Who Was Eric Edgar Cooke, Perth’s Most Infamous Serial Killer

Eric Edgar Cooke

WARNING: This article contains details of real-life murders and capital punishment which may be upsetting to some.

In the early 1960s, Perth was a sunny, peaceful and innocent city until a spate of horrific, disparate, seemingly senseless killings took place.

And there was one man responsible. Eric Edgar Cooke.

In a new four-part Australian true crime Stan Original documentary, After the Night, the story of one of Australia’s deadliest serial killers, Cooke, a.k.a The Night Caller, and the eight people he murdered and assaulted is examined.

While he attempted to kill countless more, local police failed to connect and attribute the crimes to him and the series explores the killer’s harrowing legacy of tragedy, grief, responsibility and redemption – as seen through the eyes of a filmmaker, Perth-born Thomas Meadmore, returning to his childhood home and spending time with those closest to the killer and his victims, whose lives he altered irrevocably.

Cooke’s victims included Jillian Macpherson Brewer, 22; Brian Weir, 29; John Sturkey, 19; George Walmsley, 54; Shirley Martha McLeod, 18; Constance Lucy Madrill, 24; Patricia Vinicio Berkman, 33; and Rosemary Anderson, 17.

With unprecedented access to Cooke’s wife and two of the men wrongfully convicted of his crimes,  John Button and Daryl Beamish — the series denotes the devastating aftermath of serial murder and “how his victims have come together through grief and injustice in the pursuit of closure and redemption”.

So, what do we know about Cooke and his senseless crimes?

Who Is Eric Edgar Cooke?

Eric Edgar Cooke (1931-1964), was born on 25 February, 1931, at Victoria Park, Perth. Before the age of 21, he served in the Citizen Military Forces before joining the Permanent Military Forces until it was discovered that he had a series of convictions for theft, breaking and entering, and arson.

Cooke married Sarah (Sally) Lavin in 1953 and the couple had seven children.

What were his crimes?

On January 27, 1963, Perth residents awoke to the news of four random shootings overnight.

The victims included a couple who were injured in a parked car at Cottesloe, a male accountant who was asleep in his apartment nearby, an 18-year-old student who was sleeping on a Verandah at a boarding house at Nedlands and a retired grocer who was shot after he answered his doorbell.

Two weeks later, there were two more murders and a man named Brian William Robinson was charged. He was charged for both murders and hanged for one.

Seven months later, an 18-year-old student was killed in Dalkeith and it was then that Cooke was arrested by police. In addition to the four killed, he was also accused of murdering a South Perth beautician (by stabbing in January 1959) and a female social worker in West Perth on February 16, 1963.

His trial

On November 25 1963, Cooke was tried and attempted to get a not guilty verdict on the grounds of insanity.

Evidence showed that he had a “quick temper and a retentive memory”, and that he had been abused by his father, was tormented at school and hospitalised frequently for head injuries.

On November 27, after it was found that he did not suffer from schizophrenia, he was handed the death penalty.

According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, “Cooke later claimed to have committed more than two hundred thefts, five hit-and-run offences against young women, and the two murders for each of which Darryl Raymond Beamish and John Button were already imprisoned”.

His death

On October 26, 1964, Cooke was executed at Freemantle Prison, with only one woman holding vigil for the murderer. He is now buried in Freemantle cemetery.

Cooke was the last person to be hanged in Western Australia before the state abolished capital punishment in 1984.

All episodes of Stan Original Documentary series After The Night are streaming now, only on Stan.

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