10th September 1788
Reference Numbert17880910-84
VerdictNot Guilty

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583. RACHEL wife of JOHN HARMER , was indicted for that she, not having the fear of God before her eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil, on the 22d of June last, with force and arms, in and upon a certain male child, then lately before born of the body of her the said Rachel, in the peace of God and our lord the king, then and there, being, feloniously, wilfully, and of her malice aforethought, did make an assault, and with both her hands, about his neck, did fix and fasten, and him the said male child, then, and there, feloniously, wilfully, and of her malice aforethought, did choak and strangle, of which said choaking and strangling, the said male child, then and there instantly died .

And ELIZABETH WILLOWBY was indicted for that she, at the time of committing the felony aforesaid, feloniously, wilfully, and of her malice aforethought, was present, aiding, helping, abetting, assisting, comforting, and maintaining, her the said Rachel Harmer , the said felony and murder aforesaid, to do and commit, and so the jurors upon their oaths say, the said Rachel Harmer and Elizabeth Willowby the said male child did kill and murder.


I know but very little of this matter; I am only overseer, and bound over to prosecute.


I only found the child in a pond, on Monday the 23d of June; the pond is in Bethnal-green parish; I had a large Newfoundland dog with me, and he brought it to me out of the pond; he brought me a large cloth, I believe it was a gardener's market-cloth; the cloth opened, and there I saw the child; I just looked at it, and retired from the pond for a few minutes, and two women came by; I told, them, and they went and looked at it; I do not know their names, the people of the parish knew them.

Was there any marks on the child? - None that I perceived.

Was it full-grown? - Yes, I perceived it had hair on; a fine child.


I live at Bethnal-green; I know the prisoners, they lodged in my house; the 22d of June, I heard the prisoner Harmer between four and five call to her little boy, William; I was up.

What, she has a son, has she? - Yes; I thought by her calling she was not well; immediately after the boy came down stairs, I asked him if his mother was not well; and he said, she was very ill; I then sent my wife up stairs.

How long had she lodged at your house? - Three weeks.

She was known to be with child? - She never owned it to me; I saw her several times, but I did not ask her the question; she appeared like it.


I went up stairs, and I found Mrs. Harmer ill; I asked her if she wanted help; she said no; I stopped about ten minutes by the bed-side; I heard no noise of a child; I went down stairs again, and stopped ten minutes, and went up stairs again, and asked her how she was; she said she was charmingly; I asked her, if she had miscarried; and she told me yes; I asked her where it was; and she immediately rose up in the bed, and asked me to give her a coarse cloth off the line, which I did; and she took the

child from her; the child was then dead; I looked at it.

Any marks of violence upon it, madam? - Not that I could see.

Court to Jury. Then, gentlemen, that makes an end of this case, undoubtedly, because she saw the child, being dead, before it was thrown into the pond, and no marks of violence upon it.


Tried by the first Middlesex Jury before Mr. Justice GROSE.

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