Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Guilty of Starving a Child to Death

In 1876 a mother who malnourished her child so badly that she died of starvation was found guilty of manslaughter but jailed for only one year.

On 5th April that year concerned neighbours broke into a house in Charters Street off Vauxhall Road and found two young girls, a three year old and a fourteen month old, alone and almost naked. There was no furniture at all and they appeared to have been sleeping on some straw. Their mother Ellen Carson was nowhere to be seen.

A police officer was called and the youngest child, Abigail Carson, was taken to the North Dispensary where she was joined by Ellen who had returned home in an intoxicated state. As nurses treated Abigail, who was described as 'filthy and emaciated' her mother danced wildly around the surgery.

Abigail was then admitted to the workhouse hospital where she ate greedily, but then deteriorated and died on 13th April. A post mortem revealed that the internal organs were healthy and put the death entirely down to want of food.

When Ellen appeared at the Liverpool Assizes  on 25th July she denied being of dissipated habits and said she fed Abigail regularly from the breast. However neighbours told how she was often seen wandering about in a drunken state accompanied by her scantily clad children. The court also heard that her husband, a dock labourer, earned 30 shillings a week and handed it all over
but the money was not spent on food or clothing.

After being found guilty of manslaughter Justice Lindley sentenced Ellen to twelve months imprisonment with hard labour, telling her that she must lead a different life on release. Ellen promised to do this, and in 1881 she was listed in the census as living with her husband and the surviving child in Lightbody Street.

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