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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-EIGHT:
This is Part Three 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 Three.
Friday 6th October 1944, roughly 3:30am. Runneymede Park by the Bell Weir Lock. 16 miles south of Hammersmith, 4 miles west of Knowles Green and just 90 minutes after the bungled taxi heist on the Kilburn High Road, the bleeding and motionless body of Violet Mae Hodge floated in the River Thames.
Manually strangled and callously dumped into the dark bitter waters, this 18-year-old waitress had been lured by a wannabe gangster who was too eager to impress his excitable gun-moll in what would – effectively be - a dry run in 24-hours’ time for the callous and coldblooded murder of George Heath.
Attacked in an isolated spot where no-one would hear her cries, she was targeted for the sake of her meagre possessions, and as her screams were constricted by a brute’s tightening grip, before she lost consciousness, her last memory was calling out for “Georgie”, only to hear the laugh of an evil sadist.
When arrested, Georgie would claim that she was innocent, that she was just a young naïve girl forced to witness the crimes of an escaped maniac with a violent past, out of excitement and of fear. But was Ricky pressured by a desire to impress Georgie, or was she the real psychopath who goaded him to kill?
Her real name was Elizabeth Maud Baker. Although no-one ever knew the real girl, as to some she was ‘Betty’, to others she was ‘Marina’, on stage she was Georgina Grayson, but to Karl she was ‘Georgie’.
Georgie was born in Skewen, a small mining village near the town of Neath in South Wales on the 5th of July 1926, to Nellie, a housewife, and Arthur, a labourer. Described as a decent hardworking family who were clean and law-abiding, being showered with love and as the apple of her daddy’s eye, she should have wanted for nothing. But being immature and needy, she was a constant source of worry.
As a young girl, she’d always dreamed of glamour and fame wanting to be a dancer or an actress, and loving gangster flicks so much that from an early age she started speaking in a broad New York accent.
Aged 3, she uprooted with her beloved daddy to the city of Woodstock, Ontario in Canada, where he worked as a farmer, but with the Great Depression biting deep, by the age of 7 she was back in Neath.
Educated at Gnoll School for Girls and Alderman Davies’ School in Neath, she frequently absconded and ran away from home three times. Not because of abuse or neglect, far from it, as with her father having enlisted in the Royal Artillery and posted to Carmarthen, she couldn’t cope when he was away.
In 1935, her parents called the police when 9-year-old Georgie complained that she’d been “interfered with by a man”, and although the police investigated thoroughly, no-one was arrested, charged nor suspected. Yet in her teens, her headmistress described her as “a habitual liar who was fond of men”.
As a daddy’s girl who got away with everything, in February 1940, aged just 14, she absconded from home having stolen her mother’s money. Found in Swansea, she accused a local man of having sex with her, and although Phillip Hill was charged on two counts, he was later acquitted as she was proven to be a virgin, and she admitted that the allegations against him “were without any foundation”. Three weeks later, Police found her drunk and slumped in a gutter claiming she’d been indecently assaulted.
Unable to control her, she absconded again, and on the 30th of May 1940 at Neath juvenile magistrates court, she was charged under the First Schedule of the Children & Young Persons Act 1933. It wasn’t stated what crime she had committed, but it was either “a suicide attempt”, or “the assault of a child”.
Removed to Northenden Road Approved School in Cheshire where unruly girls were sent instead of prison, again, her next headmistress said she was “a born liar”, and this became a hallmark of her life.
To her fellow students, she claimed she’d won a scholarship, but proven to be of average intelligence, out of 300 possible marks awarded for her schoolwork, she only got a substandard score of 90.
Released on licence to her home in September 1942, aged 16, her mother struggled to control her and although she claimed to be good and innocent, Neath Police stated she was “strong willed woman of very loose morals”. Therefore, marriage should have been the making of her, and although on the 25th of November 1942 she married a serving soldier named Stanley Jones at Neath Registry Office, just one day later, she cheated on him while claiming “he was a prisoner of war while fighting in Arnhem”.
Elizabeth, known as ‘Betty’, alias Georgina Greyson lived a life of lies, theft and deception…
…and desperate fame and glamour, in 1943, she fled to London.
It defies belief, but while one a half million civilians fled the war-ravaged bomb-cratered city of London for the safety of distant Welsh towns like Neath, Georgie headed smack-bang for the danger zone.
After several odd jobs as a chambermaid, a barmaid and as a waitress at Paul’s café in Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith – where she met ‘Harry’, an old War Reservist who became her friend and father figure - she claimed “I worked as a cabaret dancer and a strip tease artiste” at venues like The Panama Club in Knightsbridge and the Blue Lagoon in Carnaby Street. Only there was no evidence to prove it.
Living in lodgings across the smoking ruins of West London, on 19th June 1944, two weeks after D-Day, Georgie’s mother received a telegram, in which she wrote “mummy, I’m fine and lucky to be alive”, as her lodging on Edith Road had been bombed and reduced it to a blackened shell. Like many she had survived, and she wore the bandage on her leg with pride… only this was a lie for cash and sympathy.
In May 1944, Georgie was arrested for being in possession of stolen goods, which were rationed and vital as war supplies, such as chocolate, eggs, flour and milk, as well as 300 cigarettes, two haversacks and a large reel of parachute silk, which she planned to make into several dresses, so she’d look pretty.
Having flirted with American GIs and coerced them into bringing her some illegal treats in return for a little love and some special attention, as a first offence, all she received was a written warning.
A war was raging, children were starving, and as millions were dying in their beds or being slaughtered on the beaches - without an ounce of compassion in her bones - she cared for no-one but herself. It was all about her – her clothes, her money, her drink, her sex, her good times and her endless fun.
On Friday 22nd of September 1944, Georgie moved into a small second-floor front-room at 311 King Street, owned by Mrs Edris Evans. At first, her landlady liked her, she found her charming, sweet and naive. But quickly realising that this was all just a façade, soon enough, she saw that the real Georgie was a ruthless liar who could manipulate men into doing anything for her, to keep her happy and keen.
Eleven days later, she met a Private Karl Hulten alias ‘Ricky Allen’, a man of danger and death…
…but having fallen for his lies, she believed he was the answer to her dreams.
Friday 6th October 1944, roughly 2:40am, driving south from Cricklewood.
Ricky Allen drove the 6-wheeled 2 ½ tonne US Army truck down the isolated Edgware Road. The cab was gripped in a stoney silence as, again, he had failed Georgie. After a cowardly attack on a girl on a bike, a pub robbery he’d stopped before it even began, and now the bungled heist of a taxi in Kilburn, he needed to impress Georgie, but all he looked was foolish, like a little boy playing at being a gangster.
Ricky claimed “I was driving along Edgware Road when Georgie said ‘there’s a girl, stop’”. According to Ricky, it was Georgie’s decision to pick-up a girl, to attack her and to dump her. Her name was Violet Mae Hodge, an 18-year-old waitress from Filwood Park in Bristol, who was making her way home.
“I stopped the truck, and she asked the girl where she was going, she said Paddington to catch a train to Bristol. I told her I was going to Reading and that I would take her there”. Keen to save money, it made sense to Violet, as who wouldn’t trust a serviceman and his girlfriend sitting in a US Army truck.
Throwing her suitcase in the back, it must have been a thrill for this young girl to ride in an Army truck and to meet a real 2nd Lieutenant, as feeling safe, she chatted to the Welsh girl who was the same age.
“We rode out of London alongside the river”, taking a familiar route through Hammersmith, Chiswick and following the Thames through Brentford, Teddington, Shepperton, Egham, Staines-upon-Thames, and cutting through Runneymede Park towards Reading, not far from the ditch in Knowles Green.
Just beside the Bell Weir Lock, Ricky stopped the truck, claiming “we’ve got a flat tyre”. It was dark, quiet and isolated, with no houses in sight and no people to be seen. Ricky told them both to get out, so as he searched for the tools, he could jack-up the truck, a job nearly impossible for one man to do.
“I told Georgie to get the girl’s back to me”, Ricky said “she said ‘all right’”. Georgie gave her a cigarette and lit one for herself” as if they were just two girls passing time and nattering. But somehow Violet knew something was wrong, whether it was their furtive glances, the tyres, or having overheard Ricky.
Whispering to Ricky, “I think she’s wise to it”, so to distract her, Georgie got back in the truck to get some blocks”, and as she did so, Ricky later confessed, “I hit the girl over the head with an iron bar” – it was a one-kilo tyre-iron, heavier than a brick and harder than a human skull, as a fast whack on the back of the girl’s head caused her to stumble, to stagger and blood to trickle, but oddly, she didn’t fall.
Violet screamed “Georgie”, her eyes wide with terror, “Georgie, don’t let him do it”, as the tyre iron came down once again on her bleeding head, as she pleaded “stop him, make him stop”. Only she didn’t, she just watched. And as the young girl remained upright, her pale face now soaked with a river of red, as Ricky seized her throat and his hands began strangling her, at her tears, Georgie just laughed.
Ricky confessed “she fell. I knelt on her arm with my left leg, my right leg in her back and her neck in a headlock. The girl was waving her right arm”, panicked and terrified, “Georgie knelt on it”, and as the young girl was overpowered and lay bleeding and gasping for air, “she went through her pockets”. Georgie later stated “the girl made a gurgling noise and I saw blood coming from her mouth. She was struggling as Ricky tightened his grip. I held her legs for about ten minutes, before she became limp”.
“By this time the girl had ceased struggling”, Ricky said, “I picked up her shoulders and Georgie her feet. We carried her over to the river and dumped her three feet from the edge”, tossed like litter.
Floating in the water lay the bleeding and motionless body of Violet Hodge. Face down in the cold bitter waters, as her attackers drove away, laughing like jackals, they tossed her treasured photos and letters from loved ones into the road, proud of their score of two coats, some slacks and 6 shillings.
With the tyre wrench hurled into the water, the only evidence of their cowardly attack on a terrified young girl was the blood spattered down his US Army trousers. which belonged to someone else.
Georgie later confessed “I thought the girl was dead”…
…only she wasn’t.
Bleeding and unconscious, although her body was partially submerged on the bankside, with the low tide going out rather than in, she didn’t drift, she just lay there, her head in the mud, slowly breathing.
Coming to, a shivering and sodden Violet would state “I reached an overhanging branch of a tree and dragged myself out of the water. I saw that the lorry had gone, so I made my way to a cottage”. Helped by good people, she was taken to Windsor emergency hospital, suffering a head wound and a ruptured left eye, but in time – physically - she could make a good recovery and would become a vital witness.
Friday 6th October, the day of George Heath’s murder.
As callous coldblooded killers do, “we stayed in bed until 3pm” having savoured a good night’s sleep. With the victim’s suitcase in Georgie’s wardrobe, spotting his victim’s blood on his trousers, Ricky said “I gave Georgie the ticket for a B4 bag stashed at Hammersmith tube station”. With a fresh uniform in the name of Werner J Meier, that night, they would kill lone a cab driver, and dump his body in a ditch.
And having promised Ricky that, “she’d sponge the blood out of them and send it to the cleaners”, it was actually Ricky who she’d planned to send to the cleaners… as she knew he was cheating on her.
Monday 9th October 1944, three days after George Heath’s murder, when the police were hunting for his killers and a grey Ford V8 saloon registration plate RD8955, with a missing handbrake return spring and the wheels exactly 4 feet and 10 inches apart. Ricky had hidden it in the old Gaumont cinema car park, but – with the cold shoulder and stoney silence between both killers having returned – he drove the car around to 159 Fulham Palace Road, to impress his new girlfriend, 16-year-old Joyce Alma Cook.
All it took to crack the case was a lone constable with a keen eye walking his beat in Lurgan Avenue.
At 8:10pm, spotting the car, he called it in, they blocked the street, several detective lay in wait, and as Ricky exited his girlfriend’s house fifty minutes later, they rushed him before he could flee. Pulling him out of the driver’s seat, although he had wiped away any prints or blood, they found the 45 calibre Colt Remington pistol in his hip pocket and six bullets exactly matching those used to kill George Heath.
Having been arrested, Karl Hulten, alias Ricky Allen was transferred to Hammersmith Police Station.
As expected, as a habitual liar and a thief who had been AWOL for ten weeks – who had stolen a gun, two uniforms and a 2 ½ tonne truck to commit a spree of theft, assault, attempted murder and murder - his statement to 1st Lieutenant Robert De Mott of the US Army military police was a sack of lies.
Of the gun, he said “it’s mine, I always carry it, I used it last week to shoot at rabbits, but I missed”.
Of the truck, he denied everything, stating “I don’t know nothing about it. I found it in a car park”.
Of the car, George’s car, he said “I found it yesterday in a woods near my base”, which may have been feasible, as there were no eyewitnesses who had seen him driving it on the day of George’s murder.
And as for the murder itself, he denied being near Chiswick, Hammersmith or Knowles Green, stating “I slept at the Ecclestone Hotel … every night except on Tuesday and Saturday”, which couldn’t be verified, “and I spent the night with a ‘Piccadilly Commando’” - this being Army slang for a prostitute.
So far, he hadn’t mentioned Georgie once, having thought he could wheedle his way through this with his lies and proving his manliness by outsmarting the police. Only, when asked where he slept on the Tuesday and Saturday, not being best blessed with brains, he said “my girlfriend’s, Georgina Grayson”.
Driven by the police to her second-floor lodging at 311 King Street in Hammersmith, they arrested Georgie - who was not best pleased at her so-called boyfriend’s betrayal - and found Violet’s clothing, her suitcase, and the bloodied trousers she said she’d “sponge and take to the cleaners” but didn’t.
In her first statement, Georgie couldn’t help but lie to save her own skin, and as a selfish little girl who only thought of herself – seeing her aliases, her fake job as a dancer, her history of accusing innocent men of assaulting her, and even the bandage on her leg from a bombing she hadn’t been involved in – the police knew that every word which came out of her mouth was a very distant cousin of the truth.
Blaming Ricky for their crimes, and stating “when I said I wanted to do something dangerous, I meant to go over Germany in a bomber, but he got me wrong”, although she would admit a minor part in his spree, with only circumstantial evidence against her, the detectives had no choice but to let her go.
The investigation would stall without a confession.
They had the car, but with no fingerprints or blood. They had the gun, but again, it was clean. Assuring those good people who had bought George’s possessions off Ricky – like the cigarette case, the lighter, the watch with the luminous figures, the fountain pen and the silver pencil – that they would not be arrested for possession as murder was a much more serious offence, they all came forward. And they also had 18-year-old Violet Mae Hodge, who had seen her attacker’s faces and heard their names.
But still, they needed a confession… so, with Ricky as knowing full-well that Georgie’s words could convict him and that if she blamed him for everything that he would hang – he opened up.
In his second statement, Ricky confessed; “I’ve never broken into any pubs or shops in Hammersmith or elsewhere. I told Georgie that I had been running around with the mob in Chicago. This was not true. It was just a build up for me”. It was just all a lie to impress a girl, and the evidence proved it.
As for the murder of George Heath, “when the car stopped, I was holding my loaded and cocked pistol in front of my chest. I looked over to Georgie” - quite why, we don’t know – “I intended to fire through the car, to scare the driver, that’s all. But just as I pulled the trigger, he reached over the back seat to open the left rear door for Georgie. When I fired, I knew that I had hit him, as I heard him groan ‘no’”.
In his own words, it was an accident, a mistake by a nervous boy, who was desperate to impress a girl. What he needed now was for Georgie’s story to back him up, as – based on her evidence – if convicted, the best he’d get would be a life sentence for manslaughter, and not a death sentence for murder…
…and yet, the life of a coldblooded killer hung on the testimony of another.
That day, while walking free in Hammersmith, it’s ironic that Georgie paid a visit to New Pin Cleaners in King Street, where she had promised Ricky she would take his bloodstained trousers… but didn’t.
Inside, bumping into ‘Harry’ Kimberly, an old War Reservist who became her friend and a father figure during her time as a waitress at Paul’s café, when she told him her story and asked for his thoughts, he sagely said “the best thing to do would be to go back to the police station and tell the truth”.
Returning to Hammersmith police station, Georgie made a second statement, and although it began with the words, “I wish to tell you the whole truth about my association with Ricky Allen and what happened”, whereas she would blame him stating “I lied because Ricky had threatened me”, he counteracted by blaming her, claiming “if it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t have shot Heath’”. (End)
Charged with the armed robbery of John Strangeway, the intent to murder Violet Mae Hodge, and the murder of taxi-driver George Edward Heath, their trial began at the Old Bailey on 9th January 1945.
Across the six-day trial, both Karl Hulten alias Ricky Allen, and Elizabeth Jones alias Georgina Greyson spoke in the witness box for hours of their innocence and blamed the other. With Georgie professing that she was just an innocent girl dragged along for the ride, and Ricky claiming it was all her idea saying “she made some remark about robbing a cab. I argued against it, she kept arguing with me”.
But with overwhelming evidence of their guilt stacked against them, on 15th of January 1945, 22-year-old Karl Gustav Hulten and 18-year-old Elizabeth Maud Jones were found guilty of wilful murder. With the only permissible sentence given the gravity of their crimes being death, they both awaited the hang man’s noose, but with the jury – for whatever reason – requesting a recommendation of mercy for her, although they had both failed at appeal, The Secretary of State stepped in and reprieved her.
On 8th March 1945, at Pentonville Prison, Karl Hulten was executed by hanging, becoming the first US soldier to be executed on British soil. Back in Boston, although his wife Rita and daughter were given a chance to say goodbye to him, with the transatlantic telephone line having failed, they never spoke.
Reprieved two days before her execution, Elizabeth Jones served nine years of her life sentence. Released from prison in 1954, she later married, had children, and as far as we know, remained good.
But what was the truth, which was the lie, and who was the coldblooded psychopath?
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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