In a short period between June 1962 and January 1964 a series of grisly murders took place in Boston. All the victims were women who had been strangled. In the same way that London witnessed a succession of brutal killings mostly attributed to the unknown butcher The Ripper, the Boston slayings were equally blamed on one lone sociopath. Mystery and mythology still surrounds both.
The Boston Strangler has been held accountable for around eleven murders of women (non prostitutes) out of thirteen victims. Similarly to the Victorian killer, no-one was actually tried for the Boston murders. But one Albert DeSalvo was – by the public at least - believed to be the man responsible. DeSalvo actually confessed to each of the thirteen official Strangler murders. However, some doubt was shed on DeSalvo having been the killer by people who personally knew and worked with him.
What marks these particular murders out in the annals of serial killing is the fact that all the victims were considered to be mature or elderly. The combination of old age, loneliness and vulnerability, adds to the brutality and tragedy of the events.
Albert DeSalvo, a well built 29-year-old, had a history of breaking and entering into properties for years. He had spent time in prison for a bizarre series of ‘peeping tom’ like escapades where he would knock on ladies' doors, pretend he was a model scout and proceed to ‘measure up’ the flattered woman if he was lucky enough to get in. It seemed a harmless, albeit disturbing, pastime and DeSalvo spent 18 months in prison for such sexually orientated mischievousness.
DeSalvo had a tough upbringing. He was brought up with four other siblings and his father was a wife-beating alcoholic. The boy became a delinquent and spent time in and out of prison for petty crime and violence.
Years later after he had been discharged from the army for disobeying orders he settled down and married his sweetheart, Irmgard Beck, a girl from Germany. They lived modestly and, despite Irmgard giving birth to a handicapped child, the family managed to sustain itself. Irmgard was aware that DeSalvo was highly sexed and tried to avoid intercourse for fear of having another handicapped baby. However, a healthy boy was born and DeSalvo appeared to become a conscientious family man, liked and appreciated by colleagues and his boss. He was also known to be an outrageous braggart, which perhaps led the police to later disbelieve his claims to be the Strangler.