In considering the career of the killer Babinsky, the jaws even of the most imperturbable researchers drop when it is realised how frequently the deranged brute outwitted the coppers who were forever in pursuit of him. In their chronicle A Dull, Workaday Assessment Of The Vile Criminal Babinsky, for example, those two old sobersides Totteridge and Whetstone report:
When we thought about the seeming ease with which Babinsky always escaped the clutches of the plod, we were both bedizened. Totteridge’s jaw dropped, while Whetstone banged his head repeatedly against a granite wall. (page 429)
The received wisdom in the matter is that Babinsky had innumerable lairs and hideyholes to which he fled, from caves by the seashore to chalets in the hills. While this is of course true, it does not address the question of how the lumbering psychopath evaded capture, time and time again, between the site of his slaughter and the lair in which he hid.
Recent research, by a writer who could show Totteridge and Whetstone a thing or two when it comes to maintaining the reader’s interest, reveals that Babinsky was a master of disguise. In Babinsky – Master Of Disguise!, the Korean historian of blood-drenched enormities Park No Lip writes:
Not for Babinsky weedy ruses such as the adoption of a limp and the padding out of his cheeks with cotton wool. His genius lay in his ability to impersonate real people. Following the slaying of the Punch and Judy Man at the end of the pier in Sawdust-on-Sea, over a hundred coppers lay in wait for Babinsky on the promenade. They were nonplussed when, several minutes after the screams and gurgles had died away, off the pier walked Barbey d’Aurévilly, the boulevard magnifico, with the port of a Spanish hidalgo, a gold-knobbed cane in his right hand, a little mirror in his left, the one to emphasize, the other to confirm his identity. He pranced across the promenade on to the boulevard quite unmolested, and made his escape. It was, of course, not d’Aurévilly at all. It was Babinsky. The very next day, a few miles inland in the awful little village of Gack, he killed a monkey-trainer named Perkins, and made such a racket while doing so that dozens of police cars screeched up to the hovel wherein the fell deed was done. The coppers formed a ring of steel around the hovel and waited for the maniac to emerge. Hours passed. Eventually, Detective Captain Cargpan himself, Babinsky’s Nemesis, strode to the door and banged his big blackbegloved fist upon it. It opened, and there in the fetid gloom stood the picturesque, striking-looking parson, the Reverend John Chippendall Montesquieu Bellew, whose head of hair was like a great ball of spun white silk. A magnificent orator, and adored by women, he lived, becomingly, in an atmosphere of adulation constant enough to turn an ordinary man’s brain. He certainly turned the brains of Cargpan and his toughs, who swooned like girlies as the parson climbed into one of the police cars and drove away. Several more hours passed before the witless coppers realised that the man they thought was Bellew was, in fact, the killer Babinsky!
Park No Lip labours the point with a dozen or so further examples, but it is fascinating stuff and certainly sheds new light on the man they called “the killer Babinsky”. Next week, we shall be taking a closer look at the interior decoration of some of his lairs and chalets, paying particular attention to wallpapers and sideboards.