It seems clear that different periods see certain crimes and trials as emblematic, as capturing some features of a particular moment. Crimes and criminal trials are often seen as offering a kind of unique perspective on society. The trial offers a moment of introspection, inviting observers to reflect on the state of the nation. And certain crimes are also seen as epochal - though this can often be judged only in retrospect - revealing the emergence of new kinds of criminality. Most notoriously, the Jack the Ripper crimes are seen as the the origin of the modern serial killer, but even in less dramatic form it is possible to see new crimes or shifts in the ways that crimes are committed.
People like Neville Heath were able to exploit the uncertainties in the legal order. Although the wartime period saw intense regulation of food production and the management of resources, there was also a widespread black market, the existence of which was tolerated in many areas - at least until the end of the war. There were many homeless people, or those who had lost their papers, as a result of bombing, and these mingled with those, such as Heath or Hagger (also mentioned in the article) who were deserters and had reason to conceal their identity. And of course there was a general sense of insecurity brought on by the war and its consequences that the institutions of social order, such as the criminal law were struggling to rebuild. This was, no doubt, not as dramatic as in, say, Berlin at the end of the war, where contemporary accounts suggest the existence of a more radical kind of lawlessness, but there was unquestionably a different degree or kind of social and civil order from that which is familiar to us today. And this offered opportunities and new kinds of vulnerabilities, as the stories told by Campbell make clear.
This raises much bigger questions about the relationship between criminal law and social and civil order, which I hope to return to at some point soon.