Martin, infant

Martin, infant         1879 October 4th        Fisherton

An inquest was held by Mr G Smith, coroner, at the “Lamb” inn, Fisherton, yesterday (Friday), on the body of a male child, which was found concealed in a box at the “British Workman,” on the previous day. Mr W Wells was foreman of the jury, and after an inquiry of about an hour and a half they returned an open verdict. The mother of the child is a girl of about 20 years of age, named Sarah Martin, and she has been for some time past a servant at the “British Workman.” The following was the effect of the evidence adduced,

Dr James Henry Gordon said : I was sent for to examine the body which the jury have just viewed, at about a little before 2pm, yesterday; and on a coroner’s authority I have made a post mortem examination of the child. I find from that the child had evidently been born at the full time, that it was a fairly developed male child, and that there were no external marks of violence. On opening the chest I found the lungs partially inflated; and from that I surmise that the child might have breathed, without having had a separate existence. I can say, however, that the child never received nourishment. I can’t say decidedly that the child ever lived. It might probably have lived with proper attention. I can’t give a decided opinion, but if it had ever lived I should attribute the cause of death to want of assistance.

In further evidence Mr Gordon said he certainly discovered further symptoms which would tend to corroborate the opinion that the child had not lived.

The Foreman : If the child had had an existence the lungs would have been fully inflated? Yes, I think so.

Annie Smith, who described herself as the wife of the manager of the British Workman, in Fisherton, said she knew Sarah Martin, and until the last few days she had been her servant. Being suspicious that Martin had been confined, on Thursday she went to her box – which was unlocked – in a room at the top of the house, and in the bottom discovered a heavy parcel. She then went to the girl and from her elicited that it was the body of a male child of which she had been confined two days previously. In answer to her first question as to what it was, she cried and said she didn’t want to frighten her. Martin had been perfectly strong and healthy during the time she had been with her. After the girl’s statement she went and informed her husband and he at once went and informed the rector and then the police. Shortly after Supt Mathews arrived and took charge of the parcel.

A number of questions were asked the witness as to the frequenters of her house and the manner in which it was conducted, also as to her conduct towards the girl; many of which she answered in such a manner as to necessitate frequent rebukes. Again and again she contradicted herself; and in the end signed the name (to her depositions) Annie Gould instead of Annie Smith. Eventually the jury decided that she should not be allowed any fee.

Mr Supt Mathews said : I was sent for in reference to this matter at a quarter to two yesterday morning; and I immediately sent for Dr Gordon. On arriving at the British Workman I saw the last witness, and told her before she made any statement Sarah Martin had better be present. She was fetched, and Mrs Smith then said that her suspicions having been aroused by certain marks she saw in a part of the house, she went to the girl’s box and found a parcel in it which was very heavy. She didn’t open it but replaced it in the box. She then went to the girl, questioned her, and was told by her that the parcel contained a child, and that she was confined two days previously. I left the girl in the custody of one of my men, and went to the box, and on removing a number of articles of wearing apparel, found the body of the child wrapped in an old skirt. I afterwards went to the girl, told her I should charge her with concealing the birth of the child, and she, having been cautioned, said the child was born on the 30th, that she was insensible for some time, and on recovering found the child in the bed dead. She added, “I never heard it breathe from first to last.” Before removing the girl to the station, I asked a doctor if she were fit; and received an affirmative answer.

Magistrates Hearing 1879 October 11th

This hearing gave a carbon copy of the evidence already given, and the defendant was then formally committed to take her trial at the Assizes.

I was unfortunately unable to find a report of this case in the following Assizes reports in the Salisbury Times. I suspect, however, that as the doctor made clear there was not the likelihood of the child having had a separate existence, the charge of Concealment would have been the only thing to stick, and that not too strongly, as she did not deny its existence when asked.


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