.
For the duration of the Blitz, the city’s populace was forced to shelter in darkness. Blackout curtains were placed over windows, smoking outside was banned in parts of the city, and the electricity was sometimes shut off to ensure no light could escape to provide German bombers a target.
For criminals with absolutely no patriotism or scruples, this was an ideal opportunity. Cummins was a Royal Air Force pilot in training in London in Feb. 1942 when something went sideways in his head and he began killing women in the blacked-out city.
The first victim was discovered on the morning of Feb. 9 in an air raid shelter in the West End area. Evelyn Hamilton was found gagged with a scarf and strangled to death. Her handbag and all her money were also stolen.
The very next day another woman was discovered. Evelyn Oatley was a prostitute and former chorus girl found in her apartment, nude, strangled, and viciously slashed across her abdomen with a can opener which was left at the scene.
Investigators didn’t find a new victim on Feb. 11, but any relief was short-lived as they found two on Feb. 13. Margaret Lowe had been missing since Feb. 10. Like Oatley, she was a prostitute and was discovered mostly nude, gruesomely mutilated, and thoroughly strangled.
The other victim found on Feb. 13 was Doris Jouannet. Jouannet was an elderly woman and prostitute. When her husband came home in the morning, he tried to enter their flat but it was barricaded from the inside. He called the police, who forced their way in to find Jouannet mostly nude, slashed with a razor, and dead from strangulation.
The London press knew of the murders and panic descended upon the city. Since three of the victims were prostitutes, it was assumed that group were the most at risk from “The Blackout Ripper.” While the blackouts protected most of the city from the worst of the German raids, it left the ladies of the night completely unprotected from Cummins.
Forced to continue earning a living, the women pressed on with their work. On Feb. 14, Cummins approached Greta Hayward and attempted to murder her in an alley, but as she was succumbing to his strangulation, a delivery boy happened by. He startled Cummins, who fled, accidentally dropping his gas mask as he ran.
Later that night, Cummins attempted to attack another prostitute, Kathleen Mulcahy. He solicited Mulcahy and followed her to her flat. When he attempted to kill her, she fought him off so hard and raised such a ruckus that he again had to flee into the night, this time dropping his belt. Oddly, he left an extra £5 because he may have been a serial killer, but he was also a good tipper.
Cummin’s gas mask was marked with the pilot’s serial number, so investigators proceeded to his lodging where they arrested the him. Cummins maintained his claims of innocence, but investigators found a number of mementos including a watch, a cigarette case, stockings from each victim, and more.
Cummins was tried for the murder of Evelyn Oatley on Apr. 27 and given the death penalty. Rather than try him for his other murders and attempted murders, the state executed him on Jun. 25. In a darkly humorous twist, he was executed during a German air raid.
(h/t Cracked podcast)