The Newgate Calendar - MARY KNIGHT

MARY KNIGHT

Executed for the murder of her child, 24th August, 1778

THOUGH we have before had the painful task of relating instances of women murdering their offspring, yet the commission of such unnatural barbarity has generally happened with such unfortunate females as have been seduced and betrayed, and, in that wretched situation, vainly hoped to conceal their shame. But the case of Mary Knight seems without any motive; on the contrary, nothing short of wanton brutality appears to have led her on; and, to add to the horror of the tale, she was convicted chiefly on the evidence of her younger son, a child not nine years old.

The story of the child was credible. He said that his mother sent his brother into the stubble-fields to glean; that when he came home his mother beat him in a most cruel manner with a great stick, for not bringing more corn; that he cried sadly, and she shut him up in the pantry; that some time after the witness called to him to come and play, but he made no answer; that he opened the pantry door, took hold of his hand, and it felt cold.

Then the child further said that be went to his mother, and told her that Roger (the deceased) felt cold, and begged her to let him come to the fire. His mother then went into the pantry, and brought Roger wrapped up in her apron, and carried him out of doors: she shut the door after her, but be looked under it, and saw her throw him into the well; that, when she came in again, she put the stick she had beat him with into the fire; that, before it was entirely consumed, the neighbours came in, who immediately took the deceased out of the well, and the stick out of the fire.

The latter part of the child's evidence, respecting the dead body and the stick with which his brother had been beaten, was corroborated by the neighbours, and the burnt stick was produced in court. On this evidence she was convicted, and executed at Warwick on the 24th of August, 1778.

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