Why a 91-year-old confessed to murder, nearly 70 years later

Even after almost 70 years and moving across the world, a man who says he killed a London sex worker wanted to clear his conscience.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Shoppers walk down Carnaby Street, a busy shopping area in London where a 91-year-old man told police he killed a sex worker nearly 70 years ago.

Almost 70 years after a sex worker was shot on London’s iconic Carnaby Street, a 91-year-old man walked into a police station across the world to confess to the 1946 murder.

He didn’t even know her name.

Officials in Ontario, Canada, where the man now lives in a senior care facility, alerted the British authorities.

As they sifted through all the unsolved murder cases from that era – which are kept on file for 100 years – Scotland Yard detectives flew out to meet with him and matched his statement to only one file, belonging to 26-year-old Margaret Cook, reported The Sun's exclusive.

The man, whose identity has not been released, pored over faded pictures of at least a dozen women from that era before picking out Ms. Cook’s picture.

He’d shot the call girl with a Russian-made Second World War pistol outside the Blue Lagoon nightclub after she'd cheated him out of money, he told investigators.

Accounts of Cook’s killing – one in a series of prostitute murders in London that year, shortly following the end of World War II – report a dramatic police chase before the shooter disappeared into a crowd near a subway station, reported The Sun.

Had he been caught then, the killer would have probably faced the death penalty, which wasn’t outlawed until 1965, according to the newspaper.

Though Scotland Yard days later named a person of interest, a 27-year-old building laborer named Robert Currie Wilson, no arrests were ever made. There are no surviving witnesses, and "her murder baffled detectives," according to The Sun.

So why come forward now?

“After being diagnosed with skin cancer two years ago at the age of 89, the man is said to have ‘wrestled with his conscience,’” reported The Sun. 

“He is not in good physical health, but is mentally alert and picked out the victim,” one source told the newspaper. “He wanted to clear his conscience over the murder before he dies.”

News of the confession broke the same day an indictment was handed up in a similarly confounding cold case in America. Four decades after two sisters had been kidnapped, officials in Virginia announced Wednesday they were planning to request the extradition of Lloyd Welch, a child sex offender imprisoned in Delaware.

Now, it’s not clear whether this Ontario man, dubbed “Crock the Ripper" by The Sun, will stand trial for his alleged crime back in the UK. While British authorities have formally requested his extradition, the Canadian judiciary hasn’t yet announced whether they consider him to be physically fit enough, according to The Independent.

The man’s confession is believed to have set a new record, making the longest gap between a crime and a confession in British history, The London Evening Standard reports. 

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