The Execution Of Edward Leonski 1942


The Courier Mail (Brisbane)

11 May 1942



Sunday. — A small, hand-picked force of detectives has been , assigned to special brown-out duty, following a second mystery murder in the last week. They have been given a roving commission in the city, but will operate chiefly in areas where large numbers of girls are employed on night shifts ‘at munitions factories. Detectives believe that a maniac killer, is at large. His two victims are: —

Mrs. Ivy McLeod, 40, whose semi nude body was discovered in a shop doorway at Albert Park last Sunday. .

Mrs. Pauline Coral Thompson, 32 who was found strangled out side an apartment house in Spring Street, city, early on Saturday.

In each case the victim’s clothes were nearly ripped off, but there was no evidence of criminal assault. ‘The movements of each woman have been investigated during the three weeks before her death, but not one indication has been disclosed of any association which might have a bearing on the deaths. Their clothes had been torn in exactly the . same way — ripped from the neck downwards.

Victim Strangled

Mrs. McLeod died from a fractured skull. Mrs. Thompson was strangled, but there was a mark on her face, which indicated that she had been struck first, Mrs. Thompson’s husband is a police constable at Bendigo. She was telephonist at 3AW, Melbourne and before coming to Melbourne conducted women’s sessions at 3BO, Bendigo. Constable Thompson arrived in Melbourne today.

The chief aim of the detectives is to prevent any attempted repetition by the killer. A general warning has been issued to women to avoid . dark lanes and streets unless escorted. A proposal has been made to detectives that in their patrols they should disguise themselves as women in the hope of trapping the slayer.


x3 women leonski

The Maryborough Chronical

21 May 1942



What is believed to be a valuable clue to the murder of Miss Gladys Hosking is being hotly followed by detectives. They have received information from an Australian soldier and they believe that it will materially assist the invesigation.

The police are endeavouring to discover where Miss Hosking went after she finished work at the Melbourne University. She left there at 6.30 and her later movements so far have not been traced. She had a wide circle of friends and the police are appealing to them to come forward. It is believed that she was murdered between 9 and 10 o’clock. The post mortem showed that she had had an evening meal. She often stayed with friends at night and her absence from the boarding-house yards from the spot where the body was found, occasioned no alarm.

Detectives failed to locate anyone who heard screams during the evening. They believe that the attacker caught her unawares and choked her to death before she could make a sound. They are satisfied that she put up a terrific struggle, as the marks on the ground bear this out.

Her parents are licensees of a hotel at Meckering, Western Australia. She was widely travelled and had returned from a trip abroad only 2years ago. She was at one time assistant-secretary to the Y.W.C.A. Western Australia.

Detectives are facing a tremendous task in solving three murders in 16 days. They do not deny that all the crimes are similar and could have been done by the same person. Already hundreds of civilians and soldiers have been questioned, but little light has been thrown on any of the crimes


The Western Mail (Perth)

28th  May 1942

 Melbourne Murders


It was stated by high US military authorities yesterday that the American soldier who has been detained following recent murder investigations in Melbourne had been turned over to custody of US Army authorities and was being held in close confinement. Trial by general court martial, the highest military court, has been planned for the soldier, it was stated.

The authorities added that the soldier would be charged. The case was being prepared for trialby this general military court, which would be composed of US Army officers. It was indicated that US military courts martial were open. The public was admitted, except in instances where testmony was of a scandalous nature, or where military secrets were involved. The authorities explained that the general court martial was similar to our Supreme Court trial by jury. It was composed of 5 or more officers, usually more. If by reason of challenges the court was reduced below 5 members it would be adjourned until new officers were appointed.

Members of the court were appointed by the commanding officer of the area. The judge-advocate was prosecutor and a senior officer was president of the court , and had certain obligations and rights. A law member was usually designated from the Judge Advocates’ Department. He passed on legal points and also had certain obligations and rights according to procedure.

The defence counsel was always an Army officer, but the accused also had the right to brief a civil lawyer.


No formal charge has yet been made against the US soldier, a private in a transport unit in a camp near the city, who is being held in close confinement, but the US Army authorities stated today that he would be charged with the murders of women within 16 days.

The general court martial to try him has been appointed but the charges will not be made against the soldier until the police briefs have been completed. The name of the soldier and the date and place of the court sitting have also to be announced.

Detectives who investigated the murders have completed their inquiries and are preparing the briefs for the court martial and for the guidance of the Coroner.

After a conference between Supt E. Dower, Chief of the CIB, Inspector H. Carey and Det-Sg’t S. McGuffie, who directed the investigations, and Mr Tingate, City Coroner, Supt Dower said that he could not give any indication when the inquests would be held.

Briefs would be given to Mr Tingate and further action would then rest with him. Mr Tingate also could not give any indication of the form of the inquiry that he would have to conduct. He had not discussed the position with the Crown Law Department nor had he given consideration yet to the legal aspects.

The Cairns Post (Regional Queensland)

26th  May 1942





The detectives v/ho investigated the three brown-out murders have completed their briefs of the evidence for presentation at the U.S.A. Army general court-martial, which will try Private Edward Joseph Loenski (24), American soldier, now held in close confinement under military guard.

The police are hopeful the court-martial will sit next week. – It is not yet decided what action the City Coroner will take in holding the inquiries into the deaths of the three women. The police think he may decide to hold the inquiries after the court-martial has given its findings.

In addition to detectives, a large number of witnesses is likely to be called at the military trial.

During their inquiries the police interviewed more than 250 persons.



The Maryborough Chronical (Regional Queensland)

11 JUNE 1942






MELBOURNE, June 10. —

The hear ing of charges of three brown-out murders against Private Joseph

Leonski (24), an American soldier, was adjourned indefinitely to-day to enable a board of medical officers toreport on his sanity.

The United Stales general court-martial will resume when the report is available,probably not for several weeks.

eddy l

A major acted as judge advocate and Leonski had a lieutenant-colonels and a second lieutenant to defend him The accused did not challenge any of the court and :iid not ask for a civilian counsel.

The hearing took place in the bail room of a city hall where military police admitted only members of the court, witnesses. Australian Army officers, Victorian police officials ‘in cluding the Chief Commissioner. Mr. Duncan) and a limited number of Pressmen, who included Australian and international correspondents.


The location was kept secret from the public but office workers in the vicinity immediately guessed what was happening .when a strong force of military police took up positions outside the building.

A small crowd In which women where prominent wu’chej Leonski. a little pale but Well composed, wall; from the Armv car into the building. Spectators expected him to be conveyed in the ‘Black ‘Mar’ia’ parked outside the city watch-house. Few had a good view of him as he was whisked through the hall.

He was not hand cuffed, but was closely guarded by four military police.

Less than 59 people were seated in the improvised courtroom. Members of the court martial occupying a long trestle table draped with khaki with the United States flag hanging overhead.

‘Medium built, biue eyed and with fair hair closely cropped Leonski sat a small table with his counsel. Immediately behind were the official spectators. Across to the right and on an angle facing the court was the trial judge-advocate and behind him were three rows of Pressman. Every corner and exit was guarded by military police.


‘As soon as the court was told of the nature’ of tho charges, counsel for the defence urged that a report ‘be obtained on the mental condition of the accused. Counsel said there might be a serious doubt as to his mental condition in vio\y of the recommendation of the officer conducting the military inquest into the death of Lilian Hosking, on the ground that, under the jurisdiction of the United States Army, a ‘board of medical officers should determine his mental status.

That officer was largely responsible for obtaining certain alleged confessions or statements from Leonski.

His recommendation stated: ‘There is evidence of distinct mental lapses on the part of the accused and the process of obtaining a confession from him was not a process of reducing any resistance, but consisted of aiding him to remember the facts and circumstances.

This court entertains a reasonable doubt as lo the sanity of the accused and recommends that a board of medical officers be appointed to determine his mental status.


Canberra Times

18 July 1942


Unanimous Finding Of Court Martial



When the court martial resumed its hearing to-day of three charges of murder against Private Joseph Leonski, who pleaded not guilty, defence counsel said that in a case where so much depended on the mental state of the accused in respect to tht alleged confessions and the mental state, if, in fact, the confessions were true, he proposed to call evidence from men of Leonski’s unit to give the court martial a picture of the type of man he was.

Counsel added that Leonski was a pretty good soldier when he first joined the army, but became an increasingly poor one. He was a good soldier and a decent follow when there was no liquor in his system, and the reverse when he had been drinking. The first witness for the defence, an American soldier, said that Leonski mixed his drinks, but he had never seen him drunk.

Another U.S. private said that Leonski could talk very cleverly and act the drunk.

An American officer said that Leonski was perpetually in trouble, although not of a serious nature. He drank more than the average soldier and appeared unable to resist liquor. He did not consider him completely normal mentally.

Evidence by other U.S. Army witnesses was that at Luna Park, St. Kilda, Leonski once grabbed some girls and attempted to kiss them.

 As the company left Texas, Leonski was drunk, “sort of laughing and crying.” He walked on his hands and fell on his face.

Other evidence was given that in  U.S.A. Leonski was seen to mix beer, ice cream, whisky, ketchup and hot peppers, and drink the concoction.

An Australian psychiatrist said that he found Leonski had a psychopathic personality. Alcohol would be liable to produce some psychopathic behaviour which could not normally occur.

He would not say that a person who, with out provocation and not in a temper and not under delusions, would strangle three defenceless women in less than 21 days, was normal.

He might not necessarily be insane, but might behave in an insane manner in certain circumstances. The Judge Advocate said that he was prepared to accept the evidenceof an American private who would have given it if he had been present, to the effect that he had seen Leonski drink down in one go ketchup, mustard, pepper, salt, whisky, beer and milk.

For the first time during the trial Leonski spoke when asked if he accepted this procedure. Rising, he faced the ten members of the Bench and, in a quiet voice, said:”I do.” This concluded the case for the defence.

Leonski was found guilty by unanimous verdict and sentenced to death by hanging. At the conclusion of the addresses, the court was closed for 20 minutes when the Judge Advocate, in reply to the president’s inquiries, read Leonski’s record of service. It was stated that there was no prior conviction. On the resumption the President announced that the accused had been found guilty on all counts by a secret ballot of the members of the court and each had also determined that he be hanged.

Leonski did not speak when the verdict was announced.

During his address, the Judge Advocate stated that there was the same basic conception of justice in the United States and Australia where there was the same abhorrence to crime, particularly crime with violence. The United States and Australia had the same basic conception of human justice and order. That was one of the reasons why American troops were in Australia.

He was certain that the people of the United States and Australia shared the same feelings of revulsion and horror at the three crimes. The accused was callous, indifferent, cold hearted and vicious.

NY times report 


The Western Sta and RomaAdvertiser (Regional Queensland)

13  November 1942


 Found guilty on July 17 of the murder of three women in Melbourne, Edward Joseph Leonski, American soldier, 24, was hanged at an Australian gaol at 6 a.m. on Monday.

General Headquarters, South-west Pacific area, issued the following statement:

“The sentence imposed by general court-martial on Private Leonski has been approved by the Board of Review and the Commander-in-Chief, and has been executed.” The warrant confirming the sentence of death was read to Leonski in his cell a fortnight ago. He was told on Sunday that the execution had been fixed for Monday.

The three women killed by Leonski were all strangled at night. They were: Mrs. Ivy McLeod, 40, at Albert Park, Melbourne, on May 3; Mrs Pauline Buchan Thompson, 31, at Spring Street, on May 9; and Miss Gladys Lilian Hosking, 41, at Royal Park, on May 18. Leonski’s trial made history, for it was cited as unparalleled in the administration of criminal justice in the United States Army.

After examination by a board of medical officers Leonski was certified as sane and sane at the time of the crimes. Leonski was formerly a New York grocey store clerk.


The Tweed Daily (Regional NSW)

28th  May 1945

Leonski’s remains to be moved again


Sunday: For the third time, the remains of Edward Leonski, murderer of three women. are in he hurried. Pte. Leonski, of the U.S. Army, 24 years old, former New York store clerk, was hanged at Pentridge jail on November 9, 1942. He had ferociously strangled three women on different nights.

He was buried at Springdale cemetery, near Melbourne. Later the remains were exhumed and buried, in the American section of the same cemetery. Now they are to be dug up again, and re-interred in a Brisbane graveyard, which is reserved for the bodies of U.S. service criminals. La|ter the remains may be buried at Milne Bay, New Guinea-

After that they may be taken to the U.S.A., if relatives claim them, but this is unlikely, because Leonski’s father drank himself to death and his mother is in a mental asylum.

  The Worker (Brisbane)

4 jUNE 1945

Leonski’s BodyTo Be Brought To Brisbane

According to a report from Melbourne remains of Edward Leonski (24), U.S. Army private and triple murderer, who was hanged on November 9, 1942, at Pentridge Jail, will be exhumed from Spring- vale Cemetery and removed to Brisbane.

Leonski’s body was buried at Springvale after the hanging, then exhumed and reburied in the American section of the cemetery. In Brisbane the U.S. authorities will direct that Leonski’s  body should be reburied in a special section reserved for U.S. Army criminals, the  report says. If Leonski’s parents wish, his remains will eventually be taken to America.

eddie grave.jpg

Leonski, known to gravediggers at Springvale as the “Lone Ranger,” because his grave is isolated from all others, murdered Mrs. Ivy cLeod (whose body was found in the doorway of a shop at Albert Park on May 3, 1942), Mrs. Pauline Thompson (killed outside a Spring St. residential on May 9), and Miss Gladys Hosking (whose body was found in Royal Park military reserve on May 19).



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s