Friday, 3 May 2013

Religious Mania Sees Mother Kill Child

In 1881 a tragedy occurred in Toxteth when a mother killed her child as she felt she was sending her to a better place after a fit of religious mania.

On Friday 17th June 1881 neighbours became concerned for the welfare of Annie Jackson of 2 Rhiwlas Street (below left) who hadn't been seen for several days. When Mrs Foggo, the wife of a bootmaker from High Park Street knocked on the door Annie answered wearing just a nightdress and said that she and her 4 year old daughter Rebecca had been in bed for three days, before going on to talk about religious matters.

For the next few days Mrs Foggo and the clergyman of the local church called but Annie continued to talk erratically. Eventually, on Monday 21st June, she told the curate 'It is no use I am lost' and the next day Mrs Foggo managed to get inside the house, where Annie told her that Rebecca had died and that she had killed her 'to save her soul.' A policemen attended and found a garter near Rebecca's body, which had red marks around the neck. Annie was removed to the Bridewell and then the workhouse hospital. A post mortem established that Rebecca had died from strangulation and that she had been well nourished.

Annie was detained in Whittingham Hospital in Nottinghamshire and she was not able to stand trial until the following February, an extremely long time lapse then. Mrs Foggo was a principal witness and told how Rebecca was loved and cherished by Annie, whose other child was being looked after by relatives in Cumberland. Although she had had an episode of despondency about 12 years earlier she appeared to now be well off and on affectionate terms with her husband, who was away at sea as a Master Mariner.

Annie's doctor told the court how she had been suffering from depression and had carried out the killing whilst in a melancholic state, while a doctor from Whittingham said that for 2 weeks afterwards she was 'quite stupified and lost to all around her.' He said that she was suffering delusions relating to religious views and was insane at the time the killing took place. 

The jury took just a few minutes to find Annie not guilty of murder on the grounds of insanity and she was detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure. On leaving the dock she muttered that she had made a wreck of her home and was responsible for her husband being miserable.

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