Liverpool Mercury, May 31st 1900


Yesterday county coroner Mr BRIGHOUSE resumed an inquest at the Locomotive Inn, Sutton on the bodies of Lily 7, and Agnes May 3, children of John WALTON, a collier of Sutton Moss who were drowned under tragic circumstances at Sutton, Rolling Mills, reservoir on the 17th inst. The inquiry was opened on Tuesday week, Mrs WALTON was too ill to appear.

The first witness called was Archibald THOMPSON a young man, who said on the night in question he was near Sutton Rolling Mills and heard cries from the direction of the reservoir. He went to the side and saw Mrs WALTON splashing about in the water with the elder child in her arms about half a dozen yards from the side. There were several men on the bank but they did not go to their rescue. Witness jumped in and caught Mrs WALTON by her shawl and dragged her to the side, with the aid of Edward WILLIAMS she was lifted out. He thought the elder child was alive at the time but could not see the younger child May.

Corroborative evidence was given by Edward WILLIAMS, John FORSTER, Mary Jane THOMPSON who heard the screams and ran to assist.

Mrs WALTON the mother of the children was next called, she looked in a dazed and poor condition and when asked by the coroner how she came to be in the water she occasioned great surprise by remarking, “It is no use me saying anything, I have done the deed”.

The Coroner, “What do you mean? Mrs WALTON “ I mean I have done it”

At this point the coroner consulted Dr BATES and afterwards said he thought it would be very unfair to Mrs WALTON, considering the condition she was in to continue with the inquiry, he adjourned the inquiry for three weeks. He would not ask the jury to return an open verdict in the face of the statement or to return a verdict of accidental death.

Mrs WALTON intimated a desire to speak to the coroner and Dr BATES, and the parties retired to another room. On the return of the coroner he adjourned the inquiry for a month. It was only fair to tell the jury that when Mrs WALTON made the statement to them her mind was unhinged. He called Mr WALTON and advised him to seek the services of a solicitor, to defend his wife who had made a statement to him and Dr BATES which he would not divulge at this time. Inquiry adjourned till 27th June.

The strange confession of Mrs WALTON leaked out around the neighbourhood and caused a sensation At the close of the inquest Mrs WALTON was removed in a cab to the Town Hall where she was detained. She was interviewed by the coroner, Chief Constable WOOD, and her husband, and Dr REID were called in for an examination of her mental condition.

Liverpool Mercury, June 4th 1900


The resumed inquest on the bodies of , Lily, and Agnes May WALTON, whose mother the wife of John WALTON, a collier of Sutton St Helens has been remanded on a charge of causing their deaths on her own confession by drowning them in Sutton, Rolling Mills, reservoir will be held at St Helens Town Hall on Friday afternoon next. At the former inquiry Mrs WALTON, who seemed very ill and week-minded, made her startling confession, the county coroner Mr BRIGHOUSE adjourned for a month but it has been found advisable to conclude the investigation on an earlier date. Mrs WALTON has been remanded to Walton prison awaiting further developments of the case.

Liverpool Mercury, June 9th 1900



At the St Helens Police Court yesterday before Dr E. P. TWYFORD [in the chair] and Mr A. H. MICHELL, Mrs Sarah WALTON, of 15 Sutton Moss, was again charged on remand, with wilfully drowning her two children, Lily aged 7, and Agnes May aged 3, in Sutton reservoir on the 17th May. Chief Constable WOOD, said he was not then prepared to go on with the case, and asked for another remand until today. Mr H. L. RILEY who appeared for the prisoner, said, he understood the adjournment was required in order that the Chief Constable might consider the result of the coroner’s inquest, which was to be resumed that afternoon. Saturday was an inconvenient day for a long hearing, and he [Mr RILEY] desired the option of applying for a further adjournment until Monday. Chief Constable WOOD had no objection and the prisoner was remanded until Monday.

Yesterday at St Helens Town Hall, Mr S. BRIGHOUSE, County coroner, resumed the inquest on the bodies of the two children whose mother was a present in custody. Mr R. P. BEARDS was foreman of the jury. The Town Clerk, Mr G. W. BAILEY appeared on behalf of the police authorities and Mr H. L. RILEY represented Mrs WALTON. The evidence given by the woman’s husband, John WALTON, collier on former occasions was repeated, and in answer to Mr RILEY he said, he had been married 27 yrs and had, had, 10 children, his wife had always been a devoted mother. Up to the appearance of his wife before the coroner and jury she had always said the affair was an accident.

Dr BATES was also recalled. He said in answer to Mr RILEY, that he had known the WALTONS a long time and Mrs WALTON always appeared to be an affectionate mother and wife.

Mr RILEY: suppose a woman of that temperament and a such a period of her life received a shock, such as the accidental death of these two children while they were in her charge, would it be calculated to bring on such mania ?

Dr BATES, it would, taken together with the circumstances that she herself was immersed. In reply to further questions, he said it was possible that, in accordance with the records of insanity, in that particular case the shock had affected Mrs WALTON’S mind and led her to the hallucination that she had drowned the children instead of what he [Mr RILEY] suggested - that they met their death by accident.

The evidence given by the young men, Archibald THOMPSON, Edward WILLIAMS and others, as to hearing the woman scream from the direction of the Sutton reservoir, and finding her and the children in the water was repeated. Mr RILEY elicited from the witnesses that scores of people regularly walked across the field by the reservoir. Police Sgt JACKSON gave evidence as to the proceedings at the opening of the inquest, when Mrs WALTON said she had drowned the children. She was evidently suffering great mental distress when she made that statement.

The Coroner in summing up to the jury pointed out that it did not follow that because a person confessed to a crime that he or she was guilty. Did they think that the woman’s confession in that case was true? Did they think it was honest to commit her for trial they could return an open verdict, but, if they were absolutely certain that the first statement she had made that the children were accidentally drowned, was correct they would return a verdict of, “Accidental death.”

After an absence of 15mins the jury intimated, through the foreman, that they found there was reasonable cause for suspicion in connection with the deaths of the two children, but there was not sufficient evidence to enable them to come to a definite conclusion, and they returned an open verdict.

The Coroner said, he agreed with that verdict. He was strongly of the opinion there was not sufficient evidence on which to send the woman for trial.

Liverpool Mercury, June 11th 1900


At St Helens police court on Saturday before Messers J. B. LEACH and J. GREEN, Mrs Sarah WALTON, aged 46, of 15 Sutton Moss, was again charged on remand with causing the death of her two children, Lily and Agnes May by drowning them in the Sutton Rolling Mills reservoir, under circumstances previously reported. The town clerk Mr G. W. BAILEY, prosecuted, Mr H. L. RILEY was for the prisoner.

The Town Clerk explained that at the inquest on the bodies of the two children on the previous day, the jury returned an open verdict, and expressed the opinion that while the circumstances were some what suspicious, they did not think there was sufficient evidence upon which the woman could be sent for trial. The coroner expressed his concurrence with the verdict and the opinion of the jury. Under those circumstances, he [the town clerk] thought it was important that a copy of the depositions taken before the coroner should be submitted to the Home Office for the instructions of the Solicitor to the Treasury as to the further action of the police. He therefore applied for another remand of the prisoner until next Friday.

Mr RILEY said, he had hoped they would be in a position to dispose of the case that day, after the coroner’s inquiry on Friday, but, he would not oppose the adjournment, as the town clerk had only appeared in the case on the previous day. He, however, did not think that people should be hurriedly arrested on charges like that, and their friends put to anxiety and expense under circumstances that might have been avoided.

The Bench intimated the prisoner would be remanded until Friday.

Liverpool Mercury, June 16th, 1900


Mrs WALTON of 15 Sutton Moss, St Helens who has lain for some weeks under a charge of murdering her two children by drowning them on May 17th was yesterday morning discharged at the police court.

Mr G. W. BAILEY town clerk said he had forwarded the depositions to the Solicitor to the Treasury and asked what view he took. The Solicitor to the Treasury had replied that after carefully reading the depositions he had arrived at the conclusion that the charge of murder should be withdrawn on the ground that it rested solely upon the uncorroborated statement of the woman at the inquest. He thought that she was under an hallucination and that her first statement [ to the effect that the children drowned by accident, she trying to rescue them ] was the correct one. Under the circumstances he [Mr BAILEY] asked that the woman be discharged.

Mr RILEY who has represented the unfortunate woman since the charge was made, said that, she would be well looked after, and he was glad to be able to say there was a prospect of her being fully restored. Mrs WALTON was taken out of court by her husband and relatives, who naturally were deeply affected.


In the 1901 census, John WALTON, is residing at 15 Sutton Moss, with children, Elizabeth 26, [married] Thomas 23, Sarah 17, John 14, William 11, Sarah WALTON is not present at the address, there is a Sarah Jane WALTON, married, housewife patient in Cheshire, County, pauper, Lunatic Asylum


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