The Night Caller
Like many serial killers, Eric Edgar Cooke (born 25 February 1931 at Victoria Park, Perth, Australia) was short. He began his career as a petty criminal. Cooke, married with seven children, decided to supplement his daily income as a forklift truck driver by becoming a nocturnal burglar, earning him the nickname “The Night Caller”. He found that he liked the thrill of burglary but preferred to mix it with violence.
On 30 January 1959 he stabbed Pnena Berkman, a South Perth beautician. On 20 December he killed Milian Brewster, 22. In the early hours of 27 January 1963 he shot a couple as they sat in their car at Cottlesloe. He then moved to Perth were he murdered three people: an accountant, 18-year-old student John Lindsay Sturkey and a retired grocer.
A fortnight later there were two more murders and Brian William Robinson was charged with both, tried for one and hanged. On 16 February 1963 Cooke strangled a female social worker in West Perth. Perth became a city of fear, exacerbated on 10 August when 19-year-old Shirley McLeod was shot in the head while babysitting. The police discovered that the murder weapon was a .22 rifle and test-fired 60,000 guns looking for the murder weapon. By chance, a member of the public found such a weapon hidden in bushes in Mount Pleasant on 17 August. Police waited for someone to retrieve it and on 1 September Cooke showed up and was taken into custody.
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Cooke went on trial in the Perth Supreme Court on 25 November 1963 for the murder of John Sturkey. His defence claimed that he was schizophrenic and could not tell the difference between right and wrong. They claimed that he was beaten up by his father and was bullied at school because of a cleft palate and hare lip. The trial lasted three days and he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death on 27 November.
On 26 October 1964 he was hanged on the gallows at Fremantle Prison. Cooke’s body was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave at Fremantle Cemetery on top of child-killer Martha Rendell, who was hanged in Fremantle Prison in 1909. Cooke was the last person to be legally hanged for wilful murder in Western Australia.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Cooke confessed to more than 200 thefts, five hit-and-run offences against young women, and two murders for which John Button and Darryl Raymond Beamish had been wrongly jailed. It was not until 2002 and April 2005 respectively that their convictions were quashed.