The Blackout Ripper

While often depicted as a pre-eminent example of stoic endurance, Britain’s home front had a dark side. The war presented opportunities for thieves and plunderers and provided cover for murder. Penny Legg investigates one of Britain’s most prolific spree killers, the Blackout Ripper.

The wartime blackout was intended to minimise outdoor light at night to hinder the navigation of enemy aircraft, but it was also a heaven-sent opportunity for those whose misdeeds were best undertaken in the dark. Thus, shadowy street corners and sombre alleyways offered cover for prostitution, burglary and murder. Between 1939 and 1945, reported crimes went up by 57% and occurrences of murder rose by 22% between 1941 and 1945. In short, the impenetrable blackness that descended on Britain at the start of the war meant the mad and the bad were emboldened to commit crime, secure in the knowledge it was much more difficult for their misdeeds to be noticed until too late.

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