Murder Mile True-Crime Podcast #29 - The Blackout Ripper - Part Five (Margaret "Greta" Hayward and Kathryn Mulcahy) - TRANSCRIPT
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FULL TRANSCRIPT - Murder Mile True-Crime Podcast #29 - The Blackout Ripper - Part 5 (Greta Hayward & Kathryn Mulcahy)
INTRO: After Britain declared war against Germany on 3rd September 1939, the first liberation took place, starting in British prisons. With the country desperate to clear its cells for the true enemies of the state; such as spies, traitors, looters and deserters, and in short supply of eligible young men for conscription, any prisoners with three months or less to serve were granted their freedom.
Buoyed by a sense of national pride, some prisoners enlisted, but others did not. And with the cities short on experienced Police officers, rationing enforced, and with basic essentials (such as soap and fuel) being sold at vastly over-inflated prices, some ex-con’s saw war-time as the perfect opportunity for criminal enterprise, and even honest people turned to crime under the cover of the blackout.
Between 1939 and 1945, the crime rate in England & Wales rose by 57%, with the number of reported murder cases increasing from 280 in 1939 to 490 in 1945, and with death, injury and disappearance being a daily occurrence in most war-time cities, many murders were impossible to prove.
But four horrifying deaths, over four nights, in four different parts of the London’s West End, were unmistakable as murders committed by a serial sexual sadist; whose attacks were random, bloody and brutal. And although, by Thursday 12th February 1942, on the fifth day of his five-day killing spree, only the badly mutilated bodies of Evelyn Hamilton and Evelyn Oatley had been found, with Margaret Florence Lowe still lying undiscovered, barely hours before the agonising death of his final victim – Doris Jouanett – in one night, having met them just one hour and two hundred feet apart, as his bloodlust escalated, the West End’s most prolific spree-killer would attack two more women.
My name is Michael. I am your tour-guide. This is Murder Mile. And I present to you; part five of the full, true and untold story of The Blackout Ripper.
SCRIPT: Today, I’m standing in Piccadilly Circus, W1; an iconic London landmark which interconnects the roads of Regent Street, Coventry Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly and Haymarket. Built in 1819 under its original name of Regent’s Circus, it later became Piccadilly Circus, after the area it covered, coined after local tailor Robert Baker’s infamous 17th century collar, called the “piccadillio”. And that’s about as exciting as it gets.
Featuring the infamous Criterion Theatre, the London Pavilion, the ghost of Tower Records, two truly hideous tourist attractions (where – for an insulting steep amount of money – you too can stare at badly sculpted plastic replicas of real people) and a statue which every idiot calls Eros (even though it’s not Eros, it’s Anteros - the angel of Christian charity, but then again being educated is so overrated), as everyone stares at Piccadilly’s infamous neon advertising and feels an overwhelming urge to scoff fatty chicken corpses, drink fizzy sugary piss, or smell like a footballer’s arse, they suddenly realise that Piccadilly Circus is nothing more than a world-famous semi-circular traffic contraflow, where every year millions of dipsticks flock to watch traffic; “oh look there’s a truck”, “oh look a bus”, “oh look a bike”, “oh look an accident”, “oh look blood”, “oh look brains”, “oh look entrails”, “oh look a road sweeper”, “oh look a lovely clean road”, as the tourist takes a selfie and says “oh look, there’s a Albanian immigrant wearing a cheap Yoda mask who’s pretending to float, that does look fun”. Sigh!
But actually, for us murder aficionados, Piccadilly Circus is fascinating, As it’s here that Doris Jouanett was heading for her date with The Captain, where both Evelyn Oatley and Margaret Florence Lowe were last seen alive, where two local prostitutes Laura Denmark and Molly Desantos-Alves met a red-headed corporal and a blue-eyed fair-haired airman, and waved goodbye to Evelyn Oatley just hours before her death. And yet, it was here, on Thursday 12th February 1942 at 8pm, where The Blackout Ripper would meet his fourth victim. And her name was Greta Hayward (Interstitial).
As always, being a little too eager and (if she was honest with herself) enthusiastic to escape her home in Kingsbury (North West London) which she shared with her soon-to-be ex-husband; 30 year old Margaret Mary Theresa Hayward, whose friends called her “Greta”, had hopped on the Metropolitan line to Baker Street, changed onto the Bakerloo Line to Piccadilly Circus and was stood outside of the Criterion Theatre – a full hour too early for her date – with nothing to do but wait.
With the shops shut, she couldn’t blow an hour by browsing. With only two films on at the flicks being Bette Davis in The Man Who Came To Dinner and Will Hay in The Black Sheep of Whitehall, she didn’t want to waste a shilling watching a newsreel, a cartoon and half of the pre-feature five-reel b-movie. With the Criterion Theatre having been requisitioned by the BBC to perform live radio for the duration of the war, and tonight’s broadcast being the brutally-dull music show ‘Take Your Choice‘ followed by the BBC Salon Orchestra conducted by Leslie Bridgewater, Greta was already bored of waiting, but she didn’t fancy falling into a coma. And even though Café Monaco was only on the opposite side of Piccadilly Circus, being packed full of sozzled servicemen, as an attractive blonde female sitting by herself, her chance of enjoying a quiet drink was zero.
And so, it was there, at the bottom of the steps of the Criterion Theatre, with time ticking by, her date an hour away and Greta all out of options that a blue-eyed fair-haired airman approached her, with a polite and pleasant proposition she simply couldn’t refuse. (Interstitial)
“Excuse me, are you waiting for somebody?” the airman asked, in an accent which, although well-spoken with the appearance of wealth, class and status, had the unmistakable twang and reassuring hints of North Yorkshire, where Greta was from. Sensing a pick-up attempt, she brushed off his request with the truth that she was awaiting a date with an Army Captain - her clever ploy being to pull rank on this inferior airman, the distinctive white flash on his side-cap suggesting he was still a cadet – but with the snow turning to drizzle, 9pm still an hour away, and the airman seeming harmless enough, with a sweet smile, a kind face and his gentlemanly offer that “I could buy you a drink while you wait for your friend?”, she thought it would certainly pass the time, and in his presence she felt safe.
The Criterion Theatre on Piccadilly Circus began life in the late 1800’s as a grand concert-hall full of cafes, galleries and a fine-dining restaurant in an opulent ballroom, which played host to stars, artists and royals. But after years of neglect and being on its last legs, by 1942, the restaurant had descended into being simply another shoddy pick-up joint for sailors, soldiers and airmen. It was called ‘Brasserie Universelle’, but it was more appropriately known as ‘The Universal Brothel’ or ‘The Brass Ass’.
As always, the bar of Brasserie Universelle was rammed with the sticky bustle of hot bodies as British and Canadian servicemen drank, danced and dry-humped their latest squeeze or conquest. And with the air thick with lewd chatter, fast jazz, cigarette smoke and the unpleasant whiff of jizz, as Greta and the airman drank a whiskey together, it was hard to heard themselves think.
And as much as he failed to flirt with her, by telling her she was beautiful and trotting out other equally unimaginative and retch-worthy chat-up lines, she reminded him of her impending date, he politely apologised and invited her to a spot of supper in the quieter, calmer and the less boisterous ambience of the Salted Almond Cocktail bar in the nearby Trocadero. So with fifty minutes still to go, feeling a little peckish having not eaten since lunch, and with him having agreed to escort her back to the brasserie by 9pm, a time which suited him fine as the rules of the RAF dictated that he had to be back in his Regent’s Park billets by 10:30pm, Greta headed out to supper with the unnamed airman.
He didn’t seem like a bad sort, Greta thought. Yes, he was a little tipsy, but he wasn’t rude, crude or abusive. Yes, the knuckles of his left-hand were scraped, but being an airman he probably did a manual job like a mechanic. And yes, he was a little forward in his approach, but looking rather dashing in his long military grate coat, his shiny black rubber-soled boots, his starched blue tunic with matching belt, his neat brown shirt and straightened tie, his side-cap emblazoned with the insignia of the Royal Air Force, and slung over his left shoulder was a black gas-respirator in a beige canvas bag (the kind of gas-mask that all military personnel were required to carry); she knew nothing bad would happen to her, as on the middle finger of his left hand he wore a gold wedding band, and having proffered her a smoke, she spied a small black & white photo of a pretty blonde lady hidden inside his silver cigarette case, which (she thought) was engraved with her initials of ‘LW’.
The Salted Almond situated in the Trocadero’s original location on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Windmill Street, just off the north-east corner of Piccadilly Circus, would have been a good choice for a quiet spot of supper, as being owned by J Lyon & Sons, creators of corner-house tearooms such as Maison Lyonese, it prided itself on being safe, calm and pleasant for women, but sadly, as the night drew on, the same could not be said for Greta’s new companion.
Being a few whiskies in, with supper looking unlikely and his disarmingly charming tone having shifted to that of a lecherous oaf, the airman lustfully enquired “are you a naughty girl?” - ignoring her plea that she wasn’t a prostitute, had never been and had no plans to be – and bragged that “I’m not broke, look”, as he pried open his wallet, which was stuffed thick with thirty £1 notes (almost £1000 today).
Getting petulant as Greta batted away his advances, he stated “I don’t think there’s time for supper now…” and quickly piped-up with “…come out to dinner with me tomorrow evening?” And with Greta eager to leave, she reluctantly agreed to a date, impressed upon him that sex would not happen and wrote on a slip of paper her phone number (of Colindale 6622) which he pocketed. And as he huffed “Alright, if you don’t want to, I can’t make you, but you seem a nice girl and I really do want you”, Greta brushed him off again, and as promised, at 8:45pm, he escorted her back for her 9pm date.
With the blackout in full force, with every light dipped, dulled or turned-off and even the illuminated signs of Piccadilly Circus switched-off, the streets would have been in near-darkness as Greta was guided out of the Trocadero, taking the brisk three minute walk, straight down the bustling throng of Shaftesbury Avenue and across Piccadilly Circus, back to the front entrance of the Criterion Theatre.
But then again, the airman didn’t take the most direct route. And with Greta having been subjected to a tirade of moody drunken mumblings by the airman, having bragged that he’d “once knocked a girl out”, she didn’t argue with him for fear of incurring his wrath, as he led the nervous lady down the thinner, quieter and darker side-streets to the brasserie’s back entrance.
And as they entered Jermyn Street, an almost pitch-black empty side-street behind Piccadilly Circus, as Greta pulled out of her handbag an eight inch metal torch to see her way and possibly alert a passing Policeman to her need for help, the airman snatched the torch from her hand, balking “you won’t be needing that” and pocketed it, as he casually strolled passed the brasserie’s back entrance.
With her heart racing, her eyes wide and her mouth dry, as the airman led her south down St Alban’s Street, a narrow alley heading away from the brasserie, he expressed his wish to give her a goodnight kiss, and in a chillingly eerie statement (possibly uttered barely four nights before to a painfully shy 41 year old pharmacist in Montagu Place), he said “aren’t there any air-raid shelters nearby?”
Although petite, standing her ground, Greta replied “I don’t know and in any case I wouldn’t go in one of them with you”, but as he led her into the ominous silence of the equally dark St James’ Market, in the cold shadow of the Captain’s Cabin pub, the airman dragged Greta into an unlit doorway.
Removing his RAF issue gas-respirator in its beige canvas bag from his left shoulder and placing it on the ground, the airman pulled Greta’s trembling body close as he started to kiss her; the feted stench of tobacco on his breath, as he rammed his tongue deep into her mouth. And as his hands grabbed at her hips, tugged at her blouse and groped at her breasts, she pushed him away gasping “you mustn’t, you mustn’t do that”. But with his passion enflamed and not being a man who took no for an answer, with an odd glint in his eyes, having placed both hands on her quivering cheeks, she thought (having heard her plea) he was either forthcoming with an apology or a tender but friendly kiss? But as his left hand slipped down her face, slowly caressing her neck, he tightly gripped her throat and squeezed, all the while muttering “you won’t, you won’t”, until her vision went black.
Nobody heard her screams. Nobody saw his face. Nobody found any weapons.
And at 9pm, on Thursday 12th February 1942, at the back of the Criterion Theatre on Piccadilly Circus, barely two hours before the brutal, shocking and sadistic murder of Doris Jouanett, Margaret Mary Theresa Hayward, known to her friends as “Greta” became the fourth victim of The Blackout Ripper.
Just like the others, she was a lone female. Just like the others, she was attacked in private. Just like the others, she was robbed. But unlike the others… she didn’t die.
Hearing shoes scuffling, a muffled croaky voice and seeing a torch frantically flickering, as 24 year old night-porter John Shine approached St Alban’s Street, he spotted a pair of women’s legs slumped on the wet floor and sticking out of an unlit doorway. Sensing something was wrong, John Shine shouted “Police!” at the top of his lungs, panicking the ominous shape which loomed over the collapsed lady, and before he could do anything, The Blackout Ripper disappeared into the darkness.
And although she was unconscious, Greta was alive…
…but did her survival lead to the death of another woman?
At a little after 10pm, barely an hour later; with his heart pumping, his nerves tingling and his bloodlust unsated, having sunk several more whiskies, the slightly dishevelled airman spotted a lone female, standing in the darkened doorway of Oddenino’s restaurant, near the corner of Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus, where just two days before, Evelyn Oatley was last seen alive.
Being a tall, slim and attractive lady, with bobbed flame-red hair, luminous pale skin, stunning grey-eyes and dressed in a black tailored coat, skirt and hat, he was instantly aroused by her. As a 34 year old soon-to-be divorcee who had succumbed to sex-work simply to pay the rent, she reluctantly hopped in a taxi with the drunken airman and took him back to her Paddington flat. And although she was known locally as “Mrs King”, her real name was Kathryn Mulcahy. (Interstitial)
Unlike before, the sozzled airman wasn’t in the mood for small-talk, and having paid her two £1 notes upfront for sex (roughly £60 today), Kathryn sighed “I wish I could make £5 tonight”, at which he flashed his bulging wallet, peeled-off three further £1 notes for her, and in the backseat of the taxi, having got down on his knees, lifted up her skirt and pulled aside her knickers, he began to kiss her genitals, as their taxi drove west along Oxford Street, passing Selfridges, and Doris Jouanett.
Having politely pacified his advances in her soft Irish brogue, stating “don’t be silly, we’ll be in my flat soon enough”, Kathryn was intimidated by his eagerness, as their taxi continued up Edgware Road, along Sussex Gardens and stopped just shy of Paddington Station, outside of 29 Southwick Street.
As the taxi pulled away, a bitterly cold wind blew down the dark and strangely quiet side-street, and although Kathryn shivered, it wasn’t just the icy gust which riddled her skin with goose-bumps, and as she led the amorous airman, off the side-street, under a darkened archway and into eerie silence of Southwick Mews, she unlocked her front door, and welcomed into her flat The Blackout Ripper.
With Kathryn having been out most of the day, and a winter frost having settled on the icy snow, her small second-floor flat was chillingly cold, and being only sparsely furnished with few comforts (just the basics, like a bed with a sheet, a table with a candlestick, a wash-stand with a packet of razor-blades, and a wardrobe full of clothes, hats, curling tongs and a collection of kitchen cutlery) she popped a shilling in the coin-slot of her gas-fire, to warm the flat up, as they undressed.
Being naked, all except for her boots (with her toes too cold to be exposed), Kathryn was desperate for the sex to be over-and-done with quickly, but with the airman ignoring her pleas, the unrolled condom in her hand and his penis still flaccid, he continued fondling her breasts and kissing her vagina.
Lying flat on her back, her trembling body sprawled diagonally across the bed, the airman never once attempted to have sex with Kathryn; instead straddling her slim pale torso, with his knees either side of her hips and an odd glint in his wide blue eyes, he placed both hands on her quivering cheeks, as if to tenderly kiss her, but as his left hand slowly caressed the nap of her neck, he tightly gripped her throat and squeezed, until her vision went black.
But as a feisty Irish woman, raised by a drunken father, an absent mother and several brothers, who had suffered at the hands of an abusive husband and had given her only child up for adoption, although timid, Kathryn was a born fighter. And having yanked both of thumbs back so hard that the bone almost snapped, making him squeal, having freed her leg, Kathryn booted him squarely in the chest, kicking her assailant right off the bed.
Not wishing to spend a second longer with this maniac, Kathryn ran from her flat screaming “Murder! Police!”, banging on the doors of her neighbours – Agnes Morris and Kitty McQuillan – who came to the naked woman’s aide. But he didn’t run. Instead, seeming unflustered, almost as if nothing had actually happened, as the airman calmly dressed, fixed his hair and sparked up a cigarette (even stopping so low as to ask Kitty if she had a light), being cocky in his lack of haste, he casually apologised to Kathryn, tossed her five £1 notes, and left.
The time was roughly 11pm. The date was Thursday 12th February 1942. And with his anger rising, his hatred fuming and his bloodlust unsated, having turned right and strolled down Southwick Street, The Blackout Ripper disappeared into the darkness of Sussex Gardens, and the home of his final victim.
But unlike his other attacks; this time there were screams, this time there were witnesses, this time they had seen his face, and this time he had left behind evidence. And not just the canvas belt to his blue military tunic he’d misplaced in Kathryn Mulcahy’s flat. No, this was something different.
Roughly one mile away, in a dark alley at the back of Piccadilly Circus, having sustained cuts,. Bruises, concussion and a fractured larynx, although she struggled to breathe, with the aid of the night-porter John Shine, Greta Hayward made her way to West End Central Police Station on nearby Saville Row, where she gave a description of the man who had attacked her.
Although a little fuzzy at first, Greta quickly compiled a detailed description of her unnamed attacker, stating he was “a British Airman, aged 30-ish, 5 foot 9 inches tall, clean shaven, soft features, light blue eyes, slim build, fair-haired, dressed in an Royal Air Force blue uniform, with long black grate coat, a woollen side-cap with a white cadet’s emblem, and over his left shoulder he carried a black gas respirator in beige canvas bag”. And although her depiction was highly accurate, with his attacks all occurring during World War Two, that description could easily match one of thousands of airmen in and around London, that day. But one detail was unique…
…in his haste to escape, Greta’s attacker had dropped his gas-mask; and although it was nothing more than a standard-issue gas respirator, made in a generic black rubber, fitted with a readily available air-filter and carried in a nondescript beige canvas bag, which was mass-produced, cheaply made and widely distributed to all military personnel across the entire British Armed Forces…
…inside his gas respirator, for fear of confusing it with the millions of others which dotted the country, in black permanent marker, he had written his Royal Air Force serial number; a very unique six-digit code and identifiable to just one man. And his name was Gordon Frederick Cummins.
OUTRO: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for listening to Murder Mile.
Don’t forget to join us next week for the sixth part of the true story of The Blackout Ripper.
And, although we still have a few more episodes to go, if you have any questions about the previous episodes, please message me on social media, and I will include these in a special Q&A episode at the end of this series.
This week’s recommended podcast of the week is Eye For An Eye, hosted by Lisa and Matt, Eye For An Eye is a weekly true-crime podcast which delves into the deeply disturbing mind of murderers, sociopaths and psychotics, with a big dose of humour, and songs a-plenty. If this sounds perfect for you, check out the promo for Eye For An Eye. (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 Jim Balfour, Steve Stadalink, Kathryn Williams, and an extra special friend who asked to be anonymous, all have asked “which bits of human flesh are the tastiest?” Well friends, in ascending order they are; the bum-bum, the boobie, the winkie, the nu-nu, the flaps, the muffin-top and the calamari. Bon appetite.
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.
Sources: The Blackout Ripper series for Murder Mile True-Crime Podcast was researched using all of the original declassified police investigation files form the National Archive.
With additional sounds courtesy of the Free Sound Project, used under a Creative Commons License 4.0 (Attribution), and additional music used under a Creative Commons License 4.0 (Attribution) via Free Music Archive, with all additional tracks written & performed by various artists.
With additional sounds supplied by Freesound.org, a fabulous repository of free sound effects, available to use under the Free Attribution Agreement. Credits include:
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
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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