By Tim Lambert
Gordon Cummins was a serial killer in Britain in 1942. He is also known as the Blackout Ripper. (During the Second World War all lights had to be concealed to avoid helping German bombers. It was called the blackout). Cummins killed 4 women and attempted to kill 2 others. Cummins also mutilated 3 of his victims after death. Gordon Cummins was born in 1914. He later claimed he was the illegitimate son of a nobleman. After Cummins joined the RAF his fellow airmen called him ‘the Duke’ because of his claims.
On Saturday 8 February 1942 Aircraftman Cummins went for a night out in London. He met 37-year-old Evelyn Oatley, a former dancer. She took him back to her flat in Wardour Street and killed her but her body was not found until Monday 10 February. Cummins strangled the woman and then cut her throat. He also cut her lower body was cut open with a tin opener. Fingerprints were found on the tin opener but Cummins did not have a criminal record his prints were not on file.
Meanwhile, on Sunday 9 February 1942 Cummins robbed and strangled a woman named Margaret Hamilton in Montague Square. On Tuesday 11 February 1942 Cummins killed another woman. The victim was 43-year-old Margaret Lowe. Margaret was found in her flat in Gosfield Street. Cummins strangled the unfortunate woman with a silk stocking. Cummins then cut her body. The pathologist Bernard Spilsbury described the mutilation as ‘quite dreadful’.
On 12 February 1942 Cummins committed another murder. The victim was 32-year-old Mrs Doris Jouannet in her flat in Sussex Gardens. Cummins strangled the woman and then mutilated her dead body. On Friday 14 February 1942 Cummins met a woman named Greta Haywood. She was luckier than the other woman. She tried to leave Cummins but he went after her and attacked her.
Cummins tried to strangle the woman in a doorway. (In 1942 the streets of London were completely dark. There were no street lights and householders covered up their windows to avoid letting any light shine out). However, in the darkness, a passer-by heard the struggle and went to investigate. Cummins ran off but he left his gas mask case. (All servicemen carried a gas mask case). On it was a number, 525987 enabling the police to trace its owner. The same night, 14 February Cummins met another woman named Catherine Mulcahy and went to her flat. Cummins attacked the woman but fortunately, she managed to fight him off.
Cummins was arrested on 16 February 1942. His fingerprints matched those on the tin opener and items belonging to victims were found in his possession. So on 27 April 1942 Cummins was tried for the murder of Evelyn Oatley. (It was normal in Britain at that time for a person charged with murdering several people to be charged with only one murder). The trial only lasted for one day. Not surprisingly Cummins was found guilty and sentenced to death. Gordon Cummins, The Blackout Ripper was hanged on 25 June 1942 in Wandsworth Prison, London during an air raid.