In 1885 the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette published an account of a girl of thirteen being sold by her mother to a brothel, where her virginity would be highly prized. The editor was W T Stead, and his audacious scoop was telegraphed around the world. What became know as the story of the £5 virgin - the price that Stead claimed had been paid for the girl - was a sensation, one of the greatest scandals of the Victorian era. But was the story a 'put up job' as the playwright George Bernard Shaw judged it? With meticulous detective work Gavin Weightman has pieced together the true story of how the W T Stead, hero of the moral purity campaigners, fell victim to his own salacious imagination and wound up in the dock at the Old Bailey. At the heart of the story is an innocent cockney girl who later found immortality as the model for Eliza Doolittle in Shaw's most popular play, Pygmalion (My Fair Lady).