27th May 1830
Reference Numbert18300527-67
VerdictGuilty > lesser offence

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Second Middlesex Jury - Before Mr. Justice Littledale.

1100. SOPHIA MORGAN was indicted for the wilful murder of a certain infant male child .

MESSRS. ADOLPHUS and CLARKSON conducted the prosecution.

RICHARD DUKE EASTCOTT . I am an assistant surgeon, of St. Pancras parish . On the 13th of April I examined the body of a male infant in the dead-house, at the workhouse; from its appearance I should imagine it had been born ten days or a fortnight - it was in a state of decomposition; I found a mark on the right side of the head - it had the appearance of a bruise, as if it had proceeded from a fall on the ground, or some hard instrument; it was a confused bruise, from coming in contact with some hard substance - the body being putrid I did not examine the lungs; it was a full grown child; the bruise might, or might not, occasion its death - the bruise had been received either while it was alive, or immediately after death - I feel convinced such an appearance could not be produced by a blow on a body, which had been deceased any considerable time; I cannot form any judgment whether the child had been born alive or not- there was nothing on which I could ground an opinion- the navel-string was not tied; I did not notice whether it appeared to have been torn; I went to the watch-house, in Little Albany-street, and saw the prisoner - I asked how long she had been confined; she said about a fortnight, and as she acknowledged having been confined I did not examine her person - I went to the Police-office that evening, and saw some linen produced; it had the appearance of the linen of a woman who had been delivered - the navel-string not being tied would, in all probability, cause the child to bleed to death, if it was born alive.

CHARLES RICHARD EDWARDS . I am a sergeant of the Police. I first saw the prisoner on the 13th of April at No. 7, Suffolk-street; I went there in consequence of information - she was in her room with Mrs. Williams; I was not in my Police dress, but had Shayler with me in his dress - she appeared very much confused on my entering; I told her not to alarm herself but to be composed - I said there was a very serious charge against her, but I wished her to say nothing that might injure her hereafter; I then said, "Is it true that you have been delivered of a child?" she asked if her punishment would be great - I said that was not for me to say; Mrs. Williams then said, "Sophia, you had better tell the truth;" she then said that to hide one crime she had committed a greater; I said "Then it is true that you have been delivered of a child?" she said Yes - I asked if it was alive when it came from her: she said she could not tell - I asked if she had heard it cry; she said No - I asked if it was down the privy; she said Yes; I asked if she had looked down the privy - she said No; I then asked if she took any means to force it under the soil - she said No - I asked how long it had occurred, and after recollecting some time, she said a fortnight last Saturday, and that no person was aware of her situation; I took her and Williams into custody - I left Deller to search the privy, and Shayler to prevent any one going there before I returned.

Q. Have you not omitted to state that she said she believed the child had slipped from her when she went to the privy? A. She did say so - I then took her to the station, and on returning I found Deller had searched the privy, and a male child was produced; I perceived a bruise on the right side of its head, about the size of a halfpenny, on the bony part of the forehead, not on the soft part - it was black and blue, and appeared to have been given with some hard substance; I got the key from Williams and searched the apartment - I saw a plasterer's hammer laying by the fire-place, and conceiving the child had been struck with something, I compared that with the bruise; the blunt end of the hammer appeared to correspond with the bruise - I produce the hammer; I found linen with marks of blood on it - I searched several boxes for baby-linen, but could find none but clouts, except a child's old shirt completely in rags; I searched particularly for flannel, but could find none, except one of her petticoats - I am married; there was certainly no appearance of any provision for the birth of a child; I returned to the station and took her in a coach to Marylebone Office - I asked her who was the father of the child; she said she could not tell me his name, but she had been living with a Mrs. Cox in Hunter-street, and in her mistress' absence a gentleman called and prevailed over her - she said she had washed a greater part of the linen she had on at the time of her delivery; I asked if she felt any pains - she said not much, that her labours were always very easy; I asked if she had gone her full time - she said Yes she conceived she had.

Cross-examined by MR. PHILLIPS. Q, Did she not say her labours were quick as well as easy? A. I do not recollect - she might have said so; I went to a pawnbroker's, and a bundle was produced containing two petticoats and six clouts, or more properly napkins, for they were a very superior quality - there were some petticoats, but whether an infant's or a grown person's I cannot say; I examined them on going a second time - they were certainly not an infant's, but probably a child's two months old; they were long - I believe it is not usual to dress young infants in long petticoats; my wife has no children - I saw no frocks among the things the first time, but there was an infant's long frock the second time I went to the pawnbroker's; I might have overlooked it at first, but believe I did not - I found in her box in Williams' room a week after, a child's cap and blanket, but I swear they were not there when I first searched, for I was particular in looking for such things - she lodged with Williams; the soil in the privy is about four feet deep, and the seat about three feet and a half from the soil; I did not have it cleaned out, and cannot say what substance might be in it - there was not the least appearance of black about the child except the bruise; I conceive if it was putrid it would be black.

MR. ADOLPHUS. Q. How long after you found the child did you go to the pawnbroker's? A. Probably within a fortnight; I went in consequence of some duplicates that were in her possession - I forgot to bring them here; I was fetched to the pawnbroker's again about a fortnight after, and on the bundle being then opened I immediately said to the pawnbroker, "That is not the bundle I saw before, "but on examining, there were some of the articles, but I had not seen the frock, which was the first thing I then saw - I am certain the blanket I found in her box at Williams" was not there the first time I searched; I found it almost instantly that I opened the box - the body of the child was a natural flesh colour.

MR. PHILLIPS. Q. About what hour did you see it? A. It might he about four o'clock.

MR. EASTCOTT. I saw the child about seven o'clock.

MR. ADOLPHUS. Q. What signs of putrefaction did you perceive? A. It was exceedingly green about the neck and the flextures of the joints - it was not a natural colour in other parts - it was not black; the bruise was easily to be discovered.

ABRAHAM DELLER . I am a Police-officer. On the 13th of April, in consequence of information, I went to Suffolk-street, got a light, and on looking into the privy I could see nothing; I had the floor and seat taken up-I got a prop which stood in the yard, with a kind of book nail at the top of it, and previous to putting that into the soil, there was a quantity of blood and corruption on the right-hand side; that was taken up, a further search made, and nearly in the centre of the soil the infant was raised from the bottom with the prop, by its knees, the knees being bent; I ultimately succeeded in getting it up - I had it; washed, and then observed a bruise on the right side of the head, and marks of blood round it - the blood had come through the skin; it was taken into a back room - I saw the hammer brought in and compared with the wound; they corresponded.

Cross-examined. Q. Have you brought the prop here? A. No-it was a common clothes-prop: this hammer is a good size, and heavy - I cannot say whether the bone of the infant's head was broken; the prop was about eight feet long - I cannot say what hard substance might be at the bottom of the privy; the child could not have fallen through four feet of soil to the bottom; there was no projection of bricks but what were regular-some projected further out than the rest, but there was none rough, or any thing to fall against - there might be some under the the soil.

MR. ADOLPHUS. Q. Was there any brick in such a situation that any thing dropping through the hole could fall against it? A. No - the wall is about a foot and a half behind the seat; the projecting brick is near the soil - the body was in the centre, and could not have fallen against it, I should conceive.

MR. PHILLIPS. Q. Had you not stirred the soil up? A. No, the prop was gradually put down.

MR. PHILLIPS to MR. EASTCOTT. Q. Was the bone broken? A. No - if the hammer had been used with any force it would be likely to break the bone; it is heavy and the skull bone rather thin.

MR. ADOLPHUS. Q. The bone being broken would depend on the strength of the blow? A. Yes, if given with any degree of force I think the weight of the hammer would break it.

ELIZABETH WILLIAMS . I am the wife of Richard Williams , and live at No. 7, Suffolk-street, Battle-bridge. I have known the prisoner all her life-her husband is dead; she has been married, and had four children - two of them are living; I do not know when her husband died - she lived with me for some time before she was apprehended; she had a small allowance from the parish to support her children, and worked at Mrs. Ricket's laundry, Northampton-street, from Tuesday till Saturday night - she had lived with me for about seven weeks before the 17th of March, and I had slept with her for about a fortnight, for I was not at home before; I was always intimate with her - I once told her I thought she looked very large; she said it was the dropsy and a tumor, and that she was under a doctor's hands, but did not name him, and that it would come from her with the force of water - she always slept very sound, and never laid near me; she usually got up to go to work before nine o'clock, but one morning she got up a little before seven - she had told me the night before that they were very busy, and she was to go by seven; at eight o'clock a person from her employer came to inquire why she had not come - I said she was gone to work, believing it was so; she had left the room about seven - I got out of bed at nine, and was dressing; she came up into the room, and sat in a chair by the door - I perceived that she looked a good deal smaller than usual, and looked very poorly, I spole to her - she told me she had been taken poorly, and, as the doctor said, a gush of water had come from her - she had come into the room with a shawl over her, and her arms bolding her body; I pulled the shawl aside, and saw she was smaller - I sent for a midwife, who came; she felt her, and said there was a substance, but if it was a child it was dead, and she had better have a doctor, as she thought she was dangerously ill; the midwife went away, and Mr. Sandell came - she still denied having had a child; this was on Saturday - on the Tuesday following I had been out all day, from five o'clock till nine: when I came home she had been washing her clothes, for I saw them next day hanging out to dry; before that she had always taken her clothes to her place to wash-she never washed them at home; I never saw her making up babylinen - I did not go to the privy for three days after.

Q. You say she still denied having a child-did you say any thing to her about it? A. No, not till the Monday before the Thursday on which she was taken-I then said it was a shocking thing for her to destroy her child down the privy, (there had been a talk about it in the neighbourhood); the answer she made me was, she had done the deed, and was sorry for it-that was all she said; I do not recollect her saying the child had slipped from her down the privy-she might have said so; this hammer always hung on a nail in my room - I never saw any of her soiled clothes, till I pulled them from under the bed when Mr. Sandell came; he said it appeared to him nothing but water - I pointed out what I thought was blood, and said, "What do you think of that?" he said nothing more about it.

Cross-examined. Q. Do you not know of the prisoner's having pawned some child's apparel? A. Yes, she got

me to take some things to pawn-I took them to several pawnbroker's, but they would not take them in; I did not see what they were - I saw them on the pawnbroker's counter; they were clouts, and things of that kind - that was a few days or a week after her trouble; it was before the officers came - I was taken into custody; when I went to the privy I did not look down - she told me the morning she was taken ill that something had come from her at the privy, but I did not go there; she said it was a gush of water and a bit of skin, and that it came with great force - I was too much frightened to go there; Mrs. Bennett went - I know she has had four children before, and a miscarriage.

ELIZABETH LONG . I am a widow, and keep the house where the prisoner and witness lived - the prisoner generally went out at nine o'clock, and sometimes at seven; I recollect the day this misfortune happened - the evening before that, the prisoner came down to my kitchen for a light, which was not usual; I said, "Dear me, Mrs. Morgan, you look very large, are you in the family way?" she said,"Dear me, No, madam; I have been treated for the dropsy and a tumor"-that she had left off drinking porter by the doctor's order, but now she found herself better, and took it again; I did not see her again till next morning, when she was in Mrs. Williams' room, sitting on a chair by the fire with a cup of tea or coffee - I said,"How do you find yourself now?" she said she was very bad; I said she had better have some advice, and Mrs. Bennett fetched the midwife, by Mrs. Williams' request - she did not say any thing had happened to her, but that she should be better bye-and-bye: I observed on the floor of the privy something like a great deal of blood having been wiped up-I had Mr. Sandell sent for.

ELIZABETH PIDDINGTON , a midwife, deposed that she had been called in to see the prisoner on the 27th of March, and upon examination was convinced she had been very recently delivered of a child, which the prisoner denied, and said nothing had happened to her but what the doctors had stated would occur; witness advised her to have a person employed to examine the privy, in order to prove her innocence, to which she made no reply - the delivery could not have been mistaken for any thing else. On her cross-examination she stated that at times delivery took place exceedingly sudden, and the previous feelings appear like an inclination to stool, but she must have been couacions of the delivery at the time it happened; the prisoner appeared in an extremely low state, and did not attempt to prevent the examination. On her re-examination she stated it impossible for a woman having had four children to mistake labour for any thing else.

HENRY WILLIAM SANDELL . I am a surgeon, and live in Chichester-place, Gray's Inn-road. On the 27th of March I was called on to attend the prisoner, at No. 7, Suffolk-street, West - I asked her the nature of her complaint; she said she was labouring under a discharge of blood and water: I asked how long that had been the case - she said but latterly; I asked if she felt any of the aymptoms that usually attend pregnancy - she said not, that she had passed the turn of life three years, and had been treated by some medical gentleman for the dropsy; I could not from her information form any judgment what her disorder was - she never admitted to me that she had been pregnant, or had been delivered; a napkin was shown to me - it was in a condition it might be in if used by a pregnant woman; I went to her again next day - she said she was a considerable deal better, and the discharge had nearly stopped; I did not see her again.

Cross-examined. Q. In what condition was the napkin? A. It appeared completely moistened with blood and water - that might proceed from another cause; I have heard of women being delivered very suddenly at the water-closet, in which case a child might fall headforemost, and receive a contusion if there was a projection.

MR. CLARKSON. Q. Whether there was a projection you do not know? A. No - I do not think it likely that a woman who had had four children could mistake delivery for a gush of blood and water; I have read of women being delivered in their sleep without their knowledge -I cannot call to mind the name of the book, but I was told of it by a medical gentleman; I should not think it probable or possible.

CATHERINE BENNETT . I am married, and lived in the same house as the prisoner. On the 27th of March, about eight o'clock-in the morning, Mrs. Rickets called to ask for the prisoner - I afterwards saw the prisoner go out at the street-door, and up the street with her shawl and bonnet on; this was a little after eight o'clock-I knocked at Williams' door, and told her Mrs. Morgan was gone out; I heard the prisoner say she was in the privy when called, and heard Mrs. Rickets call her-she returned in a quarter of an hour after I saw her go out; I went to the privy, and saw the floor had a stain of blood, which had been wiped up; I immediately told Mrs. Long of it- this was about half-past eight o'clock; I went into Mrs. Williams' room, and saw the prisoner at nine o'clock - she had her bonnet and shawl on, as I had seen her in the street; I went for Mrs. Piddington - I was present when Mr. Sandell was in the room, and after he left I asked how she felt; she told me she was taken as the doctor said she would be - that she was troubled with a tumor and water for a long time - that a gush of water had come from her, and a substance of skin - that she had taken it up, and thrown it down the privy; after this I observed all through the passage marks of blood on the paper and oil-cloth, and on the mat of the street door - the marks on the paper appeared finger-marks, those on the oil-cloth and mat had dropped.

Cross-examined. Q. Any body could have seen them? A. Yes; they had not been washed out - the mat was turned over; twelve persons in all live in the house, including children - I went to search the privy in the evening, I took the clothes-prop, and moved it about the soil; the fork of the prop was broken, and there was a nail at the end of it to support the line - I moved it about in the soil, and took some rags up with it, nothing else; I might disturb what was there, or knock any thing against a brick - I moved it to ascertain whether I could find the skin or substance she named; I searched as well as I could - others were present, but nobody else stirred it about.

MR. ADOLPHUS. Q. Did you put the nail end of the prop downwards? A. Yes, and raked up the rag-I put it down lightly, and not far; there are five children in the house - they could reach high enough to make the marks on the paper; some of my children had been out of my room that morning.

EDWARD SHAYLER. I am a Police-man. On the 13th of April I received information about this child, and went to Williams' house with Deller - I examined the privy, and saw, laying on the top of the soil, the after-birth, which satisfied me there had been a delivery - we had the floor taken up, took up the after-birth, and then the child, which I got out with the carpenter's assistance -I washed it, and discovered a wound on the right side of the head; it appeared to have been struck by a blunt instrument - I took it to the workhouse; I saw the prisoner before this, but desired her to go into the next room while I examined Mrs. Williams; after examining the privy I returned to the room, sent for the prisoner, and asked how she could so far lose all the feelings of a mother, as to destroy her infant (this was before Deller had seen her) - she said the deed was done, and what would they do with her; I said it was impossible for me to say.

Cross-examined. Q. Was any body present at this conversation? A. Mrs. Williams; she heard all that was said - I cannot tell whether she stated this before, or after Williams said any thing, but believe it was before; Mrs. Williams said, "Mrs. Morgan, you had better state," as she was not satisfied what Mrs. Morgan had said to me - I swear this was said before Mrs. Williams advised her at all; I believe nothing passed after Williams said she had better state - I believe Williams was satisfied she had destroyed the child.

COURT. Q. You believe, after Mrs. Williams said she had better state, that nothing more passed? A. No, it was after the prisoner said what she did, that Williams said she had better state.

CATHERINE BENNETT re-examined. I cannot say how many rags there were, as I did not take them out of the privy - they did not appear to have been fresh put in, they appeared very dirty.

Prisoner's Defence (written.) My Lord, and Gentlemen of the Jury. - I declare myself totally innocent either of the murder or the concealment of the poor child; I did not attempt its destrnction - on the contrary I would have shuddered at such an act. The plain fact is, I went to the privy, and while there something came from me, as of a gush of water, while I sat upon the seat; I never supposed I should have been taken when in the privy, and the moment I left it, in pain as I was, I even directed Mrs. Williams' attention myself to the privy, and submitted to every scarch by the midwife and doctor - I did not even know a child had come away, as I never heard a cry or any noise to make me suppose it, and what I mentioned to Mrs. Williams' was of itself sufficient to direct a search in the privy, which I never would have done had I supposed there was an infant there, as I must have at once been detected.

ELIZA KENNET , a midwife, deposed that she had attended the prisoner seven years ago, when she was delivered before witness could arrive, though she lived but five minutes walk from her; she knew of many instances of sudden delivery; if the child was born at the privy she could not save it; she had not applied to witness to attend her on this occasion, though she still lived within five minutes walk of her - the witness deposed to some further particulars which it is unnecessary to state; she knew an instance of a woman having been treated for the dropsy and afterwards delivered of a full grown child.

NOT GUILTY of Murder, but GUILTY of concealing the birth of the child by secretly disposing of the body .

Aged 33. - Confined Two Years .

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