Joseph Thornley, 26, a lampman employed at Macclesfield’s central station, courted Frances Johnson sedulously. Even when she got fed up with him and pawned the engagement ring he had given her, he wouldn’t give up.

But Thornley had a peculiar way of pursuing his destiny. When he saw Frances in the street he would beat her up. So when her parents went away on holiday, for fear of her ex-fiancé’s terrible temper, she got her friend May Warren to sleep in the house at Devonport Street, Macclesfield, with her.

Undeterred, on Sunday, SEPTEMBER 19th, 1915, Thornley broke in. May Warren, awake in the spare room, trembled with fright and pulled the sheets over her head as she heard him creep up the stairs and enter Frances’s room.

Frances screamed when she saw Thornley silhouetted in the dark. She went on screaming, agonisedly calling for help, as he cut her throat, completely severing her windpipe, jugular vein and carotid artery with a five-inch gash so deep that it penetrated to her vertebrae.

But May Warren couldn’t budge. She was paralysed with fear. She heard her friend die; she heard the killer creep out of the house again; and at 4.30 a.m. she called from the window to a passer-by she knew, “Come in. I think Frances has been murdered.”

Thornley went on the run but was caught after he had written letters to his parents and friends, asking them, among other things, to draw his wages and pay his rent.

At Chester Assizes on October 27th, 1915, he was sentenced to hang. The judge told him: “You determined that if she would not give herself to you she should give herself to no one else.”

The executioner, John Ellis, agreed with that. Pinioning Thornley in the death cell, he noticed a heart tattooed on the prisoner’s left arm. “Inside the heart was the word ‘Frances,’” Ellis remembered later.