When the last man to see the murder victim alive is her boy friend; when they have just had a conversation tantamount to breaking off their formal relationship; when there is no other suspect in sight, things could be said to look rather grim for the boy friend. If nothing else, he becomes the absolute focus of police attention.
William Kell, 18, was the young man in the case and Madge Cleife, 15, but looking much older, was the girl. They were last seen together in the evening of Saturday, August 30th, 1930, out for a walk arm in arm. Kell was to say he left her at 9.45 at a spot where, somewhat to his surprise, she said she was going to meet someone else that evening.
Surprisingly, because Madge had a pristine reputation. She was in the Band of Hope Choir and a member of the girl guides church troop.
But when, within hours of Kell leaving her that night, Madges naked, raped and strangled body was found near the golf course at Great Salterns, near Portsmouth, police had only one man in mind William Kell. In what everyone thought was already a cut and dried case he was brought to trial for her murder.
Then, slowly, the defence pealed back the layers that appeared to cover Madge Cleife. They called the street lamplighter who was approached by her the night before she was murdered, who she asked to give her a ride on his bike and who said she was precocious.
They forced Kell to admit against his wishes that Madge had demanded a kind of relationship with him that girls of her age, in those days, didnt even contemplate, let alone put into practice. She made blatant advances towards me, he agreed. She was explicit about her needs.
All the evidence was now suggesting that Madges behaviour might well have contributed to the nature of her demise. Her approach to the street lamplighter indicated that she might have made similar approaches to another man and picked the wrong one. Thats what the jury thought too, and they found William Kell not guilty, leaving the Portsmouth murder still swathed in mystery.