28th March 1911
Reference Numbert19110328-46
VerdictsGuilty > insane
SentencesImprisonment > insanity

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MARTIN, Mary Ann (38), was indicted for and charged on the coroner's inquisition with the wilful murder of Helen May Martin, and attempting to commit suicide.

Mr. Travers Humphreys and Mr. Roome prosecuted; Mr. Symmons defended.

ROSA MASON , wife of John Mason, Enfield. I have known prisoner 15 years; she has been married eight years and has lived since then at 5, Cross Road. She has had four children, one of which died seven years ago, two are alive, and the other one is the baby named Helen May, and 14 months old. Prisoner's husband was a postman, and they were religious people; they attended the Wesleyan chapel. Towards the end of February and the beginning of March I noticed she seemed very much worried. She seemed to be on affectionate terms with her husband and children. About 4.40 on March 7, I went to her house, I knocked at the door for about 20 minutes and could not get an answer. I heard children crying inside. I spoke to a painter, Oliver, and he got into the house through the parlour window

and opened the front door. I went upstairs to the boxroom where the children told me their mother was. The door was locked and I knocked and said, "Mary, open the door," and she said "No." I asked her where her husband was, and she said "Locked up." Shortly after the husband came in, knocked the glass out of the door and went into the room.

Cross-examined. Mr. Martin is a quiet, respectable man, and had done nothing which I know of which was likely to lead to his being locked up. I thought prisoner used to stop too much in the house, and I tried to get her to come out, but she would not come, as she said the police would lock her up. She seemed very depressed and dispirited.

GEORGE CHARLES OLIVER , painter, 2, Cross Road. On March 7 I was painting some windows at No. 5, Cross Road, when I saw Mrs. Mason knocking at the front door for about 20 minutes. I looked through the letter-box and saw a child sitting on the stairs. I got through the parlour window and opened the front door. Mrs. Mason went upstairs while I went on with my work. A little time after, prisoner's husband came alone the road home. I spoke to him and he went into the house. He had been there some few minutes when he came and spoke to me. I rushed upstairs into the boxroom, where I saw prisoner with her head on a pillow on the floor, the face down-wards, and partly on her side. She was holding her little baby girl right underneath her, tight to her bosom. It seemed to be quite dead. Prisoner was bleeding from the throat, and I pushed a cloth tight to the throat to staunch the blood. The child had a piece of some material, either tape or silk, tied tightly round its throat. I asked her what made her do a thing like that, and she said, "My 'hubby' is going to be locked up, and now he is locked up." I saw a razor with blood upon it on the mantelpiece. I have known prisoner and her husband seven years. She has always been devoted to her husband and children.

Cross-examined. Her husband had only left the room a very short time when she said that he was locked up. She seemed quite rational, but depressed and crying.

Police-constable JOHN HATFIELD, 474 Y. About 5.15 p.m. on March 7 I was called to 5, Cross Road, where I saw in a little bed-room prisoner lying face downwards with a slight cut in her throat and the child in her arm underneath her. I carried her into the bed-room and put her on the bed. Police-constable Watson undid the silk which was round the child's neck. I covered prisoner's throat with a piece of linen. She said, "Oh, I have killed my Nellie;" she seemed very excited.

Police-constable ABRAHAM WATSON, 732 Y. On March 7 I went with the last witness to 5, Cross Road. I untied the silk from around the child's neck and tried artificial respiration without effect. I asked prisoner her name and she said, "Don't let them all come up. I thought someone was getting in the back. I have done a terrible thing. I have murdered my child. I don't know what I shall do."

Dr. RICHARD FLEMMING STIRKE HEARN, Enfield. About 5.15 p.m. on March 7 I was called to 5, Cross Road, where I saw prisoner lying on the floor in the back room on the first floor. There were two wounds in her throat, which I stitched up. Her face was very swollen and congested, due to attempted strangulation. In the next room on the bed was the child Helen May, who was dead. Round the neck there was a mark which was very deep in the front, which showed that something had been tied tightly round the neck. Death was caused by strangulation and had taken place about half an hour before. While I was attending to prisoner's wounds she said, "I have killed my child. I do not know why I did it. I am very sorry," or words to that effect. She said that she had said something disrespectful of the Roman Catholics and they were after her, and everybody was watching her and she was afraid to go out.

Cross-examined. She was in great mental agony. To believe that people are watching her and that those dear to her are in danger is an ordinary form of mental hallucination and a well-marked sign of mental infirmity.

Police-constable FREDERICK GILDERSLEEVES, 760 Y. At 5.30 p.m. on March 7 I went to 5, Cross Road, where I saw prisoner lying on the floor with a bandage round her head. I heard the doctor ask her what she did it with, and she said, "I strangled her with a piece of silk. It is all because of those Roman Catholics." I was left in charge of her. She said, "I imagined everybody was against me. My husband also spoke well of them, too. I thought it was them that had been at the back tapping. Every time my husband went out I thought he was never coming back. That is the reason why I strangled the baby, but it was wicked for me to do such a thing, for if I had waited a little longer I would not have done it." She appeared to be suffering from delusions; she was somewhat excited. (To the Court.) She did not seem responsible for what she was saying.

JULIUS MOORE , divisional surgeon, Enfield. On March 10 I made a post-mortem examination of the deceased and found the cause of death to be strangulation. The child was a perfectly healthy one and looked clean and well cared for. On the night of March 7 I saw prisoner, and owing to her mental and physical state directed that she should be put into a private room and be watched all night.

Detective-inspector ALFRED SHOLES, Wood Green. At 8.45 p.m. I saw prisoner detained at the police-station. I told her who I was and that she was being detained for the murder of her child. She said, "I am very sorry. I do not know what made me do it. Where is my husband?" I told her that he was coming to the station to see her. She said, "Do he kind to him. He has been such a good husband to me." I went to the house and saw the body of deceased. I then returned to the station and charged her with wilful murder and attempting to commit suicide. She said, "It is terrible."

Cross-examined. Prisoner's rooms were spotlessly clean and the children were well developed. The husband is a perfectly respectable

man. There is a gentleman named Heri, a Roman Catholic, in a superior position in the Post Office to that of the husband, who has helped him to get promotion. There is not the slightest truth in prisoner's suggestion that anybody was watching her.


WILLIAM CHARLES SULLIVAN , medical officer, Holloway Prison. I have had prisoner under observation since March 8. I am of opinion that she is insane, and was so when she committed this offence. I found her suffering from delusions of the nature that have been described. She would be worse at her monthly periods than at other times. She told me at those times that she felt more worried and depressed and not sure of herself. She committed this crime the day before her periods. Her form of insanity is melancholia accompanied by delusions and homicidal and suicidal impulses.

Verdict, Guilty, but insane, so as not to be responsible for her actions. Prisoner was ordered to be detained pending His Majesty's pleasure.


(Friday, March 31.)

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