Alleged child murder, West Derby, 1888

Liverpool Mercury, Feb 28th 1888

Alleged child murder at West Derby

Two prisoners sent for trial

An inquest was held yesterday, at the Clubmoor Hotel, Townsend Lane, West Derby before Mr S. BRIGHOUSE, coroner for South west, Lancashire, on the body of Maurice George BOADLE, the illegitimate child of Sarah BOADLE, who died on Thursday last at 52 Curate Rd, West Derby. Sarah BOADLE, who was present during the whole of the inquiry under police surveillance, is a young woman of very respectable appearance. She appeared to feel her position very acutely, and at one stage of the proceedings swooned, requiring the assistance of a doctor present.

Mary Ann HICKMAN, a nurse, residing in Lapser St, West Derby, stated that she attended Sarah BOADLE during her confinement. At that time she knew her as Mrs HARTLEY, and understood she was married to a man of that name who lived with her. She learned to the contrary about a week after Miss BOADLE'S confinement, which took place on the 12th January last. The child was a healthy boy, and up to the 3rd inst during which time she remained with Miss BOADLE, she had known it to have no ailment except the "frog" of which it was nearly cured when she left. Its weight then would be 11 or 12lbs. One day during the first week with Miss BOADLE, she was present in the bedroom, the man known to her as Mr HARTLEY was also there. Sarah BOADLE and HARTLEY were holding a whispering conversation, and in reply to a question put by the latter, of which she only heard the words "of the child" Sarah BOADLE, said, "I dare not do it, I should be too much afraid" When HARTLEY went down stairs, witness said to BOADLE, "What did he say about the child?" and she answered "He wants me to smother it," Witness said, "My God, if you do anything like that whilst I am here you will have to suffer for it." BOADLE laughed and said, "No fear." She further told the witness that HARTLEY had promised to marry her if she would do away with the child, and also that she had done everything she could at his instigation to prevent its birth. Three days after the witness left this employ of Sarah BOADLE, she called upon her and found the child lying in the cradle crying and sucking on an empty bottle.

Questioned by a juror, witness said she was told by Sarah BOADLE, that HARTLEY was connected with a coal mine, and, at another, that he was a musician.

The Coroner at this point, after consultation with the police, informed the jury that the man know as HARTLEY was present and might be called as a witness, but the evidence might be such as would justify the police in taking him into custody. Under these circumstances he thought it better that HARTLEY should be called in and the evidence already given read over to him, so that he might have the usual privilege of questioning the witnesses in a matter that might concern him very closely.

HARTLEY, was then brought in and in reply to the coroner, said his real name was Eugene George AUZON. The evidence of the last witness having been read over to him.

Emily HICKMAN daughter of Mrs HICKMAN stated, that she was employed as a servant during the confinement of the supposed Mrs HARTLEY, and gave evidence tending to show that, "Mrs HARTLEY" had a great aversion to her child, and neglected it, declining to allow witness to give it food.

Dr HOLMES practising at Oakfield Rd, Tuebrook, said he was present at the confinement of Miss BOADLE. At the time he understood she was Mrs AUZON. The child when born would be about 7 or 8lbs in weight. I was a very healthy baby. On Thursday last Sarah BOADLE came to him and said her child was dead. He informed her that he could not give her a certificate, and asked why he had not been sent for to see the child during the illness. She replied that she had no one to send.

Dr Henry Yates PITT, practising at Tuebrook, stated he had made a post mortem examination on the body of the child. It weighed 6lbs 7ozs, and was about 20 inches long. He understood the child was 6 wks old, the weight was barely the weight of a new born infant, the body was much emaciated. The internal organs were healthy, except the lungs and cavities of the heart were filled with blood, and the former were congested. The stomach and bowels were absolutely empty, and the body generally void of fat. His opinion was that death was due to starvation, but that was only his opinion. Want of assimilation of food would set up starvation, but then he would expect to find food in the stomach. The condition of the lungs was compatible with suffocation, but might have been due to several causes.

Police Sergeant William PITT, stationed at Tuebrook, said, he visited the house, 32 Curate Rd, on Friday last and saw Sarah BOADLE. She informed him that no one but herself was in the house when her child died. It had been ailing for three days, but she had brought no doctor to see it, and had attended to it herself after death. Witness asked her who the father was, and she said, Robert BLANHEALD, a stationer in Liverpool, but where exactly she could not tell.

The Coroner in summing up, said, the question was did the jury think they ought to send one or both of these persons for trial for having caused the death of the child ? If it was possible to make the man criminally responsible, it was only by finding him what is called an accessory before the fact - which would mean that he had said something to the woman which incited her to take away the life of the child. Unfortunately in these cases the women were always the sufferers. Of course they had nothing to do with the moral aspect of the case, they had only to deal with its legal aspect, and the law placed upon the mother the onus of providing the child in its early infancy with the necessities of life. A question for the jury to consider was did they think the mother neglected this duty, and in neglecting it caused the death of the child ?

The jury after a few minutes consultation found, "That the child died by suffocation, caused by the neglect of the mother, and that AUZON was an accessory before the fact"

The Coroner then committed Sarah BOADLE to the next assizes on the charge of "murder" and Eugene George AUZON, with being an accessory before the fact.

Prisoners were removed in custody.

March 17th, 1888

The alleged starvation of a child

At the Lancaster Assizes on Saturday, before Mr Justine GRANTHAM, Sarah BOADLE and Eugene AUZON, [spelt ANSON] a Frenchman, were charged with the wilful murder of the child of Sarah BOADLE, on the 23rd February last, Mr SHEA and the Hon W. H. CROSS prosecuted, Mr BLAIR defended AUZON, and Dr O'FEELY was counsel for BOADLE. Mr SHEA, said the prisoners lived together as man and wife at 32 Curate Rd, West Derby.

Witness Mrs HICKMAN, gave evidence given as above, in cross examination by Dr O'FEELY, she admitted that the prisoners appeared to be in great poverty, nearly everything was pledged to procure food.

Dr PITT, of Tuebrook, said that the post mortem he did on the body of the child showed death was due to malnutrition, which might have been caused through want of food or non-assimilation.

For the defence, Mrs Mary BOADLE, Everton, and Mrs Frances PEEK, Bootle, mother and sister of Sarah BOADLE, said they had seen her nursing the child, which appeared to be rather sickly, the house presented a scene of great poverty and they had both sent money, food and clothing. Sarah BOADLE seemed very fond of the child.

Dr O'FEELY contended that there was no evidence that the child's death was a result of starvation, and that its death was a result of natural causes, through being unable to retain food, given to it by artificial means.

Mr BLAIR for AUZON, said the case against him was of a very shadowy and intangible character.

His Lordship in summing up said he did not think there was sufficient evidence to convict the prisoners of murder, and though the case was one of considerable suspicion the evidence did not bear out the suggestion that the female prisoner wilfully withheld from the child with the intention of causing its death.

The jury returned a verdict of not guilty against both prisoners and they were discharged.

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