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G. F. Cummins
London, England 1942

Gordan Frederick Cummins, The War-time Jack the Ripper

The "Blackout Ripper" - The "War Time Jack the Ripper"

Leading Aircraftsman Gordan Frederick Cummins seemed like the boy next door,
a real-life Errol Flynn........Or was he?

The Cummins murders are of interest because they mirror those of Jack the Ripper, even though they received minimal publicity due to the war, and unfortunately nobody knows to this day what motivated his mutilating madness.

Cummins was born at New Earswich, near York in 1914 (making him 28 years old at the time of the murders). He was privately educated at Llandovery, Wales. Cummins was an Officer Cadet training to fly spitfires. During the period of the murders he wore a Leading Aircraftsman badge and the white badge of an Officer Trainee on his hat. Cummins was hanged at Wandsworth Prison, June 25, 1942, during an air-raid. At the time of the murders, Cummins was stationed at RAF St Johns Wood.

Cummins' fingerprints were not on file, because he had no previous criminal record.

Evelyn Oatley, (aka Nita Ward), the second Ripper victim
    His victims:
    • Evelyn Hamilton
    • Evelyn Oatley,
      Piccadilly Circus
    • Margaret Lane
    • Doris Jorianmet,
      Sussex Garden and
      was the youngest victim
    • Heywood,
      Cummins disturbed
      (Fred Cherrill only states four victims)

Evelyn Oatley was 35 years of age and also known as Nita ward. Ex-showgirl turned prostitute . She was last seen getting into a taxi...she was found brutally murdered. Cummins was charged with all the murders but was tried for only Oatley's murder, as was the custom.

Fred Cherrill, Former Superintendent at New Scotland Yard In 1954 ex-Scotland Yard detective Fred Cherrill wrote, "In the pitch-like darkness of London in 1942 terror stalked the blitz-shattered streets. It was not just the terror from the sky, as Hitler's Luftwaffe flew overhead. It was the terror created by a ghoulish slayer. Not since those panic-ridden days of 1888, when Jack the Ripper was abroad [i.e., active], had London known such a reign of terror when death - fierclich [sic], revolting, and gruesome - came to four unsuspecting women in the heart of the metropolis."

Detectives at Hamilton murder scene - first Ripper victim.  Cherrill - far left; Greeno - middle "Luck was against me, for the marks were only bruises, but they confirmed my impression that they had been made by a left-handed murderer (murder #1 Evelyn Hamilton)" - Fred Cherrill

"Mystified detectives at the scene of Evelyn Hamilton search for clues. Cummins' identity was finally revealed when his gas-mask was found."
- Scarlet Woman: Trial

Fred Cherrill continues, "The murderer had so wantonly mutilated the victim. I found fingerprints but alas, once more the fates were against me. The killer of Ms. Oatley [victim #2] had no criminal record. He had never been in the hands of the police. The husband was traced to Blackpool and was able to prove that they had separated some time before and were living apart. Yard men followed up every slender clue to find the sadistic ripper..."

"The vicious mutilations which had been wreaked upon the dead woman, and which were even more shocking than those inflicted upon Evelyn Oatley [Margaret Lane, aka 'Pearl', victim #3]..."

"It was only an hour after the body of Doris Jorianmet [sic, victim #4] was discovered in her flat that I was there. One glance was sufficient to tell me that that the Ripper had struck again. There was no doubt about it. I made an intensive search of the room, for fingerprints. On the door of the cupboard close to the bed I found several. There were more on a hand-mirror and the door of the bedroom itself. I took possession of the mirror and had the doors of the bedroom and cupboard removed and brought to the Yard. Women police in ordinary clothes strolled about the streets in the hope of being accosted by the unknown killer. So great was the terror which swept like a wave over the square mile in which these crimes had been committed that the regular street-walkers who haunted the area were too scared to venture out. Small wonder, for nobody knew when or where the killer would strike again. That he would strike again seemed certain, for the lust of killing appeared to have siezed him in a merciless grip." - Fred Cherrill

According to Gordon Honeycombe, "This time the victim was Doris Jorianmet, aged 32, aka Doris Robson...her naked body obscenely mutilated, she lay on the ground-floor flat in Sussex Garden. As with the first victim, Hamilton, her home town was Newcastle-On-Tyne. Greeno and Cherrill realised that a new Ripper was at large. Even the case-hardened bernard Spilsbury (pathologist) was moved to say, 'injuries quite dreadful and the perpertrator was a savage sexual maniac'." (Jorianmet's husband was a Frenchman who ran a hotel.)

    Cummins's gas mask - found at murder scene. Cummins was arrested after being disturbed by a passerby. He left his gas mask with his RAF number on it (525987) at one crime scene (Heywood). Examination revealed brick dust, which was identical to the dust at the scene of the first murder (Hamilton). Other forensic evidence emerged but it was the fingerprints, which were taken that settled the case. His fingerprints were taken, and compared at Bow Street Police Station. Cummins was asked to sign the fingerprint form, which he did with his left hand. ('Everybody was issued a gas mask, and I still have mine.' - Allan Jones)

Allan Jones checked the marriage records for 1936 and found that Cummins had married a girl named Stephens at Paddington, London. She apparently remained loyal to Cummins until the end, visiting everyday at Wandsworth prison, as did his father.

According to Cherrill, at the trial, and the appeal, Cummins laughed and joked with those guarding him. He also looked across the courtroom to smile at his wife from time to time.

Detective Inspector Robert Higgins was assigned to accompany Cummins to and from the courthouse during the trial each day commented, "He chatted to me on everyday things as though he had not a care in the world. he seemed to be completely unaware of the seriousness of the charges against him. He had an irritating habit of wanting to shake hands each time we met. Observed at close quarters he was not an obviously unpleasant person..slow and steady in his speach...well built and proportioned. I did, however, take particular note of his large, strong hands, which had been well-kept. he was deceptively gentle in manner and quite good-looking - a man not unattractive to women."

Shortly before eight o'clock on the morning of June 25, 1942, Gordon Frederick Cummins walked unmoved and unrepentant, to the gallows. The noise of the falling trapdoor mingled with the distant crump of explosions as Luftwaffe planes flew over London on a bombing raid.
"The hanging of Cummins had a notable side effect on the "social" life of the capital. The thousands of prostitutes who had temporarily abandoned their operations - or confined them to well-known and trusted "regulars" - went safely back to work.
"Terror seized London's good-time girls and prostitutes as one Cummins victim followed another. The killer's success was, of course, based to a large extent on his captivating personality. Women who would otherwise not dream of accepting the overtures of a strange man seemed to be mesmerized by him. Were there so many girls who felt lonely?"
- Scarlet Woman: Trial

Cherrill concludes, "You may wonder what manner of man this was who set out to murder and mutilate women with such wanton savagery. Born of highly respected parents, he was given every chance as regards education, but his school record was described as poor. He then worked in the leather industry but dismissed from one job after another as being unsatisfactory, irresponsible, and fond of the company of women. In 1935 he joined the RAF as a flight rigger and continued in the service until his arrest in 1942. In 1936 he married, his wife continued work as a secretary to a theatrical producer. Possessed of a vain streak, Cummins loved to pose as the son of a nobleman and, because of his cultured speech and polished manner, became known as 'The Count' or the 'The Duke' to his comrades. He was boastful of his conquests with women, and was doubtless helped in his amorous escapades by his masquerade as the 'Honorable Gordon Cummins'. There are many such men, I am afraid, who love to swagger and assume titles but there are not many who resort to murder of those who fall victims to heir plausible tongues. One is left perplexed and horrified at the vicious cruelty which animated Cummins in his lust to kill."

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    Additional Reading

    Fred Cherrill's comments were excerpted from his Autobiography,
    Cherrill of the Yard, Harp & Co, 1954.

    Robert Higgins' comments were excerpted from his book,
    In the Name of the Hair, 1958.

Many THANKS to the people who have contributed to this page:
Cummins information - Courtesy of Allan Jones.

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