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1930's-'40's : Possible serial killer, Sydney

Discussion in 'Historical Cold Cases - Pre 1950' started by Lily, Jul 31, 2015.

  1. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

    I hope this is okay.. This thread is basically a place to collect and store information on what --might-- be a case of a serial killer operating in the Sydney area during the 1930's - 40's.

    While browsing old cases on Trove, I noticed a string of violent murders around Sydney, where the victim was left in a public park, or in other very obvious outdoor areas. Victims were all women, mostly young and attractive, but there's a few older ones as well, all in a clump, timewise.

    Anyway, this is where I plan to leave my notes on these cases. Feel free to jump in with research or opinions, anything is good.

    Coming up, some of the cases.
  2. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

    This is basically an info dump at this point. Some cases will fit better than others. Will sort 'em out more clearly, later.

    1932: Hilda White, Centennial Park
    (raped, strangled, beaten)

    ***Even back then, there was suspicion of a "maniac" but the scope could actually be much bigger, there's certainly a lot of similar crimes after 1932..

    24 Dec, 1932
    A succession of three murders
    suggests that a homicidal maniac is loose in Sydney. A woman was found strangled in a park, and there was no clue to the murderer. There was little interest-she was a street derelict. Shortly afterwards the unclothed body of a woman was found in another park. She had been battered to death. She also was a derelict, but there were certain circumstances connecting this with the previous murder. This week the body of a girl, aged only 16 years, and subsequently identified as a respectable girl........was found in the bushes at the entrance of National Park..... Her clothing had been ripped from her body, and was found nearby, and her head had been frightfully battered.

    She died without regaining consciousness. She had not been seen after returning home from the beach about a quarter past 9 the previous night. Various circumstances associate the three murders, but there is not the slightest clue to the murderer.

    1937: Dorothy May Everett, Newcastle
    (strangled, stocking, bitten)
    arrest, not guilty

    Marguerite O'Brien
    (strangled, chaff bag in orchard, Parramatta)
    husband charged, acquitted

    June Clemenger
    strangled, bludgeoned, string
    found under a tree, Medflow r/way bridge

    blonde, older, hanky strangled

    Lucy Brown Craig, missing

    Betty Van Tonder (Clifton Gardens, Mosman)
    (strangled, stocking)

    Doris Winifred Shorney
    strangled body in long grass in public park

    Mrs. Ada Lambert, 45,
    Cooper Park, Woollahra
    arrest made - did it stick?

    Mrs. Dorothy Krick (28)
    strangulation. wounds to the throat, one of her arms dislocated
  3. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

  4. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member


    Vera Stirling (many aliases), derelict
    strangled, bound feet & hands with stocking (in abow)
    minor throat abrasions
    found in Hyde park
    http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article169319862 (huge article)


    Melbourne, Mary Dean
    strangled, stocking, laneway


    January, Melbourne, Hazel Wilson
    bound, gagged with stockings, paddock



    At one of the most momentous conferences yet held by the Criminal Investigation Branch, ten detectives, be hind closed doors, decided upon the amazing theory that the man who murdered Bessie O'Connor also killed Hilda White In Centennial Park last July and May Miller in Queens Park, last Friday week.

    **** An arrest was made for the Bessie O'Connor murder, resulting in three trials - two juries were hung, suspect sentenced to death on the third go-round. Sounds like a solid case! May Miller was beaten to death. A man with the same name as Bessie's killer (Eric R. Craig) was arrested for May's death (and got 20 years..)- but had a different middle name?!

    Anyway, I think Hilda fits the stocking/parkland pattern, Bessie doesn't so much. May Miller, less so.

    '34/'35 --- no matching crimes that I've found yet.
  5. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

    A bit more digging shows that is WAS the same man, Eric Roland Craig, who was tried three times for Bessie O'Connor's murder, and also manslaughter in the case of May Miller. He seems to have asserted his innocence through all three trials in Bessie's case, had his death sentence commuted to "never to be released", and then escaped from Bathurst Gaol in October '41 (but was soon recaptured).

    Was he guilty? Could he have committed other murders? Or were these crimes pinned on him with fairly flimsy evidence? He seems to have readily admitted to killing May Miller, a derelict prostitute whom he took to the park in a stolen car, and then bludgeoned to death. But he swore he didn't kill Bessie.


    Detective McCrae sacked:

    A man was arrested for Dorothy Everett's murder and acquitted, with his counsel claiming he'd been utterly railroaded, and that police had made changes and additions to the statement records to make him look more guilty. He was apparently attending a wedding at the time of the murder:
  6. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

    One serial killer that liked to bind his victims with stockings in this era, was Arthur Soderman, whose four known victims were 6-16 years of age when caught.
    His crimes spread over a span of years, the ages varied, but there was enough similarity to link them.

    Soderman's arrest was a great relief to the several innocent men who'd been suspected, even charged, for these murders. A reporter at the Argus took up the cause of those men whose lives were severely impacted by too-quick or flimsy arrests:

    In the cases I'm looking at, there's two distinct victim pools.. older prostitutes or "unfortunates", easy targets for killers as ever.. And then there's the young, teen-to-20-something attractive women.

    May Miller- I believe Craig killed her.. the fact he stole a car to help do so makes me want to look at him for other dead unfortunates, but his primary action was not rape or strangulation, it was beating her with a lump of wood in a rage, then removing her clothes to aid in her not being easily ID'd.

    Ada Lambert's killer looks good for it, feller name of Kennedy, only 22 so he can be counted out of many of the earlier crimes.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2015
  7. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

    Sad irony... a huge article, written more than a decade after Colin Ross was hanged for the Gun Alley murder, in which police staunchly defend their work (against accusations of a "frame-up"..) . Ross was, of course, posthumously declared innocent, many years later.

    I guess my point there is, in an era without the powerful forensics tools we have now, and when police were more able to use heavy handed interrogation techniques, etc, there were plenty of innocent men being smacked with charges, particularly in crimes which had the public outraged, and there was a lot of pressure for an arrest. Which is to say, I'm eyeballing arrests in the cases that might fit my theory, very carefully indeed -- as some with arrests might still actually be open cases.

    I'm presently inclined to add the Bessie O'Connor case to that category.
  8. Lily

    Lily Bronze Member

    An article proposing a link between the murders of Mary "Molly" Dean (1930, good suspect arrested but acquitted) and 16yo Adeline Hazel Wilson (1931) in the region of Melbourne's nicer beach suburbs:

    http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/art...der strangled young&searchLimits=l-decade=193

    - detailed articles re Mary Dean (note she was violated with an object & the failed rape attempts during two similar attacks nearby):

    - and Hazel:
    http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/art...der strangled young&searchLimits=l-decade=193

    The similarities also resemble several of the Sydney murders closely, especially that of Dorothy Everett, 1937:

    http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/150600387?searchTerm=murder strangled young&searchLimits=

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