25 October 1964 – Eric Edgar Cooke
The monster was actually Eric Edgar Cooke, who sent the Aussie inhabitants of Nedlands into turmoil after he randomly picked off inhabitants, indiscriminately running people over in his car or knocking on their doors and shooting them at point-blank range to name just a couple of methods. He would even stab people in their beds, according to a report by Bret Christian of the local ‘Post’ newspaper.
The murderer targeted his victims in the space of four years and killed eight of them. Some say these were a revenge attacks, because, as a child, Cooke had a cleft lip and was bullied at school as a result, while other unconfirmed sources put it down to the fact that his dad beat him as a boy.
He was married with seven children, but harboured a secret double life under his outward respectability. After he was arrested it turned out that Cooke was a serial criminal too. He’d bagged over 200 thefts and five hit-and-runs all against women.
Two peas in a pod
Cooke was found guilty of murder and got the death penalty. He was hanged at Fremantle Prison on this day in 1964 and, in doing so, became the last person to hit the gallows in Western Australia.
They then stashed his body on top of a fellow criminal – child murderer Martha Rendell, who curiously was the first woman to be executed in Western Australia.
In a recent twist, a Perth case was reopened in 2002. One John Button had carried the can for murder. He’d been accused of running his girlfriend over following an argument that had taken place two weeks before her death.
He served five years in jail, but according to ABC researcher Wendy Page, Button took out proceedings to try to clear his name with help from writer Estelle Blackburn, who charted the story in her book ‘Broken Lives’. Indeed, in 2003, his tireless efforts paid off, literally after Button was awarded AUS$460,000 for the wrongful indictment.
Similarly, in 2005 Darryl Beamish was exonerated following a spell in jail for murder.
Both crimes were posthumously put down to the Cooke, raising his death toll to 10.