Pretty Christine Cuddon was a bright, 17-year-old grammar school pupil. Her future seemed assured, apart from one problem. At 13 she had secretly begun a relationship with James Rivett who was now 21, well built and good-looking. But while Christine had matured and developed intellectually, her boyfriend hadnt. Christines sights were set on going to university, whereas Rivett was a labourer and would never be anything else.
They lived in Beccles, Suffolk, where Christines father was a newsagent. She was his only daughter, and he wanted her to become a teacher. When she was 16 she revealed that she had a boyfriend, and her father told her she had two options. She could choose university and a career, which would make her relationship with her boyfriend difficult to maintain; or she could stay in Beccles, continue the relationship and find a job in the town when she left school.
Christine had just passed her exams with six distinctions and two credits, and she decided to put her career first. She told her father that she would stop seeing Rivett, but that was easier said than done. She felt unable to drop her boyfriend altogether, and continued seeing him.
They met most Saturday nights, and at 6.30 p.m. on NOVEMBER 5th, 1949, Christine set out from her home for the Regal Cinema in Beccles, where she had arranged to meet Rivett when she came out after the first showing. She duly did so, and at 11.30 Rivett called at a friends home, saying, I shant see you any more. I have done my party in. I did it at the Sir John Leman School about an hour and a half ago. I dont know if they have found her yet.
Half an hour later he went to Beccles police station, handed over his shotgun, and said, You had better lock me up. I have just killed a girl. Its right – no kidding. I strangled her. Shes in the cycle-shed at the school. I was going to shoot myself. I dont know why I done it.
Officers went to the cycle-shed, where they found Christines strangled body. A constable tried artificial respiration, but it was too late.
In a statement Rivett said: I was very fond of Christine…it was the family. He went on to say that Christine had been under pressure from her father to stop seeing him. He said that after having sex in the cycle-shed he and Christine had stood talking about this, that and the other, and then she said she had better be going. Then I tied the scarf which she had just slung around her neck and pulled it tight. Then I twisted it. Then to make sure, I did it again. She went down on her own and that was that. I thought she was gone and I kissed her and went round the town.
At his trial for murder he pleaded guilty, but the judge directed a plea of not guilty to be entered because Rivetts mental state was in question.
You may think, the prosecutor told the jury, that the killing was motivated by a sense of frustration, that he saw this girl taking a course which would progressively place her beyond his reach in intellectual development and attainment.
Seeking a verdict of Guilty but insane, the defence counsel pointed out that after the killing Rivett had gone home and read a book, and had then visited a friend before he went to the police. He had fallen asleep in his cell at the police station, and detectives had not been able to question him further until 5 a.m. Was this the behaviour of a normal man who had strangled someone?
Two prison medical officers said they believed Rivett was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the crime, and would have strangled his girlfriend even if a policeman had been standing beside him. But the court heard that nobody had noticed any abnormality in Rivett before the crime, and the jury decided he was sane and convicted him.
Sentenced to death, he had said he didnt mind dying, and he was hanged at Norwich Prison on March 8th, 1950.