Thursday, 10 March 2016

Beer Errand Uncovers Murder

A woman who was suspicious of her servant's behaviour discovered the body of a newborn baby after sending her out for beer.

On 24th January 1867 a twenty nine year old named Letitia Dordy took up a position as a servant at 22 Everton Valley, the home of a widow named Eliza Forrest. Soon noticing that her new employee appeared to be in the 'family way' Eliza asked her if this was the case but Dordy replied that it was due to her clothing being out of shape and asked to borrow a needle. A few days later she complained of pains in her side but was better within 24 hours. 

On the morning of 22nd February Eliza went to the kitchen and saw blood on the floor, with Dordy struggling to clean it up. At midday Eliza sent Dordy to get some beer and while she was out of the house searched her bedroom, where she found the body of a newborn girl under the bedclothes. When asked about the find, Dordy admitted giving birth to a stillborn baby the previous night in the coal cellar but was unable to explain the red marks around the neck.

A police constable took the body to Dr Costine in Boundary Street, then to the deadhouse at Princes Dock, while Dordy was allowed to remain at Everton Valley under the supervision of Eliza. The following morning she was arrested on suspicion of murder and taken to observe the inquest.  

Eliza's eleven year old son John and a neighbour deposed to having heard screams at around 8pm on the evening of the 21st February. John stated that he had gone to the coal cellar and asked what was the matter and Dordy told him that she had kicked the cat because it had stolen some cake. Dr Costine told of the post mortem he had carried out, which established that the tongue was swollen, there were marks of external violence and the lungs had expanded. He put the cause of death down to suffocation as a result of violence, leading  to the Coroner's jury returning a verdict of wilful murder.

When Dordy appeared at  the Liverpool assizes on 28th March, the Liverpool Mail reported that she looked sixty years old.  Dr Costine was quite clear in his evidence that he believed the baby had breathed, because respiration had been established in every part of the lungs. This led to Mr Justice Mellor saying in his summing up that Dordy must have known that the baby was alive after the birth. 

The jury found her guilty of murder and she was sentenced to death. Dordy was sobbing violently and almost fainted as she was led from the dock. However a week later the Home Secretary respited the sentence and she was sent to prison in Woking. By 1891 she had been released and was listed in that years census as being back in service, residing in Lambeth.

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