22nd November 1869
Reference Numbert18691122-36
VerdictNot Guilty > non compos mentis
SentenceImprisonment > insanity

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36. ADELAIDE FREEDMAN (30), was indicted for the wilful murder of her female child, to which she refused to plead. The COURT directed a pea of

NOT GUILTY to be entered for her.

MR. GRIFFITHS conducted the Prosecution; and MR. SERJEANT SLEIGH the Defence.

REBECCA MARKS . I am single, and am the prisoner's sister—I live at 236, High Street, Shad well—the prisoner is married—her age is 30—she has one child by her husband—her husband went to Lima, five years ago, and she then lived three years with my father, and nearly two years with me—her husband sent her money from time to time, but not sufficient to

support her, and he had not sent any for a year and nine mouths, till last December, when he sent her 10l.—the letter was written in July—I knew that she went to reside with Mrs. Markham, and that she was confined of a female child, about 12th September—I was with her on the night of 8th October, and found her very weak, and she spoke very strangely—the has often expressed a wish to go to her husband, but the money came very late for her to go—it came before her confinement.

Cross-examined. Q. Was it received just before she was about to be confined with this child? A. About four months before—I saw her the night before this, and she spoke strangely—she looked vacant and strange—she always had a vacant look, both before and after the birth of the child—I saw her three times a week after the birth of the child, and observed on those occasions a strangeness about her appearance and manner when I attempted to speak to her—she was always melancholy, and used to complain dreadfully of her head—she always behaved to the child with kindness and affection—it was weak and sickly, and when I went there on Friday night it appeared to be sinking very rapidly, and I told her so—she appeared to pay it all the kindness and attention a fond mother would—she complained of her head—at the time her mother was carrying her she attempted to hang herself, and my father had to cut her down—that was in Wales—the prisoner is older than me—all the family through have been insane—my mother and my two aunts were afflicted with mental disease, and I have heard that each of my aunts was confined in a lunatic asylum—my brother was also mentally afflicted; he was not placed under restraint, but the doctor told me to keep out of his way, and not come in contact with him in the dark.

MR. GRIFFITHS. Q. Your mother was never placed under restraint? A. No; but she was insane at the time she died—with regard to my aunts, it is only what I have heard.

CHARLES MARSHALL . I am a chemist, of 67, Bedford Street, Mile End—on 9th October, about 11 o'clock, the prisoner came in for a pennyworth of plain powder—she then asked for something to take out ink stains, and I recommended her salts of lemon, and supplied her with a pennyworth, which is about three quarters of an ounce—she said that that would not be sufficient, and wished for more—I supplied her with a twopenny packet, and she wished to know how to use it—I told her to dip the linen in hot water, and put the salts in it afterwards, to wash it—salts of lemon contains two parts of oxalic acid and one of potass—both packets were labelled, "Poison," with my name and address—I observed nothing remarkable about the prisoner, and had no suspicions—it is not an uncommon thing to be asked for, for that purpose.

ELIZABETH MARKHAM . I am the wife of Martin Markham, a bricklayer, of 71, Rutland Street, Mile End—the prisoner came to lodge with us on 19th July, and on 12th September she was confined of a girl, a very delicate child—she treated it well, as a mother would—it was very weak and low—on Saturday morning, 9th October, between 10 and 12 o'clock, the prisoner came to me and said, "I have poisoned myself and the child"—she seemed in a very wild and excited state—I said, "You have never done such a thing as that?"—she said, "Go and see for yourself"—she put her hand to her head, and said, "Oh dear, I shall go mad; troubles will drive me mad, they are so great"—I had a conversation with my husband, and went up stairs, and found the child on the bed, foaming at the mouth—I took it up, and it died my arms—the prisoner came up after me and said,

"My head is so bad I shall go mad, my troubles are so great"—she seemed quite unconscious of what she was doing—my husband fetched a doctor, and I saw him administer an emetic.

Cross-examined. Q. When she repeated that she was so bad and that her troubles were so great, did she add, "Let me die! let me die!" A. "Yes"—that was up stairs—when she said that she had poisoned her child she was very excited; her eyes were rolling in her head, and there was something very strange about them—the child seemed in a dying state—I was looking for its death hourly, before she told me that—the child was unable to take the breast, the mother paid it all the attention and devotion which an affectionate mother could—she was always very affectionate towards it—ever since she received the letter from her husband the prisoner has been wild and vacant at times, and since the birth of the child I have observed her to be in a low, melancholy state, and she used to cry a great deal—irrespective of that I have frequently seen her wringing her hands and putting them to her head, and crying—the whole of the week before the 9th the state I have described was more intense—there was a restlessness about her eyes, and she was still more vague, and she used to come and talk to me, and then run away in a strange manner in the middle of a sentence—they administered an emetic to her the moment the doctor came, and he ordered her to be taken to the hospital at once.

COURT. Q. Are you married? A. Yes—I am 33 years of age, and have four children living—I made the remark to my husband during the week that the prisoner was more like a mad person than a sane one.

RICHARD GRUBB . I am one of the medical officers of the London Hospital—the prisoner was placed under my charge there on 9th October—I examined her when she was brought in—she was very pale and cold, and I had reason to believe from her state that she had taken some sort of poison—I gave her an emetic, and came to the conclusion, from what came from her stomach, that she had taken oxalic acid; salts of lemon would be practically the same—she remained in the hospital two or three days, and was then taken in custody.

Cross-examined. Q. Was she really in a state of collapse when she was brought in? A. Yes—I caused her to be carefully watched while she was in the hospital, and saw her every day, but further than passing through the ward I had no further observation of her state.

COURT. Q. Did you come to any conclusion, from what you saw or from what was told to you, as to the state of her mind? A. From what I saw myself; nothing but reports were made to me, from which I ordered her to be watched.

SARAH SMITH . I am nurse at the hospital—I attended the prisoner.

Cross-examined. Q. From the instructions you received, did you think it necessary to keep close watch over her while she was in the ward? A. Yes—she was very low and depressed while she was in the hospital, and on the Sunday evening I found a pocket-handkerchief twisted round her neck, and I believe she tried to strangle herself—it was on Monday, the 11th, just before 9 o'clock at night—she had been left alone for a short time, and when I came back I found the handkerchief in that state, and took it off and said, "You should not do this, because you are getting people into trouble"—she said, "I do not wish to do that."

MR. GRIFFITHS. Q. Was it tied tight? A. Not particularly tight—I saw her hand down, and said, "What are you doing?"—she said, "Nothing," and I saw the handkerchief, and took it off.

COURT. Q. How long was she in the hospital? A. From the 9th to the 13th—I only spoke to her for about five minutes on the 9th—she appeared to speak sensibly, but she was very low spirited—she was unable to do anything for herself, she was too ill—the handkerchief was not tied in a knot; it was so twisted that I thought she had been trying to strangle herself.

MORRISON. I am a surgeon—I attended the prisoner in her confineinent, of a female child, in September—it was a very sickly child—I was called in again on 9th October, and found the child dead, and the prisoner partially insensible—my assistant had administered an emetic to her before I arrived—I was at a labour, and was sent for—I had her taken to the hospital—I made a post-mortem examination of the body of the child on the following Monday, and came to the conclusion that it died from an irritant poison—the symptoms were consistent with poisoning by oxalic acid—I put the stomach into a jar, and sent it to Dr. Letheby.

Cross-examined. Q. Had you attended her, day after day, two or three times a week, since her confinement? A. Every day, or every other day—there was a suppression of the lacteal secretion—I observed between her confinement and 9th October that she had a wild, vacant look; not so much as to warrant interference to have her confined in a lunatic asylum, but sufficient to attract notice, and make me suspicious of her sanity—the had the peculiar look of puerperal mania, which is a well-recognised form of insanity with women about the period of their confinement—it affects them when they are not able to give milk to a child, and is the consequence of it—this form of puerperal mania develops itself sometimes by acts of violence to the nearest and dearest, and to the offspring of the woman—there it no fixed period at which it arrives at intensity, sometimes one and sometimes two weeks after confinement—there are two forms, the acute, wild, raving, and the other is the melancholy sort, with which there are no delusions.

COURT. Q. Tell us that again? A. One is violent, with debates, coming on usually within a day or two after confinement, and the other coming on after the 15th day—that is the melancholy, and is without delusions—they both lead to acts of violence—the second form is the melancholy type, and is what the prisoner's symptoms indicated—the second form is a recognised form of insanity; there are no delusions, but it leads to acts of violence—I do not believe that persons who have that melancholy form have sufficient control over themselves to prevent them committing crime.

MR. SERJEANT SLEIGH. Q. Are women in whose family there is ah hereditary taint of insanity more likely than others to become afflicted with this terrible complaint? A. They are—for a week before the 9th the prisoner seemed wilder—she had a peculiar look, which it is very difficult to give a definition of—it is not the look of a sane person—the appearance of her eyes was not so marked at the Police Court as I used to notice it in her bedroom.

Q. Is this your opinion (reading from Dr. Taylor's work) that "In a person labouring under puerperal mania the killing of a child may be the result of an uncontrollable impulse seizing her at the time the act is done; but it may be done with a knowledge on the part of the mother that the act she is doing will cause death?"Knowing that the act of giving poison or cutting a child's throat would cause death, might she still be under that uncontrollable mania which would cause her to do it? A. Yes.

COURT. Q. You say that she would know the result of what she was

doing? A. Yes—sometimes persons hare been known to kill other people in order that they may be hung themselves—I believe that in this form of mania they would be conscious that they were doing wrong, and still not be able to prevent themselves from doing it.

MR. SERJEANT SLEIGH. Q. Is this your opinion in respect to puerperal mania, that "Wherever there exists an hereditary family taint of insanity, the mind of the medical man should be particularly alive to the chance of its developing itself during a confinement?" A. Yes; but I was never informed that there was insanity in the family till after the deed was committed—a large proportion of the cases of puerperal mania are in persons whose families have had an hereditary taint.

MR. GRIFFITHS. Q. Where you find melancholy puerperal mania, do you often find acts of violence? A. In both sorts of puerperal mania you may have infanticide—more kill their children than kill themselves—I draw a distinction between puerperal mania and homicidal mania—I did not observe these symptoms before she was confined, not till about a fortnight after, and then they did not appear to be at all alarming; there was a peculiar expression of the eyes, but no other symptom—there was only sufficient for me to warn the friends; my assistant warned the sister, and I spoke to her myself—puerperal mania may come on as long as six weeks after a confinement.

DR. HENRY LETHEBY . The contents of a child's stomach were given to me, which I analyzed, and found two grains and three quarters of oxalic acid—I cannot say that that was sufficient to cause death, because we have no case on record; but in my opinion that was the cause of death.

Cross-examined. Q. Have you been present and heard the evidence to-day A. Yes; the prisoner's symptoms, after her confinement, indicate puerperal mania, from my reading, but I have never seen a case.

COURT. Q. Do you agree with Dr. Morrison, that she would know the probable result of what she was doing? A. I think the depression, the melancholy, may be so great that, though she knew the result, still it would be an uncontrollable impulse—the mind may not be so disordered as to render the individual incapable of judging between right and wrong, yet the melancholy may be so great that she might commit the act, and try to poison herself as well—I think she would know that what she was doing was wrong; but if carried to its greatest extent, it might prevent her knowing that it was wrong.

MR. GRIFFITHS. Q. Would you expect that a person suffering from puerperal mania could go to a shop, converse reasonably there, and buy poison? A. Yes.

JAMES BUYDEN (Detective Officer K). On 13th October, I took the prisoner at the London Hospital.

Cross-examined. Q. When did you tell her what the charge was? A. When I brought her from the hospital in a cab—she said that she recollected nothing about it.

JOHN ROWLAND GIBSON . I have had the prisoner under my charge in this goal.

Cross-examined. Q. Have you seen her continually? A. Yes, from 28th October nearly daily—I have heard all the evidence given here to-day, and coincide in the opinions given by Mr. Morrison and Dr. Letheby—she has been in a melancholy condition the whole time she has been in Newgate—I have not been able to enter into any conversation with her—my opinion is that she is in a peculiar condition, amounting to a form of insanity.

MR. SERJEANT SLEIGH stated that he had witnesses present to prose the insanity of the prisoners mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. THE JURY expressed their unanimous opinion that, on 9th October, the prisoner was in such a mental condition as to be incapable of distinguishing right from wrong.

NOT GUILTY, on the ground of Insanity. To be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure.

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