Off-duty, Lance Corporal Arthur Mortimer had a bizarre pastime. He stole cars and knocked women off their bicycles.

He was stationed at Aldershot, and on August 7th, 1935, he forced a woman cyclist into a ditch at Stratfield Saye, and then wound down his window.

“So sorry!” he said. “Trouble with the steering. Look!” He pointed to the car’s steering wheel, and when the woman climbed out of the ditch and went to his open window, he punched her in the face and drove off.

The next day, AUGUST 8th, he stole another car at Farnborough and knocked 20-year-old Phyllis Oakes off her bike as she cycled over a railway bridge at Winchfield with her sister. Driving on, he knocked another woman from her bicycle at Crastock, and stole her handbag as she lay unconscious in a ditch. Meanwhile the police had been alerted, and he was caught at Guildford when he crashed into a road-block.

Phyllis Oakes died in hospital, and at his trial Mortimer was found guilty of her murder and sentenced to death. The court had heard, however, that he had spent six months in an asylum. A medical examination was ordered, and he was reprieved, his sentence being commuted to life imprisonment under medical supervision.