Home Crime Murder Yorkshire Assizes – Alleged Child Murder At Darfield.

Yorkshire Assizes – Alleged Child Murder At Darfield.

July 1849

Sheffield Independent – Saturday 28 July 1849

Yorkshire Assizes
Alleged Murder At Darfield.

Emma Mellor, 21, was charged with having, on the 15th of June, at Darfield, willfully murdered her new-bom illegitimate child.

Mr. Blanshard and Mr. Hall were counsel for the prosecution ; Mr Johnston defended the prisoner, who was accommodated with a seat in the dock.

Mr. Blanshard, in stating the case, said that previous to the 15th of June last, the prisoner, who was a young woman of about 21 years of age, lived with her father, who is a poor man who resided in one of the parish houses at Darfield Bridge, near Barnsley.

For some months before the 15th of June, certain appearances had existed as to excite suspicion in the mind of her father, who on several occasions asked his daughter whether or not she was in the family way; but every time she positively denied she was. On the before- mentioned day, she rose at an early hour, complained that she was unwell, and went out for the purpose of going to the privy. Having been absent some time, and her father being dissatisfied with his daughter’s conduct, at the same time having to leave home that morning, he went to a young woman named Mary Ann Burnett, a neighbour, to ask her to watch her.

Between seven and eight o’clock, she went to the privy, and found the door fastened. Burnett told the prisoner who it was, and she refused to let her come in. Whilst there, she heard a noise like that of a young baby screaming. Burnett immediately went for a constable named Parkin, and informed him of the suspicious circumstances. He accordingly went to the privy, being accompanied by two females The prisoner enquired, was it Mr. Parkin who was at the door and being told it was, she opened the door, and the two women entered, who found a quantity of blood on the floor. The constable charged the prisoner with having been in the familv way, and a strict search was made by him and another man in the house of her father, but nothing was found on that day.

Between the 15th and the 18th, the household consisted of the prisoner and her father, who, he (Mr. Blanshard) had been told, had been obliged from want of convenience, to sleep together, and her brother Amos and a young man, also slept in another bed in the same room.

On the morning of the latter day, the brother, in putting his legs down in bed, and getting a strong government, he felt something hard in the mattress. He shook his head at his sister, as he suspected it was the body of a child, but said nothing to her till they were alone, when he communicated to her his suspicions, whereupon she burst into tears and exclaimed, ” It is my child !”

A search was then made, the mattress was then cut open, and the body of a male child was then discovered. The circumstance was then told to Mr. Parkin, and the prisoner, in his presence, again commenced weeping, and said, ” Mr. Parkin, don’t say anything; it was dead when it was born, and had been so weeks.”

A surgeon was sent for on the 15th, but was not satisfied that she had been confined. However, on the 18th, he was perfectly satisfied, after an examination of the prisoner, that she had been delivered of a child. He examined the body, and, from several marks having been found, he was of opinion that the child had come by its death in an unfair manner. He (Mr. Blanshard) should put in the account of the matter as delivered by the prisoner herself, in which she there admitted that she had given birth to a child in the privy, and, being on the floor, she accidentally put her foot on its neck, whereupon she took it up in her lap, but it almost immediately died.

There would be two points to which the Jury would be directed to give their attention. First, they would have to be satisfied that the child had been born alive, and that it had come to its death by violence having been offered by its mother. In the second place, if they were not so satisfied, they would have to consider whether or not the prisoner was guilty of concealing the birth of her child, by secretly disposing of it. No arrangement had been made for the contemplated birth of the child of which she was delivered — no clothes had been made — no intimation of her condition had been_ given to her father, or to any of her relations ; but on the other hand, she always denied the fact of her being in the family way. Under these circumstances, therefore, there was no doubt whatever that she had concealed the birth.

The Learned Counsel then called witnesses.

Guilty of concealment of birth, and sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment