Sunday, 3 May 2015

Debt Ridden Mother Gasses Baby

A mother who hid a debt from her husband was detained indefinitely after gassing their baby daughter to death.

In 1932 Elizabeth Hughes, a 31 year old housewife, lived in Barlow
Lane in Kirkdale with her husband and two children, aged eighteen and eight months. Her husband was a ship's steward but was out of work, leading to Elizabeth accruing debt without telling him.


On 25th November that year Elizabeth bought a gas hose and on returning home sent her husband out on an errand. She then fed the hose into the bedroom and turned it on, in an attempt to kill both her and the two children. When Mr Hughes arrived home he went upstairs to find eight month old Irene dead on the bed. He then took hold of eighteen month Arthur and took him the window and opened it. The little boy vomited, which probably saved his life. Elizabeth was unconscious on a sofa and taken to hospital where she made a full recovery.

When police searched the bedroom they found letters in Elizabeth's handwriting addressed to her husband and the coroner. To the coroner she wrote 'Please do not look down on my husband he knows nothing about this. To her husband she wrote 'Please forgive me, I cannot face what I have done if only you knew.' There was also a post office savings book in her mothers name, which Elizabeth was believed to have been using to claim payments she was not entitled to.

Elizabeth was arrested on her release from hospital the following day and charged with murder, attempted murder and attempted suicide. She said to the police 'So I won't see my baby any more, I did not mean to do it.' When she appeared at the magistrates' court on 7th December her husband appeared to have shown forgiveness, saying 'My wife is very kind in every way and a good mother, and one of the best wives.'

At the Liverpool assizes on 6th February 1933, Elizabeth was found guilty but insane and ordered by the judge to be detained at His Majesty's Pleasure.

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