Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Dead Baby in a Tramcar

A tram conductor had a nasty shock when he found a dead baby in a box but despite apparent strangulation the mother was found guilty only of concealment of birth.

On 3rd March 1915 a conductor on a tramcar travelling along Park Road towards Aigburth noticed a child's legs protruding from a box that had been placed under the stairs. When the car stopped at the junction with Mill Street the police were summoned and the box was found to contain the body of a newborn male child. 

A woman named Margaret Nelson admitted that the box was hers and said she was taking it to her sister's house in Shelley Street. Asked if she had a burial order she replied 'no' and was arrested while further enquiries were carried out. A post mortem found that the baby had been born about two days earlier and been strangled with a nappy, but the inquest was put on hold when Margaret was admitted to Mill Road hospital.

On 14th April twenty four year old Margaret was discharged from hospital and immediately arrested, fainting when she was told she would be charged with murder. She had to be carried into the dock at the police court where she was remanded for seven days.

The inquest took place on 21st April and heard that Margaret had been working as a domestic servant at 24 Albany Road, Kensington. Her employer said that on 28th February she had complained of a headache but did not declare that he was pregnant. When she was given some time off on 3rd March to visit her sister, Margaret said that the box contained clothing. The father was named as Joseph O'Keefe, who was in custody over another matter. He and Margaret disagreed over whether or not she had told him about her pregnancy.

The doctor who carried out the post mortem testified as to the cause of death and confirmed that the child had been born alive, and not died as a result of any neglect. The coroner's jury returned a verdict of wilful murder and Margaret was committed for trial at the Manchester assizes.

On 6th May the prosecution decided not to press with the murder charge after hearing the judges opening comments, with Mr Justice Sankey pointing out that nobody could testify to having seen the child alive. Margaret agreed to plead guilty to concealment of birth and was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment.   

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