“I killed! I killed!”
Born in New York on 12 December 1917, Edward Joseph Leonski was raised in a family beset with alcoholism and mental instability. He joined the US Army in February 1941, nine months before Pearl Harbor. He was posted to Australia and on 2 February 1942 arrived in Melbourne.
His killing began shortly after — on 3 May 40-year-old Ivy Violet McLeod became his first victim. Her corpse was discovered in Albert Park, Melbourne. On 9 May Pauline Thompson, 31, went out on a date with an American GI. That night she was strangled. Nine days later Gladys Hosking, 40, was strangled while walking home from work at the Chemistry Library at Melbourne University.
The police got nowhere with their investigation until an observant sentry remembered seeing a dishevelled man returning to camp late on the night of the Hosking murder. His description matched that of the man seen with Pauline Thompson on the night she died. The description matched that of 24-year-old Private Edward Leonski of the 52nd Signal Battalion and he was arrested.
Leonski had already said to a friend, “I’m a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde! I killed! I killed!” At his court martial on 17 July 1942 Leonski confessed and said he killed the women “to get their voices”. He said that Pauline Thompson had sung to him as he walked her home and she had a beautiful voice, “I could feel myself going mad about it.” On 1 November 1942 Leonski was sentenced to death. He was hanged at Pentridge Prison eight days later. In the hours before his death, Leonoski had been heard singing to himself in his cell.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Leonski was only the second American serviceman executed during the Second World War.