October 26, 1964
Perth, Western Australia
Serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke is hanged
Cooke terrorized Perth in the early 1960s, randomly targeting his victims, injuring at least 22 and wounding at least 8. His random choice of targets and his random choice of methods of killing contributed to his ability to evade arrest. So random were the murders that two of his victims were originally attributed to innocent people. (After his arrest, Cooke attempted to claim these murders too, but was ignored by police. He told his wife on death row “why can’t the authorities believe me?”) The choice of weapons varied between attacks, as well: several rifles were used and stabbing instruments included knives, scissors, and an axe. Even the motives for the attacks varied, with Constance Lucy Madrill killed during a panic when Cooke feared he’d be found out, and Shirley Martha McLeod killed while Cooke was “under the influence of ‘a power’ that made him feel like he was God.”
Cooke’s end came when a rifle was found hidden in a bush. The gun was tested and was determined to be a ballistic match for the gun which killed McLeod. Police decided to watch the area to apprehend the gun’s owner when they retrieved the weapon. After 17 days of waiting, Cooke returned for the gun and was arrested. After a failed attempt at an insanity plea, Cooke was found guilty in November 1963 and hanged less than a year later.
With new evidence regarding the murders of Rosemary Anderson and Jillian MacPherson Brewer (the victims authorities originally did not believe Cooke had killed), presented in 2002 and 2005 respectively, Cooke has officially been named their killer.
Cooke’s known victims are:
- Patricia Vinico Berkman (33). Stabbed, 1959.
- Jillian MacPherson Brewer (22). Stabbed and beaten, 1960.
- Rosemary Anderson (17). Hit and run, 1963.
- Brian Weir (29). Shot, 1963.
- George Osmond Walmsley (54). Shot, 1963.
- John Sturkey (19). Shot, 1963.
- Shirley Martha McLeod (18). Shot, 1963.
- Constance Lucy Madrill (24). Strangled, 1963.
- Reardon, David. “After 34 years, killer’s wife comes forward with death-row confession.” The Age [Melbourne, Victoria, Australia]. October 30, 1998
- “Justice lies in death-row confession.” The Age [Melbourne, Victoria, Australia]. October 26, 1998
- “Murderer Hanged in W.A. Gaol.” The Sydney Morning Herald [Sydney, New South Wales, Australia]. October 27, 1964
- “Death for Aussie Killer.” Daily News [New York, New York]. November 28, 1963
- “Panic Alleged Cause of Murder.” The Age [Melbourne, Victoria, Australia]. December 19, 1963
- “More Murder Charges Against Man.” The Sydney Morning Herald [Sydney, New South Wales, Australia]. October 25, 1963
- “Girl Student Shot Dead; Another Maniac Killing in W.A.” The Age [Melbourne, Victoria, Australia]. August 12, 1963
- “Perth Death.” The Sydney Morning Herald [Sydney, New South Wales, Australia]. February 18, 1963
- “Crazed Prowler Shoots Five People; Two Die.” The Age [Melbourne, Victoria, Australia]. January 28, 1963
- “‘Hurrying Man’ Story at Inquest.” The Age [Melbourne, Victoria, Australia]. June 9, 1960