Thursday, 22 December 2016

Dead Baby in a Wash Basin

When the body of a newborn baby was found in a wash basin, the mother was charged with murder but acquitted as the prosecution could not prove that she had been the cause of death.

Abercromby Square (www.liverpoolpicturebook.com)
On the morning of 29th March 1852 Alice Shaw, a servant to Thomas Ripley at 21 Abercromby Square, joined her colleagues for breakfast as normal. She then went upstairs to attended to her duties, with nobody suspecting that she was 'in the family way'.

When Alice was called down to dinner she didn't respond, leading to her being discovered lying on the floor in an insensible state. A doctor was called and established that she had recently given birth to a child, leading to a terrible discovery in an adjoining bedroom. There, in a wash basin, was the body of a newborn girl with a handkerchief tied around her neck and the tongue protruding.

Lord Chief Justice Campbell
A postmortem revealed that the baby had been born alive and died from congestion on the lungs. Dr Nottage said he was 'not of the slightest doubt' that this was as a result of suffocation and drowning. This led to the coroners inquest returning a verdict of wilful murder. Alice, who had been held in custody at Mr Ripley's house, was then removed to Kirkdale gaol.

At the assizes on 20th August Alice appeared before Lord Chief Justice Campbell. Alice's defence suggested that even if the child had been born alive there was no evidence to show that it was Alice that had caused the death. With this doubt in their minds the jury returned a verdict of not guilty and Alice was acquitted.

No comments:

Post a Comment