On Thursday, 20 June 20 1946, actress Margery Gardner, 42, met a handsome 29 year-old pilot named Neville Heath.

Neville Heath
Neville Heath

Heath passed himself as a decorated Second World War veteran but his relatively short life was marked by dishonesty and deception.

A former private schoolboy, he had joined the RAF only to be dismissed in September 1937 for going absent without leave. Heath then turned to fraud and passed himself off as a Lord and a Lieutenant-Colonel before being sent to Borstal in 1938 for theft and forgery.

When war broke out he was sent to the Middle East but again went missing and joined the South African Air Force, rising to the rank of Captain, only to be court-martialled for wearing medals he had never earned. After his wife divorced him on the grounds of desertion, he returned to Britain.

Margery Gardner did not know it at the time, but only a few days earlier he had proposed marriage to a woman in Worthing. She accepted his invitation back to his room at Pembridge Court Hotel at 34 Pembridge Gardens in Notting Hill, west London. It was the last time she was seen alive.

Margery Gardner
Margery Gardner

The next day her body was found by a chambermaid in room number four. She was lying naked on the bed, her wrists and ankles tied, with 17 lash marks on her back. Both her nipples had been bitten off and her genitals mutilated with a poker. Margery had died by suffocation.

Heath, who had booked the room under the name Lieutenant-Colonel Heath, then travelled to Worthing to see his supposed fiancee, only to quickly flee to Bournemouth when his name appeared in the paper in connection with the brutal murder in London.

This time he booked a room at a hotel under another alias, ‘Group Captain Rupert Brooke.’

On 3 July 1946 he invited 21 year-old Doreen Marshall to dinner before offering to walk her home. She was never seen alive again.

Her body was only discovered five days later lying naked in bushes on Branksome Chine. Her wrists and ankles had been tied, her genitals mutilated and one nipple had been bitten off before her throat was slashed.

By this time Heath had already been arrested. He had turned up at the local police station to look at a photograph of the missing Doreen Marshall but was recognised as the suspect in the murder of Margery Gardner.

When detectives looked through his belongings they found a metal-tipped whip and a bloodstained hat and scarf linked to Gardner. He had also pawned a ring and a fob watch belonging to Doreen Marshall.

Heath was put on trial at the Old Bailey on 24 September 1946, and pleaded not guilty due to insanity. The jury found him guilty of murder after two prison doctors concluded he was a sadist, a sexual pervert and a psychopath.

He was sentenced to death and hanged at Pentonville jail on 16 October.

Note: Archive news footage showing Heath being taken to and from court can be seen here.

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