On the morning of FEBRUARY 10th, 1955, the near-naked body of Rose Elizabeth Fairhurst, aged about 45, was found on a bombed site at the junction of London’s Loman and Great Suffolk Streets. Her clothes had been ripped off, she had been beaten and strangled, and semen was found on her right thigh.

A woman with whom she had been drinking at a pub the previous night told detectives that they had been approached by Sydney Joseph Clarke, who had offered Rose 10 shillings for a “quickie.”

Rose had left the pub with him at 9.30, and an hour later Clarke was seen by another woman as she left a pub in Blackfriars Road. He was alone, and he tried to proposition her, saying, “Come on girl, I’ve got a few bob.”

Traced to a hostel, he claimed he was in Bristol on the night of the murder, and the hostel’s night porter confirmed that Clarke had booked in just before midnight on February 9th, saying he had just arrived from Bristol. But further inquiries established that the 33-year-old suspect had been staying at another London lodging-house until the night of the murder.

He denied having any knowledge of the killing, but blood tests showed he was an AB secretor, with the same blood group as that of the semen found on Rose’s body. And AB secretors constituted only two per cent of the population.

Confronted with this evidence, Clarke changed his story. He confirmed that he had offered Rose 10 shillings for sex, and said they had gone to the bombed site where he found an old mattress. When she refused to lie on it, they quarrelled and she hit him.

He said he finally persuaded her to use the mattress, but on lying down with her he “went mad” and attacked her. He claimed he could remember nothing else until he found himself at a café under Waterloo Bridge. But he knew he had done something wrong, so he went to his lodgings, packed his suitcase and went to another hostel.

At his Old Bailey trial on March 23rd the defence sought a verdict of guilty but insane, his paternal grandfather having died in a mental hospital. But the court heard medical evidence that Sydney Clarke was sane, and he was convicted of Rose Fairhurst’s murder. Sentenced to death, he was hanged at Wandsworth Prison on April 14th, 1955.