MELBOURNE'S "BROWNOUT STRANGLER"
40 year old Ivy Violet McLeod, was found strangled in Victoria Avenue, Albert Park in Melbourne on 3 May 1942. She was partly naked and had been badly beaten by her attacker. An American soldier had been seen in the area just before her body was discovered. Robbery did not appear to be the motive for the crime as her purse still contained about one Pound's worth of small change.
31 year old Pauline Thompson was the next victim on 9 May 1942. She had told her husband, a policemean in Bendigo, that was going to a dance at the Music Lover's club with a number of her girlfriends and a very young American, Private Justin Jones. She had planned to meet Private Jones at the American Hospitality Club before the dance at 7pm. Private Jones was 30 minutes late. Pauline gave up waiting for Jones and she was later seen with a soldier at the Astoria Hotel. They were seen leaving the hotel just before midnight. It was a dark, rainy miserable night. Pauline's body was found at about 4am on the steps of Morningside House in Spring Street. She had been badly strangled and her clothing was torn.
40 year old Gladys Hosking was the next victim of the "Brownout Strangler" on 18 May 1942. Gladys and her friend Dorothy Pettigrew left the Melbourne University that dark, wet night. They said goodbye to each other. She was apparently later seen sharing an umbrella with an American serviceman. A short time later, Private Noel Seymour, an Australian soldier, saw an American soldier covered in mud. Private Seymour was guarding some Army vehicles positioned just outside of Camp Pell. The American asked Seymour how to catch a tram to Camp Pell. Seymour asked him where he had been and the American soldier replied that he had fallen in some mud coming through the park and indicated that he lived in Area One in Camp Pell in the street near the zoo. A few hours later Gladys Hosking's body was found in a slit trench near Camp Pell.
Several other women now came forward to state that they had been attacked by an American serviceman, but had managed to escape. In one of these incidents the attacker had entered a women's flat. A person outside in the hallway distracted the attacker and the woman screamed. The attacker left in a hurry leaving behind a GI singlet with the initials EJL on it. In another case the attacker had tried to force a woman into her house but was confronted by the woman's uncle who chased the attacker away.
The 15,000 servicemen at Camp Pell were lined up by the Melbourne police so that witnesses could try to identify the murderer. 24 year old Edward Joseph Leonski of the 52nd Signal Battalion was eventually identified by the uncle of one of Leonski's victims who had managed to escape his attack. Leonski was then also identified by Private Seymour who had seen him covered in mud near Camp Pell on the night of the third murder. Leonski eventually confessed to the crimes.
Eddie Leonski was apparently a happy go lucky sort of fellow who would often be seen walking on his hands in a hotel bar after he had become intoxicated. This was apparently nearly every night. During his general court-martial he was cheerful, always grinning and joking during the proceedings. He was often seen taking notes during his trial.
Leonski's mother was an unstable person and his father was an alcoholic.
Leonski was Court Marshalled by an American military court in a hall in Russell Street, Melbourne. He was sentenced to death by hanging. General Douglas MacArthur confirmed the sentence on 4 November 1942. Leonski was hanged at Pentridge Prison on 9 November 1942.
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|Leonski was buried 3 times in two segregated
sites in Springvale Cemetery. In May 1945, his remains were recovered and he was buried in
an USAF Cemetery in Ipswich just west of Brisbane. In 1947, it was decided that all
Americans buried in Australia would be relocated to American soils. Leonski's remains were
unearthed again and sent to America where they stayed in an Army mausoleum for 6 months.
They were then transferred to an Army Distribution Center for another 9 months.
Eddie Leonski was buried in his final resting place on 14 April 1949 in the Schofield Barracks Post Cemetery, Plot 9, Row B, Grave 8.
In late August 2021, Nelson Lawry told me but that a movie had been made in Australia in 1986 titled "Death of a Soldier" which recounted the murders in Melbourne by American soldier Eddie Leonski, the so-called "Brownout Strangler". Bill Hunter and Maurie Field were the detective sergeants on the trail of the strangler and James Coburn was the American military lawyer given the impossible task of defending the jovial and likable murderer, played by Reb Brown. None of the three men wanted to see Leonski hanged because he was so obviously deranged, but U.S. Army authorities, perhaps guided by the dark hand of Douglas MacArthur, decide otherwise.
I'd like to thank the late Barry Ralph for the above information. Barry authored an excellent book on World War 2 in Australia called "They Passed This Way".
I'd also like to thank Nelson Lawry for his assistance with this web page.
Can anyone help me with more information?
"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn OAM 2020
This page first produced 2 December 2000
This page last updated 29 August 2021