Mercy Hornby, Killing > infanticide, 24th April 1734.

Reference Number: t17340424-21
Offence: Killing > infanticide
Verdict: Guilty
Punishment: Death
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22. Mercy Hornby , of Stoke-Newington , was indicted for the Murther of her Female bastard Infant, by casting it alive into a Privy, by which Casting it receiv'd one mortal Bruise on the left side of the Head, of which mortal Bruise it instantly dy'd , March 15 .

She was a second Time indicted on the Coroner's Inquest for the said Murther.

Elizabeth Husk . Friday Morning was 5 Weeks, about 9 o' Clock, I met Mrs Pain, who said she was going to see the Prisoner at Stoke-Newington. An Hour afterwards, I saw Mrs Pain again, and she said the Prisoner was very bad; so I went to see the Prisoner. She was sitting up in her Bed, and I asked her how she did? She said, very bad at her Head and Stomach. When I came down, I asked Mrs Pain if she had seen nothing? For the Kitchen was in Disorder, and had been wash'd and sanded, and there was a Bloody-apron. She said she had seen something, and that the Prisoner had thrown something down the Vault. I stept over the Way, (for I live opposite to where the Prisoner lives) and told my Mistress. She bid me light a Candle, and look in the Vault. I did, and saw a Child there; but I was so frighted, that I could not take much notice. I sent for help to take it out, and then I saw only a little Blood on the Head of it. It was a Female, and seem'd to be new born.

Court. Did you observe the Navel, or any thing about it, belonging to a new born Child?

E. H. No. It was filthy with the Soil of the Privy.

Prisoner. Was it a Stone Kitchen?

E. H. No. A boarded Floor?

Prisoner. Was I alone, or was any of the Family in the House?

E. H. I don't know - I saw none but you when I first came.

Prisoner. Was the Child cover'd in the Vault?

E. H. No. It lay clear.

Prisoner. How deep was the Vault?

E. H. I don't know.

Prisoner. Was it a slight Bruise on the side of the Head, or a large one?

E. H. I did not search - A Midwife was sent for after the Child was found; but she did not come till next Day.

Margaret Pain . The Prisoner sent for me by a Neighbour's Girl between 9 and 10 in the Morning. She let me into the Kitchen her self. I ask'd what ail'd her? She said, she was not very well, nor had not been well since Whitsuntide : That she had been very bad that Morning, and had been at the Vault; but was now something better, and could eat a little Water gruel. I made her some, and then she went to Bed, and bid me lock the outer Door, and take the Key. There was Nobody else in the House - The Kitchen was a little out of Order; I saw it had been mopp'd up, but I saw no foul Clothes. We did not let her know that the Child was found, till her Master and Mistress came down, and that was between 3 and 4 in the Afternoon. And then I asked her how she came to do so? And she said, the Devil prompted her.

Prisoner. What did you understand I meant by saying so? - That I carried it to the Place, or that I murder'd it?

M. P. I don't know what you meant.

Mary Fauks , Midwife. On Saturday

the 16th of March, I was sent for by the Prisoner, to free her of the After-birth, and I made her a free Woman and left her safe. I was sent for on the Friday, but could not go, - I saw the Child, it was as fine a Female as ever I set my Eyes on, and I don't question but it was full grown; for I believe it was 3 quarters (of a Yard long) and I believe it was born alive, for I can't think so large a dead Child could make it's own way. There was a great Bruise on this side of the Head?

Prisoner. Might not that come by a Fall at it's Birth?

M. F. I can't say that.

Prisoner. Did not you take some Child-Bed-Linnen out of my Trunk.

M. F. Yes; a Shirt, a Blanket, and a Night-Cap, a Biggin, and a long Stay; but these I did not see till Monday, and it's much to be fear'd, that you did not put them there; for indeed I was inform'd they were borrow'd of a Neighbour.

Court. That's no Evidence - You must not swear what you heard, but only what you know.

Mr. Coulson, Surgeon. I found a large Contusion on the side of the Child's-head, which I believe was the Cause of it's Death. The Bruise might happen by the Child's falling from her, for a Child falls with a prodigious force.

Thomas Pain . I built the Vault not long ago, and was sent for, to take the Child out; but it was taken out by Mr. Jordan. The Vault is but 6 Foot deep, and the Depth of the Soil was not above 3 Inches, or 3 and a half. The Breadth of the Seat is 22 Inches; there is no Cross-bars within. The Back of it lies open, and the Bottom is not paved, but is a soft Sand.

Prisoner. Could the Child receive such a Bruise as to kill it, by falling down that way.

Surgeon. - I think not.

John Jourdan . The Child lay upon its back, and did not seem to be daub'd at all. I got a Ladder, and went down 4 or 5 Rounds, and try'd to take it with a Rake; but when I had raised it 2 or 3 foot, it fell down again, and that daub'd it pretty much. There was a Bruise and some Blood about it's Head, but the Skin was not broke.

Prisoner. I was taken very bad in Bed, between 5 and 6 in the Morning. I came down Stairs, and call'd for help as well as I could, but there was Nobody else in the House. The next Door was an Ale-house, and a Noise being there, I believe they could not hear me. And being violent ill, and in great Extremity of Pain, I was deliver'd in the Kitchen. I never saw the Child move, nor never laid Hands on it; but it got that Bruise on the Head by falling from me, and then in a fright I took it up and carried it to the Vault.

Court. Read the Statute the 21st of K. James the I. Chap. 27.

Clerk Reads . Whereas many lewd Women, that have been deliver'd of bastard Children, to avoid their Shame, and to escape Punishment, do secretly bury or conceal the Death of their Children, and after, if the Child be found Dead, the said Women do alledge, that the said Child was born Dead; whereas it falleth out sometimes (although hardly it is to be proved) that the said Child or Children were murther'd by the said Women, their lewd Mothers, or by their Assent or Procurement:

For the preventing therefore of this great Mischief, be it enacted by the Authority of this present Parliament, That if any Woman, after one Month next ensuing the End of this Session of Parliament, be deliver'd of any issue of her Body, Male or Female, which being born alive should, by the Laws of this Realm, be a Bastard, and that she endeavour privately, either by drowning or secret burying thereof, or any other way, either by herself or the procuring of others, so to conceal the Death thereof, as that it may not come to Light, whether it were born alive or not, but be conceal'd. In every such case, the said Mother so offending shall suffer Death as in Cases of Murder, except such Mother can make proof, by one Witness at least, that the Child (whose Death was by her so intended to be conceal'd) was born dead ?

The Jury found her Guilty . Death .

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