In Melbourne, Victoria during the Second World War, electric lights were turned off or lowered at night to prevent aerial attacks from the Japanese. The war, which had confined itself to the Northern Hemisphere for the most part, was slowly creeping down the Pacific, and Melbourne was enjoying the subsequent influx of thousands of American soldiers stationed nearby. Many a young Aussie lady was swept off her feet by the charming, cashed-up Yankees.
But the fascination turned to fear when the lights went out and the bodies of three women were found strangled and discarded on the streets of Melbourne. Now the people of Melbourne had more than just air raids to fear – and all the evidence was pointing towards a GI being responsible for the crimes. The unknown subject was bequeathed a catchy nickname – the Brownout Strangler – to remind young women in Melbourne to stay inside when the lights turned down.
Eddie Leonski was a troubled youth who was conscripted into the military at a young age. The crimes he committed against young women in Melbourne were horrific, and at a time when Australians feared more for the safety of their country than ever before, the Brownout Strangler was reminding them that danger could come from within, as well. A thorough investigation weeded out Leonski from hundreds of American soldiers that could have been the culprit.
But it was the legal issues that really cemented Leonski as part of Australian criminal history. He was tried under American military law on Australian soil, and was executed at Pentridge Prison in Victoria with very little input from the state or Federal governments.
Ivy McLeod, Pauline Thompson and Gladys Hosking were undeserving victims of a cruel and twisted mind. Eddie Leonski is remembered now, not for being a war hero or a dedicated soldier, but for his sick and despicable acts. His body has been dug up and re-interred a number of times, undeserving of a final resting place.
Our main source this week was the cracking Murder at Dusk by Ian W. Shaw. Get it herehttps://www.booktopia.com.au/murder-at-dusk-ian-w-shaw/prod9780733640452.html?source=pla&gclid=Cj0KCQiA-JXiBRCpARIsAGqF8wUfn4ZefQfqnmx1U0HKpGXwgJjagMslepG6aixsVM7cRLCOMo4sZ9MaAkVZEALw_wcB to be seduced by his poetic descriptions of violent hangings.
To find out more about the legal complications of the case, read here https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/edward-leonski-hanged-by-us-military-on-australian-soil-in-the-hangmans-journal-part-iv/news-story/4c2807f932b105085414d0cd5dafcc62?sv=73c4900155d09b4afaa1bc84132de7f7&fbclid=IwAR12jeVJJs499-I6aDAc17VMhH8VIF0TTP6uTqoEBVghMjV3xPsFs2Ozw6Y
You can find out some general info at the light and breezy Daily Mail here https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5994231/How-soldier-Eddie-Leonski-hanged-murdering-Melbourne-women-World-War-II.html?fbclid=IwAR0sei0A9qs8laLlYgAuCp_qwpeIJoK8fbtX4nmXVfUJkj_bI06dvm2AvEw
For what your English teacher would call “historical context”, head here https://www.ozatwar.com/ozatwar/eddieleonski.htm?fbclid=IwAR2YMtz4sSQKDSfx2Vr9JCxIKNyIZtFO83ZONN4DQAPxY92KdTSVzjC_8cA