Lindsey Petty Sessions, Louth, Saturday (January 13th 1865)

Ann Murray was charged with concealing the birth of her child, which had been found in a privy at Covenham St Bartholomew last week.  

The body of the infant, a female, was found by a man named Larter whilst he was emptying a privy on the premises of Wm Bray, a cottager at Covenham with whom the prisoner lived.  Bray being her godfather.  

Information was at once given to Constable Marks of the county police,  and from certain reports in circulation, combined with the results of surgical examination of the prisoner made by Mr Walker of Louth, she was taken into custody on the above charges.  

Evidence having been given on the discovery of the body and the apprehension of the prisoner. Mr Walker (Surgeon) of Louth, said he had made a great examination of the body, of a full grown female child which had been delivered into his hands by Police Constable Marks.  It was full grown, measuring 18 inches in length, and weighing 5 pounds and 10 ounces..  He could not detect any external injuries on the body which was in a far advanced stage of putrescence.

Internally he found the lungs in a very healthy condition comparatively – they were easily inflated and of a red vermillion colour.  On applying other tests he found the heart was empty of blood, and the body generally bloodless.  The umbilical cord appeared as if it had been torn and separated fiercely, it might have been the weight of the body falling.  The child might have been dead three weeks or if it had been covered up immediately after birth by the manure it might have been dead for as long as eight weeks, the cold weather having been taken into consideration.  

From his examination of the prisoner, he had come to the conclusion that she had had a child, or an abortion but not very recently, he could not say whether it was within three weeks or six or even twelve months.  

The prisoner in reply to a question denied ever having a child.  Ann Bray, the prisoners grandmother said the girl had lived with them since the 25th August and had only known her to be ill once since that time.   It was in October when she was ill for the greater part of a day, and complained of pains in the head.  She had never seen any reason to think that the prisoner was in the family way, or had been delivered of a child.  The prisoner had stated more than once that it was a false charge.  The county police said that they were charging the prisoner with the murder of her child and concealment of its birth.  

The prisoner replied “They may do what they like at me, but I never killed it”.  William Booth, one of the county police stationed at Louth, said from what he had been told by Mary Crawley, who slept with the prisoner whilst she was in custody that she would be pleading guilty.  The prisoner replied “What can I do else, for the doctor says I am a mother?  I may as well plead guilty as not” and then continued fretting – This being the whole of the evidence, the magistrates dismissed the case, the evidence not being conclusive.  In dismissing the charge, the magistrate said there was credit due to the police for the active manner in which they had got up the case.  These cases were extremely difficult to prove after such a lapse of time as had occurred in the present case.

By Diane Seddon

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