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Fascinating Stories

The Cemetery has an interesting history. Here you will find some of the more unusual and mysterious stories that crop up.

We start with a murder mystery:

 

A Rock Ferry Murder

 

Nellie Clarke was an ordinary 11 year old child who lived with her mother and step-father at 16 Byrne Avenue. She was said to have been a bit shy and retiring but was well-liked at Ionic Street School (now Rock Ferry Primary). She had fair hair, rosy cheeks, very blue eyes and was described as ‘sweet-tempered’. She would walk to school every day with her best friend, Elsie Stuart.

Early on the morning of Sunday 10th January 1925 her body was found huddled up in a narrow passage between Spencer Road and Highfield Grove, Rock Ferry. Her murder horrified the nation and Liverpool CID complete with bloodhound, were called in but to no avail.

On the night of the tragedy Nellie was wearing a striped frock,, a red Tam O’Shanter and a coat with a fur collar. She and her brother, John, had just returned home from a children’s party when at shortly after 7pm, her mother asked Nellie to go down to Mrs Johnson’s second-hand shop at 201 Old Chester Road with a message. Nellie never reached home again. Her body was found by Mr Martin Doran at about 8.15 the following morning when he let his two dogs out for their morning run. He was horrified to see the body of a young girl propped against the telegraph pole in the corner of the passage. She had a scared, agonised look on her face. He picked up her hand. It was icy cold.

The police surgeon who later examined the body confirmed that Nellie had been sexually abused and there was bruising to her wrist and neck, consistent with her struggling with her attacker.

A full account of this monstrous crime and its investigation is available in the book ‘Murder and Mayhem in Birkenhead 1830-1930’ by David Malcolm.

In spite of a £200 reward for information, none was forthcoming and the crime remains unsolved to this day. Nellie was buried in Section H, plot 610 , of Bebington Cemetery, Town Lane on 15th January 1925.

After almost a century of no leads and no information, a few years ago, on the anniversary of her death, a small posy of flowers was found lying on her grave with no clue as to their donor.

A poem has also been composed, to mark this sad event:

NELLIE CLARKE

 

Long ago

A Rock Ferry street

In January cold and dark

She runs an errand for familiar treat

The frosty pavements

Hold their breath

For young Nellie Clarke.

 

In smoky mist

A foul violent act

With Nellie smothered and attacked

The pain was cold

Found next day

In an alleyway placed

Slumped by a post

Cruel death on her face.

 

Constabulary at the scene:

‘Most heinous act we’ve ever seen’

Hard evidence we must glean.

 

But none was found.

No witness nor confession

Ninety years laid in the ground

Trail ran cold, memories old

and time forgotten in the dark -

Till yesterday a minor spark

Flowers left on this child’s grave

In memory of Nellie Clarke.

Account and peom by Lea Knowles.

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