Unsolved Murders

Florence Ann Port

Age: 10

Sex: female

Date: 24 Oct 1947

Place: Flakefleet Avenue, Fleetwood, Lancashire

Florence Ann Port was found dead in a field opposite Flakefleet Avenue in Fleetwood in a clump of weeds on 24 October 1947.

She died from asphyxia although it was not clear whether it was deliberate although she had been interfered with.

She was found about 500 yards from her home in Heathfield Road and 200 yards from her school. The area where she was found has since been built on.

Her father said that he last saw her at 6.30pm on 23 October 1947 when he said that she was in her usual health, happy and cheerful.

She was last seen in Heathfield Road at about 9.10pm on 23 October 1947 alone in the lamplight on a street corner near to her home. After she failed to come home at about 10.35pm, the police were informed, and a search was made for her.

Early the following morning, her wellington boots and some of her underclothes were found in an alleyway at the back of a house.

She was found later in the day partly clothed off of the wasteland and it was determined that she had been interfered with. It was noted that her socks were clean, indicating that she had been transported the field.

Her cause of death was given as being due to asphyxia caused by shock although it was also noted that she had suffered from other congenital conditions including an enlarged heart. It was also said that there were no signs of an assault and it was suggested that her death might not have been deliberate.

Her post mortem also revealed that she had had a meal shortly before her death which she had not had at home which was thought to have been either a meat and potato pie or a hot pot and it was not known where she had eaten it.

It was thought that she had been raped and murdered in the alleyway where her boots and underclothes were found and then transported to the field where she was dumped. However, it was not known how her body would have been moved.

Two suspects were suggested, the first was a man that was seen earlier in the alleyway who was a stranger to the area and the other was an older boy after it was suggested that she had gone into the alleyway with someone to have sex.

During their investigation, the police made a complete check on the movements of everyone living within 300 yards of where she was found for the night she was murdered.

Three early stories that were heard were all later discounted after they were withdrawn by the people that made them. The stories were described as 'figments of imagination at the height of the investigation'. They were:

  1. Reports of screams being heard. Two small boys had said that they had heard screams coming from a back street.
  2. Reports of a man seen lying in the back street of Heathfield Road covering something up with his mackintosh.
  3. Reports of a silhouette of a thin man leading and pulling a child along the road leading to the field where Florence Port was later found dead. The police said on Thursday 30 October 1947, 'We have exhausted this line of enquiry, which is now closed'. When the police were asked whether they had spoken to the man referred to, they said, 'In the light of further information, this has not been necessary'. The man was said to have been tall and thin with round shoulders and was believed to have been wearing a fawn raincoat and a dark trilby hat.

It was reported on 27 October 1947 that more than 50 crime experts went to Fleetwood for a police conference on her murder. Each detective was given a typewritten dossier of the murder as well as reports on four other unsolved murders from the past two years, three of which were said to have also involved a young girl being murdered.

Florence Port's father was an incapacitated deep-sea fisherman. Her mother had died the year before in December 1946.

A couple had lodged with Florence Port's family with their child. The woman did part of the cleaning and also looked after Florence Port and her father. At the inquest, it was heard that the woman often saw to Florence Port's meals, but her mother noted Florence Port never sat down to a proper meal, stating that she just ate when she wanted to.

Florence Port's father said that he had gone out on the evening of 23 October 1947 to the British Legion Club where he met a friend, and said that when he got back to Heathfield Road with his friend at 10.30pm, he found that Florence Port was missing and so went out searching for her, saying that he first went to see if she was at his elder daughter's home in Flakefleet Avenue, but she was not there. He said that his elder daughter then joined him in his search for her and that he then reported her missing to the police at 11.40pm.

Florence Port's father said that during his search, before he called the police, that he spoke to a neighbour who said that she had seen Florence Port out playing earlier on with two boys.

Shortly after Florence Port was reported missing to the police, a woman found one of Florence Port's Wellington boots about three yards from her back gate, and the other was found soon after a few yards further down the street.

Florence Port's father then found some of Florence Port's underclothing in the back street.

Florence Port's father said that the only meals that Florence Port had had on 23 October 1947 were porridge for breakfast and fried potatoes and beef tea for dinner at 12 midday. He noted that Florence Port also had tea at a friends’ and noted that the only other places where Florence Port would have tea were at the friends and at her sister's place in Flakefleet Avenue.

The woman that lodged at Florence Port's house said that at 6.30pm on 23 October 1947 she took Florence Port and her 10-year-old friend to Florence Port's sister's house in Flakefleet Avenue and said that they both returned at about 8pm. She said that she shortly after had a bath after sending Florence Port and her 10-year-old friend into the kitchen. She said that the girl later told her that Florence Port had gone out, and said that she then told her to follow her, but said that the 10-year-old friend returned at about 8.30pm to say that she couldn't find Florence Port.

The woman said that she had never seen Florence Port speak to any men in the street and had never seen any hanging about in the street. She also said that she had never had any reason to suspect that Florence Port had been 'interfered with' but added that she did think that Florence Port would have been a great responsibility when she grew up.

The woman noted that Florence Port like to play boys' games with catapults and bows and arrows.

She added that Florence Port sometimes slept with her father and sometimes with her, and added that Florence Port and her father were always great friends.

Another woman said that she knew that Florence Port was mentally deficient but said that she knew right from wrong. She said that Florence Port couldn't write properly or make figures, and added that she used to spend a lot of her time scribbling at the table. She said that she could throw no light on the origin of Florence Port's last meal of potatoes and meat but said that she thought that someone might have taken advantage of her because of her mental condition.

Florence Port's 10-year-old friend, who lived at 28 Wingrove Road, said that whilst the woman was in the bath at Heathfield Road, she and Florence Port played the piano after which she said that Florence Port told her, 'I am going out, there's some boys at the corner'. She said that she then saw Florence Port going out to the corner of the street where two boys that she knew were playing. Florence Port's 10-year-old friend said that she told Florence Port to come in, but that she refused. Another woman, who lived at 70 Heathfield Road also said that she told Florence Port to go in, but said that Florence Port would still not go in. She said that she had seen Florence Port watching four boys of her own age in the street. She said that the boys were arguing and that she had told them to move and had told Florence Port to go in, but said that Florence Port wouldn’t.

Florence Port's 10-year-old friend's mother said that Florence Port and her daughter had tea at her home, noting that Florence Port only had toast, bread and jam, cake, and half a cup of coffee.

Florence Port's inquest heard that the last person to see Florence Port alive was a labourer who also lived in Heathfield Road. He said that he saw her standing alone under a lamp at the corner of Lindel Road, not far from her home. He said that he had often seen her there before, but said that he had never seen her there so late and added that she would ordinarily have been playing with other children.

Two schoolboys also gave evidence at the inquest after being called by the police to do so. The first, a 13-year-old boy who had also lived in Heathfield Street, said that Florence Port had stood near him and several other boys for a few minutes on the evening of 23 October 1947, and saw her 10-year-old friend call her. He added that shortly after that he saw Florence Port go off towards her back street, trailing her hands along the railings. He said then that he saw a middle-aged man, with tousled hair, running from the same back street, holding up his jacket collar and go off into another back street. The 13-year-old boy said that he had some other boys had seen the same man earlier on in a back street near to Heathfield Road earlier on in the evening and said that the man had told them, 'Go on, beat it'.

The doctor that first examined Florence Port's body in the field said that his first impression was that she had been indecently assaulted and that her death was due to asphyxia. He said that her features suggested a type of mental defect known as cretin, and added that he thought that appreciable force had been used. He said that his initial conclusion was that Florence Port had died from shock caused by either an indecent assault or an attempted rape. He said that her asphyxia had been caused by an obstructed airway and that the possibilities for how that had occurred included her having a heavy weight on her body that had immobilised her chest, having had a hand pressed over her mouth or having had a band across the front of her neck.

He said that the nearest time that he could suggest for her death having taken place was between 10pm on 23 October and 4am 24 October 1947.

The inquest into Florence Port's murder, which was held in Preston, concluded on Wednesday 26 November 1947 with a verdict of murder by some person or persons unknown.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see www.truecrimelibrary.com

see Blackpool Crime

see Hull Daily Mail - Saturday 25 October 1947

see Dundee Courier - Saturday 25 October 1947

see Lancashire Evening Post - Thursday 30 October 1947

see Lancashire Evening Post - Monday 24 November 1947

see Daily Herald - Monday 27 October 1947

see Nottingham Evening Post - Saturday 25 October 1947

see Lancashire Evening Post - Tuesday 25 November 1947

see Western Daily Press - Wednesday 26 November 1947