Doris Staples and John Waters were two people with problems. Doris was sexually insatiable, and Waters was infatuated with her to the point, some said, of insanity.
Doris, 36, was single and worked at a tailor’s shop in Henley-on-Thames. Waters, 38, was an American serviceman stationed just outside Henley. It was 1943, the town was awash with GIs “oversexed, overpaid and over here,” and Doris couldn’t get enough of them, as Waters was to discover.
The realisation that he had fallen for a flirt was bad enough, and it was made worse by his inability to drop her. But Doris wanted to drop him. Cooling their relationship, she wanted to move on to fresh conquests. Variety was the spice of her life, and she didn’t want to miss out on the opportunities offered by the arrival of so many desirable men.
Her goings-on made her the talk of Waters’s camp, and his infatuation with her made him the butt of taunts from his fellow-soldiers. Then the girl who seemed to be anybody’s began to make it clear that she no longer wanted to be his. She began to cold-shoulder him, but he was nothing if not persistent.
At 12.30 p.m. on JULY 14th he went to her workplace and asked to see her, only to be told she wasn’t available. When he tried again at 2.45 p.m. he was told by Doris’s boss to go away. Returning at 4 p.m., he tapped on the shop’s window, and this time Doris came out and spoke to him. Then he followed her into the shop and as she turned to face him he drew his service pistol, pumped five bullets into her, and then shot himself in the head.
At the first shot the rest of the shop’s staff fled. Moments later Waters, severely wounded, staggered out to the back-yard toilet. Armed civilian and military police arrived at the scene, and firemen using a powerful hose tried to flush out the gunman who was believed to be still in the premises.
Another shot rang out, tear-gas was then fired into the shop, and as it cleared two armed police officers and two US military policemen went inside. Failing to see any sign of Waters, they moved to the back yard and found him slumped in the toilet with a severe head wound.
Within a week, however, he had recovered sufficiently to be charged with murder. At his court-martial one of the shop assistants said she heard Doris say, “Go away, Johnny, I have work to do.” Another member of the staff testified that she heard Doris tell Waters, “There are two thousand more Yanks coming into Henley and I shall not want you.”
In a statement made to the police Waters had said it was not so much that he minded Doris seeing other men, it was the way she flaunted this that upset him. Called to give evidence, he said he could remember nothing of what had happened, nor could he remember signing his statement.
He still had a bullet lodged near his brain and his injuries had left his face expressionless, so he showed no emotion as he was sentenced to death. His execution followed at the US Military Prison in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, on February 10th, 1944.