Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast #31 - The Blackout Ripper - Part Seven (The Trial of The Blackout Ripper)
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Episode Thirty One: The Blackout Ripper Part 7: On Friday 13th February 1942, Gordon Frederick Cummins was arrested for assault, and as the evidence mounted, it became clear that to the Police that in their cells was The Blackout Ripper. But could they prove it, and could they make him confess to his crimes?
THE BLACKOUT RIPPER Part 7 – The Trial and Execution (“Why Did He Do It?”)
INTRO: On Friday 13th February 1942, 28 year old Royal Air Force air-cadet Gordon Frederick Cummins (a married man with no prior convictions) was arrested and charged with causing grievous bodily harm to 30 year old Greta Haywood in a suspected robbery in a back street just off Piccadilly Circus.
Faced with insurmountable evidence; including an accurate description which identified Cummins as her attacker (having had drinks with him barely an hour before), a corroborated witness statement by the man who had come to her aide, her home telephone number written in her handwriting which was found inside his grate-coat pocket, and his military issued gas-respirator discovered at the scene of the crime inside which he had written his RAF serial number - 525987 - a number so unique, it led the Police directly to Cummins; who apologised, feigned memory loss, blamed the incident on drink and would be remanded in custody at Brixton Prison until his court appearance.
With the trial being a legal formality, no loose ends to tie-up and the investigation into the attack on Greta Haywood being short, neat and complete, the Metropolitan Police could focus their efforts on more pressing matters, such as murder.
As on two consecutive days, on two different streets in London’s West End, two unrelated women (Evelyn Hamilton and Evelyn Oatley) had been strangled, mutilated and posed by a serial sexual sadist, in two sickening and unnervingly similar attacks. With their attacker’s fingerprints not on record, no eye-witnesses to either murder and the victim’s last known movements being uncertain, the Police knew they had to catch him quick before he struck again…
…but little did they know that he had already murdered two others women (Margaret Florence Lowe and Doris Jouanett), whose bodies were yet to be discovered, and that the Police had already caught The Blackout Ripper.
My name is Michael. I am your tour-guide. This is Murder Mile. And I present to you, part seven of the full, true and untold story of The Blackout Ripper.
SCRIPT: Today, I’m standing outside of the Central Criminal Court, more affectionately known as The Old Bailey, which stands on the medieval grounds of the infamous execution site of Newgate Prison, on the junction of Holborn Viaduct and Newgate Street. Destroyed by fire and rebuilt between 1902 and 1907, The (new) Old Bailey is a stunning Georgian court-house made from sculpted blocks of pale Portland stone, designed in an imposing neo-Baroque style, and stood atop its 67 foot domed roof is a shimmering bronze statue of Lady Justice; a beacon of truth, with a sword in her left hand, scales in her right, and although she’s supposed to be blindfolded (as justice is meant to be blind), Lady Justice isn’t, as apparently, in the eyes of its sculptor, all ladies are fair, honest and unbiased. (snigger)
And although, as Britain’s most high-profile court, The Old Bailey has hosted such sensational murder trials as Dr Crippen, Kray Twins, Ruth Ellis and the Yorkshire Ripper, today its oak-panelled chambers mostly echo to the sounds of big business ducking hefty tax bills, failed pop-stars insisting they only snort sherbet (having recently been diagnosed with a severe sugar addiction), billionaires paying for the privilege to build a penis-shaped penthouse which overlooks Buckingham Palace (having previously been denied a passport) and undeniably dull TV nobodies supressing salacious stories about their nightly love sessions with a royal, a tub of butter, a ring-piece and a large root vegetable.
But it was here, on Monday 27th April 1942, in the bomb-damaged remains of The Old Bailey, that London’s most infamous spree-killer would be tried for murder. (Interstitial)
As Gordon Frederick Cummins sat in his prison cell, smoking and smirking, something just didn’t sit right with Detective Inspector Clarence Jeffrey, as although the assault on Greta Haywood was clear-cut, several unnervingly similar elements of the case sent a cold shiver down his spine.
Although the attack took place at night and in private, which many in the West End do, Cummins stole cash from Greta’s handbag, and yet (according to her testimony) his wallet was stuffed full with close to thirty £1 notes, an amount that was considerably more than his fortnightly wage.
During the unprovoked assault on Greta, he didn’t shove, kick, punch, or even threaten her with a weapon, instead he strangled her with his left hand - a slow and sadistic method of attack, rarely used by robbers and muggers, which is more akin to murderers and rapists – and across his middle fingers were the bloody scabs of an injury, easily more than a few hours old, but most probably a few days.
And upon his arrest, not only did Cummins have in his possession a gold wrist-watch, a silver cigarette case and a greeny-blue comb with several teeth missing, none of which he said he owned, had seen before, or could account as to why they were found in his pockets, but (in the bright lights of West End Central police station) several blood splashes were visible on his brown shirt and blue tunic, and although she was bruised and unconscious, Greta Hayward didn’t bleed. So whose was the blood?
On the morning of Friday 13th February 1942, at around the time that Cummins was arrested, feisty Paddington prostitute Kathryn Mulcahy was examined by Dr Alexander Baldie who confirmed that her injuries were consistent with strangulation. Giving the Police a detailed description of her attacker, which was corroborated by her neighbours (Agnes Morris and Kitty McQuillan) and exactly matched Gordon Frederick Cummins, having handed-in the missing blue belt to his RAF tunic, on which were two specks of blood, feeling that the assaults on Greta Haywood and Kathryn Mulcahy required further investigation, they were escalated to Chief Inspector Edward Greeno, one of the West End’s most senior detectives, who also headed up the murder investigation of Evelyn Hamilton and Evelyn Oatley.
But before Chief Inspector Greeno could even begin to consider Cummins as a viable suspect to two assaults and two unnervingly similar murders, two more bodies would be found.
At 4:30pm, having broken down the locked bedroom door of flat 4 at 9/10 Gosfield Street, Detective Sergeant Leonard Blacktop discovered 43 year old Margaret Florence Lowe; her left-handed attacker had strangled her, posed the body, mutilated her using a variety of readily available household objects, and (although rape hadn’t occurred) he had violated her with a candle. Cash was taken, personal items were stolen and once again no-one saw her murder, or her murderer.
And even though Superintendent Frederick Cherrill of Scotland Yard’s Print Bureau had found three sets of his fingerprints; one on the base of the candlestick, one on a bottle in the kitchen and one on the half full glass of stout, which Margaret and her killer had shared, which he had then left on the mantelpiece, he couldn’t be identified as (with Cummins having been arrested for the first time, that very morning and the assault charge still pending) his fingerprints had yet to be put on file.
Then, at 7:50pm, having broken down the locked bedroom of flat 1 at 187 Sussex Gardens, PC Payne discovered 32 year old Doris Elizabeth Jouanett; her left-handed attacker had strangled her, posed the body and mutilated her using a variety of readily available household objects, but (this time) he hadn’t raped or violated her, as through sheer fear, she had wet herself. Cash was taken, personal items were stolen and once again no-one saw her murder, or her murderer.
And although no fingerprints were found, Home Office chief pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury, who conducted all four autopsies on Evelyn Hamilton, Evelyn Oatley, Margaret Florence Lowe and Doris Jouanett, confirmed that it was highly likely that all four murders had been committed by one man.
There was no denying it, London’s West End was in the grip of a serial sexual sadist and spree-killer, who had murdered four women in just four days, and (with the press getting wind of the story) the Police had to catch The Blackout Ripper before he struck again. But Chief Inspector Greeno already had a prime suspect in his sights and – better still – he already had him locked-up in prison.
On Saturday 14th February 1942, Detective Inspector Freshney interviewed Cummins at Brixton Prison to ascertain his whereabouts between Sunday 8th and Thursday 12th February, and although the prisoner appeared pleasant, charming and helpful, his answers were deliberately vague and evasive.
In summary, he stated that these were his movements:
(Typewriter) Sunday 8th February (the night that Evelyn Hamilton was murdered): Cummins visited his wife in Barnes (South West London), said goodbye to her at 6pm, took a bus and tube to Baker Street, headed to his flat at St James Court and was in bed by 10pm. There is no mention of Maison Lyonese, Marble Arch or Montagu Place in his statement.
(Typewriter) Monday 9th February (the night that Evelyn Oatley was murdered): being on duty all day, he left his flat just after 6pm, headed into Piccadilly with a red-headed corporal, he got drunk, met two prostitutes (later identified Laura Denmark and Molly DeSantos-Alves) and returned back to his flat after midnight. Although partially true, there is no mention of Wardour Street in his statement.
(Typewriter) Tuesday 10th February (no known murders were committed by The Blackout Ripper that night): but being on duty all day, he finished at 6pm, went to the YMCA bar, and was in bed by 9:30pm.
(Typewriter) Wednesday 11th February (the night Margaret Florence Lowe was murdered): being on duty all day, he finished at 6pm, went to the YMCA bar, and was in bed by 9:30pm. There is no mention of Piccadilly Circus, Soho or Gosfield Street in his statement.
(Typewriter) Thursday 12th February (the night of Doris Jouanett’s murder, and the attacks on Greta Haywood and Kathryn Mulcahy): being on duty all day, he left his flat just after 6pm, headed to the Volunteer public house by Baker Street with a red-headed corporal, got drunk, headed into Piccadilly, met Greta Haywood at Brasserie Universalle, but as he doesn’t remember much after that, he ended-up in bed with an unknown prostitute in Paddington (believed to be Doreen Lytton), arrived back at Abbey Lodge at 4:30am and was detained by the Orderly Corporal prior to the arrival of the police.
In his statement, Cummins deliberately admitted only to being in the places he knew he’d been seen, he avoids any reference to the murder locations, and by repeatedly stating that he returned to his billets before curfew on all other nights, with all of the air-cadets at Abbey Lodge and St James Close being unfamiliar with each other’s names, faces and movements (having met barely one week before), he knew that the chance of anyone accurately confirming his precise whereabouts across that whole week, in a major metropolitan city, at war-time and during the blackout, would be slim.
With an incomplete timeline and no witnesses to accurately corroborate his whereabouts, the Police were relying on one vital piece of evidence to either confirm or deny his story – the log-book.
As an active military instillation working under tight war-time conditions, the Royal Air Force dictated that no person was permitted to leave his or her station (whether at Abbey Lodge or St James Close) without signing in or out in the log-book first, using their name, rank and serial number, all of which was cross-checked using their military ID card in a visual inspection by an armed sentry.
It was supposed to be a fool-proof system, but with security amongst the cadets being lax – with many airmen signing in/out for each other, stuffing their bedsheets with clothes to thwart the midnight bed-check and accessing their flats via an often unguarded fire escape which led directly from the ground-floor – often the logbook (into which you could write in either pen or pencil) was incomplete.
When Detective Inspector Freshney examined each page of the log-book for Cummins’ whereabouts, his heart almost stopped dead: the page for Saturday 7th February had been torn-out, the page for Sunday 8th had no entry for Cummins, on Monday 9th he had signed out at 18:20 but never signed in, the pages for Tuesday 10th February and Wednesday 11th February had no entry for Cummins at all, and on Thursday 12th February he had signed out at 18:29, but never signed in.
Wherever Gordon Frederick Cummins was, during that week, was a mystery, which couldn’t be unravelled by relying on eye-witness testimony or military records. And so far, in terms of conviction, the Police had a lot of circumstantial evidence, but very little of which would stick.
With Cummins almost certain to be charged with causing the grievous bodily harm of Greta Haywood, the Police’s next steps were to confirm that Cummins (on the same night) had attacked Kathryn Mulcahy, to prove that both attacks were connected, and that this left-hander was a serial strangler.
And no matter how small, slim or seemingly insignificant, the over-worked and under-staffed detectives of the Metropolitan Police had to scrutinise every single piece of evidence they had, starting with his clothes, the spare gas-respirator and his money.
On Sunday 15th February, Cummins’ Royal Air Force uniform – consisting of a brown shirt, brown tie, long grate coat, blue woollen side-cap, blue trousers, blue tunic and the misplaced blue belt – were removed from Brixton Prison, and having spotted thirteen small blood stains on the shirt and belt, they were sent to the Police Laboratory in Hendon for an examination, which would take four days.
Having traced Paddington prostitute Doreen Lytton, she confirmed she had met Cummins in Piccadilly at roughly 2am on Friday 13th February, had gone back to her flat in Polygon Mews, and that she had given him her spare gas-respirator having found it the Saturday before. With its original owner having inked his army serial number of 823863 inside the gas-mask, Police confirmed it belonged to Gunner Aubrey John King of the 96th Field Regiment, who had lost it back in November 1941, and was stationed in Clacton-on-Sea, 70 miles away, during the full duration of the murders, ruling him out as a suspect.
Upon his arrest, Cummins had £10 in his possession (£2 in his wallet, £8 in the spare gas-respirator) but also, that evening he had given Kathryn Mulcahy ten £1 notes; £2 on Regent Street, £3 in the taxi and £5 as an apology for attempting to strangle her, which she handed into the Police as evidence.
According to the paymaster’s records (which - unlike the log-book at Abbey Lodge - was the epitome of military precision), Cummins received his fortnightly wage of £12 on Saturday 1st February, which was distributed by Pilot Officer John Rowan from a fresh block of 500 £1 notes that he had withdrawn from the bank that day, meaning the notes serial-numbers were all in an unbroken sequential order.
On Sunday 8th February, six days before his next pay-day, with Cummins being broke he was only able to borrow £1 off his wife, but by Monday 9th, Felix Sands Lebron Johnson (the red-headed corporal who Cummins treated to pints and whiskies, that night in Piccadilly) noted he had £19 on him. And yet, Cummins had no savings, no loans, no debts owing, no inheritance and no other source of funds.
With the paymaster having distributed each wage in alphabetical order, Pilot Officer Rowan checked the remaining bank notes of any cadet whose surname began with the letters b, c and d, and was able to accurately determine what the serial numbers of Cummins’ bank-notes would have been.
The Police cross-checked the serial-numbers of the bank notes in evidence and confirmed that, of his original £12 wage; one £1 note was found in the bundle of eight which Cummins had stashed inside the spare gas-respirator (along with the gold watch), two £1 notes were given to Kathryn Mulcahy and a further two £1 notes were found in the daily takings at Brasserie Universalle and the Salted Almond.
Without a shred of doubt, the Police could prove that Cummins had strangled two women - Greta Haywood and Kathryn Mulcahy - on the same night, now they just needed to piece together a picture of his movements that week, and prove that Gordon Frederick Cummins was The Blackout Ripper.
At 6:30pm on Saturday 14th February 1942, Detective Sergeant Leonard Crawford searched flat 27 at St James Close in Regent’s Park. On his bunk in room b, he found Cummins’ kitbag which was marked with his rank and surname - ‘LAC Cummins’ – and his spare blue tunic which was missing a blue belt, in the left pocket of which was his identity discs (etched with his serial number of 525987) and in his right breast pocket, DS Crawford found a black fountain pen, engraved with the initials of ‘DJ’.
On a hunch, Chief Inspector Greeno asked the victim’s next of kin to identify three personal items found in Cummins possession; Margaret Florence Lowe’s 15 year old daughter Barbara confirmed that the silver cigarette case was her mother’s, and Henri Jouanett, Doris’ husband identified the greeny-blue comb with several teeth missing as Doris’, as well as the gold wrist-watch, which he had brought in France in 1927 and had gifted it to his wife on their wedding anniversary just four years prior.
Within just three days, Police had conclusively linked Cummins to two stranglings and three murders, within streets of each other on London’s West End and the evidence against him was escalating.
Eager to cross-check his whereabouts, on Monday 16th February, Chief Inspector Greeno interviewed Cummins at Brixton Prison, stating “I’m conducting an enquiry into the murder of three women”, and once again, although the prisoner was pleasant, charming and helpful, his answers were deliberately vague and evasive.
Keeping a straight face as he calmly toked on a smoke, Cummins denied he’d ever been to Gosfield Street or Sussex Gardens, denied going to any flat with a West End prostitute (even though he’d previously admitted he had had sex with both Laura Denmark and Doreen Lytton) and denied he had ever seen the black fountain pen, the gold watch or the silver cigarette case before, and yet, strangely, he admitted that Doris Jouanett’s broken greeny-blue comb was his, even though it wasn’t.
And once again, confirming that his statement was true and accurate, he signed it with his left hand, as across his middle fingers were a series of bloody scabs, all at least one week old.
Having noticed that his scuffed black boots made an unusually flat sound as he walked, Chief Inspector Greeno asked “Are those your RAF boots?”, to which Cummins nodded, grinned and removed his size 8’s. Now, whether the Police had found his footprints at either crime scene was irrelevant, as (during the full hour that Cummins was left unsupervised in his flat, surrounded by sleeping airmen) in an attempt to outwit the Police, he had crudely cut-off the rubber soles of his RAF boots, having hastily disposed of them and gave no explanation why.
With the interview over, Chief Inspector Greeno stated to Cummins that “tomorrow, on Tuesday 17th February 1942, you will be brought to Bow Street Magistrates Court and charged with murder”. Remaining calm, composed and almost cocky, Cummins replied “am I to be charged with murder? Oh…”, only to casually enquire “how many women did you say?”, to which Greeno replied “three”, and Cummins was led away to his cell, a smug grin spread across his face, knowing there were four.
On Tuesday 17th February at 10am, at the back of Bow Street Magistrates Court, Gordon Frederick Cummins was charged with the murder of Doris Jouanett, he was cautioned but made no reply.
As part of the formal process, Superintendent Frederick Cherrill of Scotland Yard’s print bureau took Cummins’ fingerprints, and compared them to the left thumbprint found on Evelyn Oatley compact mirror, the left little finger found on her can-opener, and the left index finger found on the bottle and the glass of stout he had shared with Margaret Florence Lowe, all of which were a perfect match.
And with Dr Davidson of Hendon Police Laboratory confirming that the thirteen blood-spots found on his blue RAF tunic, his blue belt and the left sleeve of his brown shirt were not Cummins’ own blood, but that the blood type matched that of Doris Jouanett’s. Police could conclusively link Cummins to the attacks on Greta Haywood and Kathryn Mulcahy, as well as the murder of Evelyn Oatley, Margaret Florence Lowe and Doris Jouanett, but sadly, not Evelyn Hamilton.
It was then that the Police were blessed with an amazing piece of good fortune.
That same day, Cummins’ bunk-mate, Sergeant Keith Edward Moon was cleaning out the kitchenette they shared in flat 27 of St James Close, when he discovered secreted on the top shelf of their fridge, a silver cigarette case, which Cummins had hidden during his hour of solitude, and it contained a small photograph of a pretty blonde lady and the case was etched with the initials ‘LW’.
Concerned that this may be evidence, the cadets conducted their own search. And at 2:30pm, Corporal Gordon Arthur Freeman found in the kitchen bin, the hastily sawn-off rubber soles to Cummins’ black scuffed boots, a green and black pencil and a handkerchief etched with the laundry mark of E2474.
Again, Chief Inspector Greeno asked those closest to the victims to identify two personal items found in Cummins’ flat; grieving widower Harold Oatley confirmed that the silver cigarette case etched with the initials ‘LW’ belonged to his wife Evelyn Oatley (also known as Lita Ward) and that the photo inside was of her mother Rossina,. And former chemist’s assistant 14 year old Bettina Grace Gray confirmed that she had loaned the green and black pencil to her manager Evelyn Hamilton one week prior.
With the handkerchief’s laundry mark of E2474 verified by Thorpebay Laundry Company in Romford, which matched an identical set found in Evelyn Hamilton’s suitcase, left in her hotel room at The Three Arts Club in Marylebone, and having confirmed that the grey brick mortar found in Cummins’ own gas respirator matched the sample taken from the air-raid shelter in Montague Place, the Police now had more than enough evidence to go to trial and (they hoped) to convince Cummins to confess…
On Tuesday 10th March 1942, at the back of The Old Bailey, Cummins was charged with the murders of Evelyn Hamilton, Margaret Florence Lowe, Doris Jouanett and the assaults on Greta Haywood and Kathryn Mulcahy, to which he replied “absurd”.
On Thursday 26th March 1942, at the back of The Old Bailey, Cummins was charged with the murder of Evelyn Oatley, to which he replied “that’s ridiculous”.
…Cummins denied all charges and gave no confession.
On Monday 27th April 1942, 28 year old Gordon Frederick Cummins was tried before Mr Justice Asquith and a jury of twelve men in court two of the Central Criminal Court, known as The Old Bailey. As was his prerogative, even in the face of the overwhelming and irrefutable evidence against him, Cummins – in a mixture of either stupidity, confidence or arrogance – gave no evidence in his defence, submitted no witnesses to back-up his claims, didn’t enter an insanity plea, or put forward any mitigating factors (like a history of mental illness), and – facing almost certain death - he pleaded not guilty to all charges.
If anything, as his face beamed bright with a contented grin, as mawkish crowds of spectators jostled in the gallery and rabid journalists jotted down his name, in a legal defence entirely funded by the British tax-payer, although brief, he actually seemed to relish his time in the limelight.
In a trial which didn’t even last the whole day, the jury only needed to deliberate for just thirty-five minutes before they came to a unanimous conclusion, and found Gordon Frederick Cummins, on the charges of four counts of murder, one count of grievous bodily harm and one charge of assault – guilty.
And although he protested his innocence, his parents put forward several legal appeals and his wife applied for clemency, Gordon Frederick Cummins, the West End’s most infamous spree-killer and serial sexual sadist, who also known as The Blackout Ripper was sentenced to death.
On Thursday 25th June 1942, at a little before 9am, in the condemned man’s cell in Wandsworth Prison, Cummins sat wearing itchy woollen prison-issue fatigues which caused him to shift uncomfortably as he sat on a hard wooden chair, trapped by four cold stone walls, a barred window and a steel door.
The room was cold, basic and simple, sparsely furnished with few comforts, not unlike the bedrooms of the many women he had mauled, mutilated and massacred. But this time there were no knives, no razors, no candle, curling tongs nor can-opener to occupy his endless hours, as all he had here was a bed with a sheet, a simple wooden chair, a table with a jug of water, a bucket to defecate in and a large wardrobe (not unlike the kind his victim’s filled with hats, coats and handbags) but this particular wardrobe held a big surprise for Cummins, which even he wouldn’t expect
Having declined a final meal, instead supping back a glass of brandy, whether to settle his nerves, toast his life or celebrate his crimes, Cummins sat with his back to the wardrobe, facing the pale white wall with a sickly green hue, smoking and smirking, excitably chatting away, as having had no company for the last three months but his own dark thoughts, he was desperate to talk, but the guards said nothing.
Having written a few farewell letters, Cummins knew that today was the day of his death and that at precisely 9am - not a minute early and not a minute late – that he would be dead. But with no clock on the wall, no watch on his wrist and guards motionless and silent, as the morning sun of a bright new day raised up into the sky, time dragged slowly for Cummins, as (just like with his victims) he would be forced to live with the terrifying agony of never knowing when his end would come.
During those last days of his wasted life, having had many lonely nights to contemplate his killings, visualise his victims and mull-over the mutilation, full of horrifying images which would haunt their families forever, Cummins often visited the prison chapel; to pray for his wife, his father, his mother, his brother, his friends and especially for himself, but he never prayed for his victims or for forgiveness.
Although his visitors were few; mostly consisting of close family, Police officers and a priest, never once in those three months of solemn reflection did he ever confess to his crimes, and when asked why he did it, he’d simply reply “I didn’t”, as in his mind, he was innocent.
And the morning dragged on and time seemed to stall, the more his leg jiggled, his fingers strummed and his charming façade dropped as he became more even more impatient. And although he wouldn’t know this, the time was one minute to nine…
…in the briefest of moments, with a hard heavy clunk, the cold steel door of the cell would swing open, and as his two flanking guards would sharply raise Cummins to his feet, in would swiftly walk the prison governor, the doctor and the chaplain, accompanied by a slight and almost debonair 30 year old who would shackle the prisoner’s hands behind his back, as Cummins came face-to-face with a slim, short and unassuming man in a brown suit, with a kind face and a small wisp of hair on his head.
This was Albert Pierrepoint – his executioner.
Just like Cummins, Pierrepoint was a Yorkshireman. Just like Cummins, Pierrepoint was synonymous with death. And just like Cummins; Pierrepoint was charming, well-mannered and polite, and in his company Cummins felt safe, so for those who were due to die at his hands, his kindly demeanour was a false sense of security. And that’s where the similarities ended.
Pierrepoint was a professional whose precisely calculated, intricately rehearsed and swiftly performed executions were the epitome of efficiency, designed to be as humane and painless as possible, with the time from the prisoner hearing the cell door open to their body dangling at the end of a rope being less than ten seconds, and (as a master of his art) his quickest was seven.
Unlike his victims, Cummins wouldn’t suffer a horrendously painful death, as a sadistic maniac slowly strangled every breath out of his trembling body, crushing his throat and vocal chords, as with joyous glaring eyes his executioner clutched both sides of the stocking around his neck and pulled, chocking every ounce of life out of him, over several long, agonising and terrifying minutes.
No. He wouldn’t be mutilated, he wouldn’t be violated and he wouldn’t be posed. His loved ones wouldn’t witness his dead dangling corpse and his burial would be simple but dignified.
With Harry Allen, the executioner’s assistant having shackled the prisoner’s hands behind his back, as a prison guard slid aside the large wooden wardrobe, Cummins would be turned to face the dark secret behind the wardrobe, as barely ten feet from where he stood was the execution chamber. There was no long walk and no green mile, death had come to him.
Being led into the cold stone chamber, barely forty feet wide, high and deep, the eerily empty room had pale green walls, a set of sprung trap-doors in the centre and a wooden beam across the ceiling from which dangled a thick hemp rope, its end curled into a noose, measured to fit Cummins’ head.
And as they would swiftly position Cummins onto the chalk-marked ‘T’, dead-centre on the trap-doors, before he could even realise where he was, a white silken hood would be pulled down over his head, the silk-lined noose would be placed around his neck, and – having precisely calculated the prisoner’s five foot nine inch / eleven and a half stone frame – Pierrepoint would remove the bolt, and Cummins would drop. His six foot three inch fall, lasting less than half a second and releasing 1000 foot lbs of energy, as his motionless body was stopped from hitting the stone-tiled floor by the thick hemp rope, which would dislocated the second and third vertebrae of his neck, as fast as a foot snaps a stick.
As a legal requirement, his body would be left to hang for a full hour to ensure he was dead, and with no cheer, no joy and no applause, Cummins would be buried and Pierrepoint would be paid his £12.
That would be the end of The Blackout Ripper.
But before the strike of 9am, in his last minute alive, Gordon Frederick Cummins - the man who had terrorised London’s West End, brutally and savagely slaying four women and leaving two more scarred for life – continued to profess his innocence, gave no further statements and made no confession.
Instead, having stubbed out his cigarette and huffing like a man who had better things to do, Cummins impatiently protested to his guards “come on, let’s get this done”. And as the steel door opened, his arms were shackled, the wardrobe was slid back, his legs were secured, his head was hooded, his neck was noosed and Pierrepoint gripped the bolt – amidst the irony that London, that very morning, was in the grip of an air-raid, with a cacophony of sirens wailing, almost like a fond farewell to the West End’s most sadistic spree-killer – from underneath the heaving hood as his terrified breath quickened, with barely a second left to utter his final words, The Blackout Ripper said… nothing. (OUT)
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
Don’t forget to join us next week for the eighth part of the true story of The Blackout Ripper. Yes, that’s right, the eighth part, as although this was the finale of The Blackout Ripper’s story, because he professed his innocence and never gave a confession, I think it’s only right to re-examine the case. So, next week, for the first time ever, we’ll dive deep into the personal life of The Blackout Ripper, to look at his childhood, his relationships and his life leading up to the murders to see if there are any clues as to why he committed these murders, and we’ll do an episode showing his exact movements at the time of the killings and a Q&A episode where you can post me any questions, and post your theories as to why he did it. Message me on any social media platform with a Q&A question or theory.
If you love The Blackout Ripper story, please rate it and share it with your friends, as the more listeners Murder Mile gets, the more stories I can tell, and the longer this podcast can keep going.
This week’s recommended podcast of the week is Murderish, hosted by Jami, Murderish is an intriguing true-crime series which dives into the minds, method and the madness of murderers and those who track them, with excellent interviews with retired FBI profiler Jim Fitzgerald (who played a significant role in catching the Unabomber), Rob Demery (homicide investigator) and Emily Meehan (daughter of the infamous Dirty John) to name but a few. Check out Murderish. (play promo)
This week’s new Patreon supporter is Coralee, whose donation to the Keep Murder Mile Alive Fund is really appreciated, and truly helps cover the costs of researching each episode, as well as the 50-60 hours a week they each take to write, record and edit, so every penny really is appreciated. In answer to your question, my preferred method of attack is a ball kick, up-cut to the nose and a throat smash followed by a head-butt, or (if that’s sounds too aggressive) simply rip off his wig, mock his small hands, and tell him that Obama was a much better President, that should work. Good luck.
And a quick shout-out to two excellent true-crime podcasts that I heartily recommend; first is Redrum Blonde, hosted by Erin, the latest episode of Redrum Blonde is a real kicker, as she deep-dives into the sinister world of Scientology and the mysterious death of Lisa McPherson, so if you love true-crime with a twist, check out Redrum Blonde. And second is Heist Podcast, co-hosted by Matt & Simon, Heist Podcast trawls the news archives to bring you some of the world’s craziest, most bizarre and baffling robberies, from across the world, whether historical or topical. So if these podcasts sound perfect for you, check them out on iTunes and all podcast platforms.
Murder Mile was researched, written & performed by myself, with the main musical themes written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name.
Next week’s episode… is part eight, about the early life of The Blackout Ripper.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER ***
The Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast has been researched using the original declassified police investigation files, court records, press reports and as many authentic sources as possible including eye-witness testimony, confessions, autopsy reports, first-hand accounts and independent investigation, where possible. But these documents are only as accurate as those recounting them and recording them, therefore mistakes will be made. As stated at the beginning of each episode (and as is clear by the way it is presented) Murder Mile is a 'dramatisation' of the events and not a documentary, therefore a certain amount of dramatic licence, selective characterisation and story-telling (within logical reason and based on extensive research) has been taken. It is not a full representation of the case, the people or the investigation in its entirety, and therefore should not be taken as such. It is also often (for the sake of clarity and drama) presented from a single person's perspective, usually (but not exclusively) the victim's, therefore it will contain a certain level of bias to get across this single perspective, which may not be the overall opinion of those involved or associated.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER ***
Credits: The Murder Mile true-crime podcast was researched, written and recorded by Michael J Buchanan-Dunne, with the sounds recorded on location (where possible), and the music written and performed by Erik Stein & Jon Boux of Cult With No Name. Additional music was written and performed by various artists, as used under the Creative Common Agreement 4.0. A list of tracks used and the links are listed on the relevant transcript blog here
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London” and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 75 deaths, over just a one mile walk.
If you love true-crime podcasts, subscribe to the Murder Mile true-crime podcast on iTunes, Soundcloud, Podbean, Pocketcast, Stitcher, Acast, Tune-In, Otto Radio or Libsyn
What are the last words, at the very moment of the execution, of some of the world's most notorious serial killers and murderers? And why is what they've said, so important? Well, most of us will never be given the opportunity to plan, write and rehearse our final words, at best we'll be able to mutter "ouch", "f**k" or "what bus?", so reading the final words of a person whose final moment is fast approaching, gives you a startling insight into their lives, loves, fears and regrets. I've chosen fifty for your absorbing; some are silly, some are sad, some are alluringly profound, but all are the actual final words of a murderer or serial killer.
If you'd like to read up further articles such as unusual last meal requests on Death Row, the most likely day job for a serial killer, most likely name for a mass murderer, or even what is a serial killer's favourite drink, as well as a wealth of others? Click on the links marked in red.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten quirky & unusual things to do in London” and featuring 18 murderers, 3 serial killers, across 21 locations, totalling 75 deaths, over just a one mile walk.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster of Murder Mile UK True Crime and creator of true-crime TV series.
Subscribe to the Murder Mile true-crime podcast
Note: This blog contains only licence-free images or photos shot by myself in compliance with UK & EU copyright laws. If any image breaches these laws, blame Google Images.