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Flash back: The sad story of Madge Kirby; TALES FROM THE PAST.

Byline: Tom Slemen

ON the wintry afternoon of Monday January 6, at 4. 30pm, 1908, Margaret T Kirby -- known affectionately as Madge by her father and friends -- was playing near the reservoir in Farnworth Street, Kensington, just around the corner from her home at Number 55 Romily Street.

As twilight gathered, a man with a long black moustache, dressed in black clothes approached Madge, who was with her best friend Annie McGovern. `Would you like to go with me for some sweets?' the stranger asked Madge in a well-spoken voice.

The innocent Madge smiled broadly and nodded.

The man took her by the hand and walked away. Madge never returned home for her tea, and her father went in search of his daughter without success.

He listened with dread when young Annie and other children told him about the man who had accosted Madge with a promise of sweets.

The police lost no time in launching a wide-scale search party for the missing girl. Lakes were dragged, parks scoured, over 5, 000 empty houses were searched and there were door-to-door enquiries in Kensington Edge Hill and Wavertree, but Madge could not be found.

Fears that the child-snatcher could strike again swept the city, and most parents made sure their children were indoors straight after school.

Vigilantes roamed the streets, looking for any strangers matching the description of the perverted `toff' who had taken Madge.

The children of the Sacred Heart School, which Madge had attended, prayed each day for their friend's safe return. Madge's mother, Margaret, had died during childbirth a fortnight before.

For eight long months, he lived in hope of Madge being found alive and well, but on the rainy Tuesday morning of August 21 in that year, a labourer on his way to work on Great Newton Street, off London Road, found a canvas sugar sack outside the door of Number 15.

The sack contained the scantily clad remains of Madge Kirby.

An amazing police bloodhound named Czar took up the scent from the remains and made a bee line to the end of Edge Lane.

The dog then went on a meandering route through the Botanic Gardens, and on to Edge Hill railway station on Tunnel Road.

Its owner interpreted the dog's behaviour and told police Madge's killer had boarded a train to the city centre, so Czar was taken to Lime Street station, where he bolted to Platform One.

Czar howled at the tunnel, and the dog's owner said this meant that Madge Kirby's killer had left Liverpool for the Midlands, as trains from that platform were bound for Birmingham.

There, the tantalising trail ended. Madge's heartbroken father, unable to eat or sleep, died weeks after, and was buried with his wife and daughter at Ford Cemetery.

The tragedy affected people who hadn't even known Madge, and the story of her sad fate was told to generations of children as a warning not to talk to strangers.
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 11, 2004
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