HANNAH, ALIAS DIANA CONOLLY, was indicted for the wilful murder of her male infant, by drowning it in a tub of water. This case, though short, leaves vast scope for conjecture as to the guilt of this woman on the capital part of the bill of indictment found against her. It also comprises a curious surgical case.
It appeared that the unhappy woman lodged at a house in Brick-lane, Old-street, and was met by Mrs. Horn, her fellow-lodger, upon the staircase leading to her apartment, apparently very much indisposed. The prisoner asked Mrs. H. to get her something to drink, and Mrs. H. left her for that purpose. On her return she found the prisoner in bed, and from the observations she made, concluded the prisoner had delivered herself of an infant child. She interrogated the prisoner as to the fact, but she denied it. Her suspicion, however, being increased, Mrs. H. searched the bed, and beneath the pillows found a male child, but newly born, and lifeless. She also perceived a tub in the room, the water in which was discoloured. Mr. Evans, a surgeon, was called in, who ascertained that the child's lungs were inflated; but in his evidence he would not take upon himself to swear that the child had been born alive. The inflation of the lungs, he said, was not decisive of the fact of the child's being born alive. Dr. Hunter has doubted whether the same symptoms might not appear, though the child had died before it came into the world; and consequently it would be very presumptuous in him to speak with certainty. The judge submitted to the jury, whether it would not be better to acquit the prisoner of the murder, and by their verdict say whether the prisoner had not endeavoured to conceal her delivery from the world. This the jury found, which by a recent Act subjected the party to twelve months' imprisonment, and she was sentenced accordingly.
CATHARINE HANDLEY was also indicted by the overseers of the parish of St. Giles in the Fields, for exposing and deserting her newly born illegitimate child, in Bowl-yard, in that parish. It appeared in evidence that the prisoner had been delivered of the child on the 29th day of July, about the hour of five in the afternoon; and between eleven and twelve at night of the same day the child was discovered tied up in a dirty cloth with its legs confined under it, laid in the carriage-way of Bowl-yard, which is a narrow place, there being little more than sufficient room for a carriage to pass through. She was found by the vigilance of the midwife, who attended her at her delivery, in a house in Church-lane, St. Giles's, a considerable distance from the place where she was de livered. The jury, without hesitation, found her Guilty, and the court sentenced her to twelve months' imprisonment.
ELIZABETH COX was convicted of a similar offence to the two last mentioned, about the same time, and sentenced to the same punishment at the Summer Assizes for Essex. This unnatural mother was indicted for the wilful murder of her bastard child.
James Cockle, a surgeon, deposed, that the prisoner lived servant with a Mrs. Martha Salmon, in the neighbourhood of Colchester. In the month of May last he was sent for to the house, as it was suspected that the prisoner had been delivered of a child. In her bed-room he discovered circumstances that induced him to look further; and, on searching the prisoner's box, he found the dead body of a child, tied up in an apron. The string was twisted five times round the neck, and tied with a hard knot. The child appeared full grown and perfect. He opened the head, when the vessels appeared tinged as they would have been if the child died of strangulation. The lungs floated in water; but this, he said, was a fallacious experiment. His belief was, that the child was born alive, though he would not undertake to swear that it was.
Martha Salmon, the mistress, next deposed, that she had suspected the girl was with child, and had taxed her with it; but she denied it for some time. She observed her very ill one day, and advised her to leave off work. The girl seemed very unwilling, and asked, if she went away for a few days, whether she should be allowed to return to her place: The witness said her bed-room was near the prisoner's, and if any child had cried she must have heard it. She corroborated the surgeon as to the finding the body of the child. Mary Cutting and Martha Finch said they had suspected that the prisoner was with child; but as she was a short thick girl, they thought it might be her make: they were present when the body of the child was found in the prisoner's box.
Lord Ellenborough, in summing up, told the jury, that however painful their duty might be, yet they must do it firmly; and if they were of opinion the child was born alive, and had been strangled by the prisoner's tying the apron strings round its neck, they must pronounce her guilty of the murder. The jury found her Not Guilty. The learned judge then directed them to say whether they were of opinion that the child was born a bastard, and whether she had endeavoured to conceal its birth. They found her Guilty of the concealment, and she was sentenced to one year's imprisonment.