//
you're reading...
Australian History

On this day (Australia): In 1942, serial killer Edward Leonski was hanged at Pentridge Prison in Melbourne


Edward Leonski

On 9 November 1942, serial killer Edward Leonski was hanged at Pentridge Prison in Melbourne.

Edward Joseph Leonski was an American soldier and serial killer responsible for the strangling murders of three women in Melbourne, Australia.

Leonski was known as The Brownout Strangler, given Melbourne’s wartime status of keeping low lighting (not as stringent as a wartime blackout).

His self-confessed motive for the killings was a twisted fascination with female voices, especially when they were singing, and his claim that he killed the women to “get at their voices.”

Leonski is the first and only citizen of another country to have been tried and sentenced to death in Australia under the law of his own country.

Early life

Born 12 December in Kenvil, New Jersey, he was the sixth child of Russian-Jewish immigrants John Leonski, labourer, and his wife Amelia, née Harkavitz.

Leonski grew up in an abusive, alcoholic family. One of his brothers was committed to a mental institution. According to a psychologist who interviewed Leonski during his trial, his mother had been overprotective and controlling.

Leonski had been bullied by other neighborhood kids and called a mama’s boy. Accordingly, the psychologist ruled that Leonski’s crimes were born of his resentment and hatred of his mother and thus constituted “symbolic matricide.”

Leonski worked for a time as a delivery boy.

He was called up for the U.S. Army in February 1941 and arrived in Melbourne, Australia, on February 2, 1942, after the United States had entered World War II.

The Army had set up a temporary base (Camp Pell) in Royal Park just north of the city and the university.

Murders

On May 3, 1942, Ivy Violet McLeod, 40, was found dead in Albert Park, Melbourne. She had been beaten and strangled, and because she was found to be in possession of her purse it was evident that robbery was not the motive. 

Six days later 31-year-old Pauline Thompson was strangled after a night out. She was last seen in the company of a young man who was described as having an American accent.

Gladys Hosking, 40, was the next victim, murdered on May 18 while walking home from work at the Chemistry Library at Melbourne University. That same night, another woman said that a disheveled American man had approached her asking for directions, seemingly out of breath and covered with mud.

This description matched the individual Thompson was seen with on the night of her murder, as well as the descriptions given by several women who had survived recent attacks. 

These survivors and other witnesses were able to pick 24-year-old Leonski out of a line-up of American servicemen who were stationed in Melbourne. Leonski, a private in the 52nd Signal Battalion, was arrested and charged with three murders.

Trial and execution

Although Leonski’s crimes were committed on Australian soil, the trial was conducted under American military law. Leonski confessed to the crimes and was convicted and sentenced to death at a general court-martial on July 17, 1942.

American General Douglas MacArthur confirmed the sentence on October 14, and a Board of Review upheld the findings and sentence on October 28. General Court-Martial Order 1 promulgated Leonski’s death sentence on November 1.

In a departure from normal procedure, on November 4, MacArthur personally signed the order of execution (in subsequent executions this administrative task was entrusted to MacArthur’s Chief of Staff, Richard Sutherland). Leonski was hanged at Pentridge Prison on 9 November 9.

Leonski’s defense attorney, former Colorado lawyer Lieutenant Ira C. Rothgerber, Jr. (1913–1992), attempted to win an external review, even from the U.S. Supreme Court, but was unable to do so.

Leonski was temporarily interred at several cemeteries in Australia. His remains were eventually permanently interred in Section 9, Row B, Site 8 at Schofield Barracks Post Cemetery on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii. His grave is located in a section of the facility reserved for prisoners who died in military custody.

In the 1950s, the case was the subject of a two-episode radio dramatisation titled “A Strong Man”, which was part of a series titled D24. In keeping with usual practice on the series, some names and details were changed, although the dramatisation otherwise followed events faithfully.

A 1986 feature film, Death of a Soldier, directed by Philippe Mora, was based on Leonski, who was played by American actor Reb Brown.

It is believed that the Australian painter Albert Tucker’s Images of Modern Evil series was somewhat influenced by Leonski’s murders.

The 2015 television program Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer (series one, episode one) focused on Leonski.

Source: Wikipedia

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

Discussion

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

If you liked what you just read, click "Subscribe" to become a follower of the Craig Hill site. You will receive an email each time a new post is published.

Join 15,052 other followers

An archive of all my old posts

Follow me on Twitter

Most Recent Posts Post on My Blog About China: China News

Chinese geo-strategic expansion in the Levant: A case study of Lebanon

Chinese geo-strategic expansion in the Levant: A case study of Lebanon

As soon as the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, China and the Middle East faced a series of challenges. In recent years, China’s influence in the region has expanded due to its economic interests in energy, trade, infrastructure construction, and diplomatic contacts with the region’s countries. This is linked to President Xi […]

The Chinese Communist Party still thinks it owns the future

The Chinese Communist Party still thinks it owns the future

A rising chorus of analysts now describe China as a “peaking power”—one that might take greater risks to revise the international order before its strategic window of opportunity closes. They cite the country’s aging population , slowing economy , and hostile external environment  as evidence that time is no longer on China’s side. The “fear of decline,” they […]

Chinese maritime militia threatens order in South China Sea

Chinese maritime militia threatens order in South China Sea

Hundreds of Chinese maritime militia vessels are operating in contested areas of the South China Sea on a consistent basis, according to a new U.S. think tank report that says this poses a significant challenge to “maritime order rooted in international law.” The Washington, D.C.,-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), says that for […]

Cadence Column: Asia, November 22, 2021

Cadence Column: Asia, November 22, 2021

The world is not responding well to the so-called “plandemic”. The important thing is not whether the global disease, as said by Judy Mikovits to have been developed under the supervision of Fauci, was actually intended to do all this. The public thinks it was because governments haven’t work carefully to earn public trust. Even […]

Tackling Chinese technological advantage 

Tackling Chinese technological advantage 

“China has won the artificial intelligence battle with the United States and is heading towards global dominance because of its technological advances”. When the Pentagon’s former software chief Nick Chaillan made this claim, it felt as if the whole world had come crashing down. The whole episode gave rise to the debate about who’s ahead […]

Biden and Xi move back from the brink

Biden and Xi move back from the brink

The three-and-half-hour virtual summit meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping did not, and could not, solve the fundamental problems that have driven the two great powers toward confrontation. But both men clearly wanted to challenge the misperception that they are on the brink of conflict, and to prevent an unintended escalation […]

Celebrities who disappeared in China after speaking out about the Communist Party or powerful people

Celebrities who disappeared in China after speaking out about the Communist Party  or powerful people

Peng Shuai has not been heard from since she accused a top Chinese official of sexual assault. The 35-year-old tennis player is one of China’s biggest sports stars. In a post on November 2 on Weibo, Peng alleged the former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli coerced her into sex and that they had an affair. Afterward, the post was taken […]

China’s ‘leftover women’ using their financial power to fight stigma

China’s ‘leftover women’ using their financial power to fight stigma

In China, if you are female, educated and unmarried by the age of 27, people might use a particular term – “sheng-nu” – to describe your social status. It translates simply as “leftover woman.” The label was deliberately invented to curb the rising number of single women in a traditional society that sometimes views not […]

Health workers in China are killing pets while their owners are in quarantine

Health workers in China are killing pets while their owners are in quarantine

Local health workers in some Chinese cities are breaking into people’s homes and killing their pets while the owners are in quarantine, prompting outrage online. In one case, a dog owner named Ms Fu witnessed through her home security camera as people clothed in hazmat suits entered her home and beat her pet corgi to […]

Xi Jinping’s Terrifying New China

Xi Jinping’s Terrifying New China

China’s social media was briefly aflutter this fall about an impressive feat in the popular online fantasy game Honor of Kings. A player had completed a “pentakill,” or five kills in a row, but something just smelled wrong: The user in question was 60 years old, according to the verified account information—hardly the type to […]

%d bloggers like this: