1942, a black marketeer selling cigarettes.1940s Society at www.1940.co.uk / mediadrumworld.com

By Rebecca Drew

A FASCINATING new book looking at the upsurge in crime on home soil during WW2 that contradicts the popular belief in Britain’s “Blitz Spirit” has been released.


Vito Genovese, Black Market gangster. Craig Timmins / mediadrumworld.com

Incredible pictures published in the book reveal how opportunist murderers took advantage of the country’s bombed out houses to hide bodies, whilst others took it as an opportunity to steal from their neighbours. Other photos show a crowd gathered to buy cigarettes from a black-market seller.

Murder rates during the war years increased by 22-percent and the book looks at the cases of serial killer, John Christie who served in WW1 but started his string of eight killings on home turf during the WW2 and the ‘Acid Bath Murderer’, John George Haigh who was later hanged for his crimes by Albert Pierrepoint.


Superimposed photo of Mrs Dobkin who was murdered by her husband in November 1942. It was the first time photography and science combined to prove identity of a murder victim. National Archives / mediadrumworld.com

The pictures have been revealed in the book, Crime in the Second World War: Spivs, Scoundrels, Rogues and Worse by Penny Legg and is published by Sabrestorm Publishing.

“My book seeks to give an overview of the type of crime that took place during a time of national emergency when we should have all been pulling together for the greater good,” said Penny.


Front cover. 1940s Society at www.1940.co.uk / mediadrumworld.com

“For some, the war represented an unparalleled opportunity to get rich. For others, it was a chance to change their lives or to test the boundaries of the many new wartime rules and regulations.

“The book is an eye-opening look at some of the crime that went on during the war years and is all the more shocking because when it is read, the reader realises that there were actually two wars going on.


Helen Duncan, the last person to be prosecuted for witchcraft. Sabrestorm Publishing. Legg Collection / mediadrumworld.com

“One, a global conflict on a scale never before seen. The other, a home front one that the man-power depleted police force struggled to contain.”

Many who committed murder would escape justice by being drafted to fight.


September, 3 1939, crowds outside Downing Street for the announcement that Britain was a war. 1940s Society at www.1940.co.uk / mediadrumworld.com

“Unusual times lead to unusual crimes, men were scooped up by conscription and trained to kill. This was an opportunity too good to miss for some and led to, for example, a bullying father being blown up in his Bath chair using mines originally designed to disable tanks,” explained Penny.

“The mad were able to roam streets in the black out and pick off victims at will. Enemy propaganda made sense to some and resulted in tragic consequences.


Police investigating the Acid Bath Murder case at Hurstlea Products Ltd. Alamy / mediadrumworld.com

“Ruthless criminals caught out during burglary, thought nothing of driving over anyone who tried to stop them. In short, it was a time when the norms of polite behaviour were often put to one side and the demons inside many of us were let out.

“So many people found themselves with a criminal record during the war. The blackout, for example, was strictly enforced and serial infringers were hauled into the dock and given short-shrift by magistrates.


Clearing up after a bomb raid. 1940s Society at www.1940.co.uk / mediadrumworld.com

“Rationing created want and this was catered for by a thriving black market. Just about anything was available if you were prepared to pay for it, no questions asked.

“Neighbours, the rescue services and career criminals all looted bombed-out premises, often stripping them, including the kitchen sink.”


The effects of a bursting bomb. 1940s Society at www.1940.co.uk / mediadrumworld.com

Published by Sabrestorm Publishing, Crime in the Second World War: Spivs, Scoundrels, Rogues and Worse by Penny Legg is available to pre-order on Amazon ahead of its release on April 28, 2017 for RRP £19.99.