28th November 1836
Reference Numbert18361128-53a
VerdictGuilty > lesser offence

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53. JANE HALE was indicted for the wilful murder of a certain male child.

MR. BODKIN conducted the prosecution.

ELIZABETH SEYMOUR . I am a nurse in the family of Mr. Jeffery of Stoke Newington, in the parish of Hackney. The prisoner was his servant of all work for about six months—she came in May—she is between nineteen and twenty years of age—I have no reason to believe she is married—in consequence of the appearance she presented, I taxed her once or twice with being pregnant, and I had done so about a week or a month before the 19th of September—she denied it—she had received a month's notice to quite Mr. Jeffery's service, which expired on Saturday the 19th; she was to leave that evening—I saw her between seven and eight o'clock, I believe, that morning—she used to be up sometimes at six o'clock, and sometimes after—she was sitting in a chair in the parlour when I saw her, not able to do her work—I asked her what was the matter?—she said she had a pain in her back—she was so ill, she was obliged to go up to her own room—she went up by my advice about eight o'clock—in consequence of this, I mentioned what had occurred to my mistress—I went up to the prisoner about nine o'clock to her bed-room—I am not certain about the time—I opened the door, and saw her standing in the room dressed, packing the things in her box—I asked her if she was getting ready to go—she said yes—nothing more passed, and I went down—I afterwards went up again, and found her still standing near the box, the door was not fastened—I saw stains of blood on the floor, just close by the door, about where I stood, and a very little way from where she was standing—close by the window—I observed nothing unusual about her—I asked her what was the meaning of the stains, and she said something had come from her—I went down stairs

directly—I did not go into the room—I told her Mrs. Jeffery was gone out, and was going to send Mr. Drayton—she said she did not want him—I went down stairs, and found Mr. Drayton had come—he came into the room where I was with Mrs. Jeffery's mother, and afterwards went into the room where the prisoner was—that was not above a quarter of an hour after I had left her—I did not go into the room with him—I did not hear any child cry from that room that morning.

Cross-examined by MR. CARRINGTON. Q. Was not packing her box, what she would properly have to do, as she was to leave the service that day? A. Yes—about half an hour elapsed between that time and my seeing the spots near the door.

SARAH JEFFERY . I am the wife of Thomas Jeffery, and live at Stoke Newington. The prisoner was in our service—she was to quite on the 19th of November, as I had reason to suspect she was pregnant—I spoke to her on the subject about a fortnight before the 19th of November—I asked her where she was going to, what she intended to do—she told me she was going to look after a situation—I then said to her, "You are in the family way, Jane"—she said, "No"—that was the only time I spoke to her on the subject—in consequence of what Seymour said, I went to the prisoner's room on Saturday morning, the 19th, between eight and nine o'clock—she appeared to be in great pain, and said she was cold—I gave her some brandy and water—I told her I thought she was in labour—she said no, it was no such thing—I think she was standing up at the time—I think I went up four times altogether that morning before Mr. Drayton came—when I went again, I asked her how she was?—she said she had great pain in her back, but that it was not as I said; that is, she was not in labour—I said, did she think she should be able to go, as that was her day; could she go in the morning of the day?—she said yes, she would, and I told her to get her things ready—I found her on the bed the last time I went up—she laid still—I asked her how she was—she made no answer—I did not observe any spots of blood on the floor—I think I must have seen if have had been any—I went myself to Mr. Drayton's house, and he got back before me—I do not think more than an hour elapsed between my leaving, and his getting to the house—I did not go into the room with him.

cross-examined. Q. What has been the prisoner's character and demeanour towards your children, kind or otherwise? A. Kind—I never saw otherwise for three years—she comes from Wiltshire, and is one of six children—her father told me she would be twenty in March.

COURT. Q. You received a good character with her? A. Yes, a very good one, and found her a humane, well-conducted person.

MR. CARRINGTON. Q. You were in the house all Saturday morning, except while you went for Mr. Drayton? A. Yes—I heard no child cry.

CAROLINE FOX . On Saturday, the 19th of November, I was attending the children of Mrs. Jeffery at her house—I went into the prisoner's bed-room a little after nine o'clock, and found her ill—I did not hear any child cry that morning.

GEORGE BOX DRAYTON . I am a surgeon, and live at Stoke Newington. I have attended the elderly Mrs. Jeffery constantly—on Saturday, the 19th of November, I was called by Mrs. Jeffery, jun., to her house—I went to the prisoner's room—on opening the door, she was dressed, and standing in

the middle of the room, with a box open under the window, and a broken pot on her left hand near the table—I said to her, "Jane, what are you doing?"—she said, "I am preparing to go away"—I said, "You do not seem fit to go away—you appear ill"—she said, "No, I am not ill—I am well now" (Here the witness stated the particulars of his examination of the prisoner's person; after which, he charge her with having been delivered, which she denied two or three times.) I said, "I insist on knowing where the child is, what you have done with it, or where you have put it"—I believe her answer was, "I have not put it any where"—I told her I knew she must have put it some where—I said I insisted on knowing and would send for the police if she did not tell me—she hesitated some time, and said, "If I tell you, will you tell any one else?"—I made no answer to that—she waited two or three seconds, and then said, "It is under the bed"—I looked under the bedstead, but perceived nothing, and said, "You have deceived me, it is not under the bed"—she said, "No, you mistake me, it is under the bed, not under the bedstead; you will find it at the foot of the bed, under the bed"—I then went to the foot of the bed, turned up the quilt and the blanket, I believe, and saw a substance—a large package of something in a brown stuff wrapping, but completely under the bed, so as to be concealed but partially—the brown stuff was not entirely hid from view—no part of the child was to be seen—it was entirely covered—it was only partly under the bed; a very small portion of the bed was over it—I took off the woollen covering, and under that was a linen wrapper; I removed that also, and immediately discovered the head and face of a child—it had entirely covered the head and face—I saw nothing till I removed the second wrapping—the face was uppermost—I do not think the head was under the bed—I saw a gash in the neck of the child—I did not notice any thing else at that time—I asked her, I believe, how she could do such a shocking act—she made no reply—it almost made me shudder to look at it—I did not feel the child, to know whether it was warm—there was no appearance of blood from the wound in the throat—I only unwrapped it as low as the neck, and did not touch, the child at all—I have no doubt it was dead—a policeman was sent for, and came in a quarter of an hour—I remained in the room with the prisoner—I begged the policeman to fetch another, which he did—I then told them to take particular notice of the room, and to go to the bottom of the bed, and see what was there—they brought the child on the table, and uncovered it—I examined it—the limbs were quite flexible, and there was no unnatural coldness about it—I could not judge how long it had been dead, not having seen a circumstance like it before; but from the time I was called in, and knowing the previous circumstances, I suppose it must have been dead half an hour at least, within or about that period—after the examination, I said to the prisoner, "Now, Jane, you will save these men a great deal of trouble and inconvenience, if you can tell where to find the instrument with which you did it," she said, "It is there under some box or basket," I am not sure which"—I believe she pointed somewhere—they searched, and found a knife—I did not take it into my own hand, but I saw it in the policeman's hands, and said, from the appearance of it, "I think you have wiped the knife since it has been used"—she said, "No, I did not"—there were appearances of blood on it, but not so much as I should have expected—I then left the room—on the Saturday I examined the placenta, and found it healthy and full there was not the smallest portion of the umbilical cord attached to it—that did not

appear to be cut, but to be torn or rent—on the Monday following I examined the body—it appeared in every respect, a healthy, full-grown child—there were five spots on the face, one on the neck, and a bruise at the back of the head—the hands were clenched, and, the tongue visible between the lips—its weight was 2lbs. 7oz.

Q. What was the nature of the spots on the face? A. There were three on the left side, one on the right, and one on the lip, which was like a bruise—I apprehend they must have been made by pressure, and probably by the hands or fingers—I thought they might be caused by the grasping of the hand—there was a little spot on the back of the head—the incision about an inch long, like an indentation—I cannot account for that at all, and I do not think it of any consequence—the child falling on the ground would be very likely to account for the bruise at the back of the head—the incision on the throat was an inch and three quarters long—I proceeded to examine that when Mr. Robinson arrived—we made a very minute examination of it, and that could not have caused the death of the child—we could form no opinion whether the child was alive or dead when that wound was given—we minutely examined all the internal parts, and found them perfectly healthy—no disease in the chest, abdomen, or brain—we cut the lungs—they were remarkably small, and weighted an ounce and a quarter—their appearance was purplish—they were quite in the upper part of the chest, the chest in all the other parts being hollow—I perceived this before we proceeded to dissect—I then thought, from their appearances, that they had inhaled very little air—my impression was, that they had not inhaled any—we dissected the lungs—I did not perceive any air in the lungs—Mr. Robinson had them in his hand—he separated them from the heart—they were afterwards submitted to the test in water, and floated—we afterwards cut them in several parts, and something like air seemed to escape from them—it was then my opinion that the child had breathed—that is merely from the fact stated by authors, that lungs which will float have inhaled air—I never dissected so young a child before—I merely give my opinion from reading—we dissected the lungs up to the wound in the throat, and were satisfied that that could not have caused death—it was merely a superficial wound—I have attended between 700 and 800 women in their confinement.

Q. Have you known instances of children inhaling air, who have breathed and cried, and yet died before they came quite into the word? A. Yes, certainly—I have never known a child cry—I have known a case where there was no doubt of its having breathed previous to exclusion—my opinion from the circumstances is, that this child had been perfectly separated from the mother alive—I should attribute its death to violent expulsion from the mother—the bruise on the head, and the probable rapidly wrapping it up in linen, would prevent life continuing.

Q. Then it would die from suffocation? A. Yes, certainly—I think the appearances of violence on the body, conjointly were not sufficient to account for death, except the bruise—I am not competent to speak of that—we examined the bruise—it was two inches in diameter—all the blood remained settled in the scalp—I cannot say whether the bruise might produce death without producing internal injury to the brain—there was no appearance of injury in the substance of the brain.

(The witness was then examined at considerable length, and stated his opinion to be, that the prisoner had been delivered in a standing position,

which had caused the rupture of the umbilical cord, which would account for the blow in the head. On his cross-examination, he stated that if the child had fully breathed, the cavity of the chest would have been filled, and instead of being purple, it would have been a bright red—the marks in the face were quite unimportant—a pressure on the nose would have impeded breathing in part—the prisoner might have unintentionally injured the child in attempting to relieve herself—he had heard that the test of the floating in water had been long since exploded—his own experience did not enable him to say that they must sink if they had never breathed, and he considered the test fallacious—the cut in the neck was superficial, it was through the integuments, and about 1-8th of an inch deep—no vessel was injured—supposing the fingers of a hand to be placed on the spots on the face, the flat part of the hand would not cover the mouth—the size, weight, and situation of the lungs were similar to those which had never inhaled.)

WILLIAM BERNARD ROBINSON . I am a surgeon. I was called in to assist Mr. Drayton in examining the body of the child—I have heard Mr. Drayton's evidence—mine would be only a repetition—I concur exactly with him regarding the appearances, both external and internal—every thing was apparently such as is always the case in a child born at the full time, both as to weight and length—when I first opened the chest, my impression was similar to Mr. Drayton's, that the lungs had not been fully inflated—I could not form any opinion when I first saw them, whether they had been inflated to any extent—they were a purplish colour—when lungs have been fully inflated, they present a more florid appearance than these—on dissecting them, a few bubbles of air escaped—I afterwards submitted them to the test in water, any they floated—I should say there must have been some air admitted to cause them to float, because the specific gravity of the lungs themselves, if they have never had air admitted, would cause them to sink—that is my judgement in all cases, except where putrefaction has taken place—in the absence of any thing of that sort, it is my opinion that lungs which have not been inflated would sink—the child had never taken a full inspiration.

COURT. Q. From all the appearances about the child, what is your pinion as to its having been born alive? A. I should say it must have been in a very low state of life—a very small degree of life—it must have died immediately after it was separated from the mother—I should say it had not cried—I should say it was born alive to a certain extent, so as to enable it to live, if she had had proper attendance—sometimes the lungs are inflated by persons who attend—sometimes the child is beaten to make it cry—I consider the crying of the child always a test of full inspiration having taken place—I have sometimes known a child cry before it is born, and generally a minute or two afterwards—I have frequently observed, at the moment of separation the umbilical cord, it cries, but not always.

MR. BODKIN. Q. Is it not possible the lungs might have been inflated, and yet in the further progress of birth, the child have died before separation from the mother? A. Certainly—they sometimes give but one gasp, and die—it might do so before it left the mother—it does not necessarily follow, that because the lungs are partially inflated, it must left the body of the mother it might have been in the progress of delivery.

Cross-examined. Q. We have understood from Mr. Drayton, that children and still-horn in many cases where there is no medical assistance.? A. Yes—and in many cases children are still-horn without medical gentlemen

being able to account for it—in this case the child might be lost for want of assistance, and it is frequently the case that they are suffocated without any fault of the mothers—I think the bruise on the head quite sufficient to kill it—it must have stunned it, and from its low vitality would probably kill it—that blow might easily have been caused in the delivery—the mark on the neck might possible be caused by the umbilical cord hitching on the head, but I will not say.

JOSEPH MARSHALL . I am a policeman. I went to Mr. Jeffery's house on Saturday, the 19th of November, and found Mr. Drayton there—I went into the room where the prisoner was—I was desired by Mr. Drayton to take particular notice of the room, and to look under the bed—the child was concealed from view—I could not see any part of it till I moved the bed-clothes—after the body was found, I removed it from the foot of the bed, I and the sergeant together—the body felt quite warm—it was quite dead when I uncovered it—Mr. Drayton said, "Where is the knife? you had better look for the knife"—I do not know who he said that to—the sergeant said to the prisoner, "Where is the knife"—she said it was under the basket, which was under the foot of the bed—the sergeant lifted up the basket, and found the knife—this is it—it is a steel blade—it is a common dessert knife—it had these spots on at the time.

COURT. Q. You found the child wrapped in linen, I believe? A. Yes, and brown woollen over it—a sort of petticoat—the linen seemed like a large piece of rag—it was not fastened in any way round the child—it was merely wrapped in it.

WILLIAM EPPS . I am a policeman. I went to Mr. Jeffery's house on Sunday morning, the 20th of November, at six o'clock, to take charge of the prisoner—I remained there till two o'clock, and was then received by another person—I was in the same room with the prisoner—Sarah Whitby was attending on her as nurse—she had been speaking to the prisoner on religious topics, and said she deserved punishment—she said, "I know I deserve punishment"—Mrs. Whitby said she must look up to the Almighty—this was about eleven o'clock—she then left the room for gruel, for five or ten minutes, and, directly she was gone, the prisoner said, "Oh dear, it is a bad job"—I said, "Yes, it is a bad job"—she said, "What was I to do? I concealed it from my mistress all along, I denied it; I went down to get breakfast, and I was taken so ill, I found I was obliged to go up again—I took a knife and went up, and when the child was born, I took it and cut its throat—when I got well enough to go away, I intended to take the child and make away with it, and myself too"—I then asked her what the father was, she told me an omnibus-driver—I asked her if she had got any friends in London—she told me she had got a sister only, but she had got a father and mother about a hundred miles in the country—the nurse then came in—I did not tell her what had passed—my inspector had told me not to put any questions to the prisoner—I thought her quite sensible at the time—she appeared quite aware of what she was doing in talking to me—I was in my police-dress—she knew me to be a policeman.

Cross-examined. Q. Was this the first time you were with her? A. Yes, I never knew her before—I did not tell this to the nurse.

SARAH WHITBY . I am married; I was acting as nurse at Mr. Jeffery's. On Saturday, the 19th of November, I was attending the prisoner, and also on Sunday—I was there while the policeman was in the room with her—I had been prying by her, and told her she must look up to God Almighty—she did not say she deserved punishment—she could not have said so

while I was in the room—I was not out of it more than two minutes—I consider her to have been in a lost state on Sunday—not sensible—she took no notice of any one, nor asked for any thing—I did not ask her any questions, no more than in prayer—I never named the death of the child to her—I do not remember naming any of the circumstances to her—I considered the child lying there sufficient—I only prayed to the Almighty, and prayed her to do the same—I did not hear her have any conversation with the policeman—I was not down stairs more than two minutes—I was not allowed to stop for what I went for.

Cross-examined. Q. Did the prisoner appear to you on Saturday or Sunday in an insensible state? A. Quite so—this cap and this night. gown was in a basket, with some of her clothing, underneath the bed.

COURT. Q. You were examined before the Coroner, I believe? A. Yes—she did not say to me that she deserved to be punished—I said before the Coroner that she said on Monday or Tuesday she deserved to be punished—I thought I heard her say so, but it was in prayer—she was engaged in prayer on Monday and Tuesday, but she never said it except in prayer—I prayed by her, and read the Bible to her on Sunday afternoon—I told her to repent, and pray for mercy—I told her so first on Saturday, and also repeatedly on Sunday—I do not remember asking her now she came to do it on Saturday—I do not remember saying before the Coroner that I did.

Q. On Monday did she tell you that if she had known what she had done, she would not have done it? A. I do not remember it—I do not remember telling her that she had murdered her baby.

Mrs. JEFFERY re-examined. I remember Mrs. Whitby coming for some gruel on Sunday morning while the policeman was there—I took no notice how long she was out of the prisoner's room—I had seen the knife up stairs some time before that day.

(Mrs. Hammond, of Kentish Town, gave the prisoner a good character.)

GUILTY. of concealing the birth, but not of the murder. Aged 18.— Confined Two years.

Before Mr. Justice Vaughan.

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