Thursday, 27 June 2019

The Crosby Abortionist

During the 1940s a widow in her seventies was twice convicted of manslaughter after the deaths of women on whom she performed illegal abortions.

On 17th July 1944 Doris Chipchase, the widow of a merchant seaman who lived in Oriel Road, Bootle, died at Walton Hospital. Investigations established she had recently had an abortion carried out by another widow, Isobel Parker, a former nurse and midwife who lived at 3 Fairholme Road in Crosby. 

Fairholme Road
Parker was charged with manslaughter and granted bail. When she appeared at the assizes the following October, she was defended by Rose Heilbron who told the court the abortion had been carried out as a 'good turn'. as Ida had threatened suicide. 

Despite Heilbron's submissions, Parker was found guilty. Mr Justice Stable had no room for sympathy when it came to passing sentence. Jailing her for nine months, he told her "People who undertake to perform these operations should know that when death results there is no reason so far as that I am aware why they should not be indicted for murder".

Eighteen months after Parker's release, thirty year old Edna Stephens died after visiting her home. Unmarried, she was a sergeant with the Womens Auxiliary Air Force and had onlly recently returned from two years service in Egypt. She was stationed at Padgate, Warrington but her parents lived nearby at 5 Sandheys Avenue. At 530pm on Saturday 14th December 1946 she knocked at the door and was introduced to Parker by her daughter in law Olivia, who then went to the cinema with her husband. 

Within an hour Edna was dead. She had been found collapsed in the kitchen by a lodger Josephine Smith, who was alerted by the sound of groaning. Edna's regular doctor, Dr Brenner was called to the property and accused by Parker of sending Isobel to her. Furiously denying this, he passed the information about the death to the police. On being arrested later that evening, Parker claimed she had only examined Edna and prior to her collapse and repeated that Dr Brenner had sent her. 

A postmortem established that an abortion had been carried out using a sharp instrument, and that Edna had been three or four months pregnant. When she appeared at an occasional court in Seaforth two days later, Parker complained of being hard of hearing and said she had recently suffered a stroke. Despite her poor health, a request for her to be granted bail was refused and she was remanded into custody.

Initially prosecutors wanted to charge Parker with murder but at a committal hearing the following January this was reduced to manslaughter, along with 'using an instrument to procure miscarriage'. Parker had limped into court with the aid of a stick and needed to be helped to her seat by a warder. 

On 12th February 1947 Parker was back in the familiar surroundings of St Georges Hall for another trial. Her defence barrister, Basil Nield, said the evidence was purely circumstantial and suggested that Miss Stephens could have been "interfered with" by somebody else before visiting Parker. This failed to convince the jury who took just fifteen minutes to find her guilty.

In sentencing Parker to three years imprisonment, Mr Justice Singleton said "If anyone should know the danger of the practice you carried on this young girl, you with your experience ought to have known it".

Parker's second victim Edna Stephens is buried in St Luke's Church in Crosby, where her grave is marked by a CWGC headstone.

1 comment:

  1. Thank goodness legal abortion was introduced, albeit 20 years after this tragedy. Women really had nowhere to go for help other than to someone with limited medical knowledge willing to perform illegal terminations. So sad for both these women.