Saturday, 13 January 2018

Wavertree Lake Tragedy

A woman who drowned her baby boy in Wavertree Lake was found not guilty due to her mental instability.

At around 2am on Sunday 21st July 1912 Police Constable George Smith was passing Wavertree Lake (now a park) when he heard groaning. He waded into the lake and the water was up to his shoulders by the time he saw the outstretched arm of a lady who was clearly struggling.  He managed to swim with her to a shallower part of the lake and another constable helped him pull her ashore.

The lady was insensible but when she regained consciousness was wailing 'Oh my baby'. PC Smith then went back into the lake with grappling irons and half an hour later located the body of a baby boy.  Enquiries established that the woman was Charlotte Heather, who lived with her husband, an electrician, in Cronton Road.

On 1st August the inquest took place. Charlotte's district nurse Elsie Williams said that she was often strange and bewildered in her manner and would worry about money. Such was Charlotte's mental state that Elsie would often sleep overnight at the property and once she had woken up in a trembling fit, saying both her and the baby had fever.

At the direction of the coroner a verdict of wilful murder against Charlotte was returned. They asked if a rider could be added that she was temporarily insane, but the coroner stated it was not their duty to determine the mental state of the prisoner. He did assure them that full consideration would be given to this at the assizes and then commended PC Smith for his prompt actions on rescuing Charlotte and recovering the baby's body.

On 1st November Charlotte appeared at the Liverpool assizes. She told the jury that she had been in bed and heard a voice calling her to see her sister. She can remember sitting by the side of the lake but nothing after that. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty and she was immediately discharged from the dock. She returned to her husband and four years later the couple had another child, a baby girl called Bronwen.

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