Gordon Cummins-The Blackout Ripper

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Wartime is the perfect opportunity for killers to apply their ‘trade’, when a body is found the authorities will automatically assume that it is just another victim of war, at least that is what John Cummins must have thought when he copied Jack the ripper in February 1942. But unlike Jack the Ripper Cummins just wasn’t that clever.

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

Gordon Frederick Cummins was allegedly the ilegimate son of a titled member of the peerage. His claims of noble birth led others to call him “The Count”. He married a theatre producer’s secretary in 1936. When World War II began in September 1939, he enlisted in the R.A.F

From the start of that conflict, the streets and buildings of London were kept dark as a precaution against aerial bombing by the Luftwaffe. Street lamps were not lit; the windows of houses, shops, offices and factories were painted over, shuttered or screened off with thick curtains. Showing even a chink of light could lead to an appearance in court and a heavy fine. As bombs fell upon the capital, Londoners took refuge in cellars, underground train stations and public air raid shelters. In a period of six days in February 1942, in the midst of a darkened, blitzed city, Cummins (then 28 years old) murdered four women and attacked two others. Three of his victims were mutilated after death. The newspapers dubbed him “The Blackout Ripper”

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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.

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. He mutilated the bodies of three of his victims.

Evelyn Hamilton
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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.

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.Fingerprints found on the can opener confirmed earlier suspicions that the strangler was left-handed.

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”.

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. 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.

Mrs. Mulcahy

Not to be deterred, he shortly picked up another prostitute, Mrs Mulcahy, in Regent Street. He gave her £5 while they went by taxi to her flat in Paddington. When they got there she started to remove her clothes. According to Mrs Mulcahy, ‘a strange look came over his face.’ Cummins grabbed her by the throat and squeezed. Mrs M, who had kept her boots on because of the cold, kicked him in the shins, making him release her. Cummins recovered his composure, gave her another £5, and left. He left his belt behind this time.

When Cummins had been disturbed by the delivery boy during the attack on Greta Hayward, 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.

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On 16th February, the police arrested Gordon Frederick Cummins in the St. John’s Wood district. His fingerprints matched those on the bloody tin opener and a search of his quarters turned up several items that belonged to his victims.

On 27th April, Gordon Cummins was tried for the murder of Evelyn Oatley at the Old Bailey (before Mr Justice Asquith). He was charged with only one murder – presumably so that the authorities could immediately charge him with any of the other 3 homicides in the unlikely event of an acquittal in the Oatley case. The Prosecution was handled by Mr G.B. McClure; Cummins was represented by Mr J. Flowers. The trial lasted only a single day and the jury took a mere 35 minutes to find Cummins guilty of the murder of Evelyn Oatley. He was sentenced to death by hanging.

Lord Chief Justice Humphreys dismissed Cummings’ appeal and confirmed the sentence. On 25th June, “The Blackout Ripper” was executed at London’s Wandsworth Prison; an air raid was in progress over the city as he was led to the gallows.

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Eddie Leonski- US Soldier and Serial Killer

War time is a great opportunity for evil men to act upon their instincts and get away with it. Fortunately they don’t always succeed. When I was doing research on Paul Ogozow, the S-Bahn murderer, I discovered there was a whole list of serial killers that operated during WWII and even in WWI.

Eddie Leonski, a US soldier who was stationed in Melbourne,Australia was one of them.

Private Edward Joseph Leonski of the United States Army, a heavy drinker, raped and strangled to death with his own hands three women in Melbourne: about 3 May 1942, he killed 40-year-old Mrs. Ivy Violet McLeod, about 9 May 31-year-old Mrs. Pauline Thompson, and on about 18 May 41-year-old Miss Gladys Lilian Hosking. He was arrested on 22 May, was tried by an American Court Martial and sentenced to death for triple murder on 17 July 1942. It was the first and only time that the citizen of another country was tried and sentenced to death in Australia under the law of his own country. Leonski expressed himself to be lucky with his death sentence. In spite of this, he was declared sane, and was hanged at Pentridge Gaol on 9 November 1942.

Edward Joseph Leonski (December 12, 1917 – November 9, 1942) was a United States Army soldier during World War II. He was also a serial killer responsible for the strangling murders of three women in Melbourne, Australia. Leonski was known as both the “Brownout Strangler”, given Melbourne’s wartime status of keeping low lighting (not as stringent as a wartime blackout) and also as the “Singing Strangler” due to his self-confessed motive for the killings being a twisted fascination with female voices, especially when they were singing, and his claim that he killed the women to “get at their voices”

Born into a Polish-American family in New Jersey, Leonski grew up in an abusive, alcoholic family, and one of his brothers was committed to a mental institution. According to a psychologist who interviewed Leonski during his trial, his mother had been overprotective and controlling. Leonski had been bullied by other neighborhood kids and called a mama’s boy. Accordingly, the psychologist ruled that Leonski’s crimes were born of his resentment and hatred of his mother and thus constituted “symbolic matricide.”

He was called up for the U.S. Army in February 1941 and arrived in Melbourne on February 2, 1942.

On May 3, 1942, Ivy Violet McLeod, 40, was found dead in Albert Park, Melbourne. She had been beaten and strangled, and because she was found to be in possession of her purse it was evident that robbery was not the motive.

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Just six days later, 31-year-old Pauline Thompson was strangled after a night out. She was last seen in the company of a young man who was described as having an American accent.

Gladys Hosking, 40, was the next victim, murdered on May 18 while walking home from work at the Chemistry Library at Melbourne University. A witness said that, on the night of the killing, a disheveled American man had approached her asking for directions, seemingly out of breath and covered with mud. This description matched the individual Pauline Thompson was seen with on the night of her murder, as well as the descriptions given by several women who had survived recent attacks.

Joan Robb, whom he had previously told had the voice of an angel, was due to have a date with him the night he was captured.

These survivors and other witnesses were able to pick 24-year-old Edward Leonski out of a line-up of American servicemen who were stationed in the city during World War II. A private in the 52nd Signal Battalion, Leonski was arrested and charged with three murders.

Although Leonski’s crimes were committed on Australian soil, the trial was conducted under American military law. Leonski confessed to the crimes and was convicted and sentenced to death at a United States Army general court-martial on July 17, 1942. Gen. Douglas MacArthur confirmed the sentence on October 14, 1942, and a Board of Review upheld the findings and sentence on October 28, 1942. General Court-Martial Order 1 promulgated Leonski’s death sentence on November 1, 1942. In a departure from normal procedure, on November 4, 1942, MacArthur personally signed the order of execution (in subsequent executions, this administrative task was entrusted to MacArthur’s Chief of Staff, Richard Sutherland). Leonski was hanged at Pentridge Prison on November 9, 1942.

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Leonski’s defense attorney, Ira C. Rothgerber,attempted to win an external review, even from the U.S. Supreme Court, but was unable to do so. Rothgerber kept the issue alive after the war, and Leonski’s case contributed to the development of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

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Leonski was temporarily interred at several cemeteries in Australia. His remains were eventually permanently interred in Section 9, Row B, Site 8 at Schofield Barracks Post Cemetery (located between Wahiawa and Kunia) on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii. His grave is located in a section of the facility reserved for prisoners who died in military custody.

In 1986 director Philippe Mora directed the movie “Death of a Soldier” which is based on the case of Eddie Leonski.

 

 

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Paul Ogorzow -WW2 Serial Killer

Paul Ogorzow

This is something that always intrigued me. How many serial killers were there during WWII and got away with it because they joined the various death squads? Where they could kill authorized by the Nazi regime, and indeed the regimes of the other axis nations.

And what differentiated those who were captured and brought to justice to those who killed indiscriminately in the name of the Nazi party? The answer would probably the Nazi ideology,although idiocy would probably be a more accurate description.

One of the WW2 serial killers was Paul Ogorzow.

Paul Ogorzow (29 September 1912 – 26 July 1941), also known as the S-Bahn Murderer, was a German serial killer and rapist who operated in Nazi-era Berlin during the height of World War II. Ogorzow was employed by Deutsche Reichsbahn, working for the commuter rail system in Berlin, the S-Bahn.

 

Ogorzow gained infamy by using the routine wartime blackouts, that took place as a result of the Allied bombing of Berlin, to more easily prey upon his victims. He was responsible for the murders of eight women during a nine-month-period from 4 October 1940 to 3 July 1941. Following his apprehension by the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo), Orgozow was executed by guillotine at Plötzensee prison in July 1941.

Paul Ogorzow was born on 29 September 1912 in the village of Muntowen, East Prussia, in what was then the German Empire (now: Muntowo, Poland).

He was the illegitimate child of a farm worker, Marie Saga. Her father later filled out his new grandson’s birth certificate, marking it with three crosses and the child’s birth name: Paul Saga.

In 1924, the now 12-year-old Saga was adopted by Johann Ogorzow, a farmer in Havelland. He eventually took Ogorzow’s surname as his own and relocated to the town of Nauen near Berlin. He initially worked as a laborer on his adoptive father’s farm and later found employment with a steel foundry in Brandenburg-an-der-Havel

Ogorzow joined the Nazi Party in 1931, at the age of 18, and became a member of its paramilitary branch, the Sturmabteilung (SA), the following year. After the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Ogorzow rose modestly in the Party ranks. By the time of his capture, Ogorzow held the position of Scharführer (squad leader) in the SA.

In 1934, Ogorzow was hired as a platelayer by the Deutsche Reichsbahn (National Railroad). He steadily worked his way up through the organization, eventually working as an assistant signalman at Rummelsburg railway station in the eastern suburbs of Berlin, close to Karlshorst. This was the area where most of his crimes later occurred.

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Beginning in August 1939, while he and his family were residing in Karlshorst, Ogorzow embarked on a violent series of sexual assaults, randomly attacking, brutalizing and then raping dozens of women in and around Berlin’s Friedrichsfelde district. At that time, the neighborhood that was populated mostly by solitary housewives, whose husbands had been called up to serve in the war. It was these vulnerable women who initially served as Ogorzow’s primary source of rape victims.

The Berlin police documented 31 separate cases of rape and other sexual assaults that occurred in the area, all of which were later connected to Ogorzow. During his attacks, Ogorzow either choked his victims, threatened them with a knife, or bludgeoned them with a blunt object. In their statements, all the victims mentioned their attacker wore a railway worker’s uniform.

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Ogorzow also first began attempting to murder some of his victims during this time. His initial efforts, however, met with little success. Between August 1939 and July 1940, Ogorzow attacked and stabbed three different women, all of whom later went on to recover and serve as witnesses against him.

The citizens of Berlin in 1940 were living with rationing, nightly blackouts, and the first regular Allied bombing raids.

 

 

To add to their plight, the bodies of women who had suffered horrific abuse began to appear. Gerda Ditter’s body appeared in October, strangled and stabbed to death. In November, another young woman was thrown from a moving train. And on December 4, two more bodies were found, thrown from a moving train. One woman survived, the other didn’t.

On December 22, the body of Elisabeth Bungener was found with a fractured skull close to the railroad tracks. A week later, the body of another woman who suffered a fractured skull was found near the tracks. Another body was found in January 1941. After that, the killer disappeared for five weeks. Then on February 11 Johanna Voigt’s body was discovered, also with a fractured skull. The final victim, Frieda Koziol, was found five months later in July.

While the infamous S-Bahn Murderer was on his rampage, he was being pursued by the Kriminalpolizei (aka ‘Kripo’), Berlin’s serious crime unit. But they had a tough job finding the killer

Their biggest antagonist wasn’t the S-Bahn murderer, but the blackout. The killer’s victims weren’t the only bodies that appeared around the railroad tracks; in fact, in December of 1940 alone there were 28 deaths attributed to accidents on the railway. These were direct results of the blackout—people were hit by trains either when crossing tracks or when they accidentally stepped off train platforms. In addition, the blackouts had sparked a crime wave in Berlin, distracting from the investigation and adding to the body count as well.

Besides the blackout, the investigators were hampered by the Nazi regime. The government did not want word of the killings to cause fear among the general populace, and so they tamped down on reporting. This deprived the investigation of any tips from the general public.

Other hindrances to the investigation came from biases that shaped the investigator’s outlook. There was a tendency to trust people in uniform who held an official position. Paul Ogorzow worked for German Railways, and his uniform proved as a kind of shield.

A bigger bias though was the racial prejudices the Nazis became infamous for. Some believed the killer had to be a Jew, because large numbers of Jews worked on German Railways. Others thought it might be a British Agent attempting to sow fear in the capital. Given the Nazi’s tendency toward bizarre espionage, it at least seemed plausible. Another theory was that the killer was one of the thousands of foreign workers who were brought to Berlin to fill the need for labor. Given the large numbers of foreigners in the city, this seemed plausible.

That is, until a serious look at German Railway employees netted one name again and again. Paul Ogorzow was known among his coworkers for his hatred of women and his slacker tendencies—he had a habit of wandering off during his shifts. If it were not for his coworker’s suspicions, the Kripo may not have looked at him at all, because he was a married man with two children. Not to mention, he was a Nazi party member.

Ogorzow was brought in and subjected to intense questioning. He eventually cracked and confessed to eight murders and several assaults. His weapon of choice seemed to be a length of lead cable. In a bizarre attempt to save himself, he claimed that a Jewish doctor’s treatment for gonorrhea had awakened his murderous urges. The Kripo didn’t buy it, nor did the government. It seems that Ogorzow’s Nazi allegiance could not save him. He was executed by guillotine.

 

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