There is no way to describe this situation other than creepy. It’s the uncomfortable account of an older man who pursued a vulnerable young girl.

That young girl was Rosemary Violet Nunn, my fourth half cousin, once removed as well as my sixth cousin, once removed.

The unsavoury situation played out in Suffolk, England, from 1944 when Rosemary went to work in a grocery store managed by Percival Ernest Thorne, a man some 30 years her senior.

1939 register entry for Percival Ernest Thorne

A 1939 register entry for Percival Ernest Thorne, born 30 June 1899, who at the time was living in Surrey. A birth and baptism record is found for him at Ilford, near Barking, east of London.

Confused person

It’s obvious that Percival Thorne was a confused individual because when Rosemary Nunn started to work with him, he clearly did not conduct himself with propriety.

Over the next 10 years, he pursued Rosemary and then announced they would be married. Rosemary was mortified and took him to court.

The details revealed in the newspaper report of the court proceedings show that Thorne was infatuated with the teenager.

Viewed through modern eyes, this is a clear case of grooming.

And it is easy to look back and be critical of the adults who should have seen a problem with a much older man spending time with such a young girl.

Thorne took several employees out together and he was seen … at least initially … as a ‘kindly’ and generous man.

He would bring Rosemary back to her home and her parents would invite him into the house.

As the years went by though, Thorne made clear his intentions and openly declared his love for Rosemary.

Based on the evidence Rosemary gave in court, she may have given Thorne the impression that she accepted his advances.

Bury Free Press of Friday, 4 March 1955

Article from Bury Free Press of Friday, 4 March 1955, that details Thorne’s conviction and fine.

Marriage talks

They obviously had conversations that discussed the possibility of marriage but Rosemary thereafter made it clear that she had no interest in Thorne.

That’s when matters got out of hand and when Thorne came to the house, made a nuisance of himself and even broke a window.

On the day before the court ruled that Thorne would be thrown in jail if he attempted to contact Rosemary, he still tried to convince her of his love by sending flowers after they met by chance in the street.

The records show that Rosemary married in 1957 and passed away in 2000 aged 70. One wonders* how life was for her after a decade of having to deal with Thorne’s obsessive behaviour.

Thorne dies in Kent

As for Thorne, there is a death registration for a Percival E Thorne, aged 65, in Dover, Kent, in 1964 that appears to be him. Given he was living in Kent after he left Suffolk, it’s probable this is when he died.

There is also a possible 1941 marriage in Reading, Berkshire, to a Doris Mold. However, without obtaining certificates, it’s impossible to say for certain that this is his marriage.

*UPDATE: Have since discovered that Rosemary did not talk about this incident with her family. Her descendants are now aware of it and are comfortable with the account now being made public and presented in this format.