In 1942, in Melbourne, Australia, residents lived under fear of attacks from Germany. This caused the country to mandate dimmed lights, resulting in brownouts. Lurking in the dark and taking advantage of a tragic time, a serial killer took three victims.
Disclosure: This story includes talk of suicide, mental health issues, and the upsetting death of young children. If any of these subjects are a trigger for please take care of yourself, and check out some of my other stories! I Never victim blame nor do I make excuses for people who commit these horrendous crimes. I believe in learning from these tragic events. The history of these awful people is important to think about what led up to the events and how to resolve the problem before it led to murder.
Life in Australia During Wartime
Before getting into the case, I need describe the state of Australia in 1942. After Nazi Germany attacked Poland in 1939, Great Britain and France declared war on them. Australia joined the allies of Britain and France against the axis (Germany Japan, and Italy). From 1942 to 1945, around one million United States Soldiers were stationed in Australia (roughly 5 percent of Australia’s population at the time), in order to aide in World War II.
The American soldiers living in Australia, at this time, caused a lot of tension. Americans came in and took up their spaces and partying accelerated. On top of that, women became excited that these foreign men were there. They soon resented that they received paid more for doing less, had better uniforms, and now drinking their alcohol and taking their women from them.
Australia feared becoming targeted air attacked and enforced brownouts. Brownouts differ from blackouts by limiting light, instead of making it pitch black. Only every fourth light remained lit. Trains limited lighting to only two-thirds of each car lit, stations only lit at fifty percent, and headlights covered by hoods. They shaded the lit lights to prevent too much light omitted, preventing enemies from seeing. After ordered, Business owners and residents covered their windows promptly at dusk. Businesses needed to close by 6 PM.
The lack of light caused many problems, including traffic delays and accidents, and injured arms and specifically sprained ankles. Residents presumably lived in fear. They had to change their whole routine and the way they lived. To make matters worse, soon women started to end up murdered on the streets of Melbourne. The culprit was a monster hiding in the shadows.
The Murder of Ivy McLeod
On May 3, A bartender named Henry Billings saw an American soldier slumped over in the neighboring doorway, as he was leaving the pub he worked at. He later said that he thinks the man heard him, because he got uo and walked towards Beaconsfield Parade. Henry then approached the doorway and saw a body lying there. He lit a match and noticed a deceased woman, who was naked, clothes ripped, and her legs folded back.
Upon seeing the ghastly scene, Henry called the police. Her purse and its belongings was found near her body, therefore robbery was not suspected as a motive. The police suggested the motive was sexual, due to her clothes being ripped off and her body being positioned in a proactive manner. They noticed the back of her head covered in blood and marks on her neck, leading them to believe that the cause of death was strangulation. After completing the autopsy, they identified the victim as Ivy McLeod.
They were able to figure out strangulation was the cause of death and the head injury was from the struggle. The medical examiner saw no signs of sexual assault. This means that she was not penetrated, but does not take away the sexual motive. A perpetrator can become aroused without raping a victim. When police asked Henry about the suspect, he told them the brownouts prevented him from seeing his face, but noticed he wore an American soldier uniform. With no leads, they called the American military police, but they did not want to get involved. They basically deflected blame and suggested Henry could not have possibly seen an American uniform. It became clear they were on their own to solve Ivy’s murder. But unfortunately they also needed to deal with attacks due to the war.
They made public appeals to receive any information. However, they could not a lot of media attention, thus they decided to speak to her family and friends. Recently separated from husband, Ivy was last seen with John Patrick Thompson. They met six months before her death, but he told police he had no idea that she was married. She never wore a ring and used her maiden name, but talked to him about moving away to South Wales, but got the opportunity. She left his place around 2:15 AM to catch the tram. John offered to walk her, but she turned his offered down, saying she would be fine. They then spoke to Hector McLeod, Violet’s husband.
A woman came to police and said she saw the man she thinks murdered Ivy. While on her way home, an American soldier approached her and asked if wanted to grab a drink, but she declined. He then told her luckily she said no, because he planned to kill someone that night. This statement convinced them to halt investigating John and Hector. The police ran out of leads until murder struck the area again.
Six days later, A security guard named Henry McGowan, found a woman’s body laying spreadeagled, in a doorway similar to Ivy. He noticed her torn clothing and her body exposed. When police arrived, they norice strangulation marks, just like Ivy. They saw signs of possible sexual assault, but autopsy showed no signs of a rape. autopsy also confirmed strangulation as the cause of death. Police identified the woman as a 31-year old singer named Pauline Thompson. was seen drinking at the Astoria Hotel, drinking with an unknown American man. They stayed there until the early morning hours.
The police soon connected the two murders, due to them most likely committed by an American. The News of a murderer on the loose, who happened to be an American soldier, terrified Australians in Melbourne. They did look the men in Pauline’s life. They investigated her husband, who was police officer, But they quickly ruled him out sue to him working his shift. However, he informed them that she went out with a bunch of girlfriends, who went to a bar to watch her sing.
After speaking with Pauline’s friend, they found out she went out to meet a guy she secretly was dating. Like Ivy, she took off her ring and used her maiden name. They left assuming she felt safe, since they had been out multiple times. Unfortunately, she never told her friends his name.
In Between the two murders, police received an anonymous phone call to look for a man who walks on his hands, then hung up. The police obviously were very confused. Fast forward to after Pauline’s murder, Detective Adam was enjoying an evening at the Royal Park Hotel and he noticed an American soldier walking on his hands. He insisted that he had to be the killer, but a superior overruled him and said they needed more evidence to question a U.S. Soldier. This decision made it possible for the killer to take one last victim.
On May 18, around 7 AM, her body was found by a local butcher walking by and police rushed to the scene. Similar to Ivy and Pauline, he had marks on her neck, pointing to strangulation. Like the last two murders, she was posed suggestively, although they noticed her body face down. The Police found her purse 50 to 100 yards away, therefore they knew it was not a robbery. They noticed her legs slightly open, with mud inserted into her, but she had no signs of penetration. The police realized the mud turned out to be yellowish Clay. They took note of the yellow clay and presumed the killer must have the material on him.
The victim, identified as Gladys Hosking, 40, was working late at Melbourne University. She worked in the chemistry library at the university. On top of fears that a deranged killer was on the loose, rain poured on the streets of Melbourne, with no signs of stopping. Gladys was on a walk through Royal Park, to travel home. She expressed to her mother, through letters, that she felt nervous about going out at night and especially nervous that she lived less than 1000 feet away from the base.
Police went to the camp and quickly informed about the man covered in mud. They found recently washed uniforms in a tent, but the clothes still had yellow stains on them. Then they saw an 24 year old soldier named Eddie Leonski, walking on his hands, drunk, just like the call said.
The police noticed a lot of footprints in the area, thus they called in a special team of forensic specialists to analyze every print. Unfortunately the police failed tape up the area, therefore people walked all over the crime scene and isolating single prints were impossible. They asked witness to come forward if they saw anything and one person said they saw Gladys walking home from work with a man. The man, who was holding an umbrella over both of them, shielding his face from being identifiable. They did say he wore an American soldier uniform and Pell Camp was located in Melbourne, behind the last crime scene.
The police put the camp on lockdown, but since there was no gate or anything, some decided to leave. However, most decided to stay and do interviews and lineups. They wanted to get back to their normal lives and knew that needed the police to find the killer to do that. For days, the authorities spoke with soldiers, to no avail. Police started to lose hope that they would ever find the killer. A witness named Anthony Gallo came to talk to them. He told them his friend Eddie Leonski is the killer, but would not take his advice and turn himself in. However, the police wanted explanation on why he believed he committed the murders. Anthony then explained Eddie confessed multiple times while drunk, but he always brushed it off, thinking he was lying. The confessions happens more often, therefore he thought he could be telling the truth.
While the interview with Anthony occurred, other officers conducted lineups with no luck. This was until a witness, who was looking at the lineup, but could not recognize anyone. As he turned to tell the police to bring in the next group, he was a group of soldiers, and told investigators that a man in the group was the killer. Police ran over, pinned, and arrested the suspect for the murders of Ivy, Pauline, and Gladys. The suspect turned out to be Eddie Leonski, Anthonys’ friend.
Edward Joseph Leonski was born on December 12, 1917, in Kenvil, New Jersey. Eddie, the youngest six children, was born to Russian-Jewish parents. His father, John Leonski, worked in manual labor. His mother, Amelia Leonski (nee Harkavitz),was presumably a stay at home mother, given the time.
Eddies’ household consisted of alcoholism from all sides. His parents and older siblings all indulged in alcohol. One of his siblings ended up admitted to a psychiatric faculty later in life. Experts think that a toxic childhood caused him to self medicate with alcohol. John drank from the time wok up until the time his head hit the pillow. Needless to say, he was a very abusive husband and father. Emilia, Eddie’s mother, got most of John’s abuse. He beat her, threw her around, and screamed at her. I could not find any specifics on abuse to Eddie and his siblings, but he was abusive, probably similar to Emilia abuse.
None of this means, by any means, that Emilia was a saint. That could not be further from the truth. She abused the kids, not as often, but she was not innocent. Now Emelia shielded Eddie from abuse, because she had favoritism for Eddie and never tried too hard to hide it. When his father would go into one of his tirades, she would comfort him by singing to him. This had to be confusing to him to hear the comfort of singing alongside yelling and violence. Eventually Emilia decided to take the kids and escape. She moved them to New York City. John stayed in New Jersey and succumbed to his alcoholism and later died alone.
Although the family were safe from abusive John, it did not mean their life was sunshine and rainbows. Eddie soon began to get bullied, due to being kind of a “momma’s boy”. Nothing is wrong with being close to your parents; sometimes kids are just awful. I got the feeling that she manipulated Eddie, so it was a very toxic relationship. But she remained in his place for comfort. Emilia soon met a new man that would become Eddie’s stepfather, but he was no better than John. In fact, he was the same as john, because he was an alcoholic and abusive to Emilia. I could not find any information on if he abused Eddie and his siblings, but they still had to see and hear violence towards their mother. Now instead of his home life being his comfort space, it was as dramatic as his school life.
Around 11 years old, Eddie started to realize how Emilia was being abused by her new husband. She started to became withdrawn and started to pull away from her kids. She became depressed and began to abuse alcohol. Now that Eddie was older, she decided to start working, but could not keep them due to either being drunk or hungover. The stress of not being able to hold down a job and needing money, caused Emilia a nervous breakdown. While at a psychiatric hospital, she was diagnosed with manic depression. It is thought, if she was diagnosed now, she would have been diagnosed with Schizophrenia.
During the time of Emilia’s hospitalization, her abusive husband raised the children. Unable to find information on abuse toward the children ,but with Emilia away, he had to direct his anger somewhere. Despite the turbulent time. Eddie seemed to flourish and overcome trauma. He focused on sports and became interested in wrestling. He graduated high school with impressive grades. Eddie continued his education, at a three year college, where he earned a clerical degree. He graduated with high marks at the top 10 in his class.
After graduation, he started working as a clerk at a local grocery store. This point in his life, is when he started to have a shift in personality change. Before this time, Eddie showed no signs of any indication of becoming a serial killer. He played in a normal manner, had a paper route, and even played on the baseball team. He later showed interest in wrestling and bodybuilding.
Eddie began to shortchange his customers and would pocket the extra. Around this time, he got more into bodybuilding and was a bit of a showoff. He would lift big bags of potatoes to prove to people he was strong. At first, this impressed co-workers, but soon they grew tired of his antics. This was because his ego increased to an insane amount and it rubbed everyone the wrong way. He also insinuated that could beat up anyone, because he was stronger than everyone.
Shortly, shortchanging customers led to pick pocketing. After he never got caught, this intensified up with Eddie and his brother robbing a warehouse and selling the products. They did this multiple times, before a security guard saw them and shot at them. Eddie decided to stop robbing, the warehouse, but his brother did not want to lose out on the profit. Soon after, his brother got caught and arrested.
While Eddie’s brother was in prison, he became close to his brother’s wife. He flirted with her and the two ended up starting an affair. The affair was thought to be his first relationship with a woman. He lacked respect for women and thought the majority were harlots. They definitely were not good enough for his mother to meet. He started off having a high respect for his brother’s wife, but once the affair started, he saw her as a cheater. He did not see the hypocrisy in that he seduced his brother’s wife, at the lowest time in her life. The affair ended up fizzling out and she was back to being with Eddie’s brother, once he was released.
Around 23, as World War II hit, Eddie enlisted in the U.S. Army. In February 1942, Eddie as shipped out to Australia. The journey took two weeks, on a ship, from San Francisco, California to Melbourne, Australia. Once in Australia, the military assigned the Americans, including Eddie, to Camp Pell. He soon found a group of men he could belong to. The soldiers spent their nights drinking and picking up women. They also participated in friendly brawls, similar to a fight club. However, what should have been fun, soon turned bad. Eddie soon took the drinking too far and it became an addiction. Friends said that Eddie told them that he drank to forget about a woman he loves, probably his brother’s wife.
The guys invited him out, because he would do the most insane stuff, like drinking Whiskey with Chilis. He soon started to show off his strength. He would do handstands and walk on his hands, which goes back to that anonymous phone call. At one point, they went looking for Eddie, when he never report to work. They found him drunk in a closet and knew he needed to get reprimanded. His erratic behavior led to him waking up late and became ineffective soldier. The higher ups put in a 30-day detention, basically isolation for the punishment. After his isolation, his behavior escalated. His drinking became out of control and he would want to spar. No one wanted to spar with Eddie, because he would knick people out. It just got out of hand.
His behavior drove friends away from wanting to go out with him. This led to him visiting the red district, which if you are unaware, is the place where prostitutes conduct business. He met a woman named Beatrice, and somewhere in the meeting he attacked her, hitting her in the head and attempting to choke her. However, Beatrice squirmed away and escaped. Beatrice reported Eddie and the police detained him, but he was soon released. I think this lit a fuse with Eddie. He learned he could literally strangle a woman and get away with it, with no punishment.
Eddie’s behavior started to escalate in April of 1942. Eddie stopped a woman named Doreen Justice, while walking home from a tram stop. Eddie asked directions to a particular place. After attempting to explain the directions to Eddie, Doreen ended up showing him herself. When the two reached a certain point, Eddie told her that he could figure it out from there. They went their separate ways and Doreen headed home.
She arrived to her door and as she unlocked her door to step inside, she felt a push and fell to the floor. She lifted head to see Eddie, who she realized followed her home, shutting her inside her apartment. Before Doreen could react, Eddie picked her off the ground, pushed her to living room, and threw her on the couch. She stood up from the couch and screamed at Eddie to leave. Eddie told her to shut up and lie down, but she refused and continues to scream at him. He grabbed her throat until she passed out. Doreen woke up to him carrying her to her bedroom, in his arms. Eddie threw her on her bed and watched as he started to undress.
She knew she had to make a plan about escaping, before he could sexually assault her, but knew she did not have the strength to fight him off or run. Doreen asked him for a glass of water, because her throat and she felt as if she was going to pass out again. He agreed and brought her to kitchen. She escaped his grasp and ran out the front door. Eddie caught up to her, grabbed her by the waist and pulled her towards the door. At this time, they heard a noise and realized a neighbor looked out their door. The neighbor saw a naked man trying to pull a distressed Doreen into her home, after hearing screaming. Knowing he could not continue, Eddie ran inside her apartment and locked the door.
Doreen went to her neighbor’s house for safety. Her neighbor neighbor tried to call the police, but Doreen stopped her. This is because her husband would have been mad due to his dislike of police. She felt he did not rape her, so it would be a waste of time. A little while later, they went back to Doreen’s apartment, but Eddie obviously fled. However, he left his army badge behind. Shortly after this event, Eddie would began his horrifying murders.
Eddie’s Accounts of Murders
On may 2, Eddie worked his shift and went with friends to a local pub,at the Victoria Hotel, until it closed at 6 PM. His friends wanted to call it a night, but Eddied decided to stay out longer. He went down to the beach, walked, and eventually sat on a wall.
Approached by two men and a woman, who asked if he was okay, and sat down and conversed with him. They all had their last drinks with them from the pub. The men finished their drinks and left to buy mor alcohol, but left the woman, named Pat, to accompany Eddie. He flirted with her, but as she tried to kiss him, he turned her down. He later said her breath stunk, probably from alcohol honestly. After not finding any alcohol ,the men came back, and asked if he wanted to go to a club. He turned down the offer and the group headed off to the club.
Eddie looked out at the beach and turned around toward the tram stop and noticed a woman, later identified as Ivy McLeod. Ivy walked into a shop, where she would meet a tragic fate…
Ivy Violet McLeod was enjoying a night out with friends in Albert Park near Melbourne’s business district on May 2. While waiting at a tram station in Albert Park in the early morning of the next morning, Ivy met a man. He started a conversation by commenting on her purse, that he later described as “funny looking”, and even touched the handbag. As the conversation changed to a new topic, he attacked Ivy. Eddie strangled her and fell on top of her then she hit her head as she fell. He then stripped her half-naked, and positioned her into a lewd pose.
He saw Pauline perform, which he later described as feeling as she singing for him. After indulging in drinks, they left the bar, and as they walked, she sung to him. The man describes them turning a corner and arrived at a staircase. While still singing to him, he grabbed her around her neck. She stopped singing and he told her to keep singing, but she fell to the ground. He became mad at this and started to attack her. He stopped and hid behind a stone wall after seeing a pedestrian cross the street, but they never saw the attack.
While escaping the downpour, under a shelter, a soldier was crossing the same park to get to the base. She unfortunately accepted his offer to walk with him. He described being fixated on her voice. They walked until they needed to part ways, but he did not want her to leave and wanted to keep her voice, This is when he choked her. The man explains her not making a sound and having immediate regret.
He got her body to a fence, pushed her underneath, hopped over said fence. He pulled her by her underarms, but fell into the mud. Then he recalled her making gurgling sounds and pulled her dress over her face to stop the sound. The mud appeared to have a yellow tint, because it contained clay. Australian soldier Neil Seymour passed the fence. When he saw the man in the mud, the man claimed he fell down, because he drank too much with a lady. Neil never saw Gladys.
Before Eddie’s trial began, he was evaluated for any mental illnesses. Psychiatrist declared Eddie criminally sane. His diagnoses happened in 1942 and most likely would have been different if he was diagnosed today. He clearly had some level of mental illness. When he would get distressed, he would sing in a high pitched voice, similar to how his mother would comfort him. He also admitted that he strangled women to take their voice. It goes back to his awful childhood. That being said, that does not excuse his murders.
Although Eddie committed the murders in Australia, he was tried by American Military Law. On July 17, 1942, he confessed to the murders and was shortly sentenced to death. At HM Prison Pentridge, Eddie was hanged at the gallows, on November 9. His remains are locted at the Schofield Barracks Post Cemetery in Ohau, Hawaii.
When i came across this case, I never heard of it and never see it covered. I finally it very interesting that he strangled women to get their voice. I never saw anything saying his mother abused him, but why would he hurt the women, as symbolic matricide. There has to be more on his relationship with his mother. Maybe she protected Eddie from his abusive father, but maybe she was too close to him in other ways. lots of times when mother engage in incestous relationship with their sons, the sons lash out in other ways. Or pershaps the constant dotting and affection became overbearing.
Lessons to take from this awful case are simple. Use the buddy system the whole night, even while going home. I must remind everyone I only include these to inform and help people. The blame remains fully on Eddie and him alone. however, anything we can do as people to reduce dangerous situautions is best. I would like to know your thoughts. What role did Eddie’s mother play in the way he turned out?
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