Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 16 May 2021), May 1741, trial of Elizabeth Bennet (t17410514-7).

Elizabeth Bennet, Killing > infanticide, 14th May 1741.

7. Elizabeth Bennet , of St. James Westminster , was indicted, for that she, on the 13th Day of April , being big with a certain female Child, afterwards, the said Child, by the Providence of God, alone and secretly she did bring forth alive; which said female Child, by the Laws of this Realm, was a Bastard; and that she, not having God before her Eyes, &c. as soon as born, on the said female Child, so alive, &c. did make an Assault, and then and there did take the said female Child, in both her Hands, and the said Child into a certain privy, belonging to Richard Lucas , &c. did cast and throw; by reason of which casting and throwing, the said Child was choaked and suffocated ; of which choaking and suffocating , it instantly died .

She was a second time charged, by virtue of the Coroner's Inquisition, for the said Murder.

Elizabeth Lucas . On the 13th of April, between 8 and 9 in the Morning, the Prisoner came into my House, and said, she was very ill of the Colick, and wanted to go backwards. She sat some time in the Room, seemingly very uneasy, and then went backwards. She came in again presently, and walked about the Room, complaining that she was very ill, and said, if I had a Room and a Bed to spare, she would go to Bed; so I desired my Husband to ask our Lodger to resign her Room, but she would not. After this, the Prisoner walked about the Room some Time, and then went backwards a second time; and she staying longer than I expected, I followed her, and perceived that the Necessary-house had been washed: I asked her the reason of it, and she said, her Nose had bled. As to the Child, I saw nothing of it. The Prisoner lodged with me before this, and I took her for a single person, and a very sober good Woman .

Prisoner. What Distance of Time was there, from my going to the Little-house, and your coming to me?

Mrs. Lucas. I really believe it was about two Minutes.

Prisoner. Did I seem to be in any pain when I returned the second time.

Mrs. Lucas. My Fright was so great, I can't tell.

C. Did you ask her if she had made any provision for the Child?

Mrs. Lucas . She said she had wrote to her Mother for some things .

Richard Lucas . My Wife called me to see if the Person who lodges in our House would resign her Room, that the Prisoner might have it, but she would not; and at my Return , my Wife said to me, I hope Betty is not with Child. I then went into the Kitchen , and saw the Prisoner washing her Hands at the Water-tub, and the Bottom of her Apron was very bloody. I informed my Wife of this, and she said, she hoped there was nothing in the Vault, so I got a Candle and looked into it, and saw something which I took at first to be a piece of Cloth. I got Mrs. Watlin to come and see it, and I got a pair of Tongs, and turned it about, and then the Child's Leg appeared . Upon this I went out to get Assistance, and locked the Door to prevent the Prisoner's escaping, and before I returned the Child was taken out of the Vault, and was dead.

C. Can you form any Judgment by the Growth of the Child?

Lucas . To my Thoughts, it seemed to be at its full Growth, for it had Hair and Nails. - I observed no Marks on it at all.

Ann Davis . I was going by Mr. Lucas's Door, and was desired to go in. I went into Mrs. Lucas's Room, and she said the Prisoner was gone backwards, and staid a little longer than ordinary; upon which I went to see what she was doing, and met her in the passage, opening the Door. I gave her Room to go by, and she went into the parlour and sat down, and seemed to be mighty bad. Mrs. Lucas said to her, '' I fear, Betty, thou hast '' been delivered of a Child.'' The Prisoner denied she had been delivered; so Mrs. Lucas desired me to go backwards and see. Mr. Lucas gave me a Candle, and on looking down the Vault I perceived a new-born Infant. I informed Mrs. Lucas what I had seen, and endeavoured to get the Child up; and, with the Assistance of another, I did get it up; but it was dead. I believe it was at its full Growth, for there were Nails on its Hands, and Hair on its Head . The Child was not covered over with the Soil; it lay on its Face, leaning rather to the left Side; and the Face was in the Soil.

C. Was there any thing about it?

Davis. Nothing at all; it was quite naked, as it was born.

Prisoner. Do you think it possible for a Child to be born casually from a Woman under these Circumstances?

Davis. I have heard of such things, but I never knew it.

Ann Watlin . Mr. Lucas came to me, and asked me to lend him a Candle; I did so, and he went up Stairs directly. He came down again presently, and desired me to go backwards with him, and look down the Vault: I did so, and he asked me, what I thought it was; I said, I believed it was paper; upon that he fetch'd a pair of Tongs and rapped it; it founded hard, and on his turning it about, a Leg or an Arm appeared. He strove to get it up, but could not, and he desired me to go into the Room to the Prisoner; I did so, and asked her what she had done? and told her, she had had a Child; but she said, it was no such thing. I saw the Child afterwards, and there were no Marks of Violence at all upon it.

Prisoner. Do you think it possible for Nature to do this?

Watlin. I am no competent Judge of that. God is sufficient at all times to help poor Creatures ; but I can't say I ever had any Trial of it.

Prisoner. Had you any Conversation with me about making provision for the Child?

Watlin. No, I never heard her say any thing about that.

Jane Ramsey . I went to see a Cousin of mine, who lodges at Lucas's, and saw Mrs. Lucas, the Prisoner, and another Woman with a Child in her Arms, in the Room. The Woman said, she believed the Prisoner had been delivered; and I saw the Child in a Pail, covered with an Apron. I asked the Prisoner if she had made any provision for it; and she said she had sent into the Country for some things.


Prisoner. I asked for a Lodging, and they said they had none - I had the Colick, and the Child came from me - I did not know I was so near my Time.

Henry Tailor . The Prisoner sent for me when she was at the Gate house, and said, there were several things in her Box: she sent the Key to the House keeper where she lived, and I was present at the opening the Box, and these things were found in it.

A Witness. Here is every thing that is proper for a young Infant, and a great many poor Women have not so many.

Mary Chambers . I carried the Key to Mr. Winnington's House-keeper, and saw the Box opened, and these things taken out. The Prisoner delivered the Key to me, to fetch some things out of her Box, for her necessary Uses, and said, she had sent into the Country for some Child bed linen.

Prisoner. Do you think it is not possible for a Child to be born in this manner, without the Mother's being able to perceive it?

Chambers . I believe it is, but I never knew an Instance of it.

Q. to Mrs. Lucas . Did the Prisoner say any thing to you, that there was any Child bed-linen in her Box?

Lucas. She said she had sent into the Country to her Mother; - she sat in a very dull way, and said but little to any body.

Prisoner. I had the things in my Box, but I was not sensible of telling it .

Ann Lloyd . On the Thursday after the Prisoner was at the Gate-house, I asked her if she had made any preparation for the Child; and she said, there were some things in her Box, which would be found when that was opened. The Jury found the Prisoner guilty , Death .