Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Baby Farmer

A former school governess left her victim at her previous lodgings in a tin box for over a year before her crime was uncovered.

The daughter of a Scottish civil engineer, Sophia Todd was educated in Brussels and became fluent in six foreign languages, including Polish and Russian. She fell on hard times however when her husband died when he was still in his 20's.

In days before abortions, there was a market for unwanted babies and Sophia turned to this practice, known as baby farming, for money. The first child she took was from a man in Whitehaven which was then abandoned in the street and taken to the Liverpool Workhouse in Brownlow Hill 

She then placed an advertisement in the Liverpool Mercury on 9th July 1875, requesting a child for a responsible married couple to bring up as their own. Shortly after, a man came to her lodgings with a baby boy who was around two months old. Sophia took the infant and was paid £10.

The next morning the baby had disappeared and when others at her lodgings in Prescot Street asked about this, she simply said that it had been taken back by the parents. Todd left the lodgings but didn't take the box with her in which the baby's remains were discovered over a year later in a badly decomposed state with the head now severed. 

Todd was finally arrested in Manchester in March 1877 and she told police the baby had died in her arms of natural causes. At her trial, the prosecution alleged that Todd had cut the baby's throat, pointing to bloodstains found on material that the body was wrapped in. The defence though argued that there was no evidence to suggest the throat had been cut and that the blood could have come from the post mortem. Crucially however, the fact that Todd had said the baby had been taken away by its parents went against her and she was found guilty and sentenced to death. This was later commuted by the Home Secretary to penal servitude for life.

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