DURING much of the Second World War, Worcestershire was home to large numbers of American service personnel, either based at airfields in the south of the county or as patients and staff in the military hospitals around towns like Bewdley, Malvern, Kidderminster and Bromsgrove.

 The last named, in particular, certainly saw its fair share of war wounded, because as well as a hospital at Norton Farm on the Birmingham Road, it also developed the former Bromsgrove Lunatic Asylum at Barnsley Hall into one of the largest emergency hospitals in the UK, treating everyone from air raid victims to front line soldiers. Many with neurological problems.

 As such, the local population was used to seeing military about, especially around Norton Farm which had been turned  over exclusively to the American forces. The GIs were popular figures among the local girls with their smart uniforms and film star accents previously only heard in Hollywood movies at the local cinema. They also had plenty of money and easy access to wartime luxuries like cigarettes, chocolate and silk stockings.

 Inevitably there were “incidents” with some of the locals, usually involving drink or jealously or both, but these were invariably sorted by the American military police who came down hard on any of their compatriots who stepped over the line. Unfortunately there were no MPs about the night Florrie Porter met her death.

 At 5ft 10ins, Florrie was unusually tall for a woman in the 1940s and her smart appearance and statuesque figure made her easily recognisable. So when her next door neighbour saw her walking down the road late one evening with an American officer, even though the sighting was from the rear, there was not much doubt who the woman was.

 Florrie, who was 33 and unmarried, lived in the Lickey End area of Bromsgrove with her mother. Her father had died, her younger brother was in the RAF and her two older sisters had married and left home. She worked in the wages department of the Austin Motor Company at Longbridge and enjoyed music and dancing and had even played in a jazz band.

 On the evening of October 26, 1944, Florrie walked into the centre of Bromsgrove with her sister Doris, telling her she was going to meet a man named Hal. Several people later saw her in the company of an American officer in the smoke room of the town’s George Hotel. The couple left the pub at around ten minutes to ten. Twenty minutes later they were witnessed, still walking, by Florrie’s neighbour and that was the last time Florrie Porter was seen alive.

 The next morning her body was spotted beneath a verandah at Lickey End village school by two young boys cycling by. Florrie was lying on her back and at first the lads thought she had just fallen over. They asked if she was all right, but no reply came because  Florrie Porter had been brutally murdered. Multiple stab wounds had penetrated her heart, throat and lungs and her face was badly bruised. She lay in a large pool of blood.

 A pathologist later suggested that Florrie had been punched to the ground and hit the back of her head as she fell. Mercifully she would probably have been unconscious before the stabbing took place, because her hands showed no sign of her trying to fend off her attacker. Although her skirt had been pulled up around her waist, her underwear was in place and there was no sign she had been molested let alone raped.

 The US military assisted local police in a very detailed search of the area for the murder weapon, believed to have been a knife with a half-inch wide blade. But despite the use of army metal detectors, no such knife could be found.

 Even so, police had a good description of the American officer seen with Florrie in the George Hotel. He was either a first or second lieutenant, aged between 24 and 30, about 5ft 8ins tall and well built with a bull neck. He had a low brow and dark hair cut in a “combat crop”, which was growing out and long enough to be brushed back off his forehead. It seemed only a matter of time before “Hal” would be identified.

 But that never happened. There were many ID parades, potential witnesses were taken to the American bases to see whether they could spot him and appeals went out for  anyone who had given an American, or even British, officer a lift that night or indeed could help in any other way to come forward, but everything drew a blank. Local speculation was the American Army knew full well who Hal was, that he had been identified very quickly by his superior officers and swiftly transferred out of the area.

 Fifty years later, in an effort to allay lingering suspicions, West Mercia Police re-opened the file and released a statement that there was no evidence of anyone being “spirited away” to avoid detection and that the two main suspects at the time had cast iron alibis.

 A television program about the case then produced the son of one of the main witnesses, the barmaid at the George Hotel, who claimed his mother did see “Hal” in an identity line-up, but was afraid to pick him out after her family was threatened. Interesting, but half a century too late.

 So the murder remains unsolved and Florrie Porter continues to be collateral damage of a war long gone.