Monday, 28 October 2013

Servant Girl Kills Her Newborn Child

A servant girl in Everton killed her baby in 1876 but despite the evidence against her was spared a conviction for murder by a sympathetic jury.

22 year old Elizabeth Plant was working for draper Robert Skinner in Pembroke Place, and allowed to keep her position despite her pregnancy. On 6th January 1876 she gave birth to a baby girl then cut its throat with scissors before placing the body in a box.

Plant then went to Salisbury Street to the home of Mrs McMillan,a tailor's wife, saying she had been sent there by Mrs Skinner to stay for a few days prior to confinement at the workhouse. There she asked another lodger to wash a blood stained sheet and scissors and two days later when confronted about the whereabouts of her baby calmly said that she had killed it and left it in the box at Pembroke Place.

Mr Skinner opened the box and found the body under some dresses and a doctor who was called confirmed that the baby had been born alive and had the throat cut. Plant was removed by police to the workhouse hospital and after an inquest returned a verdict of wilful murder against her on 11th January she was committed to trial at the next assizes.

On 29th March Plant stood trial with the prosecution case being straight forward given her admissions and findings of the post mortem. Her defence barrister explained that it was possible the baby had died during childbirth or she had panicked and killed it during some temporary mental derangement. The jury accepted this and, seeing a pitiful young woman of previous good character in the dock, found her guilty of manslaughter.

Judge Brett told Plant that he 'feared much that is was more than mere manslaughter' but she could not be looked upon 'without pity'. He sentenced her to ten years imprisonment and Plant, who had acted eccentrically during the trial shouting and crying bitterly, fainted before being carried out of the dock.

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