There are millions of people living in London, so it’s not surprising that the capital has seen its share of simply evil individuals over the years, from career criminals to murderers.
Usually, the worst of these become infamous for their crimes, with serial killers like Jack the Ripper impossible not to hear about for those who live in the city and beyond.
So it may surprise you that a much more recent monster stalking the streets of London is thought to have claimed more victims than Jack, and in similarly brutal fashion.
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Between October 1941 and February 1942 the ‘Wartime Ripper’ or ‘Blackout Ripper’ as he was more commonly known, was thought to have murdered as many as six women, with two more lucky to escape with their lives.
Gordon F. Cummins was born in North Yorkshire in 1914, the eldest of four children, he was privately educated in Wales before bouncing between jobs in Newcastle, Northampton, and London.
According to news reports which heard from colleagues he was sacked from all of these jobs for poor timekeeping and his eccentric and false claims to being a member of the aristocracy, craving a life of leisure and riches.
He would frequent hotels and clubs in London’s West End claiming to be the illegitimate son of a Lord earning an allowance, but using theft and embezzlement to fund his fantasy.
So far did his charade go that he perfected an Oxford accent and insisted on being referred to as ‘the Honourable Gordon Cummins’.
In 1936 he joined the RAF where he moved around bases, as he was said to be unpopular with colleagues for his arrogant attitude and claims to nobility.
This earned him the mocking nicknames of ‘the Count’ and ‘the Duke’ at his different postings.
The press dubbed Cummins the Blackout Ripper as he committed the murders during the city’s blackout hours
His first suspected murder came in October 1941 when he was stationed in Wiltshire, and he is believed to have committed the heinous crimes on night trips to London.
The first victim was 19-year-old clerk Maple Churchyard, who was found naked in a bombed-out house strangled to death. Her purse had also been emptied.
Four days after this first murder on October 17, 48-year-old widow Edith Humphries was found brutally attacked in her own home near Regent’s Park.
She had also had jewellery stolen but there were no signs of forced entry into the house.
Cummins’ next four atrocious acts, according to police, came during a horrifying six-day spree in February 1942 while stationed at Regent’s Park.
The Blackout Ripper Gordon F. Cummins is thought to have killed six women in London during WWII and attempted to murder two more before his capture
(Image: Getty Images)
The 41-year-old pharmacist, Evelyn Hamilton, was the first victim, found strangled on February 9, just as with the first two murders she had been robbed too, with £80 missing from her handbag.
Evelyn Oatley, 34, a nightclub hostess who had turned to sex work to supplement her income, was found the next morning in her flat in Soho, having been strangled and then extensively mutilated by her killer in horrific fashion.
The next two victims, Margaret Lowe, 43, and Doris Jouannet, 32, were also sex workers and were murdered over the next two days in similarly brutal and sadistic fashion, both discovered within hours of each other on February 13.
The fact the killer always took money and items of value from his victims helped authorities begin to link the murders, they also noticed the killer in every case appeared to be left-handed.
Due to the ongoing world war, the murders at first received very little media attention until it was spotted that four women had been killed in just six days, at which point newspapers dubbed their murderer the Blackout Killer.
But that same evening after being disturbed while attacking another woman, Cummins fled in a rush, leaving behind his air force haversack which could be traced to him at the scene of the attempted murder.
Fortunately, this crucial piece of evidence led to his arrest and further investigation made it possible to charge him with all four February murders.
The despicable chapter in London’s history was ended with Cummins’ conviction for just one of the murders and his sentencing to execution.
The other three murders he was charged with were ordered to lay on file, with the police strongly believing he was responsible.
The Blackout Ripper Gordon Cummins was executed on June 25 1942.
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