In 1946 post war London, Neville Heath was not all he claimed to be: a handsome ex-Royal Air Force officer, the embodiment of the gallantry that had led England to victory, a war hero.
Neville Heath had been court-martialled on three separate occasions – by the British Air Force in 1937, the Army in 1941 and the South African Air Force in 1945 – for offences such as being absent without leave, issuing bouncing cheques, stealing a car, wearing medals to which he was not entitled and indiscipline.
In fact, Neville Heath was a confidence trickster, a con-man. He had fair hair and blue eyes, an air or romantic recklessness, and he loved to party. He used women for all the money he could get out of them, after he had got them into his bed. Unfortunately, he had an inclination for beating his lady friends.
In March 1945, guests at a London hotel heard a woman screaming in one of the adjacent rooms. The house detective broke into the room to find Heath in the middle of violently whipping a naked woman, bound by her wrists and feet, laying underneath him. Neither the female nor Heath wanted publicity, and the matter ended there.
Two months later Heath repeated the act at another hotel, this time with Ocelot Margie, a 32-year old film extra from London. Hotel security intervened late at night as she was being lashed by Heath. However, Ocelot Margie was a masochist who found bondage and domination much to her taste. A month later she returned with him to the very same hotel for a further sexual encounter. This time she would not come out alive.
The following afternoon her naked body was discovered by the hotel chambermaid. The victim had been tied up and savagely whipped, and she had severe bruising on her face which could only have resulted from the application of extreme force . Her nipples had almost been bitten off and something gruesomely large had been shoved into her vagina and then rotated, causing extensive bleeding.
Heath’s description and name were given to the police, by which time he had made his way to Worthing, meeting another young woman whom he had seduced after first promising to marry her.
He made up a story to her and her parents about the hotel murder, explaining that he had lent his hotel room to the film extra to use for a tryst with another man, and later found her dead. He also wrote to the police in London with the same story, promising to forward them the murder weapon he had found in the room on his return to the hotel. The weapon never arrived. Meanwhile, Heath disappeared.
Unfortunately, the police had failed to publish a photograph of Heath, so for another fortnight he posed on the South Coast of England as Captain Rupert Brooke. During that time a young female holidaymaker vanished, having been seen dining with Heath at his hotel. It was suggested that ‘Captain Brooke’ should contact the police to assist them with their enquiries and he eventually did so – at which time he was recognised and held for questioning.
In his jacket, left at the hotel, the police found a left-luggage ticket for a suitcase. The case concealed clothes labelled ‘Heath’, a woman’s scarf and a blood-stained riding-crop.
Heath was returned to London and charged. The remains of his second victim were found in a valley, not very far from his hotel. She had been tied up, her throat slashed and body mutilated with a knife. The body was hidden in the bushes. Yet, Heath was never charged with this murder.
"He said that his wife had been killed in a car smash, and I remember thinking: 'You're so attractive and amusing I wouldn't mind marrying you myself.' We had a wonderful evening dancing. Then he took me home, kissed me on both cheeks, and said goodbye."
Weeks later she learned that the man had been Neville Heath, who had murdered two women in 10 days. She observed: "My dinner date was sandwiched between the two murders. Both his victims were brunettes. Perhaps because I was a blonde it saved me."
Neville Heath’s trial took place on 24 September 1946 at the Old Bailey, arousing extraordinary public interest. He was charged only with the murder of Margery Gardner – Ocelot Margie. The jury wasted no time in finding him guilty.
Heath was hanged at Pentonville Prison, London, in October 1946.