Extraordinary case of child murder 1859

Liverpool Mercury, July 25th 1859

Extraordinary case of child murder

At a coroner's inquest on Saturday last and inquest was held on the body of John THOMPSON, a child aged 4, whose death appears to involve a complete mystery. A woman named Esther LATHAM was taken into custody on suspicion of having been connected in some way or other with the death of the child, but as the evidence did not warrant her detention she was subsequently discharged.

The deceased who was exceedingly delicate and weakly, was the son of a police officer residing in Conway St, Everton, and it appears that at 23mins to nine on Thursday night last the mother told the servant girl to go into the street and bring the child into the house. Mary Ann GIBBONS, the servant, aged about 15, on going into the street could not find the boy, and after a long fruitless search she returned and informed her mistress. Considerable anxiety was felt for the safety of the child and the servant girl was despatched to Rose Hill police station to inform the father of the circumstances. The girl, however, by some unaccountable mistake, instead of going to the Rose Hill station, proceeded along Blackstone St, and inquired her way to the Sandhills railway station.

In crossing some fields she said she met a man, who frightened her by telling her there were kidnappers in the neighbourhood, and that they would strip her. On getting over a wall she found herself on the canal bank, and on meeting with a man named James FOX, she asked him for Bankfield St. She then saw a child floating in the water, and the attention of a flatman having been called to the circumstance, he pulled it out by means of the boy's umbrella. The body was quite warm, but the girl did not identify the body to being that of the missing child until it was taken to the Collingwood Dock Station by two police officers.

In the course of her evidence, the servant admitted that she told the boy FOX that her mother lived in Bankfield St. The statement, however was not correct, as her mother resided in Hedley St.

The evidence of Charles HILL, an intelligent boy of 9yrs, implicated the woman LATHAM in having kidnapped the child. The boy stated that on Thursday evening he was playing with another lad, when he saw the woman LATHAM lift the child into her arms, and put it under her shawl. She then ran down Gordon St with the child, who was crying. The witness ran after the woman into Great Homer St, but she evaded him by getting into an entry. Witness looked for a police officer, but, not seeing one, he hurried home and told Mrs THOMPSON.

The evidence of Mrs LEAHY, the wife of a warehouseman residing in Conway St, also, tended to throw suspicion on the woman LATHAM. This witness said at 10.45 pm on Thursday, as well as on Friday morning she saw LATHAM look into Mrs THOMPSON'S window, and laugh at the agony of the bereaved mother. The woman LATHAM who is a cowkeeper in Back Lansdowne Place, Everton, solemnly declared her innocence and signified her willingness to enter into any explanation as to how her time was employed on Thursday. Two detective-officers who had been investigating the mysterious affair deposed that they had found LATHAM'S statements as to her occupation and the manner in which she had employed her time on Thursday to be correct.

Dr F. AYRTON who had performed a post mortem examination on the body, was of the assumption that death was due to drowning.

After hearing the whole of the evidence Mr WYBERGH the deputy coroner, said that if the jury believed the evidence of the boy HILL, it was their duty to find a verdict of wilful murder against Esther LATHAM, but, if they had any doubt on their minds, they should return an open verdict.

After a lengthy consultation the jury found a verdict of, "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.


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