Wednesday, 11 March 2015
Insane Mother Almost Sever's Baby's Head
A woman who killed her baby son as she feared he would starve otherwise was cleared of murder on the grounds of insanity.
In 1853 Mary Hodkinson was living in Rigby Street with her brewer husband and five children, the youngest of which was just six weeks old. On the night of 3rd August Mary went to bed with her husband and the baby William, but woke up and called out that she was so ill that she was dying.
Mary's husband called for help from their lodger Mrs Kenyon who came to find Mary crying that William was dead, even though he was beside her and perfectly well. She was given some brandy which seemed to calm her down and she slept soundly for the rest of the night.
The following morning her husband got up early and left for work, but soon afterwards the Mrs Kenyon was disturbed by screaming from upstairs. After running to Mary's room she was greeted with the terrifying sight of her holding a knife in her arms and shouting 'I have done it the child will be no more hungered.' William was clearly dead, the cut having been so deep that his head was almost severed.
When police arrived Mary told them that she had been told to do it by Mrs Kenyon, and somebody else sharpened the knife. After being taken into custody Mary was taken to the Northern Hospital where a surgeon determined that she was of unsound mind.
When Mary appeared at the assizes on 18th August on a murder charge Dr Thorburn, who carried out the examination in the immediate aftermath, reiterated his confidence in respect of her state of mind at the time. In summing up Justice Wightman said it was a most painful case and the only question for the jury was to whether Mary could be held accountable for her conduct. They soon acquitted her on the grounds of insanity and she was detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure.