19th August 1844
Reference Numbert18440819-2179
VerdictNot Guilty > non compos mentis

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2179. AMELIA ALFERY was indicted for feloniously attempting to drown Mary Sarah French, with intent to murder her:—Other COUNTS, calling her Mary French.

WILLIAM ALFERY . I do not know how old I am—the prisoner is my sister—I live with my father, by the White Horse, on the water side, Wandsworth. On the 29th of July I was on Wandsworth-common—I saw the prisoner there by herself, at a place called Black Sea—there was plenty there—she

had her children with her, a little girl and a boy—their names were Henry French and Mary French—she has lived with a man of the name of French, and the children were called by his name—I went away for some time, and came back to play at cricket—I did not see her then—when I went over in the afternoon, I saw her walking about, and the children with her—I do not know what time it was—I did not see her do anything—I heard her scream—she was then in the water, in a pond there—the children were with her—I do not know whether they were tied to her—I went in—it was very shallow water—I held up the children's heads, and tried to hold her head up too—I kept the children's heads above water till somebody came—I saw her before I saw her in the water, and asked her to go home with me, and she told me to go home—I did not see her sitting on a bench, I saw her walking about—I did not hear her say anything to the children—I saw them with her before I saw them in the water—I did not hear her call to them—I did not see her do anything with a shawl before she went into the water—I did see her go into the water—I do not know how the children were taken into the water—I was not watching her—I saw her go in—I think the children walked in—nobody has talked to me about this since I was before the Magistrate—I think the children walked into the water—I did not see them go in—I did not see her carry them—I was looking another way when she went in.

Cross-examined by MR. CHARNOCK. Q. Do you mean to represent that you actually saw her go into the water with the children, or saw her after she was in? A. I saw her after she was in the water, I did not see her go in—I saw her sitting on the bench—I do not know what time of day it was—it was in the afternoon—there was plenty of others there, fishing, and running all round when I saw her first—I left her, went home, and then returned again to play at cricket—I stopped at home about ten minutes—it was her scream that I heard—I heard somebody in the water, I did not know who it was, and I ran over—I cannot say whether it was the children's scream or the prisoner's—the water was just up to my knees—she has been in confinement.

GEORGE STEER . I am gardener to Mr. Wilson, of Wandsworth-common. On the evening of the 29th of July I heard a scream, went to the pond, and found the prisoner and her two children in the water—the little boy (Alfrey) was then endeavouring to keep the children's heads above water—I assisted, and got them out—the children were placed one on each side of the prisoner—one was tied to her body with a shawl, but in my flurry I did not see whether the other was or not—the prisoner was lying on her back in the water—it did not cover her face at that moment—she was very much exhausted indeed—the only thing I heard her say was "My children," in a very low tone—I got them all out of the water, and they were conveyed to the workhouse—I untied the knot of the shawl—it was a double knot, by which the children were fastened to her.

Cross-examined. Q. It was the mother's scream you heard, was it not? A. It was the four screams—the whole of them screamed—I did not particularly distinguish the mother's scream—the place where I saw them was very shallow at that particular time—some parts of the pond are deep—the part where they were is not more than a foot deep, and for a considerable distance round—I think she was not sensible—she was very much frightened indeed, her hands and finger-nails changed quite into a blue state—the only thing she said was, "My children," so very low that no one but myself heard it I think—I assisted in taking her part of the way to the workhouse, but could not maintain my strength to carry her all the way—I know nothing of her circumstances, or of the man French, or of her having been in a place of confinement, only from what I have heard.

WILLIAM LEE (policeman.) I was alarmed and came to the pond—the prisoner was then out of the pond, supported by Steer—she appeared in a very exhausted state—I assisted to move her to the workhouse—I have the shawl.

Cross-examined. Q. I believe she was scarcely able to articulate? A. No—I was at the station-house—she did not say anything there about her children—all I heard her say was, it was trouble—she did not say what trouble—she did not say, "O, my children, O, my children!"—she was in a very weak state—I saw no letter.

EMILY ALFERY . I am the mother of the prisoner—she is not married—she has for six years lived with a man of the name of French, and has had two children by him—he has been in prison lately, and since he came out of prison he has deserted her—in consequence of that she has been ill, and has been confined six weeks in a Lunatic Asylum—I fetched her out, and took her to my house about three months ago—I had observed lately, before this day, symptoms of her being ill again—she became very poorly—I thought her head was getting wrong again sometimes.

JOHN BUSAIN (police-inspector.) I took the prisoner in charge—I have a letter which I received in Court—I saw it handed from the Governor of the workhouse into the hands of the Magistrate's clerk, and from him it was sent to me—I put a mark on it—I told the prisoner she was charged with attempting to murder her two children, and attempting to commit suicide—she said very faintly to me, "It was distress that made me do it."

EMILY ALFERY re-examined, I saw this letter taken from my daughter at the workhouse—it is from French—she had received that since she came from the asylum—it was after the receipt of that letter that I observed the symptoms of her head being wrong again.

(Letter read)—"AMELIA,—I understand that you have been at my sister's, inquiring after me; and I should be much obliged to you if you would not trouble my sister, for I think she has had trouble enough already. You need not trouble yourself in seeking after me, for I don't mean to have any more to do with you or any other woman at present. I will do what I can for the children; (God bless them!) but unfortunately it is out of my power at present to do any more than I am sending. I have had to walk a great many miles in seeking employment; whereas if you had let me have been at T. Morison's a little while longer, till I had got into work, which I had a good prospect of summer work; whereas if you had let me be, we might have been comfortable now. But where is the man that will stand the hunting as I did, which you are now hunting me night and day, and actually drove me from my native land, where I meant to be, unless I have to come, on particular occasions, to Wandsworth. Make up your mind for industry; and throw off that independent spirit which is your enemy. If you have any thing to say to me you can send word by J. Cremer, where I shall be, at his place, one day in the week, as I have little or nothing to do. No more at present. Adieu.


MR. CHARNOCK to EMILY ALFERY. Q. Was she a kind and affectionate mother to her children? A. Yes—she interested herself very much about the trouble French got into, and went about everywhere to get him a character, and get him a very light sentence—she travelled night and day for him—this letter was found in her bosom when she was taken from the water—it fell out in my presence, when they were taking her clothes off—I never saw anythingin her conduct to the children but that of a kind and affectionate mother—after French deserted her I took her and her children, and did my best—she has

been very unhappy since the receipt of that letter—she was six weeks in Garrett's Lunatic Asylum.

NOT GUILTY, being of unsound mind.

Before Mr. Recorder.

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