15th January 1800
Reference Numbert18000115-20
VerdictNot Guilty

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90. ELIZABETH JARVIS was indicted for the wilful murder of her male bastard-child . She was also charged with the like murder, upon the Coronor's Inquisition.(The case was opened by Mr. Knowlys.)

REBECCA RANDOM sworn. - My husband is a print-seller, in the Strand; the prisoner came into my service, on the 8th of November, as a servant of all work ; in a very few days after she had been with me, I suspected that she was pregnant; I asked her if she really was not with child; I told her I had suspicions; she said, no, she was not with child; this was two days after she had been in

my service; I mentioned it to her several times; at first, she said, she believed she was going into the dropsy, that it was a family complaint, her mother died of it; and the second or third time I mentioned it, she said she was so poorly, she believed she must leave my service: On the 26th of November, I was intending to remove to Bond-street, and she assisted in packing up, till she really could not do it any longer; about seven o'clock in the evening, she appeared very poorly, and while I was gone down stairs, she went into her own room, she said, she believed it was a violent complaint in her bowels; between eight and nine o'clock, I went up to see how she was; I found her in bed; I asked her how she was; she then told me, she was very poorly indeed, and was very sorry she was obliged to go to bed, to leave me in such trouble as I was in then; I asked her if she was well enough just to get up to hold my child, and she said, no, she could not; I asked her then, if I could do any thing for her; she said, no, she was very much obliged to me; I asked her then, if I should send for a doctor; she said, no; I asked her if she would like a drop of any thing mixed with a drop of water; she said, no; I prevailed upon her to take a drop of rum; when she had taken it, she seemed very much in pain; I asked her again, if I had not better send for a doctor, she said, no; I then lost her; I had staid with her, I suppose, about ten minutes.

Q. Did you communicate any suspicion to her at that time? - A. Yes; I told her, I could not think that those pains could be occasioned by a complaint in the bowels; I told her, I thought they were labour pains; I had had one child myself; she then almost scolded me, and asked me how I could take such a thing in my head, as to suppose she was with child; then I told her, if it was really so, to own the truth, and I would do every thing in my power for her; she then scolded me, and seemed to be quite angry that I should think such a thing of her; I staid with her about ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, and then I left her; before I went to bed, between twelve and one o'clock, I went up again; I told her then, that her master desired I would send for a doctor, to know what was the matter with her; she turned round in the bed, and told me she was as well as ever she was in her life; I told her, I rather thought she was in labour; she said, no, she was as well as ever she was in her life, and thanked me for the rum I had given her; I staid with her about the same time then; the next morning, between eight and nine o'clock, I saw her again; I went into her room, and observed that she was in bed, and that the bed was tumbled very much; I asked her how she did, she said, she was a great deal better, and should be well in two or three days; she complained of being very dry; I asked her if she could wait till I made breakfast, and I would send her up a bason of tea; she said, no, she really could not wait till then, she was so dry; I went and made her a little milk and water; I thought that would not do her any harm, I took it up to her; when she took the bason out of my hand, I observed her hand was bloody, her left arm was underneath the cloaths; I asked her what she had been doing; I asked her if she had not miscarried; I told her I was sure she had; she said, I was very stupid, it was not the first time I had taken such a thing in my head; I told her then, she had either miscarried, or delivered herself; but I did not think she had delivered herself, because I thought she could not have done it; she asked me then, if I could be so kind to lend her some clean linen; I said, yes, I would go down and get her what I could get at, for all my linen was packet up; I waited till I warmed it, and then carried it up to her; when I came into the room again, I heard a kind of a strangling noise, it seemed as if it was in the bed; then I went and warmed her a little jacket to put on; I returned again, and heard a noise, seemingly as if it laid on the floor.

Court. Q. Was the noise of the same sort you had heard before? - A. Yes, only more distinct; I asked her if she had not better lie in bed; she said no, she would get up; I asked her what noise that was, but she would not seem to give me any hearing at all; I laced her stays, and she got out of bed; I asked her to move a little on one side; I wanted to see what was making a noise in the corner of the room; she begged me not to trouble myself, but to go down and get my breakfast; I told her I would not leave the room, till I saw what was in the corner; she still begged me to go down stairs to breakfast, and she would clear it away herself; I desired her to move on one side, that I might move the bedstead a little from the wall, that I might get to see what it was; the bed was very near close against the wall; when she found I was going round the foot of the bedstead, she jumped over the bed, and stood before the dirty things in the corner; she would not let me pass to see what was there; I asked her to let me pass her, she said, no, she would take the things away herself; she packed them up altogether, and held them in her hand; she then gave them to me, and then I felt the warmth of a child through an apron; I laid the bundle on the floor; I opened the bundle, and in it was a child; it was a coloured apron, and a little bit of the coloured apron was in the child's mouth.

Q. In that situation had it any opportunity of breathing, was any part left open for breathing? - A. No, it was completely covered; I took it out

of the apron, and put it in her own under coat for warmth; I saw that the child bled very much at the nose and mouth; I ran to the door and screamed for help, the boy came to my assistance; I desired him to go for Mr. Whitfield, a medical gentleman, in Beaufort-buildings; I asked her how she could be so cruel as to kill the child; she said, she did not know she was with child; I asked her why she did not tell me, if she had not any thing of her own for the child, I had plenty of things that I would have lent her; I told her, she certainly had killed her child; she said, no, she never hurt a child in her life; I told her she certainly had; I said, if you had told me of it over night, this child would have been alive.

Q. The child was still living? - A. Yes; I thought it was dying, which it certainly was; she said had she ever ill used my child; I said, no, she always behaved very well, and she said she was very sorry she had used her own so; the child lived till about ten o'clock in the morning; I observed a seratch in the throat; I said, do take the child, for she never shall see it any more.

Cross-examined by Mr. Knapp. Q. The prisoner always did endeavour to prevent your knowledge of that which you afterwards found out? - A. She did.

Q. You have had one child yourself? - A. Yes; only one.

Q. Then you are not much acquainted, of course, with cases of this sort? - A. No, I am not.

Q. You mentioned the scratch in the throat-in the labour pains, might not that have happened? - A. It might.

Q. Was she not about to leave your service within two or three days before this? - A. She was; the Friday before she had applied to me to quit my service.

Q. Was it upon your desire, and your endeavouring to make her stay, that she did stay? - A. Yes, I did, till I got another servant.

Q. When did this happen? - A. On the Wednesday.

Q. You had observed several times appearances that led you to suspect she was with child? - A. Yes.

Q. And on the Friday you prevailed upon her, though she was to have left your service, to stay longer? - A. Yes.

Q. With respect to your child, her conduct was proper? - A. She seemed to be very fond of it, I assure you.

Q. Did you know that she had a sister? - A. She told me that she came from her sister's, or sister-in-law, at Fulham.

Q. Have you understood since that clothes of every description were provided by her sister at Fulham? - A. The sister brought me some few things to shew me.

ROBERT WHITFIELD sworn. - Examined by Mr. Knowlys. I am a surgeon in Beausort-buildings, in the Strand: I was sent for to Mr. Random's; I went, and found a young child very saint and almost exhausted.

Q. From what circumstance did it appear to be so exhausted? - A. At first the cause did not strike me, but I judged it might be from cold; I called for a bason of warm water; warm water was immediately brought me, and I dipped the child in it up to the chin; as soon as I raised the child from the floor, I perceived blood to come from the nose and the mouth, in considerable quantities; Mrs. Random asked me if I thought the child would live; I told Mrs. Random, no, I thought it would not; I thought the child was dying from loss of blood; it was not dead, but breathing very saint; I took the child out of the water, and gave it to Mrs. Random, saying it was of no use to use any efforts to recover it, for it was exhausted, and dying very fast indeed, from loss of blood; it died in a very short time after.

Q. Did you open the child, to see what injury had been done to it? - A. I did not perceive the injury at that time; the Coroner's inquest fat on the 29th, the next day but one; I then opened the cheeks of the child, and discovered a wound in the tongue.

Q. With an instrument? - A. Yes, with a dissecting knife.

Q. On what part of the tongue did this injury appear to have been inflicted? - A. On the left side of the upper part of the tongue, far back in the tongue; it appeared to me to have been done at several times with some instrument that was not very sharp.

Court. Q. By that do you mean that it was notched? - A. Yes, notched.

Mr. Knowlys. Q. Did you observe whether the child had been separated from the after-birth? - A. It was not.

Court. Q. Not at all? - A. No.

Mr. Knowlys. Q. Had any means been taken to cut the navel-string? - A. None; I did afterwards.

Q. As you saw this injury to the tongue, to what did you impute the death of this child? - A. I cannot say that the child died from loss of blood occasioned by the wound, unless it could be afcertained how long it had been bleeding.

Q. Supposing the injury had been given at the time that you were sent for, could it have so exhausted the child? - A. No, certainly not; there was a considerable extravasation of blood under the chin besides, about the throat.

Q. What, in your opinion, was the cause that gave rise to that extravasation? - A. Some violent pressing upon the throat.

Q. From what you observed, is it your opinion that the child died a natural death, or by violence? - A. By loss of blood.

Q.Was that loss of blood occasioned by violence? - A. Certainly; but this I must observe, that possibly in the rude manner of her delivering herself, it is possible she might have grasped the child in the throat.

Q.Would any natural manner of delivery have occasioned that injury to the tongue? - A. She had a laborious labour, no doubt of it, from the appearance of the child.

Q. But could that injury upon the tongue have proceeded from that grasp? - A. No, it could not.

Q. Do you then, from every observation you have had the opportunity of making, conclude that the child died by a natural or a violent death? - A. A violent death.

Cross-examined by Mr. Knapp. Q. The woman appeared to have had a very difficult time? - A. Yes; a long labour.

Q. Have you been in the profession a considerable time? - A. Yes.

Q. And attended a great many labours? - A. Yes; for fourteen years.

Q. You can tell me whether a hemorrhage is not usual where no violence has been practised? - A. Not from the child, from the mother it is very frequent.

Q. And the blood from the mother may be upon the child? - A.Certainly.

Q. You have perhaps attended deliveries of the same unfortunate nature with the present, of a person attempting to deliver herself? - A.Certainly.

Q. Do you think spirits given to a woman under these circumstances will increase the pains of labour? - A. It would rather retard the labour.

Q. Of course then, when the labour did come on, it would be stronger? - A. Certainly.

Q. As the labour is stronger, so in proportion the agonies of the woman will increase? - A. Certainly.

Q. A woman in labour, I think you say, may grasp the child? - A.Certainly.

Q. A Woman in strong labour is not always possessed of her faculties of reason? - A. Not always.

Q. A Woman under those circumstances may have grasped her child unintentionally, and her finger may have got into the mouth, and occasioned a wound by her nail? - A. No, I think not.

Court. Q. Do you think, if the woman had a strong nail, it might not have happened? - A. From the direction in which the child was born, from the appearance of the child's head, it was impossible; I am certain that the back part of the head must have been at the front of the mother.

Court. Q. Is it possible that you can ascertain that, without being present at the time? - A. Yes, I am positive of it; from the appearance, the finger might have got into the mouth, but the child must have been nearly born in that direction.

Court. Q. A child, I presume, alters its posture as it comes from the body of the mother; does it not struggle to extricate itself? - A. No; the child till after it is born, has no motion whatever; the head turns round after it is completely expelled; sometimes the shoulders will stick in the womb of the mother, and in pulling the child, she might have grasped it in the neck.

Court. Q. You see in the rude manner in which they attempt to deliver themselves, their object is to get rid of the child as quick as possible, and in any manner? - A.Certainly; I consider that.

Mr. Knapp. Q.When the head is born, would it not have been natural for the mother, delivering herself in that rude manner, to grasp the throat? - A. Certainly.

Q. But suppose, instead of grasping the throat, she had, with a strong nail, put her finger in the mouth? - A. Then she would have wounded the palate, and not the tongue.

Q. Can you venture to swear positively that the finger being introduced in the way in which I have stated, might not, in the way in which this woman was delivered, have touched the tongue, as well as the palate? - A. It might, but not like this.

Q. Might it not have produced a wound from which the blood might slow? - A. It might, but not like this.

Q. I believe the most learned persons who have wrote upon this subject, have always found great difficulty in ascertaining the cause of death in newborn children? - A. Yes.

Q. And at this advanced period, so many writers as there have been upon the subject, it has not yet been ascertained? - A. I know of none.

Q. In the course of your prosession, you have been led to read books upon the subject? - A. Yes.

Q. It may have happened to you to have read some thoughts submitted to the public, by one of the most skilful men, perhaps, that ever wrote, Dr. Hunter? - A. I have.

Q. I take it the difficulties you entertain yourself, are not removed by Dr. Hunter's work? - A. Dr. Hunter's work respects respiration in still-born children.

Q. Have you read the work published by him in 1782? - A. I believe I have.

Q. Is there any thing certain by which you can come to a conclusion how the child died, or by what means? - A. I said before, that it died from loss of blood; I said that before I saw the tongue; but the subject upon which Dr. Hunter writes, is whether a child had breathed or not.

Court. Q. What kind of laceration of the tongue

was this? - A. It was about an inch and a half in length, across the tongue, and a quarter of an inch in depth.

Court. Q. Having seen this wound, and supposing it to be done by some instrument, not sharp, was any such instrument found? - A. There were three knives and a pair of scissars brought before the Coroner's Jury, but none of them appeared to be stained with blood; the beadle, I believe, brought them.

Court. Q. Did you observe more than one wound? - A. Only one, in the tongue, which appeared to have been done at several times; it was cut deeper in some parts than in others.

Court. Q. Can you distinguish between that which is done by tearing or scratching, and that which is done with an instrument? - A. Yes; because the skin of the tongue was driven into the wound.

BRYAN CROWTHER sworn. - Examined by Mr. Knowlys. I am a surgeon in Boswell-court: On the morning of the delivery of the prisoner, I was sent for by some of the parish-officers, to Mr. Random's house, about three hours after Mr. Whitfield had been there; I examined the child, but found no marks of violence upon the child; it lay in the window-seat; I therefore thought it my duty to enquire whether the child had breathed; I was informed that it had lived some time after Mr. Whitfield first came; I afterwards attended the Coroner's Inquest, and observed the injury; the wound was across the tongue, and seemed to have been done at more times than one, by its irregular depth, and its figure; it appeared to have been done by a blunt instrument of some kind or other; the Coroner hearing this, asked me if I would go with the beadle to the lying-in ward at the work-house, and get her pockets, her trunk, and indeed her bed; I went to the prisoner's bed, and asked her whether she was aware that the child had bled at the nose and mouth, not intimating to her that we had discovered the wound in the tongue; she said, she did not know; and with great presence, and perfect tranquillity of mind, she surrendered up her things, suffered the bed to be examined, and her box opened; we found some articles of clothing, with some instruments which had no marks of blood upon them; (produces three knives, and a pair of scissars;) they were found in the box, I am pretty clear; it was either the box or the pocket, but I believe the box.

Q. When was this? - A. A day or two after the delivery; the Coroner's Inquest were then waiting for them.

Q. Would the effusion of blood have caused the death? - A. The vessels would have retracted after they had shed a certain quantity of blood.

Q. To what then do you ascribe the cause of the child's death? - A. Not to intentional violent causes; I should think it very possible, though I practise surgery only, and am not qualified to give a decided answer, but I should suppose it did arise from violence, though not from intentional violence; the child's head had suffered very much by compression in the birth; when I saw the child it was dead, and there was no appearance of blood about it.

Jury. Q. Was the wound on the under or upper part of the tongue? - A. It was on the upper surface of the tongue.

HENRY ROUGH sworn. - I live in Stanhope-street, Clare-market; I am apothecary to the overseers of St. Clement Danes: I saw the child the same morning that it died, and I saw it before the Coroner.

Q. Did you apprehend that the injury of the tongue could cause the loss of life? - A. I am not competent to answer that question; but I conceive it was a wound which had arisen from the application of the nails in extreme labour, which no doubt a paroxysm, or derangement of the faculties, might have rendered her incapable of knowing what she did, for the wound was an irregular one; I am no man-midwife, but the circumstance struck me very forcibly at the time of the Coroner's Inquest.

Court. Q. Were the other two medical gentlemen present? - A. Yes.

Mr. Knowlys. Q. Are you still of the same opinion, after having seen the child, and heard the opinions of others? - A. I am of opinion it was done from the difficulty of the labour, and the nails; I examined her nails the following day, and found them remarkably long and sharp.

The prisoner did not say any thing in her defence.

Court. (To Mr. Crowther.) Q. Might not a compression upon the back part of the skull force out the tongue? - A.Certainly; and a compression on the neck would do that.

For the Prisoner.

SARAH TARLING sworn. - Examined by Mr. Knapp. I am the sister of the prisoner.

Q. Did you know your sister was with child? - I suspected it.

Q. Have you brought any clothes here? - A. A person at the door has, John Wilcox; she had left several odd things, baby's things, with me; my husband called upon her the Sunday before this happened for them.

Q. Did you know that your sister was about to leave Mrs. Random? - A. Yes, she told me so; she was to have left her the week before.

HENRY TARLING sworn. - Examined by Mr. Knapp. I am the husband of the last witness: On the Sunday before this circumstance happened, I called upon my sister, and took a bundle home to

my wife; I did not know what the bundle contained, I gave it to my wife.

Mrs. Tarling. This is the bundle I received from my husband. (Producing it).

Tarling. This is the same bundle.

Mrs. Tarling. It contains baby linen.

Court. (To Mrs. Random.) Q.Where was the prisoner's box? - A. In the room where she slept.

Q. Did you examine the room afterwards? - A. No, I did not, I could not bear the room.

Q. There was no instrument in the bundle which you opened? - A. No.

Q. Nor you did not observe any about the room? - A. I did not.

The prisoner called seven other witnesses, who gave her a good character.


Tried by the first Middlesex Jury, before The LORD CHIEF BARON.

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