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The Blackout Murders (Hardback)

Homicide in WW2

P&S History > By Century > 20th Century P&S History > True Crime WWII

By Neil R Storey
Imprint: Pen & Sword True Crime
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 30 mono
ISBN: 9781399071024
Published: 16th January 2023



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Nostalgic recollections of wartime Britain often forget that when the blackout was enforced at night in an attempt to foil Nazi bombers a crime wave, cloaked by the inky black darkness, ensued on many of our streets. There were petty crimes, robberies, sexual assaults and, as The Blackout Murders reveals, some horrific murders took place on our home front during the Second World War. Some of them still rank among the most shocking crimes in modern British history.

Some of the murders recounted within the pages of this book remain infamous, others are almost forgotten and some remain unsolved to this day. Several cases have new light shed on them from recently released archives and records uncovered by the author. Every case has been carefully selected for its reflection of wartime conditions and each one has a powerful, poignant and tragic story to tell.

Readers will gain insights into the darker narrative of our home front and learn about some of the men and women who strove to maintain law and order under the most challenging circumstances. Others innovated and developed ground-breaking forensic techniques to identify bodies, recognise if foul play had occurred and as a direct result brought murderers to justice who may otherwise have gone undetected and unpunished.

Anyone reading The Blackout Murders will never look at Britain's Home Front during the Second World War in the same way again.

The book is well-researched, and Storey, an award-winning historian, brings his expertise to the subject, providing a detailed look at the impact of war on British society. He highlights the work of men and women who strived to maintain law and order during these challenging times and discusses the development of groundbreaking forensic techniques used to solve some of these crimes.

NetGalley, Ionia Froment

"The book is recommended for those who are keen to learn more about what has become known as “True Crime”. There is a wide geographical coverage of murders within the UK. The photographs of which there are many, include graphic details of victims which ensure the reader understands the horrors of murder."

Surrey Constabulary History Journal, Police History Society

Article: The Leeds Axe-Murderer

Northern Life

Article: The Colne Strangler

Northern Life

Article: The Colne Strangler

Colne Life

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A very well researched book on life during the blackout. An interesting read on how many deaths occurred during this period as well as murders that took place at this time. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in history and what was happening.

NetGalley, T B

here are many stories of kindness and bravery and other uplifting actions during the Blitz. But the Germans were not the only predators on the streets of London. For those with evil intentions, the black out provided an inky backdrop to their nefarious deeds. In fact, a couple of the more notorious serial killers of the day got started during the blackout. It was easier to be hidden and things that might have been witnessed were able to go on in the pitch dark.

They are all sad stories of innocent people who often were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some, like the Acid Bath killer, honed his ‘craft’ in order to rob the victims of their wealth Others were just warped individuals who got pleasure from causing pain to others. They all shared a common denominator. None had any sympathy for the victims and when caught would find any excuse to shift the blame. They were a motley crew and some remain to this day unknown. Sadly many of the tools that today would help identify both victim and villain are useless. Whatever forensic evidence that might have existed, is likely gone or too compromised to be of any value.

It is a gruesome but interesting book for anyone interested in true crime who also is interested in London during WWII. Four purrs and two paws up.

NetGalley, Susan Johnston

The Blackout Murders looks at serious crimes that occurred during WW2 in Britain, in a bit of a nostalgic look at Britain during this period the book lifts the lid on crime and shows that death wasn’t only around on the battlefront.

The book looks at 10 murders in a number of circumstances and places, and really very interesting. You can also tell that there has been a lot of research and writing put into this book and this shows through to produce an easy read.

An excellent little book and certainly a good one to read for any fans of true crime.

Read the Full Review Here

The History Fella

Neil's narrative makes a difficult subject such an interesting, & compelling read. So much so that I have read this book in just a day!

I certainly look forward to reading more of his work.


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

For anyone born in the UK way after the end of WWII, British recollections of that time tend to be very nostalgic. There have been many television programmes written around the events, lots of dramas, comedies even (Dad's Army, & 'Allo 'Allo), but the early 2000s saw the showing of 'Foyle's War' created by Anthony Horowitz about main character DCS Foyle who investigates crime against the backdrop of the war. Even so, crime during the Blitz & blackouts is not something that has been at the forefront. This book examines some of the forgotten about crimes of the late 1930s/early 1940s when unscrupulous criminals & everyday chancers took advantage of the cover provided by the blackouts & frequent bombings & carried out robberies, sexual assaults, & even murder.

If you like true crime, then you really should give this book a read. It's a fascinating look at not only well-planned crimes during WWII but those who impetuously took advantage of the lack of police presence (many had been called up) & the opportunities the war opened up to those wishing to 'permanently solve' a particular problem. Although there has obviously been months of painstaking research, it's written in an accessible style that keeps the reader's interest. The cases are a mix of more well-known cases (the 'Babes in the Wood' case) & others which are not so well-known - personally I had never heard of the case of 'The Blackout Ripper' before. The last crime in the book is only tangentially connected with the theme of the rest of the book as it took place in the early 1940s, but it was still interesting & sadly still officially unsolved. Absolutely recommended for true crime fans out there.

NetGalley, Gayle Noble

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

There's a couple of historical mystery series set during the Bliz that I love. This book talks about real murders and I learned a lot about police and crime during that time.
An informative, well researched and well written book..
Highly recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As a true crime writer (Bloody Yorkshire series), I understand the hard work and research that goes into publishing a book like this. Well done to the author. Well-written and full of detail. A recommended read.

NetGalley, Wendy M Rhodes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A very well researched book on life during the blackout. An interesting read on how many deaths occurred during this period as well as murders that took place at this time. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in history and what was happening.

NetGalley, Lional Jones

Article: 'Blackout murder solved?

Nelson Leader

This book was truly enlightening. I had heard of some of the crime that was committed during the war Blackouts however, this book went into a lot of the detail of the crimes, how they perpetraitors were caught and the forensic pathology used within the investigation of each of the crimes.
Based on the fact that the Blackouts were used to perform a lot of crime this makes me wonder how much crime and murder was committed during the rolling blackouts during the 1970s. Also, were we the only country that had a similar crime trend during blackouts during WW2.

NetGalley, Victoria Lloyd

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a very informative book about the conditions people lived through during the blackouts, even before the criminal aspect was added to the story.

Traditionally in relation to this period we tend to hear positive stories about the camaraderie shown between and the never-say-die spirit of people who lived through it, and how they dealt with the bombings and rationing and not knowing what the next day would bring with a British “stiff upper lip” kind of resolve, and just made the best of it. This book raised an angle I had never thought about before, namely the chance that the blackout gave to opportunistic people with criminal tendencies to take advantage of the prevailing conditions and commit crimes they may previously only have fantasised about, and in some cases actually get away with them.

The author has clearly been very meticulous is his research of all of the cases presented, and tells them in an equally meticulous and logical way that makes them easy for the reader to follow, even if in some cases the subject matter itself is not easy to read and may be disturbing for some readers. The inclusion of newspaper extracts from the time, life and death portraits of the characters involved, and crime scene layouts and photographs, all enriched the telling of the stories even further.

This was my first work by the author, but I will certainly be checking out some of his previous works based on my enjoyment of this book.

NetGalley, Rob O'Driscoll

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

From missing children serial killers patricide matricide and everything in between the blackouts did not stop every day Crime as a matter of a fact it seem to intensify it. So while London was getting blasted with bombs criminals use the darkness to their advantage and it’s all in this book the blackout murders. It’s the only people that were hindered by the darkness were the good guys. I learned so much in this book about crimes I knew nothing about but about life as it was during the blitz I think about the time quite often and how scary that must’ve been for those who lived through it but I think you’re scared of bombs coming to get you and then all of a sudden you’re being attacked the deeds of ugly vicious men know no bounds but these crimes or just delegated to men there women in the spot to that didn’t take the black out nights off. I highly recommend this book if you love history, historical crime in World War II events you love the black out murders I certainly did and I highly recommend it.

NetGalley, Janalyn Prude

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Blackout Murders is an incredibly riveting book about crimes which were committed during WWII in Britain when blackouts were in place. Not all the crimes were committed because of the blackout (there are other reasons) but criminals definitely exploited the already-horrific situation and robbed, attacked, stalked and murdered. Mercy killings occurred as well by those believing release from life was the only option. Spiritualism grew. Many of the crimes have been solved (and justice meted out in the form of imprisonment or execution) but some remain unsolved.

The illustrations, posters and photographs are remarkable, such as the Handy War-Time Guide, wedding photos, newspaper pleas, murderers and victims, floor plans and skull reconstruction. Some photographs are disturbing and unsettling but bring the realities of war to life. The manners in which many killed are heinous and grotesque as evinced by the stories. Murderers sometimes went to great lengths to do their deed, including forging letters, obtaining acid and planting grenades while others killed with objects at hand. Eyewitness accounts and court statements are fascinating to read about as well. Though I had heard of a few of the crimes, most were unknown to me.

True Crime and History readers, do add this to your reading list. Author Neil R. Storey writes with matter-of-fact brilliance yet with a very personable approach. Whilst crime is clearly not an enjoyable topic, the book is packed with details we would have otherwise not known or thought about.

My sincere thank you to Pen & Sword and NetGalley for providing me with an early digital copy of this detailed and compelling book. What a privilege it is to learn more about history!

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

I love to read books that are based on facts so I can learn about a time I wasn't involved in. I appreciated the photos that were included in the book.
The notion of a blackout was a device used to foil attacks by enemy aircraft who otherwise would find the lights of large towns and cities a great navigational aid. Such is the backdrop for the murders in this book. This book tells the darker side of life in wartime Britain. This book accounts for some of the most horrific murders that took place on the home front during the Second World War. I found this book to be fascinating.
4 stars

NetGalley, Karen Troutman

I asked for a review of this book based on the context provided about the contents. To me the necessity of blackouts during wars was about protecting citizens - I remembered my parents talking about blackout scenarios from 1971 war here. The book's premise completely shook me - the fact that the blackouts were used as a cover for serious crimes in the UK during WW2.

The detailed reporting by Neil in this book is hard hitting, and makes one wonder about the morality of taking advantages of other humans under the context where everyone is trying to survive without a bomb falling on their heads. And the extent to which these people went - from small crimes to mutilating women to dissolving victims in acid baths!! Repulsive is the only word that comes to mind. Neil does mention that the nature of the context could have tripped the sanity of some of these criminals but most of the ones described had planned out things meticulously and took advantage of the cover of darkness to commit their crimes. I am amazed that so many of these crimes were solved and the criminals executed, given the tight situation on the manpower with police and the blackouts themselves.

This is a book worth reading by everyone to know the nature of the human mind - in this case the negative extremes it can go under when no one in noticing!

NetGalley, Srinivasan Tatachari

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The "Blitz Spirit" has gone down in history as a time when the whole population of Britain pulled together during World War 2,forgot their differences and the greater good was the prevalent mood. As we know now ,like most myths, that wasn't quite the truth and circumstances and opportunity often led people to lower their moral standards or see the Blackouts as ideal cover for criminality.
Neil R Storey's "The Blackout Murders" details the more extreme end of that criminality with stories of some of the murders committed under the cover of Blackouts that don't generally figure in tales of Britain being "in it together".
While some of the characters featured, like John Christie, are well-known mostly these stories were new to me and quite fascinating, often giving a quite different view of wartime Britain to the general perception. I was particularly interested in the exploits of "Britain's Bonnie and Clyde", despicable people though they were.
A fascinating and well-written book.

NetGalley, Dave Blendell

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant book, we all heard the voices of the soldiers, the nazis, the blitz and of the Jewish people and how war affected them.
Yet we never heard about the murders that happened outside of the war, sadly people who murder will do it no matter what and this book brings that to light.
Well written and a must read.

NetGalley, Karen Bull

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I always enjoy the work of Neil R Storey and I wasn't disappointed with his latest work The Blackout Murders.

Most the murders mentioned take place during the years the British people faced complete blackouts in their streets (1930s and 1940s) making them very dangerous place to walk after dark. Same people will know most of the murders written about however others won't so I'm not going to give any details of the crimes. There are murders which are lesser known also which I find interesting as it's becoming increasingly difficult to find crimes I haven't read about.

I find the book easy to read and well researched, it also included photos which was a nice added bonus.

Easy to dip in and out of.

Recommended to true crime readers and non crime readers alike.

NetGalley, S Ballinger

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was such an interesting read, I had heard of a couple of serial killers that were killing during the blackouts as well as other murders that too place but a lot of the people/events spoken about in this book I had never heard of.
This book is well written with crimes that have been very well researched as well as giving me new understanding and outlook on the blackouts during WW2. I had always thought about them being there to keep people safe and naively had never thought of the people who use them as an oppportunity to take from or harm others in this dark and cold period of history.
I would highly recommend this read, especially if you like true crime or non fiction.

NetGalley, Aria Harlow

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A very accessible popular history of crime during the Blitz, both in London and outside. Written in a highly readable style.

NetGalley, Evan Ladouceur

This book is so fascinating! I am enthralled by all things London Blitz. It's true that that period tends to be romanticized. This book will dispel those myths. Full of exquisite details and exhaustive research, it kept me turning the pages all night, when I really shouldn't have been reading this material. Anyone who is interested in true crime or Britain's home front during WWII would find this book interesting.

NetGalley, Maureen Carney

This book reminds readers that life goes on even as the world is at war - and that includes the nastier aspects of our society. It is a fascinating account of true crime on “the home front” and I was riveted from page one onwards. The work which has gone in to uncovering and researching the cases shows through in this comprehensive and polished product.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

About Neil R Storey

NEIL R STOREY is an award-winning historian and author who specialises in the impact of war on British society in the first half of the 20th Century. A graduate of the University of East Anglia, he lectures across the UK and has assembled a fine collection of original First and Second World War images to illustrate his works. Neil has published over forty books, has written for national magazines and journals and appears on television documentaries and factual programmes as a guest historian including Who Do You Think You Are? and The Buildings That Fought Hitler.
Neil's other books published by Pen and Sword Books Ltd include: The King’s Men: The Sandringham Company and Norfolk Regiment Territorial Battalions 1914 – 1918, Beating the Nazi Invader and Britain’s Coast at War.

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