A court made a disastrous decision when it decided to take a chance with a defendant and release him after he was convicted of three attacks on women cyclists.

The accused man, William Smith, known as Gypsy Jack, attacked the three women in 1959, and was let off. A few months later, on JULY 12th, 1960, he confronted Mrs. Ethel Collinge, 45, of Westwick Cottages, Oakington.

She was cycling home from her job at Reed’s paper factory at Histon when Gypsy Jack closed on her. There was a scuffle and, abandoning her bike, Ethel ran into a cornfield. She was followed by Smith, who calmly took aim with his double-barrelled shotgun.

Ethel fell, seriously injured. Gypsy Jack then walked over to her, reloaded, and as she raised her arm to protect her face he fired again. As she lay motionless he stripped and raped her.

Police knew that the killer lived in a converted railway carriage on the outskirts of Oakington. They swooped, but he wasn’t there.

A tip-off suggested he had a hideout within the camp. Again the police swooped, but there was still no sign of Gypsy Jack. The searchers decided to take a breather outside his old railway-carriage home.

It was at this point that an eagle-eyed policeman pointed out that the outside of the carriage seemed to be bigger than the inside. The police charged in and found the secret compartment where the fugitive had walled himself up. As they began to dismantle it there was a tremendous explosion.

When the false wall finally came away the body of Gypsy Jack, who had turned his gun on himself, was revealed.