Sunday, 5 July 2015

Starved Child Not Murdered

A mother who was charged with the murder of her child after it died from starvation was acquitted after the trail judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to suggest she had wilfully withheld food to cause the death.

On the 12th January 1888 Sarah Boadle gave birth to a baby boy at her home in Curate Road, Anfield. She was attended to by a nurse named Mary Hickman but gave her name as Mrs Hartley, the same surname as a man she was residing with. She named the baby boy Maurice and he seemed to be in perfect health, weighing seven or eight pounds.

A few days after the birth Mary visited to see how things were going and she was heard to say to Hartley 'I dare not do it.' When challenged over this, Sarah said that he had asked her to smother the baby, promising to marry her if she could get rid of it and that she had tried everything she could to abort the pregnancy. She then reassured Mary that now the child had been born, there was no way she would endanger it.

On 23rd February Sarah went to Dr Holmes's surgery in Oakfield Road and said that the baby was dead, leading to him asking why she had not informed him of any illness beforehand. She replied that she didn't want to aggravate any medical condition by taking him outside and she had nobody to send to the doctor.

Dr Holmes refused to issue a death certificate and a post mortem was carried out by Dr Pitt of Tuebrook. He found that the weight hadn't increased since the birth and that the lungs were congested. The stomach and bowels were empty and he felt the cause of death could have been starvation, but suffocation was another possibility due to the lung congestion.
The inquest was held at the Clubmoor Hotel on 27th February. The following day's Liverpool Mercury said that Sarah was of 'very respectable appearance' and had swooned whilst listening to the proceedings and had to be helped back up. 'Hartley' was present and it came to light that his name was actually Eugene Auzon. After the coroner Mr Brighhouse had summed up and drawn attention to Hartley/Auzon's role, the jury found that Sarah had killed Maurice through neglect, while Auzon was an accessory after the fact.

On 17th March both appeared before Mr Justice Grantham at the assizes. The first witness was Mary Hickman, who agreed under cross examination that the couple had severe cash flow issues and had pawned nearly everything to buy food. Neighbours said that Sarah was very fond of her baby. With medical witnesses being unable to agree on the exact cause of death the judge summed up by saying that although it was a suspicious case the evidence did not point to food being wilfully kept from the child. On this basis the jury returned a verdict of not guilty and both prisoners were discharged.

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