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Welcome to the Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast and audio guided walk of London's most infamous and often forgotten murder cases, all set within and beyond the West End.
EPISODE TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY-SEVEN:
This is Part Two of Three of Coldblooded.
On Saturday 7th October 1944 at 2:15am, 34-year-old taxi-driver George Edward Heath drove his recently loaned grey V8 Ford Sedan east along Hammersmith Road. Forty minutes later, he would be dead. But why was George killed, for revenge, for sport, for money, or something stranger?
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SOURCES: This case was researched using some of the sources below.
UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT OF THE EPISODE:
Coldblooded - Part Two.
Robert Balding was an auxiliary fireman at Knowles Green fire station, just outside the town of Staines and sixteen and a half miles south-west of Chiswick. Far from the fiery brunt of the Luftwaffe’s blitz, this little village sometimes got a crashed fighter, a downed bomber or a lost V1 rocket exploding in their fields, but mostly they saw car crashes, stuck cats and chip-pan fires, and very rarely a murder.
Having finished a 48-hour shift, on Saturday 7th October at 9:10am, Robert took a shortcut and strolled down a dirt road at the rear of Stainash Crescent. With the wind blowing a gale and the ground boggy and wet, he was too tired to realise what he was seeing when his eyes spied a bundle of rags in a ditch.
“The ditch was wide and shallow” he recalled, “I saw that it was a man who I thought was sleeping”, only who would sleep face down in the mud on a cold night like this? “I went to him. It struck me that with his feet higher than his head, that he must be ill. I shook his shoulder”, only he did not move, groan and he did not murmur. And with his dark blue overcoat pulled right up over his eyes and head, “as I lifted the lapel, I saw from the colour of his face, which was blue and grey, that he was dead”.
Robert called the police, and with the body being a somebody who was loved, the people who missed him were already worried. Having failed to pick her up at 8am as planned, his girlfriend Violet called his pal Arthur Green at Godfrey Davis who hadn’t seen him since 11:05pm and reported him missing. And with Harry Hawkins, the owner of the Ford V8 expecting him back at 9am, knowing him to be honest and punctual, he gave the police the car’s description, the licence plate and the driver’s name.
Only, the missing man, the stolen car and the dumped body were yet to be connected.
Divisional Detective Inspector Tansell arrived at 9:45am.
The ditch was an odd spot to dump a body, as being 440 yards from the road, this 11-foot wide 3-foot-deep ditch was 22-feet from the dirt track, so it wasn’t not the kind of place you could stumble upon.
With the corpse in a state of rigor mortis, having been dead between four to ten hours, there were no signs of violence, struggle or defensive wounds. Lying face down, with his limbs crossed and his once-neat clothes all muddy and rucked-up, it was clear that someone had dragged him to the ditch.
And with his jacket unbuttoned, as a very possible robbery, anything of value had been stolen with his killer leaving all of the crap; two hankies, a broken comb, a latchkey, five cigarettes, a cinema ticket, a pocketknife, a rubber and a phial of three pills - which also meant that the Police couldn’t identify him.
They had no idea who he was, why he was killed, or who by… but they knew that he hadn’t died there.
An autopsy confirmed that the body was dumped within two hours of his death, and that a single .45 calibre bullet had nicked the underside of his rear 6th rib, exited via the 3rd front rib, and perforated both lobes of his right lung and his spinal cord, leaving him paralysed and drowning in his own blood.
With blood on his palm matching the exit wound to his chest, Robert Churchill, a gun expert for the Met’ Police confirmed that although no scorching was found on his back, the shot was fired at a close range, as with the exit wound being keyhole shaped, this indicated that the bullet had turned sideways meaning “it had been fired from a minimum of nine inches”, and with a concentrated pattern of blood spatter on both of his legs, this suggested that the victim was “in a seated position when he was shot”.
So, was this a carjacking, a robbery gone wrong, or an execution?
The killer had been careful to leave nothing behind, with no ID, no blood, no prints and no bullets. And yet, the car itself could not say the same. On the dirt road, DDI Tansell spotted two parallel tyre marks – exactly 4 feet and 10 inches apart – veering in a sharp handed curve off the road and onto the grass by the ditch, with the tread leaving distinct grooves and small tufts of grass cut away and oil soaked.
During house-to-house enquiries, Reginald Turney of 68 Stainash Crescent stated “I was awoken at 3am or thereabouts by the sound of a car’s engine revving hard as if it was driving on bumpy ground”.
He only heard these sounds, but by the ditch, between the tyres grooves and the cut grass bumps, the detective found the handbrake return spring from an almost new motor car, which Ralph Blackburn, a specialist at the Ford Motor Company in Dagenham would confirm “belonged to a Ford V8 saloon”.
At the crime scene, the killer had been cautious not to leave any clues, and yet, through coldblooded arrogance, he had tossed his victim’s possessions out of the car’s back window, which led a kind boy doing a good deed for a total stranger to stumble upon vital evidence before the body was even found.
At 8am, John Anthony Jones, an electrician’s apprentice was passing the Great West Road near Cains Lane when he spotted a brown leather wallet on the grass verge. Handing it to the police, inside was the driving licence, cheque book and ID of 34-year-old George Edward Heath; a man who had been recently reported missing, in a possible stolen car, whose description matched the body in the ditch.
Identified by his wife Winifred, with the police having circulated the details of a grey Ford V8 saloon registration plate RD8955, within 36 hours they had identified the man, the car, and a possible motive.
What they needed was to find this coldblooded killer…
…before he killed again.
Second Lieutenant Richard Allen of the 101st Airbourne in the US Army was the name he gave. Based in Reading, he went by the nickname of ‘Ricky’… only this wasn’t ‘Ricky’ and the uniform was stolen.
As a thick-set brute like an archetypal gangster, with dark swept back hair like a Mafia hitman and cold dead eyes like he was devoid of any emotion, 22-year-old Private Karl Gustav Hulten wanted to be someone. He wanted to be big, feared, respected, and he didn’t care who he had to step on to get it.
Born to Swedish parents in Stockholm on 3rd of March 1922, they entered America in 1923 when he was one year old, but with his father being “a man with a notoriously violent temper” who beat him black and blue, although he could have had his mother’s kindness, instead he mirrored this monster.
Educated at the Farm and Trade School in Boston, Karl was not best blessed with brains being a sturdy man of brawn with slow-wits and quick fists, and although as a married man with a daughter he had tried to hold down a job – as a clerk, a mechanic, a lorry driver and a skating instructor – being a moody short-fused brute, he resented authority, especially when he was inducted into the US Army in 1943.
Shipped to the UK in January 1944, as a truck driver for the 501st Infantry, although none of the soldiers knew it, he was due to take part in the bloody invasion of Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord on 6th of June 1944, but burdened by a fiery temper, a bad attitude and a criminal bent, he never did.
As a selfish arrogant man who was unfaithful to his wife and his girlfriend, in the weeks following the invasion when his comrades were giving their lives and soaking foreign shores with their blood, this sticky-fingered thief, brutal lump and gutless traitor only ever thought about himself and his needs.
On the 14th of July 1944, Private Karl Hulten absconded from his barracks, and going AWOL for almost a month, he was arrested, fined $20 and imprisoned for 20 days for carrying a concealed weapon.
One day before his court martial, he again went AWOL, only with no intention to return, he went on a spree of thievery; he stole the uniform of 2nd Lieutenant Richard Allen, another off Private Werner J Meier which he stashed in a US Army B4 bag in the cloakroom at the Hammersmith tube station, he also stole a 6-wheeled 2 ½ tonne US Army truck from the 101st Airbourne, as well as a Colt Remington automatic pistol stolen from Staff Sergeant Sherman, loaded with seven rounds of .45 calibre bullets – a gun he would use to kill in cold blood a cabbie he hadn’t met until 15 minutes before his murder.
Hiding in plain sight among the bustling shopping district of Hammersmith, West London, ‘Ricky’ as he professed to be, lived the life of a common criminal pretending to be a hero, but all the while he stole from blitz-weary civilians and hawked off their possessions on the black market to fund an easy life of drinking, gambling and womanising, as this cold cruel killer didn’t care about who he hurt, or why.
Karl Hulten dreamed of being a gangster…
…but what he wanted most was a girl who’d adore him.
Tuesday 3rd October, Paul’s café, 1 Queen Caroline Street in Hammersmith; a greasy-spoon which was thick with cigarette flumes, heart-clogging fry-ups and the steam of a bubbling tea urn. Among a sea of soldiers, civvies and cabbies, Len Bexley sat chatting to his daughter’s friend, when Karl came in.
“Ricky Allen meet Georgina Grayson”, Len said, introducing the sour-faced hulking brute to the slim, sweet-faced 18-year-old, with brown curled hair, pale skin and red lips. Quickly smitten, like him, she couldn’t let on that her name was an alias, and although his was to avoid arrest, hers was to mask the shame that this part-time dancer and wannabe actress was actually just plain old Elizabeth Jones known as ‘Betty’, an out-of-work waitress from the mining town of Neath in South Wales.
Fresh to the big city, sweet little ‘Georgie’ sought a life of excitement, and here, she found ‘Ricky’.
Ricky was unlike any man she had met; a bad boy without a care in the world, and a dark and brooding menace who did whatever he liked, and as they chatted, he coolly told her of his crimes; “Ricky told me of several jobs he had done”, she said, “he’d broken into The Hope and got £50. Wednesday last, he did a jewellers and a gown shop in King Street, a café in Shepherd Bush, a greengrocers and a pawnshop. He’d broken into several pubs in Reading, and he had shot an American soldier, I think he said he’d drowned him. He also said he’d killed a man and a woman with a gun in the West End”.
Staring into his soulless eyes, as this callous killer spoke so casually about murder, given that the worst thing she’d ever done was to run away from home, she should have fled, but she didn’t. Her heart was racing, her eyes were wide, and her mouth was dry, but the brute didn’t frighten her, he excited her.
At 10:30pm, he picked her up in a 6-wheeled 2 ½ tonne US Army truck which he bragged “I stole from Reading a few days ago”. Being hot, the truck were probably being hunted, and although her instincts should have been to “get out”, “run”, “don’t look back”, as an immature little girl who was raised on a diet of American gangster movies, and not reality, she was drawn to his thrills and his danger.
In truth, he could have been a bullshitter, but in the truck, he pulled out a loaded pistol – the gun he’d use to kill a lone cabbie in cold blood - and although she’d state “he said he’d killed several people in Chicago with a gun”, again she didn’t scream or flee, instead she shared a dream which would seal her fate – “I’d love to do something exciting”, she said, “something dangerous, like being a gun moil”.
And there the deal was done. ‘Ricky’ would get his girl, and ‘Georgie’ would get her gangster.
That night, they drove, heading west and prowling the unlit country lanes on the outskirts of Reading.
Having driven through the town and found nothing of interest, Georgie said “we started back towards London about 2am, I think. When we got on the road back, near Maidenhead on the London to Bath Road, we passed a girl”. She was a lone lady, on a bicycle, heading home, after a long shift at work.
“We drove on for about five minutes and pulled up at the side of the road”, it was dark, isolated, with hedgerows on either side, and the only light to be seen was the faint light of her bicycle’s headlamp.
“He got out and waited for the girl to come along”. Looking like a parked-up truck with no-one inside, the girl would have seen nothing and sensed no danger as she passed by. But as the brute sprang from the shadows, “as the girl came alongside, I saw him push her, she fell and screamed ‘don’t touch me’”.
Cut, bruised and shaken, as she stumbled to her feet, with Ricky picking up her purse as one of the prizes he would wantonly take, gripped by fear, the girl didn’t need to think twice and she fled for her life. And as she ran down the middle of a dark country lane as fast as her legs could carry her – having been taught how to drive a truck by Ricky – he barked “get after her”, as Georgie floored the engine.
Behind the girl, the engine revved, and with its dim yellow lights illuminating her panicked frame as it darted back-and-forth like a frightened rabbit, with the girl having nowhere to run, all she would have heard was the truck getting ever nearer, closer, never knowing what her fate might be; maybe crushed under the wheels, maybe kidnapped and held for ransom, or maybe raped, tortured and murdered.
From the passenger’s seat, Ricky spotted her, saying “she’s there, she’s there”, as his torch shined on the whites of a petrified eyes as she crouched in the shrubbery. But being in the garden of a cottage, as the blackout blinds moved and a light shined upon her, the truck sped on, and the girl was safe.
It was a lucky escape for her, but only just.
Back at Hammersmith, “we parked the truck in the old Gaumont cinema car park in Sussex Place and went back to my room and Ricky stayed the night”. Excited by the thrill of the chase, they had sex. But the contents of the young girl’s handbag wasn’t much of a score for this gangster and his gun-moll, having nicked “a book, six shillings, some clothing coupons, a flannel, some soap and a sanitary towel”.
The next morning, Georgie introduced her landlady, Mrs Edris, to her new boyfriend, but being a good judge of character, she said “I thought there was something fishy about him. Georgie said she was going to meet him again at midnight. I told her she must be mad, that she was asking for trouble, and she was likely to have her throat slit”. But Georgie said nothing, as by then, she was smitten.
Georgie was the girl of a gangster, but having failed to live up to his reputation as a killer, the attack on the young girl in a dark lane riding a bicycle came across not as callous and cruel, but as cowardly.
That night Ricky would make it up to her…
…and a lone cabbie would be in his sights.
Thursday 5th October, late afternoon, having sold off the girl’s clothing coupons for £1, the twosome went to the cinema, and as they departed the Gaumont at roughly 10pm, “Ricky said ‘we’ll go and do another job’. I understood he meant to go and steal some money from someone”, Georgie said.
Brazenly returning to Reading in the stolen truck, a little after midnight, they pulled up at The White Hart pub which he had spied the night before. With the pub closed but the staff cashing up, it was the perfect hit; a quick rush of adrenaline and a big score as he hightailed it out with the night’s takings.
For Ricky the gangster, the professional thief and the ruthless killer, this heist was surely chickenfeed, and the kind of crime which would make him worthy in his girlfriend’s eyes. Only as he sat in the truck, nervously shifting in his seat, his teeth gritted, the gun in his sweaty hand and geeing himself up for an armed robbery, as Georgie excitedly watched on, he suddenly had a change of heart and drove off.
“Where are you going” Georgie snapped, “why are we driving away?”, Ricky was certain that the caper was too dangerous, “I saw them, we were being watched” he said. Only Georgie hadn’t seen anyone.
The drive back to London was the longest they had endured, the silence was painful, and with Georgie getting fed-up with this little ‘big man’ who was all mouth and no trousers, her love for him had waned.
The thrill was gone, her man was weak, and Georgie was looking elsewhere. It was as they approached Marble Arch that, Ricky said Georgie had an idea; “as we got there, she suggested that we rob a cab”…
…and after so many failures, keen to impress her, the killer of George Heath went hunting.
For a short while, they prowled the West End in the truck hunting for a lone cab. “We saw one just off Park Lane”, Georgie would state, “Ricky said ‘I’m going to follow it and take his money’”, and with a 6-wheeled 2 ½ tonne US Army truck being a familiar sight in wartime Britain, they didn’t stand out, as they tailed the loan cabbie 4.2 miles north-west, up the Edgware Road, all the way to Cricklewood.
Ricky stated “the cab stopped for ten minutes. I parked the truck about half a block behind. The cab then turned around and I followed it”. Tailing this dark Ford saloon as it headed west, it didn’t matter who the driver was, all that mattered was how much money he had, and how impressed Georgie was.
Keeping his distance, Ricky held back until he found a lonely spot on Kilburn High Road, where there were no cars nor houses, passersby nor policeman. And with the gun in his hand, it was now or never.
As the truck roared passed, from the left-hand driver’s side window, with the cab in the blackout, all he could make out was a lone driver smoking a cigarette, unaware of what was about to happen to him. And with the time being 2:10am, it was then that Ricky struck.
“I passed the cab and turned in front of it, forcing it to stop”, Ricky said. With her eyes wide, Georgie watched excitedly – a gangster movie playing out in front of her – as Ricky jumped down, stuck his gun in the window, and with the muzzle in the driver’s face, demanded “I want your money, all of it”.
The cabbie, 56-year-old John Strangeway whimpered with fear “I don’t have any money, I’ve just come out”, which was the truth as his cashbox was bare. And as he reached in to check, it was then that Private Karl Hulten - who was driving a stolen Army truck, holding a stolen Army issue gun, wearing a stolen US officer’s uniform and using the alias of 2nd Lieutenant Richard Allen - got the shock of his life.
In the dark of the backseat was sat a passenger, dressed in a US Army Air Force officer’s uniform, Ricky was face-to-face with Lieutenant George McMillan Reeves, who had seen his face, had witnessed the robbery, and – more importantly – had heard his very identifiable accent, a mix of Swedish and Boston.
Fleeing as fast as he could, back in Hammersmith, he hid the truck in the Gaumont cinema car park, Ricky & Georgie hid out in her room, and following another failed robbery, Ricky was treated to a cold shoulder and a lengthy silence, as her so-called gangster had failed, again. Somewhere else that night, George Heath was going about his business, driving his cab and making money to feed his family.
He was safe and unaware, but 24 hours later –chosen at random – this cabbie would be dead. (end)
Karl Hulten, alias Ricky Allen was positively identified at Willesden Green Police Station, by the cabbie John Strangeway and his passenger, the US Army Lieutenant. Having gone AWOL from Reading, with no known civilian criminal record in Britain, the hard part would be to find Ricky; as he didn’t have a home, he didn’t family here, and - seen as a “bit of a loser” - he was a habitual liar and a fantasist.
Ricky claimed to be a gangster, who according to Georgie had broken into many pubs, jewellers, cafes, greengrocers and pawnbrokers, “he had shot an American soldier, he’d killed a man and a woman in the West End” and “he’d killed several people in Chicago with a gun” as he said he had run with a mob.
But there was no proof of this. Not a single shred. And although he had stolen uniforms, a gun and a truck, he wasn’t a crazed gangster on a killing spree, he was just a boy with a hatred of authority, who was rebelling against his conscription, and – although cold-hearted – what he wanted to find was love.
Having failed as a clerk, a mechanic, a driver, a skating instructor, a husband, a father and a soldier, Karl Hulten liked being ‘Ricky Allen’ as much as he enjoyed pretending to be a gangster to impress a girl, as the truth of who he was wasn’t all that exciting. Karl was a nobody, and he knew it. And even the killing for which he would be executed wasn’t a coldblooded murder, but as he said, “an accident”.
What we’ve heard so far were Georgie’s words, her version, recorded when she was arrested for her part in a murder. Georgie claimed she was an innocent; an excited little girl lead into danger by the thrill of a wannabe gangster with a big gob and no brains. But who was the coldblooded psychopath?
Was he pressured by a desire to impress his girl, or was she the true psychopath who goaded him?
Part three of three of Coldblooded concludes next week.
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, which are freely available in the public domain, 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, and are always incomplete or full of opinion rather than fact, therefore mistakes and misrepresentations can be made. As stated at the beginning of each episode (and as is clear by the way it is presented) Murder Mile UK True Crime Podcast 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 to create a fuller picture. It is not a full and complete representation of the case, the people or the investigation, and therefore should not be taken as such. It is also often (for the sake of clarity, speed and the drama) presented from a single person's perspective, usually (but not exclusively) the victim's, and therefore it will contain a certain level of bias and opinion to get across this single perspective, which may not be the overall opinion of those involved or associated. Murder Mile is just one possible retelling of each case. Murder Mile does not set out to cause any harm or distress to those involved, and those who listen to the podcast or read the transcripts provided should be aware that by accessing anything created by Murder Mile (or any source related to any each) that they may discover some details about a person, an incident or the police investigation itself, that they were unaware of.
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster of Murder Mile UK True Crime and creator of true-crime TV series.
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