Hayter, infant

Hayter, infant              1881 November 12th           Wilton

Curious Concealment of Birth at Wilton

On Wednesday morning, it was discovered that a young woman named Eliza Hayter, a domestic servant of 18 years employed at the “Pembroke Arms” hotel, at Wilton, had concealed the birth of her illegitimate child. The woman had been employed at the hotel for some eight weeks past in the capacity of a nurse. On Tuesday evening she was observed to be unwell, and – though no suspicion as to the real cause was excited – was advised to go to bed. She went to bed. Nothing during the night occurred to arouse the other occupants of the house; but in the morning at about seven a fellow-servant heard a movement in her room as of chairs being disturbed. This girl went into the room and found – to say the least – Hayter in a very uncomfortable condition. On the doctors arriving they observed what had happened. At first, on being questioned, she strongly denied having been delivered of a child; but presently she admitted that she had concealed the child in a neighbouring cupboard, where Dr Straton found it in an almost lifeless condition and bearing marks of violence – whether violence of intent or of misfortune during the unhappy operation he could not distinctly state. Curious to relate not the slightest suspicion of the real cause of the woman;s illness appeared to have dawned on her fellow-servants’ minds until the discovery of the doctors or rather the charwoman.

The inquest was held at the “Pembroke Arms” hotel, this (Friday) morning, before Mr R M Wilson (county coroner) and a jury of whom Mr Whitehorn was foreman.

The first witness called was Annie Penny, a domestic at the hotel, who deposed : On Tuesday evening at about a quarter past ten, I said to Mrs Mussel in the kitchen that I thought Eliza Hayter looked ill. She then complained of pains in her stomach. I, thinking she braced too tight, wished to undo her dress. She, however, would not allow me to. She afterwards had a little brandy. Neither I nor anyone in my presence suggested the real cause of her illness. As she continued unwell, I assisted her to bed – she and Mrs Massey’s child slept in a room by themselves; on coming downstairs I suggested that her mother who lives in Wilton or Mrs Andrews, the charwoman, should be sent for.

Mrs Andrews afterwards came, and prescribed a mixture of cayenne and brandy. About five minutes after eleven when we saw her again she said she felt quite comfortable. On the following morning a fellow-servant went and saw her and she then complained of being very ill. At nine I went and saw her; and she repeated that she was unwell. I in fear suggested that Mrs Andrews should again be sent for. Mrs Andrews on re-appearing charged her with having been confined; the girl at first made no reply – indeed, she neither admitted nor denied it. Yesterday I said to her – after the body was found, “Eliza you ought to have told me.” She replied, “I didn’t like to.”

Georgina Crickmay, a fellow-servant of the last witness, said : Hayter – who has been here about eight weeks – on Tuesday evening also complained to me of being very unwell. I gave her two glasses of brandy, and I told the best thing she could do would be to go to bed. Later on, as I went to my room, she told me as she lay in bed that she felt very comfortable. Mrs Andrews had, however, been sent for in the meantime. I did not suggest she was enciente – indeed, I had no suspicion of it.

The following morning, at about 7.20, I again saw her, and she then complained of being very unwell. I saw at once that she was in a very uncomfortable state, and sent for Mrs Andrews. I afterwards said she ought to have told us what was the matter, and she said she didn’t like to.

By a juror : My room adjoins her; and about seven o’clock just before I went to her I heard a noise in Hayter’s room as of chairs moving. On my asking her why she did it, she said she did it to keep Mabel – alluding to Mrs Massey’s child – quiet.

Elizabeth Andrews, the wife of George Andrews, of Wilton, said : I was sent for on Tuesday evening to come and see Hayter. On seeing her I asked her what was the matter as she looked so strange. “Nothing,” she said, “but I’ve got a dreadful pain in my stomach,” – afterwards alleging cold as the cause for the pains. After suggesting she should have something I went home, but a second time was sent for. I then administered a decoction of cayenne and brandy which she drank. I remained a short time with her; and as she said was better again took my leave. All this time, however, I did not suggest she was enciente, indeed, I had no suspicion of it. The next morning I saw her again and she complained of very severe pains. Seeing some marks of blood in the room, my suspicions were aroused, and I at once suggested that a doctor should be sent for.

Mr William James McKenzie, surgeon, said he saw the woman on Wednesday morning, and he saw at once that a confinement or something of the sort had taken place. She would not admit having been confined of a child – in fact, her reply to his questions were virtually misleading.

Mr Charles Robert Straton, surgeon, of Wilton, said at the request of Mr McKenzie who came for him, he went to the hotel on Wednesday morning. He found Eliza Hayter in bed. From certain signs on the carpet he was certain that a viable child had been born. She, however, in reply to his question, denied that there had been a child. Her condition refuted her statement. After a deal of confusion and denying she told him the child was in the next room in the cupboard. He found the child on the top shelf of a small wardrobe – not, however, in the next room. The child – a male and of full time – was cold but breathing very feebly, the necessary precautions attending birth not having been taken. He at once adopted means for restoring animation. It took some warm milk on a feather; but in the evening expired. After the child had been discovered he found marks on each side of the throat, caused apparently by fingernails, and blood oozing from nostrils and mouth. The death he attributed to want of precaution and proper assistance during birth, and violence received during or after birth.

A juror : Do you think these marks might have been caused in the delirium of pain or in the operation? It is quite possible, indeed, the convexity of the nail marks was downwards – which would give the probability; though the application, perhaps, is either way.

Replying to the Coroner, Mr Straton said if a criminal investigation were to take place it would be advisable to have a post mortem examination – which would reveal facts other than he had seen. The child in another quarter of an hour would have been dead – in fact when he discovered it it was only breathing four to the minute.

Sarah Dyer, wife of Willian Dyer, who had charge of the child after its discovery, said the child never really breathed – there was gurgling in the throat. It was too weak to take nourishment but she dropped some warm milk in with a feather. Blood still oozed from the nose and mouth.

This was the whole of the evidence. In summing up, the Coroner said without a doubt this woman did all she could to conceal the birth. He did not think for a moment any jury would convict her of murder. Under the circumstances, there was a probability these marks might have been caused in her delirium. At the same time whether it was a question whether she was not liable to punishment for concealment.

Mr Straton : It must be a dead child. If I hadn’t found the child when I did she would have been punishable. The statute confirmed this.

The Coroner : Well then, I can’t help thinking though there was no attempt at murder, she would be liable to a charge of manslaughter – for not having taken proper care of her child after it had been born. It therefore rests with you to consider whether it is not a question to go before a jury that this woman having ample opportunities for obtaining assistance accelerated death. She not only concealed the fact of pregnancy, but gave no information that would lead to the belief that she had been delivered.

The jury, after deliberating, returned a verdict of “Manslaughter,” in which the Coroner quite concurred.

Magistrates Court 1881 November 26th


Yesterday (Friday) at the office of Mr Mayo, solicitor, of Wilton, before the Mayor (Mr J E Rawlence) and Mr Swayne, the girl Eliza Hayter – who by the Coroner’s inquisition is charged with the manslaughter of her newly-born child – was arraigned on the capital charge, of having been guilty of the crime of wilful murder.

The girl, not yet out of her teens, appeared to be sensitively aware of the seriousness of her position. Haggard and weary-looking – the result, perhaps, of her recent accouchement, she would occasionally hide her head apparently in despairing thought. She, however, listened frequently very earnestly to the evidence, and as her fellow-servants appeared in the box against her paid careful heed to their statements.

I shall not reproduce the evidence already detailed, apart from the final paragraph.

This is a brief outline of the case as detailed now before the magistrates. An important point, however, was referred to by Dr Straton – that the girl’s mother had been an inmate of the county lunatic asylum at Devizes for more than a year. The child, said Mrs Andrews, was christened before its death, and was give the name of William.

The prisoner had nothing to say when the charge was read over to her, and was then formally committed for trial on the capital charge.

Unfortunately, the press report for the Assizes of January 1882, did not carry any report of this case. My suspicion is that – the charge of concealment of birth not being viable – the charge of murder also would not stand on the evidence available.


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