Twenty-two-year-old Charles William Koopman and his wife were in a jam. In August 1943 Koopman, an instrument-maker, had been conscripted by the RAF. His call-up had been deferred for five months, during which the couple had sold their furniture, living on the proceeds which were almost exhausted by the time of Koopman’s enlistment.
On learning shortly after his call-up that he was to be sent to Bridlington, he deserted to avoid being parted from his wife. They took refuge in the Grove Place, Ealing, flat of Koopman’s former girlfriend “Vini” Brewer, who now had a two-year-old daughter and was married to a sailor who was away at sea.
When Mrs. Brewer and her child were found murdered at their home on SEPTEMBER 8th, 1943, the Koopmans had fled with her money, rings and other possessions. The couple were soon traced and arrested, and both were charged with the killings. Then the charges against Mrs. Koopman were dropped, and her husband was tried at the Old Bailey for Mrs. Brewer’s murder, the other killing remaining on file.
He admitted slaying Mrs. Brewer by striking her with a coal hammer, but claimed he didn’t know what he was doing. He had killed the child, he said, because “it would be no good without its mother.”
Seeking a verdict of guilty but insane, his counsel argued that Koopman had killed Mrs. Brewer during an epileptic fit. This had been triggered by one or more of three factors: his inoculation and vaccination by the RAF both on the same day, his heavy drinking, and his worry over being a deserter.
Doctors, however, testified that Koopman was neither insane nor epileptic. They also said that his inoculation and vaccination on the same day would have been harmless, and an Air Ministry spokesman said that thousands of recruits had received the same treatment with no ill effects.
Found guilty, Koopman was hanged at Pentonville Prison on December 15th, 1943.