A mother who inexplicably posted her sleeping baby in a box to Liverpool was arrested and charged with murder, but eventually sentenced to just six months in prison.
On Saturday 6th March 1858 Jane Parker called at the house of Elizabeth Eaves in Ormskirk Road, Preston, saying she needed help as she had gone into labour. The following day she gave birth to a baby boy which was perfectly healthy and Mrs Eaves allowed her to stay for a bit longer. On the Tuesday 33 year old Parker paid Elizabeth for some frocks she had made for the baby, then left saying she was returning to a farm where she had employment.
Parker instead went to a furniture brokers in Friargate and bought a box, asking the broker to address the box to a Mrs Eldon at 6 Harrison Street off Scotland Road. That afternoon, Parker placed the baby in the box after first having given it some gin to make it sleep. She then went to the Hoop and Crown Inn and gave a labourer named Henry Hall 3d to take the locked box to the parcels office at the railway station and dispatch it to Liverpool. Only then did she go to the farm where she worked, which was in fact owned by her parents in Much Hoole.
A few hours later a van driver called at 6 Harrison Street with the box, but a Mrs Regan who lived there said she knew nothing about it, but there was a Mrs Melville who lived nearby and perhaps there had been some confusion. The following morning, after being told of the attempted delivery, an intrigued Mrs Melville went to the parcel office at Lime Street. After the shock of discovering its contents were a dead baby, she was then taken into custody whilst further inquiries were made.
With Henry Hall being traced as the sender of the box, he gave what information he could in respect of having been given it by a young woman. When the Much Hoole policeman noticed that Parker had returned to her parent's home without any baby having clearly been pregnant the week before, he decided to knock and see what she had to say. When Parker answered the door at 5pm on Friday 12th March and saw a policeman standing there, she ran to a cupboard and took out a bottle of laudanum, but the officer was able to prevent her drinking it.
Parker was arrested and placed in the Preston Bridewell and at first she denied having even given birth. Hall was then taken to identify her and when a medical examination was ordered she confessed to her actions and claimed that a traveller had told her a child could survive in the box for two days. Asked about her reasoning for addressing the box the way she had, she could not give a satisfactory answer, saying only that she knew there was an Eldon Street in Liverpool. This information was then sent to the Liverpool police, who were now satisfied that Mrs Melville had just been extremely unlucky and had nothing to do with the affair, meaning she was released from custody.
On 16th March an inquest was held before the Borough Coroner Mr P F Curry. He praised the vigilance of Detective Caryle from Liverpool and the efforts of the Head Constable at Preston for 'bringing a great mass of evidence into one unbroken chain, link by link, one end resting upon the body of the child and the other under the control of this woman calling herself Jane Parker.' Saying that as it was not clear who the box was meant for, nor how long it would be before it was opened, he concluded that the destruction of life was certain once she had put the baby into the box. The jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against Parker, who was unable to be present as she was seriously ill with a heavy cold brought about by her long walk in the snow so soon after giving birth.
Parker appeared before Baron Martin on 29th March, where the prosecution allowed her to plead guilty to manslaughter rather than try her for wilful murder. She was then sentenced to just six months imprisonment with hard labour.