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Neville George Clevely HEATH






A.K.A.: "The Lady Killer"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Sadistic psychopath - Mutilation
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: June 21/July 3, 1946
Date of arrest: July 8, 1946
Date of birth: June 6, 1917
Victims profile: Margery Gardner, 32 / Doreen Marshall, 21
Method of murder: Suffocation / Stabbing with knife
Location: London/Bournemouth, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging at Pentonville Prison on October 16, 1946
photo gallery

Neville Heath was born in 1917 at Ilford, in Essex. He did not do well at school and on leaving became an office junior. In 1936 he joined the RAF on a short-service commission but was soon in trouble for being absent without leave, escaping while under arrest and car theft. He was court-marshalled and dismissed from the service in September 1937 and, two months later, was put on probation for fraud and false pretences. Still unable to keep out of trouble In July 1938 he received three years' borstal for stealing £51 worth of jewellery from a friend, as well as having ten other offences taken into consideration.

On his release he joined the Royal Army Service Corps, as a private but while serving in the Middle East in 1940 he was commissioned. Yet again he got into trouble, this time it was by bouncing checks. Again he went absent, and again he was court-marshalled and cashiered. He absconded during his return to England and went to South Africa. He once again enlisted, only this time he used a false name.

It was not long before the South African Air Force authorities found out that his name was not Armstrong and that he had been in a lot of trouble in the past. Because of his present good conduct he was allowed to stay on. In May 1944 he was seconded to the RAF and flew missions over Holland. He returned to South Africa in 1945 where, in December, he underwent his third court-marshal, this time for undisciplined behaviour and for wearing unauthorised decorations. Again he was cashiered and he returned to England to live with his parents in Wimbledon.

A young woman was found In March 1946 in a hotel room in a hotel bedroom in the Strand, London. She was naked and had been tied up. She had alerted the staff of the hotel by screaming. Strangely enough she refused to press charges but was clear about who her assailant had been, it was Heath.

Mrs Margery Aimee Brownell Gardner was 32-years-old and had a liking for bondage. In May 1946 she went to the Pembridge Court Hotel with a man, later identified as Heath, and was also rescued by the hotel staff.

On Saturday 15 June, 19-year-old Yvonne Symonds met a man at a dance in Chelsea. He said his name was Lt. Colonel Heath. Even though he was ten years older than her she soon fell for him. They went back to the Panama Club in South Kensington, followed by the Overseas Club. On leaving they made plans to meet the next day. They spent the whole day together and, when he proposed to her she accepted. She also agreed to spend the night with him at the Pembridge Court Hotel, Notting Hill Gate, after all they were engaged. They spent the night together and the next day she returned home to Worthing. They spoke several times on the phone over the next few days.

He also phoned Margery Gardner and even after the last embarrasing time she still agreed to meet him on Thursday 20 June. They spent the evening at the Panama Club before retiring to the Pembridge Court Hotel slightly the worse for drink. The following morning the chambermaid was cleaning all the rooms and when she got to room 4 she knocked on the door and hearing no reply she let herself in. The room was still occupied although it did not look as if the occupant was likely to complain.

Margery Gardner was lying, on her back, in one of the single beds nearest to the door. She was naked and had her ankles bound with a handkerchief. She had a lot of bruising to her face and her nipples had been almost bitten off. Something had been inserted into her vagina and sharply rotated. On her back were seventeen criss-cross lash marks. Cause of death had been suffocation but only after the horrific injuries had been inflicted.

Heath had caught the train to Worthing to see his fiancee. The following day, the 22nd, Heath told Yvonne about a murder that had happened in London while he was there. While they were having dinner later that evening at the Blue Peter Club, Heath told the girl that he had been staying at the same hotel where the murder had taken place. He also told her that as Margery Gardner was an old friend he had lent her his room keys, because she had a man that she wanted to entertain. He said he had spent the night somewhere else.

In the papers the following day it was announced that the police wanted to interview Heath. Yvonne saw the story and telephoned Heath to tell him about it. He agreed that he ought to see the police and clear the matter up.

To begin with he wrote to the policeman dealing with the case, Inspector Barrett once more repeating the story he had told his fiancee, only adding that the name of the man that Margery Gardner was supposed to have met was 'Jack'. He also added that he had returned to his hotel room after 2am and found her dead, he had panicked and grabbing all his things he left.

He left Worthing and went down to Bournemouth booking into the Tollard Royal Hotel. This time he called himself Group Captain Rupert Brooke. Ten days later, on Wednesday 3 July he met Miss Doreen Marshall. She was 21-years-old and in Bournemouth to recuperate from a bout of influenza. He once more worked his charm and she agreed to have tea with him that afternoon. They parted after tea but agreed to meet that evening for dinner. Once dinner was completed they both left the Tollard Royal to walk the short distance to her hotel, accompanied by Heath. The time was approximately 11.30.

On the Friday, the manager of the Norfolk Hotel, where Doreen was staying, was worried about one of his guests that appeared to be missing. He contacted the police and also telephoned the manager at the Tollard Royal because he knew that was where she had been going. The manager at the Tollard told him that she had indeed dined there the night that she had vanished.

Knowing who her dinner companion had been the manager at the Royal Tollard, Mr Relf, approached Group Captain Brooke on Saturday morning and asked him to confirm if his dinner guest had been Miss Marshall. This he denied, saying that he had known the lady for a long time. The manager suggested that the Group Captain really ought to contact the police to clarify the matter. This he agreed to do.

Heath rang Bournemouth police but the officer concerned was out so he was told to ring back later. This he did, at 3.30pm, and spoke to DC Souter. Heath was asked to come to the station to look at a photograph of the missing girl. Heath turned up at the police station at 5.30pm. While he was talking to DC Souter, the detective noticed how much he looked like the photograph they had circulated of Heath. He immediately told his superiors of his suspicions. When they put this to Heath he still maintained that his name was Brooke. He asked if he might have his jacket from the hotel and DI George Gates went to fetch it. When Gates returned the jacket was searched and a cloakroom ticket was found, along with a single pearl which had come from a necklace belonging to the missing girl and also a return half of a railway ticket from Bournemouth to London.

Purely as a long shot the officers went to the Railway station at Bournemouth with the cloakroom ticket, they were handed a suitcase. It contained some clothing marked with the name 'Heath', a hat and scarf, which was stained with Margery Gardner's blood, and a leather-bound riding crop covered with a cross-weave pattern.

Heath was questioned again and at 9.45pm he admitted his real identity. The next day he was transferred to London where he was charged with the murder of Margery Gardner.

Earlier in the day a young woman, Miss Evans, was walking her dog in Branksome Dene Chine. As she passed a rhododendron bush she noticed a swarm of flies. It seemed so unusual and out of place that once home she mentioned it to her father. Around 8pm they went back to the wooded gorge and it was then they discovered the body of Doreen Marshall.

The body was naked apart from the left shoe. She had been battered about the head and it appeared as though she had been bound. She had died from two deep knife wounds to the throat. A nipple had been bitten off completely and her torso had been mutilated by a Y-shaped cut running from her midriff to each nipple. As with the earlier victim something had been inserted into her vagina and anus and she had been badly torn and mutilated.

Heath's trial began on 24 September at the Old Bailey where he tried to get off with a plea of insanity. Two prison doctors testified that, although Heath was a sexual pervert, a sadist and a psychopath, and could not be considerd normal he was not insane. It took the jury just one hour to return a guilty verdict. He was hanged by Pierrepoint on 26th October 1946 at Pentonville Prison.


Neville George Clevely Heath (1917-46) was a sadistic psychopath, born in Essex, England, who was responsible for the murders of at least two young women. He was executed in London in 1946.

Early Career

He joined the Royal Air Force in 1937, but was dismissed for going absent without leave. He was caught obtaining credit by fraud, and six months later was sent to Borstal for housebreaking and forgery. He used a number of aliases, including "Lord Dudley" and "Lieutenant-Colonel Armstrong".

When war broke out, Heath joined the Royal Army Service Corps, and was posted to the Middle East. He lasted less than a year. He was shipped home, but on his way he escaped the guard and headed for Johannesburg where he joined the South African Air Force, eventually rising to the rank of Captain. He married, and the couple had a son, but at the end of the war his wife divorced him on grounds of desertion. He was also court martialled, for wearing medals to which he was not entitled. He returned to England in 1946.

The Murders

On Sunday 16th June, Heath took a room at the Pembridge Court Hotel in Notting Hill Gate. He used his real name, but added the title Lieutenant-Colonel. He was with a woman, Yvonne Symonds, who he said was his wife - in fact they had only just met. Heath had promised to marry her, so she spent the night with him and returned to her home the next day.

Margery Gardner

The following Thursday Heath spent the evening with Margery Gardner. She was older than Heath, a part-time actress who had left her husband and daughter to seek her fortune. Heath and Margery had been dancing together at the Panama Club in Kensington. The following day the assistant manager entered Heath's room as the chambermaid had been unable to gain entry.

Margery Gardner’s body was found naked on the bed, her wrists and ankles bound. There were 17 slash marks on her body, her nipples had been savagely bitten, and an instrument had been viciously inserted into her vagina.

In the fireplace there was a short poker, which Home Office pathologist Professor Keith Simpson said was responsible for her internal injuries. The whip that had inflicted the slash marks on her body was nowhere to be seen. These marks showed the distinctive diamond pattern of a woven leather riding crop. Professor Simpson told the police "Find that whip and you’ve found your man."

Professor Simpson estimated Margery’s time of death as between midnight and the early hours of the morning. The police learned that Heath and Margery had arrived at the hotel around midnight, and that nothing had been heard until a door slammed at 1.30am. The cause of death was suffocation, but only after the other injuries had been inflicted.

Doreen Marshall

Heath headed to Worthing to see Yvonne, the girl he had proposed to, and spent a few days with her. Her parents were impressed with the "Lieutenant-Colonel", but he left when his name appeared in the newspapers in relation to Margery's murder. He then went to Bournemouth and took a room at the Tollard Royal Hotel, under the alias "Group Captain Rupert Brook".

A few days later he met Doreen Marshall, who was staying at the Norfolk Hotel. They spent the day together, had dinner at Heath's hotel, and talked until midnight. Doreen ordered a taxi back to her hotel but Heath persuaded her to cancel it and offered to walk Doreen back. She was not seen alive again.

The Police were informed of her disappearance, and the manager at The Norfolk remembered that she had taken a taxi to the Tollard Royal. There, the manager said she may have been the woman with Group Captain Rupert Brook. Although Heath/Captain Brook denied this, he telephoned Detective Constable Souter and said he might be able to help.

He went to the Police Station, and identified Doreen's picture as the girl he had been with, but said he had left her at the Norfolk. The detective recognised Heath as the man wanted by Scotland Yard, and asked "Isn't your name Heath?" Heath denied it, and said he wanted to return to the hotel for his coat.

The police fetched it for him and searched it. They found a railway cloakroom ticket, which led them to an attaché case containing a riding whip with a diamond pattern weave. Professor Simpson identified it as the object used on Margery Gardner. Heath was questioned again, and he admitted his real identity. The next day he was transferred to London where he was charged with the murder of Margery Gardner.

While Heath was denying the murder of Margery Gardner the body of Doreen Marshall was discovered. Her clothes had been removed, apparently without a struggle, but wounds found on her hands suggested she had grasped defensively at a knife. She had received blows to her head, her wrists and ankles had been tied, one nipple had been bitten off and her throat had been slashed. As with Margery Gardner, an instrument had been inserted into her vagina.

The Trial

The trial of Neville Heath for the murder of Margery Gardner began on 24th September 1946. J.D. Casswell KC, who defended Heath, chose not to call him to give evidence. Casswell relied on the defence of insanity, and called Dr W.H de Bargue Hubert, an experienced criminal psychiatrist, to testify as an expert witness.

Dr Hubert testified that Heath knew what he was doing but not that it was wrong, but the prosecution easily destroyed Hubert's argument. Two prison doctors testified that although Heath was a sexual pervert and a psychopath, he was not insane. Heath was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was hanged by Albert Pierrepoint on 16th October 1946 at Pentonville Prison. Heath asked Pierrepoint for a whisky, and added "better make it a double".

Heath is also said to have been the assailant when, in 1946, a few months before the murders, a woman was found in a hotel bedroom in the Strand, London. She was naked and had been tied up. She had alerted the staff of the hotel by screaming. She refused to press charges, possibly to avoid the publicity.

It is not clear when Heath met Margery Gardner or how he could have attacked her without her screaming. In a statement Heath admitted that he had gagged her, and a saliva soaked scarf was found with the whip. It emerged after the trial that Margery had been a masochist who liked to be bound and lashed. She had probably gone back with Heath for pleasure, and so had probably allowed herself to be bound and gagged. Years after the trial JD Caswell KC wrote: "it is almost certain that a month before her death she had been with Heath to another hotel room, and had only been saved by a hotel detective."



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