18th April 1904
Reference Numbert19040418-352
VerdictGuilty > insane
SentenceImprisonment > insanity

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352. LILY COLEMAN (26) , Indicted for and charged on the Coroner's Inquisition with the wilful murder of William George Coleman.


WILLIAM LOWMAN . I am relieving officer for the parish of Edmonton, and I have known the prisoner for about two or three years—when I first knew her she was living with her mother—she had two children then—

she then complained of her husband's cruelty and neglect—I advised her to get a separation—she said she was afraid to do so, and was sure he would kill her if she took any proceedings in Court—she came to me about October 22nd, 1903, with her mother, who applied for relief on the prisoner's behalf, who seemed so distressed that she did not appear capable of doing anything—she seemed to be very feeble in mind and body—I went to her house—I thought I should have to take proceedings in lunacy—I granted her outdoor relief—I was present in Court on February 11th, when proceedings were taken against her husband for neglecting to maintain her—he was sentenced to pay 40s. in costs or one month's hard labour—the prisoner was in Court—her husband said she was a worthless woman, and all she was fit for was to go with other men, and was a dirty h———she took her discharge from the workhouse on February 23rd, taking her baby with her—her other two children were taken away next day.

Cross-examined. The husband paid the 40s.—while 1 have known the prisoner she has been in the greatest distress through the neglect and ill-treatment of her husband—the words he used when he was fined were used in open Court and in her presence—she is a most respectable and hard-working woman—she suffered from bad health—before she went into the workhouse in October I found she had been in a hospital at Potter's Bar, and had been very ill there—she appeared to be very fond of her children, and desirous to do the best she could for them—she seemed very fond of the deceased, who was her youngest child—when she applied for relief she appeared to be very low-spirited and broken-hearted—she said she was tired of everything, and wished she was dead—I found that as her sufferings increased and as her health got worse her mind became more feeble.

ADELINE PIKE . I am the wife of Herbert Charles Pike, of 9a, Bath Road—I have known the prisoner's husband since Christmas—about February 19th he came to live at my house for about two weeks—he was by himself—then he brought two little children with him and remained in the house until March 3rd—on March 2nd. at 9 a.m. the prisoner came with a baby aged nineteen months—I did not notice how she seemed to be—she asked if I would take her in, as she had nowhere to go, her mother having turned her out—I said she would have to wait till my husband returned, as, we had only two rooms—my husband said we must ask our landlady, who said the prisoner might stay for one night, which she did—she said her head was very bad, and that if she had stayed away for another month she would have gone quite mad, as the pains at the back of her head were something awful.

EDITH SIBLEY . I am the wife of George Sibley, of 8, Eleanor Terrace, Bath Road, Edmonton—I have known the prisoner and her husband for about five years—the prisoner came to my house between 9 and 9.30 a.m. on March 2nd—she was crying—I asked her what she had come for—she said she had nowhere to go, as her mother had turned her out—she asked if Bill was with us; that is her husband—I went to Mrs. Pike's and fetched him—he told the prisoner he would have her back again,

but he had no home—I do rot know what she said—he took her to her mother's, and then they went to lodge at Mrs. Pike's—the prisoner came to me on March 3rd—she sit down in a chair, burst out crying, and said she had nowhere to go, as her mother had turned her out; what should she do.—I said I did not know until my husband came home—she had her baby with her—her husband came in afterwards, and they sat down for a few minutes, and then went over to Mrs. Pike's again—about 7.30 they came in again; my husband had returned by then—they had three children with them—I made them up a bed in the back room and lit a fire—they had some food with me—I made no charge—the prisoner and her husband seemed to be on friendly terms—they and the children went to bed—I heard them talking loudly in the night—I could not hear what was said—on March—4th they went out in the morning, taking the baby with them and leaving the other children with me—they returned about 8 p.m., and slept in the back room—I heard them mumbling—on March 5th they had more food—Mr. Coleman came down early—I was in bed when he went out—the prisoner had breakfast with me—she cried, and said her husband had been on to her during the night—she said she was tired of it; that she did not know what she would do, and felt as if she could make away with herself—I said, "I should not do that; think of your children"—she said, "Wherever I go, I will take my baby with me: he can look after the rest"—her husband came home and said his mother was making up a bed, and the children would be all right—the prisoner then went up stairs; her husband followed her—she came down about 11 a.m. with the baby in one hand and a bag in the other—they were dressed to go out—I asked her where she was going—she said, "to the pledge"—the baby was dressed in a petticoat, white flannelette cape, navy blue socks, and no boots—the prisoner said, "I shall not be long"—on March 22nd I went to the Tottenham mortuary where I saw the body of the baby—I also identified the clothing as that which the child had been wearing—when the prisoner left my house she was very much put about and worried—the child was delicate, and could not walk.

Cross-examined. The prisoner had been very ill ever since she had her last baby—she complained of pains in her head—on March 5th I heard her say that if the pains in her head went on she would not be able to live—her mind appeared to be weak when she said that—I was rather frightened of her. and thought she might go out of her mind—I did not like to have her in the house, because she was strange in her manner—on March 4th she tramped the whole way from Potter's Bar with her baby—the pains in her head that night were very bad.

BERTRAM SAUNDERS . I am a pawnbroker, of J. Gordon Buildings, Bounces Road, Lower Edmonton—on March 5th the prisoner came to my shop about 11 a.m. and offered me some garments in pledge: she asked la for them; eventually I advanced her (id.

FLORENCE HARDING . I am the wife of Henry Harding, a labourer, of 1. Baden Terrace, Victoria Road, Edmonton—the prisoner is my sister—she has been married for six years and had two boys and one girl—the eldest boy is five, the one that was drowned was nineteen months—she

Came out of the Edmonton Workhouse on February 23rd, having been there for four months—before that she had been in a cottage hospital at Potters Bar for two or three weeks—when she came out of the work-house she brought her baby with her—on March 5th she came to my house about 2.30 p.m.; she sat down on a chair in my kitchen; she took the baby's flannelette nightgown off the fireguard and put it round her head, and started to scream and cry—I said, "What is the matter, Lil? Has he been carrying on with you again?—I meant her husband—she said, "Yes"—I said, "Where is the baby?"—she said, "I have drowned him"—she said she had done so in the Lea about 12 o'clock—I said, "For God's sake, Lil, tell me it is not true"—she said. "It is true"—she said her husband had been carrying on with her all night and that morning—she said she was going back to drown herself—I took her to the Edmonton Police Station—she saw Inspector Scarfe, and wrote out a statement—she was very fond of her children.

Cross-examined. I said at the police court, "She seemed terribly excited," and that is correct—she had been suffering from very bad health, low spirits, and melancholia.

SAMUEL SCARFE (Police Inspector.) On March 5th Mrs. Harding brought the prisoner to the station about 3.30—the prisoner was crying, and in great distress—Mrs. Harding made a statement to me in the prisoner's presence—she said, "My sister, Lily Coleman, of 8. Bath Road, Edmonton, came to me just now; she was crying; I asked her to come in; when I got her in I asked her what was the matter, and said, "Has he been carrying on with you?" meaning her husband; she said she had thrown the baby into the Lea, so I said she had better come to the police station; I did not know what to say to her, I was so put out; she said she was going back to drown herself; she has been in the workhouse for some time. Her husband, William Cross Coleman. drinks, and treats her shocking"—I said, "You hear what your sister has said; anything you say may be used in evidence against you"—she said, "I would rather write down what I have to say—she then made this statement:" I came out of my room this morning to pawn my petticoat, to get my little children some bread, because they had not got any to eat; I ask a shilling on it; the man only lent me sixpence on it, so I was distracted and broken-hearted, for the person in the house could hear my husband going at me all night and all this morning; he told me if I went back to him and looked after the children and him, he would be a better chap to me, but he has. been worse; he told me he would smash my brains out for me this morning, so I came out broken-hearted, and drowned my little pet in the River Lea at 12 o'clock, William George Coleman, age one year and seven months old; I drowned him over the bridge, on the right hand side of the bridge, opposite Ward's public house.

JOHN MARTIN (Police Inspector.) On March 5th I saw the prisoner at Edmonton Police Station—I told her I was a police officer, and that she would be charged with the murder of her little baby—she said, "It is quite right; I was driven to desperation; my husband this morning said he would smash my b——brains out, for no reason. About 11 a.m. I went to pawn

my petticoat for 1s. at Mr. Saunders', the pawnbrokers, to get some bread for my children: here is the ticket, sir. He only lent me 6d. on it. Then I went to the Angel Road bridge and threw ray little dear into the water; I saw my poor little dear go down"—she was charged, and she said, "Yes."

Cross-examined. I agree with what Lawman said in answer to your questions—the prisoner is a highly respectable woman; she has been suffering for four or rive years.

JAMES BRENNAN . I am a lock keeper at Stonebridge Lock. Tottenham—on March 21st in the morning I found the body of a child in the River Lea; about a mile and a quarter below the Angel Bridge—I handed the body to the police.

HENRY DAVIS (Detective Sergeant.) On March 21st I received from Brennan the body of a child—I took it to the mortuary, where it was seen by Mrs. Sibley and Mrs. Harding.

ARTHUR STENTON RATHBONE WAINWRIGHT . I am divisional surgeon of police—on March 21st I saw the body of a child at the mortuary—I examined it, and on the following day I made a post mortem examina-tion—I came to the conclusion that death was caused by drowning—I cannot say how long the child had been dead—the body was in a good state of preservation.

Evidence for the Defence.

SIMON FRAZER . I am the medical officer for Edmonton parish—I have known the prisoner for four years—I was called to her on the evening of her second confinement—the midwife who had been engaged was late in arriving; I do not know why—I have seen the prisoner from time to time since—she has always been a delicate woman, and is feeble minded—prolonged ill-health and ill-treatment would still further weaken her mind—I have heard complaints on innumerable occasions of the way her husband treated her—I also attended the deceased in November, 1902, and I saw the state of the home and the terrible state the prisoner was in—she appeared to me to be very much distressed and melancholy—she would not raise her eyes off the ground or speak to me—she was not properly fed—that would also affect her mind—I only attended the prisoner when the child was about three months old—I last saw her on October 28th; her mind was then more feeble than it had been.

Cross-examined. I did not examine her then—I only examined the children with a view to sending them to the workhouse—the prisoner was very distressed, and said she was tired of life—she is not of very high intelligence—I do not think she had any delusions; she always appeared to be in fear, which would be a very natural result of the treatment of her husband.

Re-examined. Such treatment would tend to weaken and unhinge her mind.

GEORGE GRIFFITHS . I am the medical officer at Holloway Prison—I have had the prisoner under special observation since March 7th—she has been very depressed, and when she came under my care she was in

a very poor physical condition—she struck me as being feeble minded—I have read the depositions in this case—she complained of symptoms of ovaritis, which is a very painful disease—with her it is chronic; it is apt to affect the mind—I have had many interviews with the prisoner—I think she was an affectionate mother—I think she is sufficiently sane to understand what she is doing now—she is naturally an unstable and feeble minded person, and I think the condition and general stress of her condition and the want of food unhinged her mind for the time being, and that she was not responsible at the time she did the act.

Cross-examined. I spoke to her about the act—she seemed to recollect; gradually what she had done—she was dazed, but it seemed to come to her when she talked about it—she was a long way below the average intelligence; she had no delusions, and I would not care to certify her as insane now—there is a great difference between a person being feeble minded and being insane—the prisoner appeared to be very sorry for what she had done—she wept a great deal when she spoke about it—I did not ask her if she knew that what she had done was wrong, but I should say that she did know—I do not think I asked her if she had any reason for doing what she had done—she spoke of the general circumstances which led up to her having done what she had done—she said she was in very great trouble, and was ill treated by her husband.

GUILTY, but insane at the time and not responsible for her actions. To be detained during His Majesty's pleasure. The prisoner's husband was censured and warned by the Court.

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