‘The abuse was so severe and revolting that one pathologist examining the victim described Gordon Cummins as ‘a savage sexual maniac.‘
Just fifty-four years after the notorious ‘Jack the Ripper’ waged his merciless trade in cutting up to five women on the streets of London, another spree killer appeared in the shadows. This monster attacked women over six days during a cold February in 1942. He was eventually caught and identified as 27-year-old Gordon Frederick Cummins.
From the start of World War II, London’s streets and buildings 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 blacked out. During 57 successive days of aerial bombing, the blackout’s strict rules allowed the psychopathic Cummins to carry out his orgy of obscene violence against women who were going about their business. As the bombs fell, in a period of six days in February 1942, Cummins murdered four women and attacked two others. Three of his victims were mutilated after death. The newspapers dubbed him ‘The Blackout Ripper’.
On Sunday, February 9, teacher Evelyn Hamilton’s body was discovered in an air raid shelter in Montagu Place, Marylebone. Someone had strangled her. There were no signs of sexual assault.
On Monday, February 10, prostitute Evelyn Oatley was found dead. Two gas meter readers discovered her as they were let in her Soho flat in Wardour Street. The butchered body of 35-year-old Evelyn Oatley was a horrifying sight. This time the victim was so viciously slashed that her injuries even shocked the investigating officers. While she was still alive, Cummins abused her private parts with curling tongs. Her throat had been cut; she was naked and her body had been sexually mutilated with a tin opener. The tin opener was found close by, covered in Oatley’s blood. It provided vital fingerprints in the investigation. An examination of her body also yielded to the fact the killer was left-handed.
The next day, Tuesday, February 11, another prostitute, Margaret Florence Lowe, was murdered in her Gosfield Street flat. She had been strangled with a silk stocking and mutilated with both a knife and razor blade. Her body was not discovered until three days later. After examining this victim’s body, the pathologist stated that the murderer was a savage sexual maniac. The similarities between the killings and mutilations convinced the police that the same killer was responsible.
On Wednesday, February 12, Mrs Doris Jouannet was murdered in her two-room ground-floor flat in the Paddington that she shared with her husband. Jouannet was known to be in the habit of picking up servicemen in Leicester Square. She had been strangled and her naked body had been sexually mutilated. The abuse was so severe and revolting that one of the pathologists examining the victim described Gordon Cummins as ‘a savage sexual maniac.’
On Friday, February 14, near Piccadilly Circus, Greta Hayward was attacked. A delivery boy on his rounds interrupted her assailant and Hayward was able to escape. Cummins fled – but left his RAF-issue gas mask behind at the scene.
The number on the mask was easily traced and linked to Cummins, but even as the police were working on the lead, he struck again. A prostitute called Catherine Mulcahy was attacked in her flat located near Paddington Rail Station. She resisted Cummins so effectively that he abandoned his murderous intentions and gave her an extra £5 and left quickly.
On February 16, the police arrested 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.
Cummins went to trial for his murder spree on April 27; during this time, he wrote a letter to his wife that seemed to imply he might’ve blacked out whenever he started killing. Nevertheless, it took the jury 35 minutes to find him guilty of murder, and he was sentenced to death by hanging. Cummins was executed at Wandsworth prison on June 25, ironically during an air raid. After his execution, a fifth body was discovered and attributed to him. The woman identified as a Mrs Church and was thought to have been killed in October 1941.
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