7th January 1856
Reference Numbert18560107-183
VerdictNot Guilty > non compos mentis
SentenceImprisonment > insanity

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183. MARY M'NEIL was indicted for the wilful murder of George M'Neil.

MESSRS. BODKIN and CLERK conducted the Prosecution.

HENRY CHARLES PICKERING . In Nov. last I resided at No. 17, Murray-street, Shoreditch. The prisoner was the landlady of that house—she occupied the ground floor, and one of the kitchens, and we had the up stairs apartments, and one kitchen—we had lived there more than a year—the prisoner had three children—one was born in that house—two of them were living with her at the time in question—the eldest child was called George M'Neil—on Thursday, 29th Nov., I saw the prisoner, about 11 o'clock at night, when she came into our kitchen—the last time I saw the boy, George, alive, was about 2 o'clock in the day—next morning, about half past 7 o'clock, I came out of my bedroom, and went down stairs—on the stairs I saw a cash box, and a dress piece lying across it—I believe it was the prisoner's—I went down into the kitchen to wash, as was my usual custom, and afterwards returned up stairs—I took up the cash box to take it into the prisoner's room—her door was slightly open—I knocked at the door, and said, "Are you up, ma'am? are you up, ma'am?"—she then said, "Oh! what have I done! what have I done! what have I done!" three times—I said, "Done? I think you have done a very pretty thing, to put your money and things on the stairs"—at the same moment I pushed the door open, and looked in—I saw the baby lying on the bed—I saw blood on the bed—the prisoner was concealed behind the door—I do not remember seeing her at that time—when I saw the blood on the bed, I directly dropped the cash box, went to the street door, and called across to a milkman, who was the first person I saw—he would not come—I then saw a policeman, and beckoned to him—he came—I told him what had happened, and showed him the room—he went in first—I followed him in, and saw that the two children, George and Edwin, were both dead—the third child had been taken into the country about a month previously—the prisoner was taken into custody by the policeman, and taken to the station—when I returned from the station, I saw a razor lying on the bed, and a case belonging to it—it was my razor—I kept it in a box, locked, in our kitchen—after the razor was found, I went down stairs, and found my box unlocked—I afterwards saw a key brought out of the prisoner's room—I cannot say whether it was taken off the drawer or out of the drawer—it fitted my box—some short time before this, I found that a razor which I kept in a case in the kitchen drawer, along with a comb, and brush, and other things, had been meddled with—it had been turned round in the case, and put in the wrong way, twice within a fortnight—I was determined to find out who had done it, and I spoke to the children and the servant about it—I then named it to the prisoner—she said she had not done it.

Cross-examined by MR. BALLANTINE. Q. She was very comfortably off, was she not? A. I had every reason to believe so—there seemed to be a sufficiency of everything—they had plenty to eat and drink, and plenty of clothes—she seemed very happy and comfortable up to a certain time, and then I observed a change in her—it was on 19th Sept. that I observed the change—the baby was then between four and five months old—I believe up to the time of this change she had been a kind and attentive parent, and very affectionate to her children—when I saw her in her bedroom on the morning in question, after the death of her children, she was moaning—the children had apparently been dead some hours—they were quite cold—from 19th Sept. she appeared extremely unhappy, and extremely bad at times—I have seen her in a great state of excitement with her children—she used to say they had nothing to wear to go out in—that was not the fact—on one Sunday morning I offered to take the little boy for a walk with

my own little boy—she said he could not go, because he had nothing to put on, and she should be ashamed to let him go with me—I told his sister, Harriet, to go and get his clothes, which she did, and I took him out; and his clothes were very nice indeed, as nice as any gentleman's child need appear in.

ELEANOR PICKERING . I and my husband lodged in the house kept by the prisoner, for about twelve months—I have noticed a change in her manner and conduct for the last two or three months—I first observed it about 24th Sept.—I think she was at that time suffering from milk fever—before that she had been a kind and affectionate mother to her children—she was rather hasty with them at times, but generally speaking, kind and affectionate—since this change she has often complained that her, children had nothing to wear—that was not true—she was frequently running up and down stairs; she seemed to be unhappy and low spirited, and different to What she had been before—she had three children; one of them was sent into the country about a month before this—that was in consequence of my observing the prisoner one day attempt to throw him down the kitchen stairs—she took him by his arms, saying, "I will drop him, I will drop him, I will throw him down"—I was alarmed, and took him from her arms—my husband mentioned it to her friends, and in consequence of that the child was sent into the country—nobody slept in the room with the children on the night in question but the prisoner.

EDWIN THOMPSON (policeman, N 147). I was called by Mr. Pickering to No. 17, Murray-street, on the morning of 30th Nov.—I went with him into a room on the ground floor—there was a bed and a cot in the room—a child about four years old was in the cot, and an infant in the bed—the throats of both of them were cut—they were quite dead and cold—the prisoner was in the room sitting on a footstool by the side of the fire place in one corner of the room, rocking herself up and down, and muttering some words to herself—I believe they were, I have done it; but they were said in such a low tone of voice, I could hardly hear it—I asked her whether she had killed the children—she said, "Yes, I have done it; oh! my poor-children, what shall I do?"—she was not in her night dress, she had her gown on—I took her to the station house—I found a razor and a razor case in the bed—that was before I took her to the station—I afterwards showed it to Mr. Pickering—I saw a towel in the room with stains of blood upon it; there was some bloody water in the washhand basin, and some spots of blood upon it—I found a key in the drawer, in a box of keys, which fitted Mr. Pickering's box where his razors were.

WILLIAM HENRY COWARD . I am surgeon to the police. I saw the bodies of these children on the morning in question—they had been dead several hours—the cause of their death was undoubtedly the wounds in their throats—a razor would have inflicted those wounds—I did not know the prisoner.

JOHN ROWLAND GIBSON . I am surgeon of Newgate. I have had opportunities of seeing the prisoner every day since she has been in the gaol, rather more than a month—my opinion decidedly is, that she was of unsound mind at the time she committed the act.

Cross-examined. Q. If you knew, as a matter of fact, that her father had been in a lunatic asylum, a confirmed lunatic for some years, would that confirm your opinion? A. It would.


CATHERINE M'NEIL . I am the prisoner's mother. About six years ago my husband, her father, was sent to a lunatic asylum in consequence of his

deranged state of mind—he was taken to Grove-hall Institution, and from there was removed to Bethlehem Hospital—he was in confinement for a year and a half—he is not in confinement now—he once cut his throat.

GEORGE JOHN AMSDEN . I am a medical practitioner. I attended the prisoner in her confinement; she rather exhausted herself by nursing the child, and by so doing brought on a state of great nervous depression—I was afterwards called in to see her on 23rd Sept.—I found her labouring under extreme excitement, so much so, that I ordered persons to attend to her, and stay with her—I did not see her for seven days afterwards—she was still in a very excitable state, but rather better in health—from what I saw of her then, and from what I have heard of this transaction, I quite agree with what Mr. Gibson has stated—I never saw her before her confinement.

NOT GUILTY, being insane .— To be detained until Her Majesty's pleasure be known .

Before Mr. Justice Crowder.

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