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EPISODE TWENTY EIGHT
Episode Twenty Eight: The Blackout Ripper Part 4: On 12th February 1942, 32 year old Doris Jouanett was found strangled, posed and mutilated in her flat at 187 Sussex Gardens in a murder strangely similar to Evelyn Hamilton, Evelyn Oatley and Margaret Florence Lowe, over four nights prior. So who was The Blackout Ripper?
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BLACKOUT RIPPER Part 4 – Doris Jouannet (Nickname “Olga”)
INTRO: By 1942, at the height of World War Two, with everyday essentials like butter, sugar, eggs, milk, meat, flour, fuel and even clothes in a limited supply and strictly rationed; life was tough, money was tight and ordinary people would be forced to make desperate decisions simply to survive.
Having yet to fully appreciate how invaluable women would become in Britain’s defence, the Second World War proved a turning point for women’s suffrage, as (with men dying in their million) women would become the backbone of the war-effort (not only later as conscripted soldiers, but also) as munitions-workers, doctors, fire-crews, hauliers, air-raid wardens and police constables.
But with the economy in disarray and honest jobs being badly paid, even good women were forced to take drastic steps. And with the cities full of soldiers, sailors and airmen with heavy wallets, empty hearts and endless hard-ons – some women turned to prostitution; becoming a housewife by day and a whore by night, in a clandestine affair, hidden from their husbands, simply to pay the bills.
So synonymous were Soho’s sex-workers for their tactics, speed and cunning as they pursued, pounced and pestered any serviceman, that American GI’s dubbed them the “Piccadilly Commandos”.
But unbeknownst to any women (whether prostitute or not), during February 1942, a sadistic sexual sadist stalked the blacked-out and bomb-damaged streets of the West End; so far, three unrelated women (Evelyn Hamilton, Evelyn Oatley and Margaret Florence Lowe) were tortured, posed and mutilated on three consecutive nights, in the first half of his five-day killing spree.
No-one knew his name, and yet all three women found him confident, charming and unassuming. No-one saw his face, and yet (in his presence) they all felt safe, happy and comfortable. No-one saw him kill, and yet, as he smiled, chatted, drank and carried no weapons, none of these women had any idea of the horror which awaited them at the hands of this homicidal maniac. But tonight, with his blood lust escalating and his sexual desire unsated, he would go in search of his next victim.
My name is Michael. I am your tour-guide. This is Murder Mile. And I present to you; part four of the full, true and untold story of The Blackout Ripper.
SCRIPT: Today, I’m standing in Sussex Gardens, W2, in an area most people call Paddington, which was formerly known as Tyburnia; a district made famous as the host of London’s bloodiest execution site – The Tyburn Tree – a hangman’s gallows situated at Marble Arch, at the junction of Edgware Road and Oxford Street, where many a bad lad’s neck was stretched, yanked and snapped.
Constructed during the Victorian era of the early-to-mid 1800’s, although most of the greenery has since been tarmacked and turned into drives, Sussex Gardens is still an affluent area consisting of one long l-shaped street with tall, thin and stunning brown-bricked five and six storey terrace houses on both sides, with tall white windows and white Doric columns on every door.
And although each flat currently sells for roughly £1million a piece owing to its proximity to Hyde Park, being just one street away from Paddington Station – a haven for hookers and bored businessmen with boners – although still beautiful, much of Sussex Gardens has lost its initial value, having been repurposed as flat, offices and modestly-priced hotels full of plumbers, brickies and roofers; who can lay pipe, trowel mortar and repoint tiles (whether you want it done or not), and yet are physically incapable of seeing without ogling, yawning without belching, pissing without dribbling, thinking without farting, talking without saying “facking”, and watching sport without pronouncing it “spawh”.
And yet it was here, in the well-presented ground floor flat of 187 Sussex Gardens that the brutal murder of The Blackout Ripper’s next victim occurred, and her name was Doris Jouanett. (Interstitial)
Wrongly assumed to be French, Doris Jouanett was actually born Doris Elizabeth Robson on either 21st March in the year 1909 (according to her husband), 1906 (according to the national census) or 1907 (according to her birth certificate), and although she may have shaved an odd year off her age, here and there, there was no denying that Doris Robson was ashamed of her impoverished past.
Born amidst the industrial working-class sprawl of Lemington (Northumberland) in the North East of England, although Doris’ birthplace was just four miles from Ryton where (nine years earlier) Evelyn Margaret Hamilton was born, the difference between their upbringings was colossal, as being surrounded by collieries, factories, railways, glassworks and iron foundries, everything her family owned (which wasn’t much) was smothered in dirt, dust and a thick blanket of black soot.
Originally from Farlam in Cumbria, Doris’ mother (Elizabeth) was one of nine children born to Thomas and Barbara Robson, and although they survived on a coal-miner’s wage and lived in a cramped lodging house with three other families, their children were well-educated, with four of the siblings becoming school-teachers, including Elizabeth and her younger sisters Isabella and Mary.
Sadly, as an unmarried 41 year old single-parent, shortly after the birth of her only child, Elizabeth died owing to complications, and Doris Elizabeth Robson (who had no mother, no father and no siblings) was raised by her maternal aunties Isabella and Mary, in the gloomy wind-swept headland of Hartlepool, in a small lodging house at 6 Moor Terrace, which overlooked the North Sea.
The next two decades of Doris’ life are a bit of a mystery, as with no school reports, census records and no accurate date of birth, it’s hard to trace where she went, who with, and why. But being a working-class Northern female, who had to live with the shame of being born a bastard, to a dead mother, an absent father and adopted by middle-aged spinsters, life can’t have been easy. But twenty years later, by 1935, Doris had moved to London to make a better life for herself.
Being unskilled, unqualified and having no career to fall back on, Doris didn’t want to work; to slog her guts out, twelve hours a day, seven days a week; an endless slew of filth, drudgery and exhaustion in a joyless job for a thankless boss and all for a pittance. Doris felt she deserved better and dreamed of becoming a kept-women, who lived in a posh house, wore mink furs, fine jewels and never had to lift a finger, having bagged herself a wealthy husband. And in August 1935, her dream had come true.
Believing in love at first sight, within three months of meeting, on 4th November 1935 at Paddington Registry Office, 25 year old Doris Elizabeth Robson married 60 year old Henri Alfred Jouannet, a naturalised French citizen, who managed several hotels in the South East of England. And although their marriage was impulsive, their 35 year age-gap was obvious and whether she actually loved him was debatable; as a wealthy hotelier, with a silver Rolls Royce, a large bank balance and being a kindly man who showered her with expensive gifts, like fine furs, a gold watch and a black fountain pen engraved with her new initials of “DJ”, Mrs Doris Elizabeth Jouanett moved with her husband from Eastbourne, to Farnborough, until eventually they moved to London.
And although Henri was aware of Doris’ desperate days when – being broke and hungry – she worked as a West End sex-worker, she had assured him that those days were long behind her, and (finally) with Henri managing the very prestigious five-star Royal Court Hotel in Sloane Square in a very affluent area of Kensington, Doris truly was living the dream and life was good, as together they moved into a luxurious ground-floor flat, situated at 187 Sussex Gardens. (Interstitial)
(Clock): Henri & Doris Jouanett moved into flat 1 of 187 Sussex Gardens on Monday 26th January 1942, by which time - although air-raids were regular, looting was rife and rationing was routine – The Blackout Ripper was roughly 98 miles away in the West of England, and was still six days away from being relocated to London. So, for now, Doris Jouanett was safe, Evelyn Hamilton was alive but about to be laid-off, Evelyn Oatley was being comforted by her rather dull but eternally loving husband Harold, and Margaret Florence Lowe was drunk, not realising that the next time her beloved daughter would see her again, Margaret (and three other women) would be dead. (End)
Over those seven years of marriage, Doris had become accustomed to the finer things in life; gorging on good food, quaffing on fine wines and sleeping on silk sheets, as she was waited on hand-and-foot by butlers, maids and chefs, and escorted to fancy parties in a chauffeur-driven silver Rolls Royce. And being immaculately dressed in the very latest fashions, with manicured nails, coiffured hair and pristine make-up, the ever stylish Mrs Doris Jouanett looked very much like a real lady.
But following a series of bad business deals, lengthy court trials, escalating gambling debts, and with the war having seriously put the boot-in on tourism; the Rolls Royce was sold, the servants were laid-off and Henri was almost broke. And with no savings to access, a status to upkeep and a trophy wife with expensive tastes to fund, when 67 year old Henri should have been enjoying his retirement, he was working day and night at the prestigious five-star Royal Court Hotel in Sloane Square, but not as the hotel’s owner, now he was simply a manager.
Henri would later describe their marriage as “perfectly happy… we never had a disagreement”, but for Doris this was far from the truth. Before moving back to London; as his funds dried-up and life became a little more drab, being petrified of returning to her impoverished roots, Doris regularly travelled from Farnborough and Eastbourne to the West End, under the guise of a bored housewife heading to Piccadilly to meet some pals, when really, she had returned to prostitution.
Nicknamed “Olga” - as (even though many prostitutes thought she was French owing to her surname) many punters thought she looked Russian, a fact that Doris never denied as being a well-dressed lady with a mysterious and exotic past paid better than being plain old Doris Robson, the Geordie – and as a 32 year old, five foot ten inch tall brunette, with long legs, a slim build and striking features (a mixture of hard, moody and demure), Doris was very different from the usual prostitute.
And being very much an elegant lady who was both alluring and aloof, “Olga” drew in a much wealthier clientele, whether businessmen, diplomats, officials, officers and – hopefully – Doris thought, an older, richer man, maybe a wealthy widower or another hotelier, who could keep her in the life to which she had become accustomed, as with Henri almost broke, Doris needed a new sugar-daddy.
To say that Henri didn’t trust his wife would be an understatement. And although, most nights his job dictated that he had to sleep at The Royal Court Hotel; every evening, having dashed the six tube stops from Sloane Square to Paddington, from 7pm to 9:30pm, for those two and a half hours, Henri & Doris Jouanett would settle down to dinner in their ground-floor flat at 187 Sussex Gardens.
(Clock): By 7pm on Thursday 12th February 1942, as Henri & Doris tucked into what-would-be their last meal together - as the icy cold corpses of Evelyn Hamilton and Evelyn Oatley were lying on a slab at Paddington and Westminster mortuaries, and the mutilated body of Margaret Florence Lowe had lain still, silent and undiscovered for 40 hours - barely one mile away, at The Volunteer Public House on Baker Street, a red-headed Corporal was necking back pints and supping free whiskies with a pleasant, blue-eyed, fair-haired airman, who was a charmer with the ladies, whose pockets were flush with cash, and (having already slaughtered three women) tonight he would go in search of his next victim. (End)
The last four hours of Doris Jouanett’s life were unremarkable; having finished their evening meal (of chicken chasseur, root vegetables and a white wine), needing some “fresh air”, Doris donned a stylish black velvet hat, a long black coat with a fur collar, a black leather handbag and a large black umbrella (as the recent snowy blizzard had turned to rain) and having left the dirty crockery on the dinner table, Doris accompanied Henri on the four minute walk to Paddington Station, where – having promised her husband she’d head straight home – as he hopped on the westbound District Line train to Sloane Square, she waved him goodbye for one last time. But Doris had no plans to return home.
At 9:40pm - with The Blackout Ripper still in Piccadilly, having escorted a 30 year old woman called Greta Hayward back to the Universal Brasserie on Jermyn Street - Doris was spotted by local prostitute Patricia Borg standing at the junction of Edgware Road and Sussex Gardens, a busy crossroads just a three minute walk from her home and a ten minute stroll from the air-raid shelter on Montagu Place.
And although Patricia and the lady she knew as “Olga” only spoke briefly, opening with the greeting of “hello stranger” and closing with a “see you”; having met a client, serviced his needs and received her money, all within fifteen minutes, by the time Patricia returned to the same spot, Doris was gone.
Moments later, two call-girls called Ruby Ricketts and Grace chatted to Doris as she strolled south down Edgware Road (towards Marble Arch), where accompanied by her friend Beatrice Lang and needing a stiff drink to keep her strength up for the long night ahead, Doris drank a whiskey and soda at a corner-house tearoom called Maison Lyonese, where just four nights earlier, a shy pharmacist called Evelyn Hamilton had (potentially) met her murderer as she celebrated her 41st birthday alone.
But that night, being in Piccadilly, The Blackout Ripper would not frequent Maison Lyonese. So as the two friends chatted over a drink, Doris confided to Beatrice that with money tight, their marriage tense and the couple sleeping in separate beds, Doris had a date tonight with her new sugar-daddy; a wealthy regular client in a military uniform, who she referred to only as ‘The Captain’.
(Clock): At 10:20pm on Thursday 12th February 1942, Doris & Beatrice left Maison Lyonese, walked east along Oxford Street and parted ways outside of Selfridges, and with Doris eager to see her new beau, she headed into Piccadilly, right into the path of The Blackout Ripper. Or she would have done, had fate not taken an unexpected twist… as with his wallet full, his liver pickled and his sexual appetite unsated, having hopped in a taxi with a 34 year old redhead sex-worker called Katharine Mulcahy, as Doris walked east along Oxford Street to Piccadilly, The Blackout Ripper headed west to Paddington. And although, for now, Doris Jouanett was safe… an hour later, she would be dead. (End).
How she knew ‘The Captain’, who he was, or whether she had actually met him that night, we shall never know, as having waved her friend goodbye, Beatrice was the last person to see Doris alive.
For whatever reason, whether ‘The Captain’ was late, early or had cancelled their date, shortly after 11pm, Doris had left the semi-safety of Piccadilly Circus, had returned home to Paddington, and - as the cruel hand of fate took another unexpected twist - with the redheaded sex-worker Katharine Mulcahy, living just one street south-east of 187 Sussex Gardens, a short while later; whether for money, boredom or companionship, Doris Jouanett opened her door to The Blackout Ripper.
At 7pm on Friday 13th February 1942, regular as clockwork, Henri hopped off the eastbound District Line train from Sloane Square to Paddington Station, strolled the four minute walk to Sussex Gardens, and – like Pavlov’s dog - the second he saw his home, his stomach started to rumble. But something didn’t seem right, as by the white Doric columns of his front door, on his doorstep, a full twelve hours after they had been delivered, he spotted two bottles of milk.
Feeling confused; as Henri entered his blacked-out flat, calling out his wife’s name “Doris?” but getting no reply, he spotted on the table their dirty dinner dishes where they had left them the night before; the bread stale, the cabbage cold, the white sauce congealed, but there was no sign of Doris anywhere. Not in the front-room, not in the kitchen, not in the bathroom, all that remained, was the bedroom.
With the key missing and the lock shut, as much as Henri jiggled the handle and shoved against the panels, the small-framed 67 year old couldn’t budge the heavy wooden door, but spying through the keyhole and seeing the dull red glow and the soft warm heat of the electric bar fire, it was clear that someone was inside, but as much as he banged on the door “Doris?”, still nobody answered.
Deeply concerned, Henri fetched the Police, and at 7:50pm, two burly Bobbies from Paddington Police Station – PC Payne & PC Cox – with Henri’s permission, used their considerable bulk to bash down the sturdy wooden door, and found Doris. Sparing Henri from the horror in the bedroom beyond, PC Cox sat him on the sofa, a comporting hand over shoulder as he gave Henri the bad news, but what PC Payne saw that night, would be burned into his eyes forever.
At a little after 8pm, just three hours after the grisly discovery of the mutilated remains of Margaret Florence Lowe one mile away at 9/10 Gosfield Street, Divisional Detective Inspector Leonard Clare, the detective who was heading-up the murder investigation into Evelyn Hamilton four nights prior in Montagu Place, entered flat 1 at 187 Sussex Gardens. Although instantly shocked, as the small dark room hung heavy with the stench of steamy vomit as inexperienced officers struggled to cope with the sight, for Detective Inspector Clare, this was the all-too-familiar calling card of The Blackout Ripper.
As before, there was no sign of a struggle…
Feeling comfortable; reassured by his kind face, his sweet smile, his soft English voice and his twinkling blue eyes, Doris was lulled into a warm sense of security as she led the tall, handsome and fair-haired man into her bedroom. And although, like most of her clients, he had been drinking, he was charming, alluring and wearing the uniform of a military man; a hero, and in his company, she felt safe.
As she welcomed him in, Doris had already hung-up her long black fur-collared coat in the wardrobe, perched her black velvet hat and black leather handbag on the top shelf, and placed her black dress, stockings, brassiere and brown brogue shoes on a small wooden chair by the toasty warmth of the electric fire, and now she was dressed in nothing but a black quilted bathrobe.
With the small back bedroom comprising of a wardrobe, a dressing table, a chair and two twin beds placed a few inches apart, Doris sat on the bed farthest from the door, smoking a cigarette, as the man disrobed; shedding his long military great coat, unbuttoning his blue tunic, kicking off his heavy black rubber-soled boots and flinging-off his jauntily-worn woollen side-cap, which was emblazoned with a military insignia. And even though, his tie was crooked, his knuckles were scuffed, his breath smelled of whiskey and his belt was missing, having done this many times before, Doris didn’t feel threatened at all.
What happened next is unknown. As with her being a prostitute, with him being a punter and several male rubber contraceptives found scattered about the bed and floor, two of which had been unrolled and used, sex may have taken place. But with the bedroom floor littered with spent cigarette butts and neither of the condoms containing any semen, maybe (for whatever reason) sex didn’t take place. And yet, as far as we know, what happened next was unprovoked, unexpected and shocking.
With a swift hard blow across her left cheek, which fractured her jaw, rendered her giddy and knocked her to the bed, before she could scream for help, with his powerful thighs straddling her arms and torso, his full body weight pinning her down, as he reached across to the small wooden chair, he grabbed one of her black stockings, wrapped it around her neck, and with both hands, pulled it tight.
Gasping for air that wouldn’t inhale and screaming words which no-one would hear, as Doris stared up at the grinning maniac sat on top of her; with her face all purple and swollen, her vision fading to black as her pupils dilated and the whites of her eyes ruptured with blood, her left-handed attacker tied the tights in a knot under her left jaw, leaving a depression in her neck half an inch deep, which fractured her larynx, and compressed her tongue, tonsils and windpipe, and as she drifted in and out of consciousness, The Blackout Ripper proceeded to mutilate her body, whether she was dead or alive.
Using a razor-blade from her dressing table and another as-yet unidentified household weapon, with his victim suitably subdued and immobile, he took his time, savouring every moment, as he sliced a five inch slit from her stomach to her privates, slashed a three inch gash through her pubic hair, sunk the razor-blade deep into her genitals inflicting a six and a half inch wound in and across her vagina, and using two converging cuts, he carved a four inch slit around her left breast, which almost severed her nipple. The one saving grace being that – unlike his other victims – no candle, no torch, nor curling tongs were inserted into her vagina, as with the sheer terror of her agonising death causing her to wet herself, with the bed soaked in a pungent mix of blood and urine, he decided against it.
With his blood-lust sated, he calmly dressed; fastening his blue tunic and trousers, buttoning-up his brown shirt and tie, pulling on his large great coat, tying his black heavy boots and fixing (at a jaunty angle) his woollen side-cap. And needing to satisfy his greed, from her black leather handbag he stole roughly £5 worth of untraceable bank-notes and from her lifeless wrist he took a gold watch (given to Doris by her husband). As a crude memento of a delightful night, he pocketed her black fountain pen uniquely etched with her very identifiable initials of “DJ”, and (even more bizarrely), from her dressing table, he took her worthless greeny/blue comb with several teeth missing.
But before he left, he had one final act of humiliation to conduct upon the corpse of Doris Jouanett. Laying her lifeless body diagonally across the bed; with her black quilted bathrobe spread wide, her left arm outstretched, her right hand across her genitals, her swollen purple head hanging over the side of the bed, her tongue protruding and her bloodshot eyes gazing towards the door, he posed her lifeless body, as a grisly sight to greet the poor unfortunate who would come looking for her.
Having tidied his hair, straightened his tie and checked he hadn’t left any personal possessions behind; his wallet, his keys, his hat, his military ID, or anything stupid which would incriminate him, having been cautious not to leave any fingerprints, having wiped down anything he’d touched, and with no screams, no noise and no witnesses of any kind, he locked the bedroom door, disposed of the key, strolled out of 187 Sussex Gardens and onto the dark inky night The Blackout Ripper disappeared.
Across five nights, over four streets in London’s West End, four totally different and entirely unrelated women, for whatever reason, had been ripped, tortured and posed, by an unidentified sadistic maniac.
All had suffered the same fate; strangulation, mutilation and humiliation. All had been sliced, beaten and violated. All had been robbed, but only of untraceable bank notes, never of bank-books nor ration coupons. And although his sexual sadism compelled him to steal such high risk trinkets as a hanky etched with a unique laundry mark, an anniversary gift gold wrist watch, an initialled fountain pen and a monogrammed cigarette case containing a photo of the victim’s mother, none of these had been found. And with no physical sightings, no credible suspects, and no fingerprints which matched anyone on Scotland Yard’s entire Print Index, the Police were at a loss as to who this man was…
…and it’s here that his killing spree would cease.
Four women were dead: 41 year old pharmacist Evelyn Margaret Hamilton, 34 year old dancer, wife and sex-worker Evelyn Oatley, 43 year old veteran prostitute and mother Margaret Florence Lowe and 32 year old Doris Elizabeth Jouanett; a woman raised in such poverty, she would do anything to never be poor or hungry ever again, and yet her desperate need drove her to her own death.
And having been discovered at 7pm on Friday 13th February 1942, a full 18 hours later, although Doris Jouanett was the last women found, she wasn’t his fourth victim in his five day killing spree, she was his sixth. As barely an hour before Doris’ death, two unrelated women, on two different streets, in two separate parts of the West End, would become the fourth and fifth victims of The Blackout Ripper.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
Don’t forget to join us next week for the fifth part of the true story of The Blackout Ripper.
This week’s recommended podcast of the week is Lustmordia; hosted by Leigh, Derek & Ginny, Lustmordia dives into the deeply macabre true-crime cases from around the world, whether The Chicago Ripper Crew, Robert Durst and the Beasts of Satan to name but a few, with lashing of fun, a solid dose of humour and giggles-a-plenty. Check out Lustmordia. (Play Promo
A big thank you goes to my brand new Patreon supporters who get exclusive access to original Murder Mile content, including crime-scene photos, murder location videos and Patron-only Extra Mile episodes for the first 20 cases. They are Josie Miller, Alina Ayoshina, Stephani Schwarz, Karin Klooster, and an extra special friend who asked to remain nameless, and all of whom have asked me some personal questions, so here’s your answers: “never on a Sunday”, “occasionally in public”, “only in church”, “pants are optional” and “Vaseline is a must”. There you go, I hope that helps.
And a quick shout-out to two truly excellent true-crime podcasts that I heartily recommend; first is Outlines, hosted by Jess, Outlines is an incredibly well-researched, neatly-balanced and truly fascinating true-crime podcast which dives into many of Britain’s untold and unsolved murder cases. So if you’re looking for something different, and to hear about cases you never knew existed, checked out Outlines. Second is the infamous Minds of Madness, basically, if you haven’t heard about it yet? Why not. Tyler and Bek do such an amazing job, with this well-presented, finely-researched and heart felt true-crime podcast, that there’s a reason it’s being turned into a TV series? It’s really amazing. So check out Outlines and Minds of Madness 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 five of The Blackout Ripper.
Thank you for listening and sleep well.
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 her
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”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British podcast Awards 2018", and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 75 deaths, over just a one mile walk
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster & tour guide of Murder Mile Walks, hailed as one of the best "quirky curious & unusual things to do in London".
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