In a case with familiar echoes down the century, neighbours hurried to police headquarters when six-year-old Janet Wilkinson vanished from her Rush Street, Chicago, home on July 22nd, 1919.

“Tom Fitzgerald has taken her!” they cried. “Everyone knows he’s a paedophile. He’s the only one around here who goes after little kids.”

Thomas Fitzgerald, 39, was questioned vigorously, but he had nothing to say. Then a witness said he had seen Fitzgerald sitting with a little girl on his knee in the basement of a nearby hotel, where the little girl’s body was found. He was arrested, kept in custody and not allowed to sleep. Finally he confessed.

“I have no sexual interest in adult females,” he said. “I lured the little girl into the hotel basement with a sweet, but when I tried to touch her she screamed, so I strangled her.”

The post-mortem revealed that little Janet was still alive when he buried her in a coal pit in the basement. Despite the fact that most people thought he was insane, Fitzgerald was hanged on Friday, October 17th, 1919, in Chicago’s Cook County Prison.