Walking with an air of strength and authority, Ricky Allen slowly entered the low lit café of the Hammersmith Broadway. Dressed with impeccable class in his officer’s uniform, a credit to the United States military, he is gestured over by a friend to a small table in the corner of the room. Weaving his way through the crowd, he sees a second seat occupied by an attractive young blonde lady who offers him a warm smile. The man introduces his companion as Georgina Grayson and as the officer takes a seat, the two lock eyes for the first time. Spending the remainder of the afternoon talking about everything and nothing all at once, Ricky finally offers to take the girl on a late night ride. Despite her better judgement, Georgina accepts and throughout their midnight cruise, he reveals his association with Chicago’s criminal underworld and his high ranking position in the American armed forces. She too talks openly about her life, describing her former career as a striptease dancer and by the time their journey came to an end, she had confessed how she dreamt of being ‘a gangster’s gun moll.’
Over the next six days, Ricky Allen and Georgina Grayson would embark on a crime spree across London, indulging in their mutual fantasies of blood, money and power and by the time that their brief liaison came to an end, their sadistic roleplaying had led to murder. It was only after their arrests that these two strangers discovered that everything they had been told about one another was a lie; Allen was really Karl Hulten, a private who had gone AWOL from the US Army, while Grayson’s true identity was Elizabeth Jones, a teenage delinquent who had run away from home in search of glamour and excitement. Nor was Hulten the Chicago gangster he had claimed to be; the innocent victim whose life they had claimed during their one-week reign of chaos proving his first and only kill. The one thing they both had in common was that they attempted to escape the monotony of their everyday lives and fully immerse themselves in the make believe realities that they had created; a gun-toting mobster and his ruthless dame.
The crimes of Hulten and Jones – two lost souls who longed for excitement and adventure amidst a war that raged across the world – would seem like something out of a movie. One was a dashing soldier, a handsome young man who fancied himself as something of a ruthless mobster, while the other was a glamorous woman who had once performed provocative shows in sleazy clubs, yet now longed for the life of Bonnie and Clyde. The country was enraged not only by their deeds but the government’s willingness to impose capital punishment, the trial finding its way into newspapers all around the world. ‘She did striptease dancing at battle parties and was paid commission on the trade she attracted,’ reported Australia’s The Argus on 25 January 1945, almost four months after the murder had taken place. ‘Then she met Hulten. It is true that she never even knew his time. She would have had nothing to do with him if she had not thought he was an officer.’ The trial even provoked responses from such acclaimed writers as George Orwell and George Bernard Shaw, but by the time war finally came to an end that summer, the media had a victory to report. When Chicago Joe and the Showgirl, a big screen dramatization of their six-day violent affair, was released forty-five years later, the names Karl Hulten and Elizabeth Jones had been all but forgotten.
Charting the nefarious relationship between the two killers had long been a dream project of David Yallop, a true crime writer who had spent the previous two decades carving out a notorious reputation with a series of controversial books that probed into various high profile scandals. Having first climbed through the ranks of the television industry, Yallop had published his first book To Encourage the Others in 1971. Other subjects that he would investigate included the Yorkshire Ripper and silent movie star Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, but his most provocative work would come in 1984 with In God’s Name. An exploration on the death of Pope John Paul I, who had passed away six years earlier, only thirty-three days into his reign. Yallop had claimed the Pope’s sudden death had been part of a conspiracy after he had intended to remove several important figures from power, while the book’s publisher Corgi boasted that Yallop had been approached by the Vatican to investigate the alleged murder.
Yallop had first considered investigating the crimes of Hulten and Jones and what history has come to know as the Cleft Chin Murder in the early seventies and by the time his second book The Day the Laughter Stopped was published in 1976, he had already completed his initial draft. The fantasy that the two killers had become immersed in fascinated the writer. ‘She projected a totally false image to him,’ Yallop told the New York Times. ‘He projected a totally false image to her. They locked on to those images and lived them out for weeks.’ For Yallop, he saw in Hulten and Jones the perfect antiheroes that would populate a tragic crime story, one where two youths idolised the glamorised image of American gangsters that Hollywood depicted in The Public Enemy and Scarface, or the ‘crimes of passion’ movies of the forties such as Double Indemnity. Perhaps it was no coincidence that after committing the murder, Hulten and Jones would watch Christmas Holiday, a film noir in which Deanna Durbin lived in fear after her husband Gene Kelly is sentenced for murder. The few days they had spent together allowed them to forget the horrors of the real world and instead indulge in some kind of motion picture reality, far removed from the death and destruction that surrounded them as London attempted to rebuild itself following the devastation caused during the Blitz less than four years earlier.
By the time that Karl Hulten and Elizabeth Jones first met on 3 October 1944, Allied forces had been waging war against the Axis and the rising tyranny of the Nazis for more than five years. Millions had perished, countries had fallen and amidst the revelations of concentration camps and ethnic cleansing, Adolf Hitler had become the epitome of pure evil. Yet even as the death toll in Europe continued to rise, at home in England crime flourished more than ever before. Theft, rape and murder became a growing concern. ‘In 1939, more than three hundred thousand crimes were reported in England and Wales. By 1945, this number had risen to more than four hundred and fifty thousand, a rise of nearly sixty per cent over six years,’ revealed an article published by Murder in Mind in 2000. ‘Many people worried that standards were spiralling into decline. The police, already hampered by a nightly blackout and short-staffing, fought a constant battle against organised prostitution, unlicensed nightclubs, illegal drinking clubs and gambling. There were worries, too, about the excessive influence of Canadian and American troops based in Britain, enviously described as ‘overpaid, oversexed and over here.’’
With the European mainland more than four thousand miles from the eastern coast of the United States, the American military had stationed many of its troops in England, where they underwent gruelling training in preparation for Operation Overcoat. As the Allied forces faced defeat at the hands of the German, Italian and Japanese armies, a massive counterstrike was organised that would see British and American troops storming the French coasts, which the Germans had heavily fortified, in an attempt to push the enemy back and liberate the countries that had fallen under the Axis. Hulten had been one of thousands of troops that had made their way to London to prepape for the coming offensive. Following his training at Fort Benning in Georgia, he had been dispatched with the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment to England, where they were to receive their final instructions. But Hulten had become a liability since arriving in the country and had on numerous occasions disappeared from the base. As his fellow troops contacted their loved ones and prepared for the imminent journey over the English Channel, Hulten stole an officer’s uniform and military truck and absconded from the United States Army for the last time.
While Hulten and Jones – or Ricky Allien and Georgina Grayson – had come from completely different worlds, having only met as they had pretended to be someone they were not, in truth both had left behind a spouse as they searched for a life that would be more fulfilling. Born Elizabeth Baker in Neath, a small town close to the Welsh city of Swansea, Jones had spent her adolescence repeatedly running away from home, until her parents finally relented and admitted her into an approved school two hundred miles away in Sale, Cheshire. There she first developed a passion for dancing but soon she grew restless and made her way down to London. Eventually returning home, she started a relationship with a local man called Stanley Jones, a corporal in the airborne forces and a friend of the family, the two deciding to marry when she was only sixteen. But this would prove to be short-lived. ‘Her plan was working out. For, from being a delinquent girl on probation from an approved school, she had become a wife in her own right, with an Army allowance to sustain her,’ detailed author R. Alwyn Raymond in his book The Cleft Chin Murder, published soon after the trial. ‘The wedding night was spent apart. If that did not convince Stanley Jones that his wife had married him purely for convenience, she soon put any doubt out of his mind.’
While Jones had married for personal gain, discarding her husband when she felt he no longer served a purpose, Hulten had been forced apart from his wife due to circumstances out of his control. Born in the Swedish city of Stockholm, Hulten had been abandoned by his father and along with his mother, had relocated to Massachusetts. Considered charming but perhaps irresponsible, he had struggled through several minimum wage jobs before finally joining the military. Around this time he met a young woman called Rita Pero and the two fell in love. They wasted no time in tying the knot but unfortunately by the time she gave birth to his daughter, he had been deployed to England. Perhaps his penchant for fantasy had been an attempt to overcompensate for the life had been forced to leave behind, but on a mild Tuesday afternoon in October 1944, Hulten’s roleplaying as an army officer would seduce the thrill-seeking Jones and the two cast a destructive influence over each other.
Jones had revelled in the chaos that she caused and displayed little empathy or compassion for others. She was a fantasist and, much like she had done with Stanley Jones, had manipulated Hulten into falling under her spell. ‘Her villainy was what attracted me to the role,’ confessed English actress Emily Lloyd to Film Review during the promotion of Chicago Joe and the Showgirl. ‘It was certainly a contrast to what I’d played before. But the strong sexual element worried me at first and I originally turned the part down. Then I realised that the sexual element was only one layer of the woman. And the villainy was only one layer too. Underlying it all was her manipulativeness. And that’s what ultimately persuaded me to take the role. There aren’t many movies where the female manipulates the male. It was a real challenge. There aren’t many movies where the female role isn’t sweetened up somewhat. Georgina is so raw. She’s primal, primitive. She reminds me of certain animals.’
What you see and hear is always coloured by how you interpret it
While Yallop had nurtured the project for the last fifteen years, there was another participant who was instrumental in bringing Hulten and Jones’ alter-egos Ricky Allen and Georgina Grayson to the silver screen. Having started out working in Jim Henson’s legendary creature workshop, Bernard Rose had progressed from music video director to filmmaker with his critically acclaimed feature debut Paperhouse in 1988. The blending of fantasy and reality that he had employed on his first film would play a significant role in Chicago Joe and the Showgirl. ‘What people call realism is a style that has become a convention,’ explained Rose. ‘True reality is what you see and hear and what you see and hear is always coloured by how you interpret it and what your state of mind is. This is a film about a kind of folie à deux. Two people who spark each other off into things they would never have done singly. It touches on the reasons why people who are not intrinsically evil can commit violent acts, because they don’t think of what they are doing is real. If you are once in that state of mind, you are capable of anything.’
The habit that ‘Ricky’ and ‘Georgina’ had of being detached from reality would run through the heart of Chicago Joe and the Showgirl, from its narrative decisions to its visual style. From the intended artificial look of the set design to the fairy tale feel of their chance meeting, the movie attempted to emulate the cinematic experience that the two were trying to live as they embarked on their brief but destructive crime spree. Rose would choose to open his picture with the image of theatre curtains being pulled aside as a disclaimer appears on screen informing the audience that, ‘This is a true story.’ This contrast of fact and fantasy immediately set the tone but was a decision that some critics took immediate issue with. ‘The film tries to maintain a balance between those two kinds of reality – between a series of crimes that eventually led to murder and a fantasy world in which movie images were more important than actual events,’ noted Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘This creates a certain air of artificiality; the movie looks like a movie, which helps explain some of the scenes that could only happen in a movie.’
Lights flash across the dark blanket of the night sky as screams fill the air. Is this horror that has befallen a war-torn city? As the camera pans slowly down we discover a theatre, surrounded by an adoring crowd, the star-studded premiere of the latest Hollywood attraction. Photographers gather in an attempt to capture an exclusive image for their newspaper as a beautiful car rolls towards the entrance. Stepping out of the vehicle in an elegant gown, Georgina Grayson arrives for the unveiling of Goodbye, My Lovely, the motion picture that has catapulted her to superstardom. As she turns to face the crowd, the flashes of camera bulbs and the chanting of her fans cause her to freeze in fear, unsure of what is happening to her. This is soon revealed to be a fantasy and the movie then cuts to the real world, where Georgina and her friend have a debate over the merits of Hollywood and its stars. Georgina dismisses musicals as make believe but maintains that ‘gangster pictures are real life.’ Even before Hulten – or Ricky Allen – came into her life, she was delusional and obsessed with danger.
The audience are then introduced to Ricky, a tough-talking officer in the United States Army that boasts of a life of organised crime. Sometime later he arrives at the Popular Café in Hammersmith to meet one of his acquaintances, Lenny Bexley, who has been accompanied by his friend Georgina. At first she seems dismissive of the American stranger known around the neighbourhood as Chicago Joe, who claimed to have once been under the employment of notorious mobster Al Capone during the Prohibition. But as she overhears the two men talk, she begins to romanticise over his dangerous persona. To further fuel the fire, the medals that adorn his officer uniform seduce the thrill-seeking young woman. When Lenny informs Ricky that Georgina is a dancer and actress, he too becomes aroused by the mystery of this elusive person. The two begin talking and Ricky soon offers Georgina a late night drive. In an attempt to hide her interest, she flippantly agrees to meet him at the Hammersmith Broadway at midnight.
With rising English starlet Emily Lloyd cast as the manipulative Georgina, producers were under pressure to find an American actor who could embody both the dangerous and naïve aspects of Hulten’s personality. Having followed in his father’s footsteps, twenty-two-year-old Kiefer Sutherland had already demonstrated a broad acting range that would make him idea for the role of Ricky, having already played a psychopath in The Killing Time and a shy teenager in The Brotherhood of Justice. In recent years he had gained considerable recognition through his performances in Stand by Me and The Lost Boys and the media had often associated the young star with the so-called Brad Pack, a group of twenty-something actors that included Rob Lowe, Demi Moore and his Young Guns co-star Emilio Estevez. Chicago Joe and the Showgirl would be Sutherland’s sixth picture to ostensibly be a period piece, with earlier films set during the Vietnam War, the Great Depression and the Wild West.
Having recently completed work on the action comedy Flashback, in which Sutherland had portrayed a fresh-faced FBI agent, in Ricky he had found his first villainous role since The Lost Boys three years earlier. It had been his scene-chewing turn in Joel Schumacher’s 1987 vampire horror that had convinced Rose that he was the right actor for the part and no sooner was he cast, he began to research the Cleft Chin Murder. ‘I saw them both as victims of their own imagination. They’d become so divorced from reality, their whole life had become a film,’ explained Sutherland. ‘All acting is obviously fantasy, just continuous manipulation, but this was complete fantasy, once removed.’ While history has remembered Jones as the manipulator and Hulten as the one who would pull the trigger on the fateful night, in truth their constant barrage of lies to one another and their obsession with living the gangster movie wild life was what eventually drew them closer to self-destruction.
As the zeppelin soar over the city, Georgina paces back and forth in the doorway of the Hammersmith Broadway, nervously smoking on a cigarette and daydreaming over movie posters as she awaits the arrival of her American officer. Smashing a bottle in frustration, she eventually grows tired of waiting when two lights appear in the distance and a military truck roars out from the darkness. He immediately boasts that the vehicle is stolen and dares her to join him on an adventure, an offer she is unable to refuse. ‘It’s just you and me, honey. Anywhere special you want to go? Anything you want to do?’ he proposes, to which a menacing glint appears in her eyes and she snarls backs, ‘Yeah, I’d like to do something really dangerous.’ This excites him and when she complains that only men get to see action, he offers to show her real danger.
While this sequence may have seemed rather fanciful, both Hulten and Jones’ testimonies following their arrests would corroborate these events. Indeed, Hulten did boast that he had stolen the truck and Jones expressed how she wanted to be involved in the glamour of the mobster life. ‘Her acquaintance with American gangsters had until now been confined to films and magazines,’ described journalist R. Alwyn Raymond in 1945. ‘She responded with enthusiasm to Hulten’s tales of bravado and, according to Hulten, using a phrase she had picked up, confessed a longing to do something really dangerous, ‘like becoming a gangster’s gun moll.’ From that moment it may be conjectured that they decided to set out – for fun, as they thought – on a campaign of crime together. He did not have long to wait to prove his capacity for ruthlessness.’
Georgina was enthralled in what Ricky had to offer her; danger, wealth, excitement, lust, violence and adventure. To this young woman, the American was equivalent to the likes of James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart and she wanted to be just like Jean Harlow. ‘This is a real gun, it fires real bullets, which make real holes,’ provokes Ricky as he holds up the gun for her to admire. Despite his insistence that she never refer to him as Chicago Joe, in her mind she sees him as a slick and deadly gangster, the kind that she adored at the cinema. ‘That’s where the bogging-down comes in, since both Lloyd and Sutherland keep changing in and out of gangster/moll appearance,’ criticised People in their review of the picture. ‘One second he’ll have his uniform on, the next second he’ll be wearing a pinstriped mobster’s suit with fedora. She changes from normal street clothes to what looks like an Apache dancer’s outfit. This is all going on in Lloyd’s mind, but the audience is seeing the changes too, so that even after it becomes clear that this is all Lloyd’s fantasy, the whole business continues to seem obtrusive.’
Yallop had studied the story closely when developing his screenplay and for the most part his narrative stayed close the factual events. Beginning with their meeting in the café and culminating in their arrest, the movie would take a few artistic liberties but on the whole documented their time together in a relatively accurate fashion. On the first night they would commit a crime but one that was spontaneous and intended purely to excite and titillate Georgina. While driving along a country road a young woman appeared in their headlights and so Hulten decided to run her off the road, causing her to be thrust from her bicycle. Without further assaulting his victim, he took the few shillings she had in her handbag and then threw the bike over a hedge. Hulten climbed into the truck and drove back towards the city, leaving the woman alone in the dark.
One factual error, arguably a commercial reason in order to replicate the ‘lovers on the run’ theme of both Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands, was in the filmmakers’ decision to create a love affair between the two protagonists. During interrogation, both Hulten and Jones maintained that their relationship was purely platonic, a fact that has been noted by historians in the decades since their friendship came to a sudden end. Yet whether or not the lack of intimacy between the two was true, one thing that cannot be denied was the level of deceit – both to themselves as well as each other – that Hulten and Jones employed. ‘In preparation for the role, the director asked me to analyse her character by writing down as many personalities traits as I could imagine,’ recalled Lloyd on how she approached her portrayal of Georgina. ‘Focusing solely on how to develop her for the movie, I discovered the more violent the crimes got, the more excited she became. She was the manipulative one, the instigator, pushing her lover Karl Hulten on. As I did with every role, I tried to inhabit the character and think like she thought. I imagined what motivated her. She was obsessed with noir films and seemed to have blood lust.’
I probably fell a little bit in love with Kiefer
But Karl Hulten, it would seem, was equally talented at manipulating those around him. To Jones he was Ricky Allen, an officer in the United States Army and a notorious Chicago gangster, but to Joyce Cook, his English girlfriend, he was a wholesome and respectable young man adored by her parents. Despite living in Fulham, located only a few miles from Hammersmith, Cook’s world would be vastly different to that of Jones and it was during the time he spent with Cook that he could pretend he lived a normal and happy life. With Rose having cast Sutherland and Lloyd in the lead roles, he was aware that they needed another rising star for the role of ‘the other woman’ and so turned to twenty-one-year-old Patsy Kensit. Following a career as a pop singer with Eighth Wonder during the eighties, having landed a Top Ten hit in 1988 with I’m Not Scared, Kensit had turned her attention to acting with a supporting role alongside Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 2. ‘Kiefer was totally lovely to work with an is one of the funniest men alive,’ said Kensit in her memoir. ‘We both loved the Rob Reiner movie Spinal Tap, about a fictional heavy metal band and used to quote lines from it to each other and get terrible fits of the giggles, which I think started to annoy the crew in the end. In fact, I probably fell a little bit in love with Kiefer!’
But once Ricky had left Cook behind, the cigarette was lit, the bad boy demeanour was back on display and once again there was chaos in his eyes. And Jones was enthralled by the character that he portrayed when she was around, a carefree and fearless criminal. During a screening of Double Indemnity, a recently-released film noir, which told of a man manipulated by a femme fatale to help kill her husband, the protagonist explains that, ‘A friend of mine’s got a funny theory. He says when two people commit a murder, it’s sort of like they’re riding a trolley together; one can’t get off without the other, they’re stuck with each other.’ It is unknown whether either Hulten or Jones had seen Double Indemnity prior to the murder that they committed together, with the movie having been released in England less than three weeks earlier, but in Chicago Joe and the Showgirl, this speech given by actor Fred MacMurray would plant the seed for both Jones and her new friend that eventually led them to murder.
A turning point in the movie came when, having grown impatient with his false promises, Georgina accuses Ricky of lying about his gangster affiliation, effectively embarrassing the young man and bruising his ego. In a fit of rage he runs a taxi off the road and soon afterwards she demands that he stops the truck. Fleeing down an alleyway and into the ruins of an old building, Georgina slowly raises her dress to reveal her suspenders. Overcome with lust after witnessing his violent side, Georgina pins him to the wall and unzips his trousers, before dropping to her knees and pleasuring him. But their moment of passion is ruined when a bomb explodes nearby, forcing the two to take cover from the destruction that surrounds them.
Despite playing lovers on screen, Sutherland and Lloyd remained distance from one another on set as both struggled through a personal crisis. It had been less than two years since Sutherland had married his The Killing Time co-stat Camelia Kath, but even as he travelled to Pinewood Studios in Iver Heath, a village south of London in the county of Buckinghamshire, he was in the midst of divorce. While he had gained something of a bad boy reputation to his penchant for heavy drinking, Sutherland had been forced to face the responsibility of parenthood before he had even reached his twentieth birthday. ‘Was I ready to be a father at nineteen?’ he posed to the Big Issue. ‘That’s probably a better question for my daughter. We’re incredibly close now. But I do remember when she was fifteen we were having our usual Sunday dinner at the Hamburger Hamlet in Los Angeles. We were walking out of there and we’d had such a nice evening, a lovely conversation and we were holding hands as we walked to the car. And I said, ‘I’m sorry we had to raise each other.’ And she smiled and said, ‘I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.’’
For Lloyd, she had begun to unravel repressed memories of sexual abuse at the hands of a friend of the family when she was a child and this had now manifested itself in panic attacks and depression, both of which would first rear their head that summer. ‘At the time I felt an overwhelming need to finally confront what had happened to me when I was five,’ she confessed to the Daily Mail in 2013. ‘I can vaguely remember going to my GP and although I avoided telling him the truth, he prescribed me antidepressants. On the set of the film, the pace was demanding, the scenes relentless. One night I sat alone in my flat and stared vacantly into space. This wasn’t living. I must have stared at the bottle of pills and, as I contemplated everything spinning around my head, something must have snapped. I can remember staggering out into the street in Kensington. When a stranger approached me, I blurted out what I’d done and asked him to help me. My memory was waking up in hospital, a tube down my throat and nurses calling, ‘Emily, Emily…’’
Although Sutherland and Lloyd remained distant from one another throughout the shoot, their onscreen counterparts became both partners in crime and lovers. But eventually their lust for blood came during the evening of 5 October. The couple had already failed to rob a taxi when the passenger had been revealed to be an armed American officer, forcing Hulten to flee. As documented in the movie, ‘Ricky’ and ‘Georgina’ would set their sights on a young woman called Violet Hodge who was walking through the desolate city streets to Paddington Station. Struggling with two suitcases and eager to return home to Bristol, the vulnerable young woman is offered a lift from the kind-hearted couple, but as they neared a small town approximately twenty miles outside of London, the truck came to an abrupt halt. Pretending that they had a flat tyre, Ricky watched as Violet wanders around close to the vehicle, eventually moving behind and attacking her with a steel bar. As she screams for help, Georgina watches on in amusement, laughing hysterically as Violet loses consciousness.
‘They picked up the girl, carried her with difficulty across the fields and threw her body into the river. ‘They’ll never find her,’ he said and walked confidently back to the road,’ described Raymond in The Cleft Chin Murders. ‘The girl’s belongings were collected and put in the truck. There was a handbag containing a few shillings and a coat, which had been torn off her back. Elizabeth ones looked it over and put it on. Then they drove back to London and Jones’ room. Can there be any doubt that they went to sleep that night with the certain but apparently unworrying knowledge that a most brutal murder had been committed? By pure chance, the girl did not die that night: another twenty-four hours were to elapse before Hulten became a murderer. The sudden immersion of the icy water of the Thames partially revived the girl and she struggled weakly to the bank. After several attempts, she managed to drag herself out and lay there helpless. Some time passed before she recovered sufficiently to stagger across the fields to the nearest house. Her knocks and cries woke the people and they took her in and sent for the police.’
When George Heath woke on the morning of 7 October, he expected the day to be like any other. For the last three years he had worked as a private hire taxi driver and drove mostly evenings as the city slept. This occupation had come by chance following his forced discharge from the military. Four years earlier he had been shipped overseas as part of the British Expeditionary Force and had survived the defeat of the Allied forces at Dunkirk in the spring of 1940. Returning home to the Blitz, his house was destroyed by a bomb and Heath was hospitalised in Epsom, Surrey. Following his discharge, he found work driving a taxi driver and had attempted to rebuild his family’s lives. Then, on a seemingly ordinary evening in October 1944, he broke the law by slowing down for a young couple who were stranded and, despite being a private hire, offered to drive them to their destination. Making their way from the Hammersmith Broadway to King Street across the city, the ‘ten bob’ fare proved to be the last that Heath would make.
The young man took a seat behind the driver as his female companion joined him on the backseat. Unbeknownst to Heath, Hulten cradled an automatic pistol in his hand as he directed the driver through Chiswick towards the Great West Road that led out to the motorway. The car finally came to a stop and Heath leaned across to open the back door to allow Jones to step out onto the pavement. Hulten finally saw the perfect opportunity to strike. ‘I was holding my loaded and cocked pistol in front of my chest and I looked towards Georgina,’ explained Heath during interrogation, the transcript of which was subsequently recited during the trial. ‘As I was looking back towards the front again, I pulled the trigger. Just as I pulled it, the driver reached over the seat to open the left rear door.’
Yet despite this admission, during the trial he would claim another chain of events that occurred. ‘I was holding the gun in my right hand, because it had fallen out of my belt owing to the bouncing of the car. The driver stopped. My right arm was leaning on the arm-rest at the side of the car. As the driver stopped, he reached over the back to open the door. As he reached over, Mrs Jones started to get up and I started to get up at the same time. My right sleeve caught on something on the door. What it was I don’t know. My arm was jerked and the gun went off.’ Within minutes Heath was dead. He had survived the evacuation of Dunkirk and the bombings of the London Blitz, but in the end death would come at the hands of an army deserter and a failed striptease dancer who longed for bloodshed.
Pushing the body aside, Hulten commandeered the vehicle and drive to a remote location while Jones searched through the driver’s personal belongings, eventually stealing £8, a watch and a fountain pen. Sometime after midnight the taxi pulled up at Knowle Green near Staines and the corpse of George Heath was discarded in a ditch, where he would be discovered by Robert Bolding, a local fireman, soon after sunrise. Instead of abandoning Heath’s Ford V8 following the murder, Hulten drove to a pawnbroker’s where they sold the watch, using the money to place a bet at a dog-racing track, before making their way to the cinema to watch a murder mystery unfold on screen in Christmas Holiday. Jones had fantasised about taking a human life, of reigning chaos and destruction down upon another person, but now that she had been complicit in cold-blooded murder, everything began to change between them as guilt and fear took hold.
Karl Gustav Hulten was placed under arrest for murder
On the evening of Monday 9 October, Hulten bid Cook farewell and walked from her house on Lurgen Avenue in Fulham to Heath’s taxi which he had parked close by. His crime spree with Jones had come to an end with a failed attempt to steal a fur coat for his friend and now he intended on returning to a more stable life. Had he read the newspaper that morning he would have seen the headline ‘Cleft Chin Murder’ and a photo of George Heath, the war veteran-turned-taxi driver whose body had been discovered in a ditch. But it would be his decision to retain Heath’s vehicle for personal use that proved to be his undoing. By chance a passing patrolman had recognised the missing car and within minutes investigators at Scotland Yard were informed of the discovery. As Hulten walked from Cook’s house towards the taxi he was blissfully unaware of the police officers that lay in wait and as he climbed behind the wheel, a harsh spotlight blinding his vision and he was pulled back out onto the pavement. His weapon, a Remington .5-calibre automatic, was retrieved and Karl Gustav Hulten was placed under arrest for murder.
News of the killer’s apprehension soon made the papers and upon this revelation, Jones knew that for herself time was also running out. Turning to a friend, she confessed her sins in the hope of gaining some kind of leniency. She had fantasised about committing cold blooded murder but now that they had taken another life, whatever humanity remained weighed heavily on her conscience. Hulten and Jones were both charged with the death of Heath and before long the trial was underway at the Old Bailey. While Hulten had remained isolated in his Brixton cell, Jones regularly wrote home to her mother, confessing in one letter, ‘God forgive me for causing you all this worry. I mean to do everything in my power to make up for it. Not that I shall forget these trying days. It will take a long time, if ever. Now, don’t forget when you come to the trial, bring a suitcase for my stuff. Also enough money for my fare home, just in case I haven’t sufficient.’
As documented during Ricky’s interrogation scene in Chicago Joe and the Showgirl, following his arrest Hulten had initially claimed that he had stolen Heath’s taxi from a car park near Hammersmith Broadway, thus attempting to clear himself of any serious wrongdoing, while during Jones’ own interview under police caution, she discovers Hulten’s true identity and military rank. It was at this time that both Hulten and Jones realised that they had been manipulated by one another and never even knew each other’s real names. Due to the deceptive nature of the two protagonists, many viewers and critics would find it difficult empathising with their situation and therefore felt alienated and unable to emotionally connect with the story. ‘There was little to like about the film,’ insisted Lloyd in her memoir Wish I Was There. ‘The characters were seedy, their actions deplorable and there was no warmth from the production. When word leaked out about some of the racier scenes, The Sun reacted to mock outrage at ‘Lloyd’s Lust,’ claiming there was an outcry over Chicago Joe. It claimed some of the movie – which was to receive an 18 certificate – was soft porn.’
During interrogation, Jones was also informed that her husband Stanley, whom she had abandoned shortly after their wedding day, was missing in action following his deployment to Arnhem in the Netherlands. Having sought permission from the authorities to wear her wedding ring while in custody as a sign of respect, she expressed concern for her spouse in a letter addressed to her parents. ‘I’m so worried about Stan,’ she revealed. ‘I swear I love him. I’ll never marry again as long as I live. I do love him so. I am not sorry I married Stan. If God is good and Stan comes back, I hope he will want me in spite of all this trouble. Because it is only when you get into trouble, you realise how much you miss the ones who love you best.’ Meanwhile, ‘Ricky’ is questioned about the wife and child he left behind in Massachusetts, something that even his girlfriend Joyce Cook was unaware of.
It would be upon discovering that Hulten was not only married but also very much in love with Cook that Jones suddenly changed her story from denying any knowledge of Heath’s death to claiming to have witnessed the incident without directly participating in the act. ‘I was in the car when Heath was shot,’ confessed Lloyd’s ‘Georgina,’ which immediately prompts her solicitor to caution Jones before making any further statement. Her defence would reply upon convincing both the police and court that she had been forced into a life of crime by the American deserter and that she had even feared for her own life during the evening of 7 October. ‘I hope he will tell the truth,’ she had claimed in one correspondent that she intended to use to further incriminate Hulten. ‘He promised me, but he can so easily go back on his word. I think I have suffered enough. I obeyed his orders because he was always threatening me. I’ll never trust another man as long as I live, because what I saw Ricky do on three occasions cannot easily be forgotten. I, in any case, shall never forget…Please God, judge and jury, believe me. If Ricky speaks the truth I am bound to get off. I have no pity in my heart for a brute like that. I think I have suffered enough at his hands.’
At 11 o’clock on the morning of 16 January 1945, the courthouse of the Old Bailey had filled with spectators eager to witness the two fantasists stand trial for both the murder of George Heath and the brutal attack of Violet Hodge two days earlier. This would be a historic event as never before in the history of the United States had the government surrendered one of its citizens over to be tried for murder and if found guilty, both Hulten and his accomplice could face the death sentence. While Hulten would present himself to the court in a respectable fashion, Jones continued to perpetuate her role of victim by appearing before the jury unkempt, with her hair and make-up unmaintained and her posture limp and unthreatening. As Mr Justice Charles presided over the trial, Jones made repeated statements under oath that attempted to place the blame solely on Hulten.
‘I heard a click and saw that Ricky had his automatic in his right hand,’ she had claimed during cross-examination. ‘I realised that he was going to frighten the driver with his gun and take his money. Heath leaned over from his seat with the obvious intention of opening the nearside door. As Heath was leaning over I saw a flash and heard a bang. Heath moaned heavily and turned a little towards the front. Ricky said to him, ‘Move over or I’ll give you another dose of the same.’ He seemed to understand what Ricky said, because he moved further to the left side of the front seat. His head slumped down on his chest. The next I realised was that Ricky was in the driving seat and the car was moving. Ricky told me to go through Heath’s pockets and I found a wallet which I put on the backseat. He then drove on to a common, where Ricky dragged Heath’s body from the car and rolled it into the ditch. Later I said, ‘That was cold blooded murder. How could you do it?’ And Ricky replied, ‘People in my profession haven’t time to think what they do.’’
While Hulten’s defence pushed for a verdict of manslaughter, he sat calmly in the court drawing a picture of the events that were unfolding before him. Meanwhile, Jones’ own counsel had insisted that Hulten’s name be listed before his accomplice, thus insinuating that the soldier had been the one most responsible for the crimes. During his own statement, Hulten admitted his role in the murder but also implicated Jones as a willing participant. ‘I raised him up and pulled him out of the car,’ he confessed. ‘His feet dropped to the ground. Georgina picked up his feet and we carried him to the ditch. On the way back, Georgina gave me £4 and some things she had taken from his pockets. Later, we took our handkerchiefs and wiped off fingerprints from all parts of the car, which we left in a car park near Hammersmith.’ Despite admitting to the shooting of Heath, however, Hulten would insist that when he pulled the trigger he had expected this to be a warning shot, but the driver’s unexpected decision to lean over and open the door meant that he unwittingly moved into the line of fire.
One piece of evidence that had been presented in court by Hulten was a letter that he had received from Jones while in custody, dated 9 December, approximately two months after their arrest. In the letter, Jones had attempted to place the guilt on Hulten while pleading for him to take sole responsibility for the murder. ‘Mum was breaking her heart over me. If I get sent to prison, convicted – it will kill her,’ she insisted. ‘Don’t you think I’ve suffered enough being in Holloway on remand only? You promised me in court you would tell the truth; do not go back on your word, Ricky. What the police have against me is going through his pockets. Had you not ordered me to do so, I would never have done it, but as my own life was in danger, I did so. I could not believe you to have done it, Ricky. You know the condition I was in. For hours afterwards I was dazed and you still threatened me even when you knew I was too scared to go to the police.’ The letter concluded with Jones stating, ‘You are making me pay for a nightmare which I can’t believe really happened. I beg of you to tell the truth, Ricky. If you have any honour, respect, or any pride left, you will speak the truth, Ricky. Sincerely, Georgie.’
The following day, Mr Justice Charles addressed the jury with a clear bias against Hulten, criticising the decision to present the letter as evidence and highlighting Jones’ claims that she had been under the dominance of Hulten during the time that the crimes occurred. ‘You are entitled to acquit the woman if you believe that she was forced into the matter against her will,’ he declared. Shortly after 4pm on Tuesday 23 January 1945, six days into the trial, the jury returned to the courtroom following a ninety-minute deliberation to read their verdict before the judge. Both were declared guilty as expected but for Jones a recommendation of mercy was suggested. ‘Karl Gustav Hulten and Elizabeth Marina Jones, you have both been found guilty, after a long and patient trial, of a most brutal murder,’ boomed Mr Justice Charles to the two defendants. ‘I sentence you to be taken from this court to a place of execution, there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead; your bodies to be cut down and buried within the confines of the prison walls. And may the Lord have mercy on your souls.’ While Hulten was led silently from the court, Jones was dragged hysterically from the room, allegedly screaming, ‘The brute, the brute, why didn’t he tell the truth?!’
By the time that the verdict had been announced, news of the trial had caused an international sensation. ‘Three women and nine men on the jury used a single word, ‘guilty,’ to Hulten’s case. But they recommended mercy for Mrs Jones,’ announced the Montreal Gazette. ‘A death sentence on the girl is mandatory under British law, but Sir Ernest Charles announced the mercy recommendation would be forwarded to the Home Secretary, who could intervene on her behalf. A few minutes later, her counsel also announced an appeal to a higher court would be made in her case.’ Acclaimed playwright George Bernard Shaw would offer his own opinion in a letter published by The Times. ‘She has been found guilty of theft and murder; and apparently her highest ambition is to be what she calls a gun moll,’ he commented. ‘Clearly, we have either to put such a character to death or re-educate her. Having no technique of re-education immediately available we have decided to put her to death. The decision is a very sensible one.’
8 March 1945 was announced for the execution
The public’s attitude towards the case was equally interesting, with many women feeling that Jones had been the principal manipulator and therefore as equally guilty as Hulten. Both defendants appealed against the verdict but while popular opinion towards Hulten remained unchanged, there were mixed feelings towards an eighteen-year-old woman facing execution. There would be some support for Hulten, however, as two senators in Massachusetts, his wife Rita and mother Signe Hulten appealed against the verdict, but on 20 February appeals for both defendants were dismissed. Soon afterwards, a date of 8 March 1945 was announced for the execution of Hulten and Jones and despite the jury’s recommendation for mercy on behalf of Jones, letters received from the public demanded their pound of flesh for her crimes. Both had been complicit in this deplorable crime and therefore both should pay the price for their actions.
As the date of the execution drew nearer, both attempted to make peace with the fate that awaited them, but late in the evening of 6 March an unexpected decision was made: Elizabeth Jones was to be reprieved. ‘For a moment the girl sat perfectly still; after days of dread and nights of fear the emotional release was so strong,’ detailed R. Alwyn Raymond in his account of the case. ‘She neither fainted nor become hysterical. After a few moments she broke down into quiet sobbing. Then she demanded pencil and paper to write and ask her mother to get out her best clothes for a homecoming party. The prison governor had to tell her that a reprieve did not mean going free, but a prison term between twelve and fifteen years. This blow hit her more heavily than even the verdict at the trial. She fainted and was removed to the prison hospital.’ The announcements that one would be executed while the other was allowed to live outraged a nation, sparking protests, strikes in the workplace and letters of anger to the Home Secretary. Hulten’s mother was furious at the decision. ‘I think this is something terrible,’ she told the New York Times. ‘I can’t understand why she should get a reprieve and not Karl. I’ve said before that he is not a bad boy.’
Karl Hulten awoke for the last time early on the morning of Thursday, 8 March 1945. It was a typical winter’s day, with wind and rain casting a foreboding atmosphere over the crowd that gathered outside of Pentonville prison in Islington. Protests against the leniency shown towards Jones continued as Hulten received his Last Sacraments, before being led from his cell by the governor to his place of execution. Despite the certain fate that now awaited him, Hulten showed no animosity towards Jones when he was informed that he would be the only one to die on this day. ‘Well, good luck to her,’ he declared. ‘I bear no malice, but I can’t help feeling that if I had never met her, I wouldn’t be here today.’ In Chicago Joe and the Showgirl, Ricky would make a similar declaration as he was marched from the courtroom, informing the on-looking paparazzi, ‘I’ll take what’s coming to me, but God as my witness if it was not for that woman there, I would not be standing here today.’ Shortly after 9am, Hulten thanked his chaplain and then took his final breath. An announcement was placed outside the prison soon afterwards for the crowd to observe, one that claimed, ‘The execution was humane.’
By the time that Chicago Joe and the Showgirl was released in the summer of 1990, Hulten had been dead for more than forty years and the so-called Cleft Chin Murder had been all but forgotten. The public had little interest in the movie and critics were mostly dismissive of the picture, often praising its visual aesthetic but scrutinising the tone and performances of its leads. ‘The thing I found most impressive about Kiefer,’ stated the director, ‘is that with a character like Hulten, who is essentially a liar, who responds differently to different people in the movie all the way down the line, it means his character has an incredibly complicated through-line in terms of who he is at any given point, but Kiefer kept that consistency so well.’ When looking back on his experience portraying a person as manipulative and brutal as Karl Hulten, Sutherland said, ‘I don’t think I chose wrong at all. It was a terrific script and the director was an interesting guy with ambitious ideas. Going in, it all looked solid. But you can never tell if what you are offering up is going to interest an audience.’
Released soon after the critical acclaim of The Krays, a biopic of the gangster siblings that dominated London’s criminal underworld during the sixties, Chicago Joe and the Showgirl failed to find its audience and soon disappeared from the public consciousness, much like the crime that had inspired it. But for a brief moment in history, the senseless murder of a war veteran by an army deserter and a dancer who both longed for the lives of thrill-seeking mobsters took the world by storm. ‘There is no depth of feeling to it. It was almost by chance that the two people concerned committed that particular murder and it was only by good luck that they did not commit several others,’ noted George Orwell in his article Decline of the English Murder, published a year after Hulten’s execution. ‘The background was not domesticity, but the anonymous life of the dance halls and the false values of American film.’