LAW & ORDER – Supposed Infanticide at Redcar/Murder

Accreditation The Redcar and Saltburn-by-the-Sea Gazette 01/12/1876


            Yesterday, Thursday (30/11) afternoon, the body of a full grown female child was found amongst a heap of bricks and rubbish on a piece of ground belonging to Mr. J. D. Blackburn, in West Dyke, Redcar. The discovery was made by David Allen, a labourer at the gasworks, who was removing some of the bricks from the heap, and he at once gave information to Police Sergeant Alexander, who took possession of the body, and had it removed to the police station. Dr. Bennett was called in to examine the body, and he is of opinion that the child has been dead three or four days, but pending the post mortem examination which will have to be made, we cannot state the cause of death. An inquest will probably be held today (Friday).

Accreditation The Redcar and Saltburn-by-the-Sea Gazette 08/12/1876


            On Saturday afternoon (02/12), an inquest was held at the Alexandra Hotel, Redcar, before A. Buchannan, Esq., coroner for the district, on view of the body of a newly born female child, which was found in West Dyke the previous Thursday (30/11), as reported in the Gazette of last week. The following evidence was adduced:-

David Allen sworn: I am a labourer employed at the Redcar Gas Works, about three o’clock on Thursday afternoon 30th November; I found the body of a newly born child in a heap of brick rubbish which was lying by the side of the public highway leading from Redcar to the race course. The body was wrapped up in an apron, and it had no other clothing of any description to my knowledge. It was laid in a hollow of the bricks. There were some bricks on the top of the body, and I lifted the bricks off the top of it. The face was covered, but not the back part of the head, which could be seen through a hole in the apron. The apron was similar to that now produced by Sgt Alexander. I could see the child was dead. I sent James Purvor, who was working with me barrelling the rubbish, to tell my master, Mr. Wright. I stayed by the body until Purvor returned with my master. I then left the body in their charge, and went for the sergeant of police, who went back with me. I was away about 10 minutes. Purvor was there when I got back; Mr. Wright had gone. The sergeant put the body into a box and took it away, also the apron. The apron was over the child’s face, and I took it off when I first found it. The apron was wrapped in loosely round the body, and was not tight enough to do it any injury. I did not see the whole of the body, and on the parts that I saw there were no marks of violence.

James Purvor corroborated Allen’s evidence.

James Alexander said: I am the sergeant at this police station at Redcar. On Thursday afternoon, 30 November, about a quarter past three o’clock, from information I received from the witness David Allen, I went to a heap of brick rubbish which is laid beside the highway which leads from Redcar to the race course. When I got there Purvor was standing by the heap, and in a hollow in the heap I saw the body of a child laid. It was wrapped up in the apron which I now produce. I could see it was the back of the child through a hole that was in the apron. I turned it over on its back, and took the apron off its face. The child was quite dead, and a little discoloured about the neck and head. There was nothing on the body but the apron, which was a common harding apron, such as is worn by servants. I sent for a little box, and put the child in it. I afterwards took it to the police station, and went for Dr. Bennett, who came and examined the child. I took possession of the apron at the same time as the child. I examined the place where the body was found cursorily at the time, and afterwards more minutely, but could not see anything particular near the spot. The road is much frequented, and the spot where the body was laid is about seventy yards from the railway crossing, and two yards from the side of the road. I have not at present any evidence to offer as to how the body came there, or whose child it is.

James Heaton Bennett deposed: I am a doctor of medicine, and practice at Redcar. On Thursday afternoon, about a quarter to four o’clock, I was called by Please Sergeant Alexander to visit the body of a child which he had brought to the police station. I there found the body of the child the jury have seen, wrapped up in what appeared to be an old dirty apron. On doing it, I found an infant crumpled up. The arms were crossed over the breast, the knees bent, and also bent over the body, and the chin bent over the breast. On examining it I found a female child fully matured, well nourished, and well developed. The child was dead. The naval cord was torn across: there was no ligature in it. There was no trace of decomposition at the time, and from the casual inspection I then made, I noticed a severe bruise on the left side of the neck, extending from the windpipe to underneath the left ear. I also observed that the lips were discoloured, rather prominent, and protruding, as though forced out. The general surface of the body presented the appearance of being just born. Judging from all appearances I don’t think the body was more than four days from birth. On Friday afternoon, I, assisted by Dr. Deas, made a post mortem examination of the body. Decomposition had then and there set in. The most striking feature was the large bruise previously described, on the neck. On cutting through this there was a large quantity of extravasated blood. Extending from the bruise towards the back of the neck were two distinct furrows or indentations, extending along the left side. On examining the skulll, a distinct fracture of the right parietal bone was seen. On cutting through the scalp, and detaching it, the whole of the scalp was found filled with extra extravasated blood. The surface of the brain was also covered with extravasated blood. On looking at the chest, and removing the lungs and heart, I found the whole floated in water. Every portion of the lungs were most distinctly developed. Parts were cut off, subjected to a good deal of pressure between the finger and thumb, and still they floated in water. On cutting through the lung there was that peculiarly a sound which proceeds from cutting through a spongy mass like the lungs. The surface of the lungs presented those bright red spots which sure the air tubes had been properly developed, and that the child had breathed. There were no especial features about the other portions of the body. The fact of the naval cord having no ligature points to the absence of professional aid to the mother of the birth. It all so might be the result of an accident, but in the event of the accident would have been probably read ready by the medical attendant. From these facts I am of opinion that a fully mature child has been born, that it has breathed, and that its death has been caused by asphyxia from strangulation, and by fracture of the skull, either of which were quite sufficient to cause death. I should say that the child has not lived longer than five minutes. I arrived at this by the appearance of the lungs, which were comparatively small, and which have not filled the cavity of the chest. Every portion of the lungs, however, distinctly showed the child had breathed. Had the child lived longer, or had it have cried, the chest would have filled by the lungs. The tip of the tongue protruded beyond the gums, which is contrary to my experience with stillborn infants, the whole of whose tongues have always been within the gums.

At this stage, the Coroner suggested that the enquiry had better be adjournment, to allow time for the police to make further inquiries.

The inquest was accordingly adjournment for a week.

Accreditation The Redcar and Saltburn-by-the-Sea Gazette 15/12/1876


            The adjourned inquest touching the death of the newly born female child which was found amongst a heap of brick rubbish in West Dyke, Redcar, a fortnight ago was held on Saturday afternoon before Mr Arthur Buchanan, district coroner, at the Alexandra Hotel, Redcar.

The Coroner said the jewellery would no doubt remember the stage at which they arrived the previous Saturday. The evidence of the two men who found the body and that of Dr. Bennett was taken, and the inquiry adjournment in order that the police might endeavour to find the mother of the deceased and the person or persons who had evidently assisted in concealing the birth of the child. He would now ask the police if they had any additional evidence to offer.

Superintendent Prest stated that every effort had been made by the police to trace the maternity of the child, but without effect. Two or three women, who there was reason to suspect had been in custody, but it was found that they had not recently given birth to children, and they had therefore been liberated. He now inclined to the opinion that the body had been brought from a distance, and placed in the heap in which it was found.

The Coroner then read over the evidence of Dr. Bennett, which we published last week, and said it was for the jury to consider from that evidence and the circumstances under which the body was found, what their verdict should be..

After a short consultation: the Jury returned a verdict of, “Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.


Lol Hansom October 15, 2014 Law & Order