Margaret ‘Madge’ Kirby lived with her father, David, and siblings at 55 Romilly Street. She was a pretty little girl and was well liked by all who knew her.
On 6 January 1908, Madge and some friends where playing outside in nearby Farnworth Street in Kensington. A man approached the group and offered the little girl some sweets and asked her to accompany him. She naively agreed and the man took her by the hand and led her away. Her playmates, Annie McGovern and Madge’s little brother, watched her walk away into the distance.
Various witnesses saw Madge’s last movements and did not do anything to stop her abductor, assuming he was a relative and she was just throwing childish tantrum in not wanting to go with him. A shop boy who was knew Madge saw her being taken up Rupert Hill by the man. He shouted to Madge to come to him, but the man dragged her back. When the boy, Andrew Smollett, followed the pair the man gave chase to Andrew, but eventually went back to the frightened little girl, whom he had told to stay by some railings. Andrew went directly to Mr Kirby and then to Prescot Street, Bridewell, to report what he had seen.
Jane Hughes, who worked in the cocoa rooms on Brownlow Hill, served Madge and her captor around 6:30 p.m. She said she may know the man again.
Despite extensive searches and the introduction of a bloodhound, the police drew an utter dead end.
Nothing was seen or heard of the lost little girl until 15 August, when a sack found outside 15 Great Newton Street was found to contain the tragic remains of Madge Kirby. She was only identifiable by her chemises and garters.
An anonymous letter was sent to the police in August, supposedly from Madge’s killer. He stated he had been a lodger at the address, where the girl’s body was found, some years ago. ‘On the night of January 6 at 8:45, I took the girl through the front door and it was very dark. We had been over to “World’s Fair” before then. That is the way I treated her, and then I did away with her.’
Her father was heartbroken. He had only lost his wife some months before and he took to his bed shortly after his daughter’s discovery and died ‘of a broken heart’.
The case was never solved.
A slightly more obscure child murder case was that of Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Peers. Lizzie was sent on an errand for her mother at midnight on 28 October 1905 to buy some cooked meat from a nearby butchers shop on Lodge Lane. The 10-year-old girl never returned home and her mother did not see anything suspicious in this at first, assuming Lizzie had stayed with a relative or bumped into some friends.
The next morning Lizzie’s body was found in an entry behind Cullen Street, by an early morning carter. A postmortem revealed she died from the shock of being gagged and sexually assaulted.
At the inquest Mr and Mrs Peers were severely reprimanded for allowing their young daughter out at such a late hour. A verdict of ‘wilful murder by persons unknown’ was brought in.
The funeral at Toxteth Park Cemetery attracted circa 30,000 mourners. The Lord Mayor of the city even sent his condolences and said ‘a stain had been put on the city’.
This case was also never solved. Lizzie’s burial place is unmarked.
By Caroline Bunford