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Gordon Frederick CUMMINS






A.K.A.: "The Blackout Ripper"
Classification: Spree killer
Characteristics: Mutilation
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: February 8-12, 1942
Date of arrest: February 16, 1942
Date of birth: 1914
Victims profile: Evelyn Hamilton, 40 / Evelyn Oatley, 35 / Margaret Florence Lowe, 42 / Doris Jouannet, 32
Method of murder: Strangulation - Stabbing with knife
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Wandsworth Prison, during an air raid, on June 25, 1942

Gordon Frederick Cummins was allegedly the illegimate son of a titled member of the peerage. His claims of noble birth led others to call him “The Count”. He married a theatre producer's secretary in 1936. When World War II began in September 1939, he enlisted in the R.A.F.

From the start of that conflict, the streets and buildings of London were kept dark as a precaution against aerial bombing by the Luftwaffe. Street lamps were not lit; the windows of houses, shops, offices and factories were painted over, shuttered or screened off with thick curtains. Showing even a chink of light could lead to an appearance in court and a heavy fine. As bombs fell upon the capital, Londoners took refuge in cellars, underground train stations and public air raid shelters. In a period of six days in February 1942, in the midst of a darkened, blitzed city, Cummins (then 28 years old) murdered four women and attacked two others. Three of his victims were mutilated after death. The newspapers dubbed him “The Blackout Ripper".

On the morning of Sunday 9th February, the body of teacher Evelyn Hamilton (aged 40 or 42), was discovered in an air raid shelter in Montagu Place in the Marylebone district. She had been strangled, her handbag (containing £80) was missing. There were no signs of sexual assault; her body was not mutilated. The killer had either placed her in the shelter after death or launched his attack when he found himself alone with her within its walls.

On Monday 10th February, Evelyn Oatley (aged 35) was found dead in her Wardour Street flat (apartment) in the Soho district. Oatley had turned to prostitution and was using an assumed name - “Nita Ward”. The actual cause of death was strangulation. Her throat had been cut; she was naked and her body had been sexually mutilated with a tin opener. That implement was found close by - covered in Oatley’s blood; it provided fingerprints. An examination of the body yielded the fact that the killer was left-handed.

On the next day, Tuesday 11th February, another prostitute, Margaret Florence Lowe (aged 42 or 43, also known as “Pearl”), was murdered in her flat in Gosfield Street. She had been strangled with a silk stocking and mutilated with both a knife and a razor blade. Her body was not discovered until three days later. The pathologist Bernard Spilsbury stated, after examining this victim’s body, that the murderer was “a savage sexual maniac”. The similarities between the killings and mutilations convinced the police that the same killer was responsible.

On Wednesday 12th February, Mrs Doris Jouannet (aged, depending upon different sources, 32 or 40 - also known as “Doris Robson”) was murdered in a 2 room ground floor flat in the Paddington district that she shared with her husband (a hotel manager). Jouannet was known to be in the habit of picking up servicemen in Leicester Square. She had been strangled (with a scarf) and her naked body sexually mutilated.

Greta Hayward was attacked on Friday 14th February, near Piccadilly Circus. A delivery boy on his rounds interrupted her assailant and Hayward was able to escape. Cummins fled - but left his RAF-issue gas mask behind at the scene (another air raid shelter). The gas mask container was marked “525987”.

The number was easily traced and linked to Cummins, but even as the police were working on that lead, he struck again. A prostitute called Catherine Mulcahy (also known as “Kathleen King”) was attacked in her flat located near Paddington Rail Station. She resisted Cummins so effectively that he abandoned his murderous intentions, gave her an extra £5 and left quickly.

On 16th February, the police arrested Gordon Frederick Cummins in the St. John’s Wood district. His fingerprints matched those on the bloody tin opener and a search of his quarters turned up several items that belonged to his victims.

On 27th April, Gordon Cummins was tried for the murder of Evelyn Oatley at the Old Bailey (before Mr Justice Asquith). He was charged with only one murder - presumably so that the authorities could immediately charge him with any of the other 3 homicides in the unlikely event of an acquittal in the Oatley case. The Prosecution was handled by Mr G.B. McClure; Cummins was represented by Mr J. Flowers. The trial lasted only a single day and the jury took a mere 35 minutes to find Cummins guilty of the murder of Evelyn Oatley. He was sentenced to death by hanging.

Lord Chief Justice Humphreys dismissed Cummings’ appeal and confirmed the sentence. On 25th June, “The Blackout Ripper” was executed at London's Wandsworth Prison; an air raid was in progress over the city as he was led to the gallows.

Bedlam Asylum Crime Files


Gordon Frederick Cummins

Cummins was a 28-year-old sexual psychopath who killed four women in six days and was executed on 25 June 1942. He was good looking, well-educated and came from a good family. He was born in New Earswick, north of York. He was called to the colours in 1941 and joined the RAF. He was nicknamed 'The Count' and 'The Duke' by his fellow airmen because of his social pretensions.

On Saturday 8th February 1942 he visited his wife, borrowed some money and went into the West End of London for a night on the town. Early the next morning the body of 40-year-old Miss Evelyn Hamilton was found in an air-raid shelter near Marble Arch. The motive appeared to be theft as Miss Hamilton's handbag containing £80 was missing. Her clothing had been disarranged but she had not been sexually assaulted. Police quickly determined that her killer was left-handed.

That night, Sunday 9th, he accompanied a 35-year-old prostitute, Mrs Evelyn Oatley, back to her home. Her strangled, almost naked body was found the next day. Her body had been mutilated with a can-opener and her throat had been cut after she had been strangled.

On Thursday 13th February another prostitute, 43-year-old Mrs Margaret Lowe, was slaughtered in her Gosfield Street flat. She had been strangled with a silk stocking and slashed, this time a knife and a razor causing the damage. While the scene was being initially examined news came in of yet another victim. This was 32-year-old Mrs Doris Jouannet. Her body was found in the two-roomed flat she shared with her elderly husband. Again, the naked body had been savagely mutilated.

The following day Mrs Greta Heywood was picked up by Cummins. She went for a drink with him but refused his advances to her on their way home. She hurried off into the blackout but he chased after her. He caught up with her in St. Alban's Street, forcing her into a shop doorway where he seized her by the throat. She collapsed unconscious but a delivery-boy who happened to be passing decided to investigate the sounds of a struggle. Cummins ran off into the darkness. Unfortunately for him he left behind his gas-mask which bore his serial number, rank and name.

Not to be deterred, he shortly picked up another prostitute, Mrs Mulcahy, in Regent Street. He gave her £5 while they went by taxi to her flat in Paddington. When they got there she started to remove her clothes. According to Mrs Mulcahy, 'a strange look came over his face.' Cummins grabbed her by the throat and squeezed. Mrs M, who had kept her boots on because of the cold, kicked him in the shins, making him release her. Cummins recovered his composure, gave her another £5, and left. He left his belt behind this time.

When police traced Cummins he had a seemingly perfect alibi. His name was in the booking-out book as having returned before midnight all week. This was earlier than the times when Evelyn Oatley, Margaret Lowe and Doris Jouannet had all been killed. DCI Greeno, investigating the case, quickly established that it was standard practise for airmen to sign each other in and that one night Cummins had left with another airman, by way of a fire escape, after checking in. Cummins was searched and a cigarette case belonging to Mrs Lowe was found in his tunic pocket. He had also taken a fountain pen belonging to Mrs Jouannet and his fingerprints matched those found on the tin-opener in Evelyn Oatley's flat.

His trial began at the Old Bailey on 27 April 1942. It finished the next day and the jury took just 35 minutes to find him guilty. He was hanged at Wandsworth Prison on 25 June 1942, still proclaiming his innocence.


The Blackout Ripper was the pseudonym given to 28-year-old Gordon Frederick Cummins, an English serial killer who murdered four women in London in 1942. The Ripper tag came from similarities with the Jack the Ripper murders as both killers mutilated their victims.


Cummins was married in 1936 to a theatre producer's secretary. He was a Leading Aircraftman in the Royal Air Force where he was nicknamed The Count due to his claims to have noble heritage.


Over six days in February 1942, Cummins took advantage of London's night-time black-out conditions to murder four women and attempt to murder two others. He mutilated the bodies of three of his victims.

Evelyn Hamilton

On Sunday 9 February 1942, the body of 40 year old pharmacist Evelyn Hamilton, was discovered in an air raid shelter in Montagu Place in Marylebone. She had been strangled and her handbag stolen.

Evelyn Oatley

On Monday 10 February, the naked body of 35 year old Evelyn Oatley (also known as Nita Ward) was discovered in her flat on Wardour Street. As well as having been strangled, her throat had been cut and she had also been sexually mutilated with a can opener. Fingerprints found on the can opener confirmed earlier suspicions that the strangler was left-handed.

Margaret Lowe

On Tuesday 11 February, a 43 year old prostitute, Margaret Florence Lowe (also known as Pearl), was murdered in her flat in Gosfield Street, Marylebone. She had been strangled with a silk stocking and her body mutilated with a variety of implements including a razor blade, a knife and a candlestick. The pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury, after seeing her injuries commented that they were "quite dreadful" and that the murderer was "a savage sexual maniac".

Doris Jouannet

On Wednesday 12 February 1942, 32 year old Doris Jouannet (also known as Doris Robson) was murdered in the ground floor flat that she shared with her husband. She had been strangled with a scarf and her naked body sexually mutilated. It was at this point the newspapers began to describe the killer as the Blackout Ripper, in reference to the similarities with Jack the Ripper.

Greta Hayward

On Friday 14 February 1942, Greta Hayward was attacked in a doorway near Piccadilly Circus by a man in RAF uniform whose sexual advances she had previously rejected. She managed to escape as her attacker was interrupted by the arrival of a delivery boy making his rounds. The attacker then ran off.

Mrs. Mulcahy

Shortly after the attack on Greta Hayward there was another attack. Mrs. Mulcahy, a prostitute (also known as Kathleen King), was attacked by a customer in her flat near Paddington Railway Station. She managed to fight off her attacker, who gave her an extra £5 before running off leaving his belt behind.

Arrest and trial

When Cummins had been disturbed by the delivery boy during the attack on Greta Hayward, he left behind his gas mask case. The gas mask container had the service number 525987 on the side, identifying it as belonging to Cummins.

Cummins had neither a criminal record nor a history of violence. However, he was arrested on 16 February and when his quarters were searched various items belonging to his victims were found. His fingerprints were found in two of the flats where the killings took place. And his fingerprints also matched those found on the can opener used to mutilate Evelyn Oatley.

Cummins's trial for the murder of Evelyn Oatley began on 27 April 1942 at the Old Bailey. The evidence against Cummins was conclusive and after a one day trial the jury took just 35 minutes to find him guilty of murder. He was sentenced to death by hanging and was executed on 25 June 1942 at Wandsworth Prison, during an air raid.

Scotland Yard later claimed that Cummins had murdered two other women during air raids in London in October 1941.

The foremost fingerprint expert of the day, Detective Chief Superintendent Frederick Cherrill, was instrumental in proving the case against Cummins.


  • Read, Simon (2006). In the Dark: The True Story of the Blackout Ripper, Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0425212837



DATE(S): 1941-42

MO: Mutilation-murders of women.



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