Monday, 12 October 2020

Daughter Killer Insane

In the mid 1800s a woman who murdered her daughter then tried to commit suicide was declared insane. 

At 8pm on 17th July 1851 a woman was seen hurrying down Queen Street with a half naked young girl. She was urged to cover her up and she did so, before throwing the poor girl down some steps and running away. A police officer was called and the girl taken to the North Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Two minutes later the same female was seen walking excitedly back and forth along the landing stage before plunging into the River Mersey. She was picked up by a boat and taken to the receiving house, where remedies were given to bring her round. She then started talking incoherently asking why she hadn't been allowed to drown and to be given some arsenic instead. 

The woman was repeatedly questioned and eventually said her name was Mary Powell, that she had murdered her daughter Mary Ann Powell by tying a pinafore around her neck. An examination of her clothing found a pawn ticket bearing the same name and she was kept under close observation until the following morning. 

Mary was resident at the workhouse and had been discharged from the asylum there two months earlier. She was the wife of a clerk who was said to have abused her. 

At the inquest a nurse from the workhouse, Catherine Powell, described Mary as being violent in manner for the first week of her admission, but that this behaviour related to family affairs. After six more weeks she was well and spent some time in the infant nursery due to her youngest child being ill. She was considered sane at the time of her discharge, having previously refused to go when her husband tried to take her out as she said he illtreated her. At this stage her husband interrupted the proceedings and was removed from the room.

The Deputy Coroner told the jury they were not there to try Mary's state of mind and they returned a verdict of wilful murder. It was also added that there should be no charges against anybody in the workhouse, who had acted in accordance with the laws laid down by the Poor Law commissioners. 

On 3rd September Mary appeared before Mr Baron Platt at the South Lancashire Assizes. The jury found not guilty on the grounds of insanity and she was ordered to be detained at Her Majesty's pleasure. 

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