When a woman died in 1937 after suffering from tuberculosis for two years there was no initial cause for suspicion, but events took a macabre twist and her mother was found guilty of manslaughter.
On 22nd October that year Florence Smith, who had been suffering from the disease for two years, died at her home in Suffolk Street, off Duke Street in the city centre. She was buried four days later in Allerton cemetery but when her mother Esther Davies failed to return the keys to her flat, the owners made a horrific discovery whilst clearing it out.
In the corner of a room was a pram containing the mummified body of a baby, which was estimate to have been dead for nine months. A post mortem was carried out by Dr Lynch from the University of Liverpool, who was unable to determine whether or not the child had been born dead or alive.
Esther was traced to her home in Elmham Crescent, Fazakerley and initially remanded in custody charged with Endeavouring to Conceal The Birth of a Child. 49 year old Esther was in a distressed state when she appeared at the magistrates court and was allowed to remain seated.
Due to the concerns raised by neighbours about Florence's condition in the days leading to her death the Coroner ordered the exhumation of her body. Tests showed that the body was thin and wasted, with the cause of death being pthisis of the left lung. However, the fact Esther had not sought medical assistance prior to death meant that prosecutors charged her with manslaughter, saying that death had been accelerated by her criminal neglect.
Esther was back before magistrates on 6th December and was committed for trial at the assizes but allowed bail. This was opposed by the prosecution, who said she should remain in custody for her own safety. As she was freed from the dock she stated 'I am not guilty of both charges'.
On 8th April 1938 the jury at St George's Hall heard that post mortem results showed no evidence of Florence having eaten for several days before her death. A neighbour also testified that when Esther realised her daughter was dying, she found a terrible state of affairs, with the bedsheets being saturated in blood and her hands riddled with maggots.
The defence said that Florence had refused to go to hospital and wouldn't eat any food. To them it was not a case of wilful neglect, rather Esther simply misunderstanding how serious the situation was. However she was found guilty and sentencing adjourned to the Manchester assizes so probation reports could be prepared.