Neville George Clevely Heath also known as "The Sadistic Romeo" joins the long-list on DTB's Saturday Digest "World's most Infamous Murders at number 11.
Neville was an English murderer who was responsible for the deaths of two young women. Born on 6 June 1917 in Llford Essex, England.
He joined the Royal Air Force in 1937, but was dismissed for going absent without leave. He was caught obtaining credit by fraud, and six months later was sent to a borstal for housebreaking and forgery. He used a number of aliases, including Lord Dudley and Lieutenant-Colonel Armstrong.
At the beginning of the Second World War, Heath joined the Royal Army Service Corps and was posted to the Middle East. He lasted less than a year. He was shipped home, but on his way he escaped the guard and headed for Johannesburg where he joined the South African Air Force, eventually rising to the rank of Captain. He married, and the couple had a son, but at the end of the war his wife divorced him on grounds of desertion. He was also court martialled, for wearing medals to which he was not entitled. He returned to England in 1946.
On Sunday 16 June 1946, Heath took a room at the Pembridge Court Hotel in Notting Hill Gate. He used his real name, but added the title Lieutenant-Colonel. He was with a woman, Yvonne Symonds, who he said was his wife; in fact they had only just met. Heath had promised to marry her, so she spent the night with him and returned to her home the next day.
The First Victim is Margery Gardner:
The following Thursday Heath spent the evening with Margery Gardner. She was 32 years old, a trained artist and occasional film extra. Separated from her alcoholic husband, she had a young daughter but was living alone in Earls Court, London. Heath and Margery had been dancing together at the Panama Club in Kensington. The following day the assistant manager entered Heath's room as the chambermaid had been unable to gain entry. Margery Gardner’s body was found naked on the bed but covered to the neck with sheets, her ankles bound and marks to show that her wrists had been too but the restraints had been removed. There were 17 lash marks on her body, her nipples had been savagely bitten, and an instrument had been inserted into her vagina.
The whip that had inflicted the slash marks on her body was nowhere to be seen. These marks showed the distinctive diamond pattern of a woven leather riding crop. Forensic pathologist Keith Simpson told the police, "Find that whip and you’ve found your man." Professor Simpson estimated Gardner's time of death as between midnight and the early hours of the morning. The police learned that Heath and Gardner had arrived at the hotel around midnight, and that nothing had been heard until a door slammed at 1:30am. The cause of death was suffocation, but only after the other injuries had been inflicted.
The second known victim is Doreen Marshall:
Neville headed to Worthing to see Yvonne, the girl he had proposed to, and spent a few days with her. Her parents were impressed with the supposed Lieutenant-Colonel, but he left when his name appeared in the newspapers in relation to Gardner's murder. He then went to Bournemouth and took a room at the Tollard Royal Hotel, under the alias Group Captain Rupert Brook, using the name of the War Poet Rupert Brooke, who had been a frequent visitor to Bournemouth at the start of the century. A few days after beginning his stay at the hotel, he met Doreen Margaret Marshall, who was staying at the Norfolk Hotel.
Doreen Margaret Marshall was born in Brentford in 1924, to company director Charles Marshall, and his wife Grace Merritt.
Neville invited Doreen for afternoon tea at his hotel and one thing led to the other they dine together in the evening. After dinner Neville took Doreen to the hotel lounge to listen to dance music on the wireless. But Doreen was now clearly uncomfortable with Neville and asked another guest to call a taxi for her, claiming she was tired. Neville cancelled the taxi and offered to walk her home. On leaving the hotel, Neville told the porter that he would be half an hour. Doreen corrected him, "he will only be a quarter of an hour". This was the last time Doreen was seen alive.
Doreen disappearance was reported to the police but despite the efforts of the Bournemouth Police, Doreen's whereabouts remained a mystery until Sunday 7 July, when waitress Kathleen Evans, out walking her dog, noticed a swarm of flies by a rhododendron thicket in Branksome Dene Chine. Further investigation revealed Marshall's body, badly mutilated, with the clothing removed. Wounds found on her hands suggested she had grasped defensively at a knife. She had received blows to her head, her wrists and ankles had been tied, one nipple had been bitten off and her throat had been slashed. As with Margery Gardner, an instrument, possibly a branch, had been inserted into her vagina. She also had a large gash that ran from the inside of her thigh up to her mutilated breast.
Although Neville was charged with Doreen’s murder, his subsequent trial and execution related only to his earlier murder of Margery Gardner. Doreen's body was returned to her parents and buried in Pinner Cemetery.
Neville was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. He was executed by Albert Pierrepoint on Wednesday, 16 October 1946 at Pentonville Prison. Two prison doctors testified that although Neville was a sexual pervert and a psychopath, he was not insane. A few minutes prior to his execution, as was the custom, Heath was offered a glass of whisky by the governor. A playboy to the last, Heath replied, "While you're about it, sir, you might make that a double".