Transcript: 47. The Night Caller (Eric Edgar Cooke) | Australia

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On the 9th of February 1963, it was John Button’s 19th birthday. He was excited to spend the day with his girlfriend of six months, 17-year-old Rosemary Anderson. They were madly in love and it was clear that they would get married as soon as Rosemary finished high school. John worked as a brick layer and had ambitions to move up in the world.


John jumped into his Subiaco and drove the short distance to Rosemary’s parents’ home in Mt. Claremont, a suburb in Perth. The couple spent the day together, driving around town and having fun. They ended off the day by having fish and chips at his parent’s home while watching TV with John’s younger brother, Jimmy.  


While they were watching TV, a hand stole a French fry from John’s plate. Instinctively he slapped the hand, thinking it was Jimmy’s. But it was Rosemary’s hand. She was offended and a verbal fight broke out between them. Rosemary stormed off and said that she was going to walk home. John got into his car and drove beside her, apologising, begging her to get into his car so he could take her home, but she refused. Rosemary had done this once before and John was not too alarmed. They were teenagers after all and the stormy passion of young love was exciting.


John pulled the car off the road and lit a cigarette, thinking he’d give her a couple of minutes to blow off steam before following her to make sure she made it home ok. He finished his cigarette and drove up the hill. In the beam of his headlights, he saw something lying on the side of the road. He slowed down and to his horror he saw that it was Rosemary. She was lying face-down in a pool of blood with blood pouring from a wound on her head. 

 

Not thinking about forensic evidence and preserving the crime scene, but rather about saving his girlfriend’s life, he picked her up, took her to his car and drove her to her family doctor, who lived a couple of blocks away. When they arrived, the doctor saw the extent of Rosemary’s injuries and immediately called an ambulance. She was taken to hospital and sadly passed away in the early morning hours of Sunday, February 10th.


Police suspected her boyfriend, John Button had run her over. They knew about the fight, and when they looked at his car, there was a dent and also some blood on the front bumper. John told them that he had had a minor accident a couple of weeks before, but they did not believe him. John had a stutter and police interpreted his struggle to speak as nervous behaviour. He was also in a state of shock and vomited while he was at the police station. After 22 hours of interrogation, and physical abuse at the hands of police officers John gave up. He signed a confession, even though he knew he was not the one who had killed Rosemary.


What really happened to Rosemary Anderson in those four minutes on the roads of Shenton Park? 


>>Intro Music


Perth is one of the most isolated cities on Earth, with the nearest city of Adelaide more than 1,200 miles (or more than 2000 kilometres) away . Situated on Australia’s West Coast, it has the Indian Ocean on the one side and the vast Outback to the other. In the 1950s and early 1960s there was a solid infrastructure in place, with grand buildings and good roads connecting neighbourhoods.


Life in Perth was easy and breezy, with ample space and opportunity for everyone. Migrants from other Australian states as well as from all across the world made up the population. A video documentary of the time said:


“There is an air of pleasant leisure about the city… You will find it hard to resist the easy charm of the city on the Swan [River].”


One of the city’s residents became a part of the city’s history, and not for good reasons. Eric Edgar Cooke was born on the 26th of February 1931 in Perth. He was the eldest of three children and grew up in the suburb of Victoria Park. His father, Vivian Thomas Cooke (or Snowy as everyone called him) was a teenager who worked as a shop-assistant and his mother Christine Edgar was a Scottish migrant. When Christine fell pregnant with Eric, they decided to marry.


When Eric was born his father resented him. He could not stand the sight of him, as Eric was born with a cleft palate and a cleft lip, or as it was called in those days: a hare lip. His father was a raging alcoholic and violence was an everyday occurrence in the Cooke household. Eric, the only boy in the family, often tried to protect his mother from his father’s violence, but ended up as the punching bag in the middle. Sometimes Christine slept in the staff room at her work at the Como Hotel to avoid the violent beatings that waited for her at home. Eric hid in the space underneath the house. Sometimes sleeping on the street in his neighbourhood was better than being at home. He was taken to an orphanage, then placed into foster care, but went back home eventually.


Life at school wasn’t much easier. Cooke changed schools four times throughout his schooling career and never had any friends. Surgical procedures to rectify his ‘hare lip’ left him with a facial deformity and speech impediment. He was constantly mocked and bullied. When he was six years old he was expelled after stealing – helping himself to money from his teacher’s purse.


He moved schools often and dropped out when he was 14 years old, taking odd-jobs. His first job was a delivery boy for a grocery store. His mother worked two jobs, as a kitchen-hand and a cleaner, but could not make ends meet, as his father spent all the family’s money on alcohol. Eric started stealing food and money and gave whatever cash he had to his mother. She was thankful and always made sure he had 5 shillings pocket money for himself, though.


Cook was very intelligent, but because he was a slight young man who mumbled when he spoke no one took him seriously. At school he did well in subjects that required memorisation. He almost had a photographic memory. He was also rather good with his hands.


At the age of 16, he worked as a hammer-boy in a blacksmith shop and often injured himself. He suffered skin burns and hand injuries, but he would always return to work the next day as he needed the money. People who worked with him found it peculiar that he labelled his lunch bag ‘Al Capone’.


He once landed in hospital after a violent beating from his father. Eric tried to stop Snowy from beating up on Christine, but then the violence turned to him. Snowy bashed Eric’s head against a light switch – so hard that he fractured his skull. Eric was hospitalised and took nine weeks to recover. Embarrassed about the truth, he told hospital staff that he had been in a fight at a bar. 


He made many attempts to fit in, even tried out for the choir when he was 17 years old, but he was not selected. Eric could not handle the rejection and acted out by burning down a church. He was sent to prison for 18 months. On his release, his crimes continued. He committed petty crimes, arson and theft. He was arrested again, but paroled after serving only three months.


As a teen he often suffered head injuries. Some sources pinned it on his father, others say it was self-inflicted, as Cooke was accident-prone. Because of recurring headaches and blackouts, he was sent to an asylum. Therapists recommended an operation, which helped him somewhat.


His petty crimes continued and he proudly kept newspaper clippings of his crimes and showed it to other young men he worked with, hoping to impress them and perhaps even make some friends. But again, nobody believed that he had committed the crimes and he was left with egg on his face.


When he got out, Methodist minister, reverend George Jenkins took Cooke under his wing and welcomed him to the church. But it was like Cooke could not help himself and before long, he was caught stealing from his church friends too.


At the age of 21, he joined the Military, where he excelled at weapons training. But his criminal record came to the attention of his superiors and he was dismissed from duty. Desperate to re-join, he travelled out of state to Melbourne and signed up there. Soon, he was discovered and kicked out again, but he valued his three and a half-month training in weapons and firearms.


In 1953, when he was 22, Eric Cooke married Sally Lavin, a 19-year-old waitress. She was a devout Catholic, but was so deeply in love with Cooke, that she agreed to be married in the Methodist Church.


They had seven children together: four sons and three daughters. He worked as a truck driver. Their oldest son was mentally disabled and one of his other children was born with a deformed arm. This angered Cooke as he felt that he had been dealt a bad hand in life. Was it not enough that he had a deformity and a terrible childhood to go with it?


His marriage to Sally was not a happy one and Eric was sent to prison for two years after crashing a stolen car. On his release he was again pulled into a life of crime. He read wedding notices, knowing that the bride and groom’s families would not be home on the day of the wedding. He was able to take his time in robbing the homes, finding only the most valuable items.


He would prowl the streets, stalk his potential victims and strike when the time was right. Every Friday and Saturday night he would dress up in a suit and shiny shoes, ready to go out on the town. For the most part he would go to pubs, hook up with women and play darts. 


But there was another reason too… He was known to be the neighbourhood peeping Tom. He stalked one young woman, following her home from the bus stop. He tried to make an advance, but she quickly rebuffed it. As an act of revenge he stole her father’s car and ran over another woman.


Throughout most of his life, people saw him as the clumsy, mumbling fool. But in stalking people and sharing their most intimate moments without their knowledge, he felt that he was in control. He was also and experienced burglar and, learning from mistakes made when he was a young thief, he was never caught. He was invincible and it felt magnificent. 


Back in the late 1950s, people living in Perth did not lock their doors. They also left keys in their car’s ignition when it was parked in the drive. Cooke stole a car, almost every night and went out for a joyride before returning it. Many of these vehicles were involved in hit-and-run incidents. The owners were unaware of everything. Cooke later confessed that he did this simply because he wanted to hurt people.


His victims

In January 1959 he stabbed a South Perth beautician, 33-year-old Pnina Berkman. He claimed that she woke up when he was inside her home, robbing her. He panicked and killed her. It was a violent stabbing murder, with many injuries to her face.


At the end of 1959, he was stalking 22-year-old Jillian Brewer, a wealthy woman originally from Melbourne. She was the heiress to the McRobertson’s Confectionary fortune and her mother had sent her away as she felt Jillian was mixing with the wrong crowd. As it turned out, Jillian was actually the one who stirred trouble as she was spirited and gutsy. The heiress had quite the reputation for taking men home with her. What she didn’t know, was that someone was watching… 


One night, he saw an opportunity to attack. Jillian had been with her fiancé all night and he left around midnight. Eric Cooke knew she was alone and decided to strike. He stole a hatchet from one of Jill’s neighbours and broke into her home. He attacked her with the hatchet while she was sleeping. When it was all done, he went into the kitchen and found some lemonade in the fridge. He poured himself a glass, went to sit on the back veranda and enjoyed his drink. Refreshed, he decided to return to the room where Jill’s body was and continued the attack on her corpse, stabbing her with a pair of dress making scissors again and again.


On the 27th of January 1963 a series of random shootings took place, all with a .22 rifle. It was Australia Day weekend, a time for celebration. BBQ’s were lit up and beers were shared amongst friends as the sun set after yet another scorching day in the laid-back city of Perth.


Around 2am in the morning, he saw a couple in a parked car, enjoying the view from Cottesloe Beach and having a quiet drink. They were poultry shop owner, Nicholas August and his girlfriend Rowena Reeves who worked as a barmaid. Nicholas saw Cooke hanging around, looking at them, so he shouted at him to ‘clear off’. Cooke walked closer and the couple saw that he was holding a rifle. He lifted it and took aim.


Nicholas was shot in the neck and Rowena was shot in the wrist as she tried to help Nicholas duck down. Although badly injured and bleeding profusely, Nicholas was able to drive off and get out of trouble. As they left, they saw the gunman firing at the car. They made it to Fremantle hospital and both of them survived the attack.


The second victim of the night was 29-year-old accountant Brian Weir. He was asleep in bed when an intruder walked up to him, stood next to the bed and fired a single shot at his head. Eric Cooke, the heartless gunman, drove away in his stolen car, leaving Brian with injuries that caused him to be disabled for the rest of his life. He lay there all night, bleeding but conscious. When he did not show up at the Surf Life Saving Club where he volunteered as a lifesaver, a friend went to his home, looking for him. The friend found Brian, barely alive and called for help. Brian lived in a vegetative state for three more years before he passed away in 1965 after suffering a seizure.


But the rampage on that night of the 27th of January was not over. Eric Cooke had the taste for blood and a rifle ready to shoot. He drove to the affluent area of Nedlands, parked the stolen car and lurked around, looking for his next victim. 


It was a very hot night and 18-year-old agricultural science student, John Sturkey, was sleeping on the back veranda of a boarding house on Vincent Street. Cooke snuck up and, again point blank range, shot the young man and disappeared into the night. A friend discovered John when he was still alive. He was rushed to hospital, but did not survive.


From Vincent Street, Cooke walked a short distance, a couple of blocks away. He rang the doorbell to a family home and waited with his rifle loaded and ready to go. 59-year-old retired grocer, George Walmsley opened the door and was shot in the head while his wife and 21-year-old daughter were asleep inside. The shot woke his wife and she found him, slumped in the doorway. There was no sign of the assailant. George’s wife took him to hospital where he died an hour later.


Police knew all the incidents on the night of the 27th were related and feared that an armed madman would strike again. They warned all residents of Perth to lock their doors at night and asked them to report any suspicious activity. 


Police had to catch the monster that was terrorising their city. People bought guard dogs for protection and for the first time ever, started locking their doors. They slept with baseball bats or knives next to their beds and called police without any hesitation. When police went to follow up on the reports, people would even be too scared to open the door. 


Cooke felt as strong as ever. The nature of his crimes was constructed so it would all appear to be unrelated: hit-and-runs, strangulations, stabbings, shootings with different firearms, even an axe murder...  The list goes on. His behaviour was erratic and his motive was unclear.


Late on the night of the 9th of February, Rosemary Anderson was struck by a car after she left her boyfriend’s house to walk home. She was pronounced dead at 3am in the morning. With a dent in his car as evidence and a signed confession, police charged Rosemary’s boyfriend, John Button with manslaughter. He was convicted and sent to Fremantle Prison for ten years. His conviction was somewhat of a relief, as the murder was an isolated and motivated incident. Police believed that it was unrelated to the multitude of other crimes in the city.


On the 16th of February 1963 a house just west of the inner city was broken into. Social worker, 24-year-old Lucy Madrill shared the house with another young woman, who wasn’t home that night. The burglar knocked over a framed photo and Lucy woke up. She saw a man standing in her room and screamed before she tried to run out. But he pushed her back onto the bed and overpowered her. He used the power cord from the bedside lamp, he strangled her. Once Lucy was dead, he had sex with her body, before dragging her out to the neighbour’s front lawn. There he used an empty whiskey bottle that was lying on the lawn to penetrate her body once more. When he was done, he left the bottle cradled in her arms. The next morning neighbours discovered the grisly scene.


Police were not sure if Lucy’s murder was related to the recent shootings. It was a disconcerting thought to have a crazed gunman as well as a strangler-slash-necrophiliac out on the streets.


Another man was taken in for minor sexual offences, that was dropping pennies on the floor and looking up young women’s skirts. The man was a deaf mute called Darryl Beamish. He did not quite understand what happened when he was charged with the gruesome murder of Jillian Brewer. After a short, one-hour hearing, Darryl was convicted of Jillian’s murder in 1961 and sentenced to hang. His sentence was later commuted to life in prison.


Panic escalated even more: was this a free for all? Were all criminals crawling out of the woodworks  What was becoming of the city that was a carefree and safe place to be a couple of years ago. But with the likes of Button and Beamsih behind bars, they sighed a temporary sigh of relief.


In August 1963, 18-year-old student, Shirley McLeod, was babysitting the baby son of Carl and Wendy Dowd in Dalkeith. She wasn’t their regular sitter, but helped them out as she welcomed the pocket money. As it was a cool winter’s night, she sat in front of the heater and studied. She did not hear the intruder as he broke into the house, as she had fallen asleep, slumped over her books. Using a stolen rifle, he walked up to her and shot, killing her with a single shot to the head. Her body was discovered by Carl Dowd when he and his wife arrived around 2am in the morning. Fortunately, their child was unharmed and sleeping.


Terror

The media called the man who held Perth in the grip of fear The Nedlands Monster, as that is the area of his killing spree in January of 1963. Because all of his murders were committed late at night, his other name was The Night Caller.


The only two witnesses who were able to help police were Nicholas August and Rowena Reeves who were shot in their car. With their names in the newspapers, they lived in fear that the assailant would find them and finish the job to prevent them from helping the police.


At the murder scene of babysitter Shirley McLeod, police found an unidentified fingerprint. For the first time in Western Australian history, mass testing was done. More than 30,000 all men over the age of 12, living in the area were fingerprinted. Yet, there was no match for the print found at the Dowd home.


They also took in more than 60,000 firearms for testing, to see if they could find a match for the bullet found in Shirley’s head. They received a break, when a woman reported that she saw a rifle, hidden in a wax bush in Mt. Pleasant. It was the break they needed. Characteristics from the gun matched the ballistic evidence in the murder of Shirley McLeod.


Police set a trap by replacing the weapon with a similar rifle and tied a piece of fishing line to it. Not too far away in the bushes, a camouflaged surveillance spot was set up and cops kept an eye on the spot near the corner of The Esplanade and Rookwood Street. They hoped that the person who left it there, would come back for it. 17 days later, police efforts paid off. 


At 1am on the morning of September 1st 1963, a car pulled up to the spot where the rifle was hidden. A man walked towards the bush and police arrested him on the spot. The man was Eric Edgar Cooke. Inside his vehicle was a .22 bullet shell, that matched the bullet that was test fired from the rifle in the bush.


He was charged with the murder of Shirley McLeod. But was he the Night Caller? Or was he still out there?


At first Cooke admitted to Shirley’s murder and confessed to a multitude of robberies. All up, Cooke confessed to 250 robberies – he was able to list all items he stole at each one. Even, amazingly, the amount of money and the denominations of the coins he had stolen from each location.


Police recorded and followed up on all the information he provided, but felt that he still had a lot more to say. Detective Max Baker said to him:


“Cookie, you’re gonna hang, you know – there’s no doubt about it. You got a wife and kids, think of them, and then think about whether you’re gonna be dragged to the gallows like a mongrel dog or you gonna go there like a man.” 


Cooke replied: 


“What do you want to know?”


Then the confessions began. The total tally was 22 violent crimes, all committed by Cooke. He was meticulous in recalling details of each crime. They started with his killing spree of the Australia Day weekend. He smiled and said:


“I had 55 bullets in that rifle. Isn’t it lucky I didn’t use the other 50?”


Police took him to the various crime scenes, where he corroborated information that only the perpetrator and police knew, again with extraordinary attention to detail. It took police three weeks to compile the statements from Cooke. There were more robberies, but they were simply swamped by all the information and decided to only focus on the violent crimes.


Cooke also confessed to running down seven women over the span of the preceding five years. It started when he stole a car in September 1958. He saw Dutch immigrant and mother of four, Nel Schneider on her bicycle and simply ran her over before he sped off. Nel was seriously injured, but survived. Amongst all his hit-and-run victims, he also confessed to the killing of Rosemary Anderson. 


He said that once he had started committing violent crimes, he wanted more. Strangulation, stabbings and shootings followed. On his list of victims, was Jillian Brewer, a crime for which Darryl Beamish was serving time.


Trial

Cooke’s trial for the murder of John Sturkey commenced on the 25th of November 1963, as that was the one case with the most conclusive evidence. 


Cooke pleaded insanity, his lawyers claimed that he was suffering from schizophrenia, but a psychological evaluation deemed him to be sane. When Cooke’s defence team requested a private evaluation, it was denied.


During his trial, Cooke could be seen laughing and joking and did not show any remorse for the heinous crimes he had confessed to. He commented on the Australia Day weekend killing spree:


“It was then that this power came over me. It wasn’t an impulse, it was stronger than an impulse. It was… It was as though I was God and… it was like a mantle or like a cloud came over me, and I must, I must use that.”


On 28 November 1963, after a three-day-trial, Cooke was convicted of wilful murder and sentenced to death by hanging. It took the jury only an hour and a half to return the verdict. He did not appeal his conviction, as he felt that it was time to pay for his crimes. Before court was adjourned, Cooke took the opportunity to swear on the bible, insisting that he was responsible for the murders of Jillian Brewer and Rosemary Anderson. Chief Justice Sir Albert Wolff called him a ‘villainous unscrupulous liar’ who had only confessed to these murders in order to extend his trial and postpone the inevitable outcome.


He was sent to Fremantle prison where Darryl Beamish and John Button were serving their sentences. Incidentally, the men became friends while serving time. John took time to learn fingerspelling so he could communicate better with his friend. They had no idea that they had one thing in common: they were both paying the price for Eric Cooke’s sins.


Before his execution, Eric Cooke testified at appeal hearings for both men. Despite Cooke’s confession about Jillian Brewer’s murder, the court did not believe him and Darryl Beamish ended up serving a total of 15 years for the murder. Cooke’s wife, Sally, testified that Cooke attended Darryl’s trial and spent the entire day in court, watching proceedings. What must have gone through his head as another man was sent to the gallows for a crime he committed – only he knew. 


The fact that he was so brazen to place himself in a situation with law enforcement officers all around, is a sign that he thought he was smarter than anyone else – he saw himself as invincible because he was invisible. Having a facial deformity had one advantage, people did not look at him. Those who did, quickly looked the other way. For once in his life, societal awkwardness played in his favour. If only they knew what he was capable of… His conscience did catch up with him eventually, as he would insist that he was Jillian’s killer to the end.


Cooke testified at John Button’s appeal and said that when he was the one hit Rosemary, driving a stolen car. When Cooke took police officer’s to the scene of Rosemary’s murder, they asked him to point to the exact location where his car struck her body. It was not where Rosemary’s body was found and police believed he was not being truthful, especially because he was so particular about the details of his other crimes.


He explained that her body was thrown over the roof. Because the Holden he was driving had a steel sun visor that was still intact, the appeal judges did not believe Cooke’s story. 


John Button was released after five years, on a good behaviour bond. The first thing he did after his release was to visit Rosemary’s grave. 


Just before he was hanged, Eric Cooke repeated his confession to Reverend George Jenkins, the minister who took pity on him when he was a young man. In his last minutes alive, Cooke insisted that he was guilty of Jillian’s and Rosemary’s murders and that two innocent men were in jail because of it. He placed his right hand on the bible and said:


“I swear before Almighty God that I killed Anderson and Brewer.”


At the time, there was a strong drive to end capital punishment in Western Australia. Executions usually provoked protests outside Fremantle Prison, but not in the case of Eric Edgar Cooke. Only one lone woman protesting the death penalty kept vigil outside the prison gates on the morning of his execution on the 26th of October 1964.


He was buried in Fremantle Cemetery, above the remains of child-killer Martha Rendell, who was executed in 1909. She was the last woman to be hanged in Fremantle Prison and Cooke was the last man to be hanged in Western Australia before capital punishment was abolished in 1984.


Although Darryl Beamish and John Button were free men, they were still convicted felons, a stigma that tainted their future and prevented them to live normal lives outside of prison and free men.


Perth journalist, Estelle Blackburn, was very interested in the case. She wrote a book called Broken Lives – the result of six years of research. In her book she explores Darryl Beamish and John Button’s innocence and her call for Western Australian courts to grant both men retrials paid off. Blackburn and other supporters of John Button made sure the court had no other choice.


One vital fact that Blackburn uncovered, was that Cooke had confessed to other hit-and-run incidents. Because all his murders were either shootings, stabbings or strangulations, and because most of the hit-and-run victims survived, he was not charged with anything. Rosemary was the only hit-and-run victim who died. Also, the dent from the previous crash, did not look like the kind of damage a car would have after running someone over. It was a small dent below the front left headlight and above the bumper, with some damage to the front grill. Also, John had reported the crash and there was a police record of it.


In 2000, US pedestrian crash expert, Rusty Haight, from Texas was asked to study the evidence in the killing of Rosemary Anderson. He was looking for damage to the front hood or bonnet, which would be consistent with hitting a pedestrian at a speed of about 30-40 mph (or 50-60 kilometres per hour). The photos of John’s car, showed no damage.


By conducting crash reconstruction tests, Haight was able to prove that John’s 1962 Simca could not have been the car that killed his girlfriend. It was a challenge to find the exact model of car almost 40 years after the incident. They also had to source a Holden, the make of car that Cooke claimed to have driven when he struck Rosemary. They fitted it with the exact kind of sun visor that the Holden had. It was because the lack of damage to the front sun visor that the court decided Cooke’s version must have been false.


What the crash tests proved, was that Cooke’s version of the story was 100% accurate. The body would have folded onto the hood and flipped over the roof, exactly as Cooke said it did. When the body made contact with the visor, it simply bent, but did not break. The dummy also landed face down, consistent with how John said Rosemary’s body was positioned when he found her. 


In addition, after hitting the bio-dummy, the replica of John’s Simca had extensive damage to the hood. No similar damage could be seen from the evidence photos of John’s car taken right after the murder in 1963. Each time the dummy was struck, no matter how many times they tried, it landed on its back, not face-down.


John Button’s conviction was quashed on the 25th of February 2002, interestingly on Eric Edgar Cooke’s birthday. Three supreme court judges stated that there had been a miscarriage of justice. Despite John’s conviction being quashed, Rosemary’s parents still blamed him, they would never forgive him. In an interview with Australian Story, Rosemary’s mother, Joan Anderson, said:


“He took my daughter out, but he did not bring her home.” 


That is something John has lived with all of his life. In the same documentary, he said:


“One of the things the Andersons hold me guilty for is the fact that I didn't take care of their daughter that night, that I never... I never brought her home. For that, I suppose I'd have to plead guilty. It was out of my control completely, but that doesn't heal the pain that they've suffered over all these years. If Jack and Joan Anderson could reach that point where they could accept the fact that I wasn't guilty of this, it would certainly lift a weight off my shoulders. I'd certainly feel as though this appeal had achieved something a great deal more important than my acquittal of the charge.” 


In the years that followed, the Director of Public Prosecutions talked the Andersons through the evidence and assured them that John Button was innocent, without a doubt. John also wrote a sincere letter to the Andersons. He said that, when he was in prison in the 1960s, he wanted to write to them to explain what happened that night, but he was not allowed to contact them. He also apologised for not bringing their daughter home that night. Jack Anderson reacted to John’s letter, saying: 


“It must have taken a terrible lot of gumption... to write that letter. It's pretty hard, especially after all that time, but he did do it. And I respect him for that. I mean that sincerely that I did accept it.” 


Fortunately, John Button’s successful appeal paved the way for Darryl Beamish. In 2005 he was acquitted of Jillian Brewer’s murder. In 2011, Beamish received an ex gratia payment of almost half a million Dollars from the Western Australian government, about the same as the amount paid out to John Button.


Cooke’s tough upbringing made him hate the society he lived in. He wanted revenge and his anger was aimed at anyone and everyone: males, females, the elderly, young people. His victims were selected at random. He was evil through and through and this reflected in his crimes. He raped, mutilated, shot defenceless victims and even engaged in necrophilia. His reign of terror made the people of Perth realise that evil can be anywhere, and nothing was ever quite the same in the once safe and laid-back city. 


He created a situation of terror, making himself Perth’s most feared man. Even after he was executed, parents would warn their children: 


“Lock your doors, lock your windows… Just in case Cookie comes.” 


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