Saturday, 2 January 2016

Worried Mother Drowns Baby in Canal

In 1939 there was a domestic tragedy when a mother jumped into the Leeds & Liverpool Canal drowning her four month old baby.

At 925pm on Sunday 13th August that year Police Sergeant Clowes was walking along the towpath next to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Vauxhall when he saw a hand come out of the water. He dived in fully clothed but was unable to find anything however two men on the opposite side had also seen the hand and gone in to recover an unconscious woman.

Sefton General Hospital (
The woman was 43 year old mother of five Annie Slater who lived in nearby New Hedley Street. She was resuscitated and taken to the Northern Hospital. From there she was transferred to Sefton General Hospital in Smithdown Road, where she would tell detectives that she wanted to end it all and had dived into the canal holding her four month old baby son James in her arms.

A search of the canal recovered James's body and on discharge from hospital nine days later Annie was arrested and charged with murder and attempted suicide. She appeared at the Magistrates Court that day and was remanded in custody pending a committal hearing three days later. At that hearing, her husband  Matthew, a causal dock labourer said she had been worried about something but hadn't told him what, while a pathologist said that there was no sign of the baby being mistreated prior to the drowning.

On 19th October Annie appeared at the Liverpool assizes where the jury heard how she had been worried about James's health, her husband had lost his job and that they had fallen into rent arrears. Neighbours said that she was a devoted mother to her nine children, only four of whom were now living. The doctor from Walton gaol said that whilst on remand her physical and mental health had improved.

Annie was acquitted of murder but found guilty of infanticide. Mr Justice Stable then sentenced her to two months in prison, saying to her that he hoped she could regain her health and strength whilst there.

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