Saltar, Mary

Saltar, Mary       1883 June 23rd           Chippenham

On Saturday last a young girl named Saltar (who had been attended by a woman professing to be a herbalist and living at Calne) died, and from inquiries made Dr Daly, the medical man who was called in, was not satisfied, and an inquest was ordered. It was reported that a post mortem examination had been made, the result of which was not favourable to the woman at Calne, who was arrested by Supt Barrett.

The inquest was held on Tuesday. It was stated that a woman named Harriett Wigmore, living at Calne, had been apprehended by the police on the charge of selling noxious drugs to the deceased. Mrs Wigmore, however, was not in attendance.

Mrs Saltar, mother of the deceased, deposed that her daughter had been in service in London for six years, and that she came home to Chippenham five weeks ago, since which time she had been attended by a Mrs Wigmore, of Calne, up till as late as Friday last. Witness took her daughter on the first occasion, when Mrs Wigmore gave her some medicine and some powders. The previous Tuesday her daughter went to Calne, and was very sick when she came back; she also took to her bed and did not get up after.

On the Friday Mrs Wigmore told her that her daughter had had a miscarriage, but would be all right in a day or two. This was the first she knew of her daughter’s condition. The next morning her daughter was worse, and, believing she was dying, told her that Mrs Wigmore had given her medicine to procure abortion.

Two other females, a Mrs Guy (a monthly nurse) and Mrs Daniels having given evidence, Dr Daly, who had made a post mortem examination of the body of the deceased, stated that in his opinion death was caused by inflammation of the womb and peritonitis brought on by the drugs and instruments used in procuring abortion.

The jury returned a verdict of manslaughter against Harriett Wigmore.

The woman Wigmore was brought up before the magistrates on Wednesday, on the charge of causing the death of Mary Ann Saltar by administering noxious drugs, for the purpose of procuring abortion. The evidence given at the inquest was repeated and she was remanded.

Assizes Hearing 1883 July 14th

Harriett Wigmore, (43), herbalist, was charged on four counts – first with the wilful murder of Mary Ann Saltar on the 16th of June, 1883, then with administering or causing to be administered to Mary Ann Saltar certain noxious mixtures with intent to procure her miscarriage, next with using an instrument for that purpose, and lastly with causing the manslaughter of Mary Ann Saltar. Mr Poole and Mr R Lopes were for the prosecution, and Mr Read was for the defence.

In opening the case Mr Lopes said there was no direct evidence in this case; the evidence was entirely circumstantial, but that evidence although circumstantial was of a very telling character against the prisoner at the bar. The prisoner was a herbalist residing at Calne, and the deceased woman was at the time of her death a domestic servant out of employ – having formerly lived in London; and was living with her mother at Chippenham, being at the time about 33 years of age.

She complained at the time she came home of suffering from indigestion. She came home on the 11th May, and on the 21st May she and her mother went to Wigmore’s house at Calne – her mother believing her to be suffering from indigestion and a natural cause. There was no doubt that the prisoner then supplied the woman with a bottle of liquid and 16 powders. What they contained they knew not. The prisoner told her she was to take a wineglassful of the liquid three times a day and a powder morning and night. The liquid and the powders were given by the mother to the prisoner. On the 25th of May she went again to Calne, but what occurred then they knew not.

On the 1st of June deceased went to Calne with a Mrs Mattingly. The prisoner was not in at the time, and Mrs Mattingly went away, leaving the deceased there. Owing to Mrs Mattingly going away again they could not tell what occurred. On the 8th of June the prisoner visited the deceased’s mother’s house at Chippenham. The prisoner saw the deceased and together they went upstairs – the deceased not, however, being in bed – and they remained there some time alone. The next day of importance in this case was – and he would submit it was one of the most important days – the 12th of June.

On the 12th the deceased went alone to the prisoner’s house at Calne and took a bottle. When she returned the mother noticed she was unwell, and she gave her some tea. She vomited, and afterwards went to bed. The mother gave her some of the medicine that was in the bottle; but what it was they knew not. On the 15th of June the prisoner came to see the mother, and made a statement which made it plain that something had taken place in regard to the deceased woman. She made another statement to the mother in which she said, “If anyone asks what is the matter you say it is a tumour, but it is burst now, and she will soon be all right.”

To a Mrs Daniels she said it was a bloody tumour and she would soon be all right and up in two or three days. Several statements were made which the witnesses would repeat. The prisoner further said to the mother – who had now learnt the true cause of her daughter going to Mrs Wigmore – on the 15th of June that she had instruments, but she had never let anyone know it.

On the morning of the 16th of June – the day the poor woman died – Dr Daly was called in and he saw that she was suffering from inflammation of the womb and peritonitis; and he was clearly of the opinion that the deceased had had a forced abortion. He left, and when he came back for the third time he found that the poor woman was dead. On the 17th of June he made a post mortem examination, and from that he came to the opinion that the deceased woman died either from the effects of noxious drugs, from the effects of an instrument used upon her, or from both.

Mr Stoddart, in his analysation, found fennel and subsequently rue. The more important evidence than this was the admission of having an instrument. Now – said Mr Lopes in concluding – they could convict her of murder, of manslaughter, or acquit her, but he was bound to say if the facts he had laid before them were proved, they would have no alternative but to say she was guilty of the awful crime of murder.

The evidence taken was very extensive. The mother said that when the prisoner came to see the deceased on the 15th of June, a Mrs Guy said to her that she was just about to apply a linseed poultice. Prisoner said she was glad she had not, as he used nothing but salt and water, and then she applied some. On that occasion she asked her if anything was the matter other then she had thought. She did not reply at once, but she afterwards said there was; it was a “mishap” but it was all right now, and she had it in her basket. She added that her daughter had first put it in a piece of paper, then she put it in her bag and she had taken it away with her. She then added that she had instruments but witness did not see them. She said – but witness added in cross-examination that the statement was made after her own express desire that the matter should be kept secret – that if anybody asked what was the matter she was to say that it was a tumour, and that it had burst and it would soon be all right.

Dr Daly, in giving the result of the post mortem, said that the womb was entirely inflamed, the passage to it being very much bruised and swollen, the womb of its contents having been lately expelled. He should say that both instruments and noxious drugs had been used to procure a forced abortion. Decidedly the instruments were the immediate cause of death. Considerable violence must have been used to have caused the bruises. The deceased could not have caused those bruises herself.

It was at the conclusion of Mr Daly’s evidence attempted to admit a confession made by the deceased to her mother relative – or so it was assumed – to her treatment by the prisoner. Mr Lopes relied on Archibald’s ruling that such evidence could be admitted providing the person thought themselves at the point of death, and the deceased had expressed to her mother the belief she was going to die. Mr Read said it must be a hopeless belief, but no such belief appeared here. Dr Daly, re-called, said that the girl had said to him in an imploring manner “Shall I die.” “This,” said Mr Read, “was not hopelessness.” On hearing this last statement the Judge ruled it was inadmissable.

Mrs Daniels, a relative of the deceased, said she was in attendance on the deceased on the 15th, and she requested her to fetch Mrs Wigmore – who was downstairs – and ask her to bring up her basket, and to ask her to also bring up some powders. She went upstairs with the basket. Dr Daly had previous to this expressed the opinion in his examination-in-chief that the forced abortion took place on the 15th.

Harriett Ruff, a widow, was called to give evidence as to the deceased’s underclothing, which was at the time of her death covered with blood.

Supt Barrettt stated that when he asked the prisoner if she had been attending the deceased, she said, “No, she came here three times and I gave some stuff for marks on her face, and another bottle for her little brother.” When he told her she was dead, she said, “I treated her for a tumour, but it was high up.” She then tested a bottle of stuff he had found at the deceased’s house; and she said she did not think it was what she gave. He found a bag in the house and the inside was stained with blood. Rue – said Mr Daly – used to be used to procure abortion; it was a strong irritant.

Mr Read, for the defence, said if it could not be shown that the drug administered was noxious, she ought to be discharged. Had one single specimen of noxious drug been produced? Had it been shown that Mrs Wigmore was ever possessed of a noxious drug? On what did they ask them to sacrifice the woman’s life? A single piece of “rue” found in a bottle, which, according to Mr Stoddart, might or might not be rue. Where were the instruments? The day on which they were applied, if applied, must have been the 12th of June. But he would say it was impossible for deceased to have walked and travelled by train on days subsequent to the 12th suffering from the wounds Dr Daly had described.

There was not a single proof of her using, much less her possession of, the instruments. Might it not be a fact that she, led to attend her by the deceased’s subterfuge, when attending her discovered the condition she was in – that she had had a miscarriage – and endeavoured to save the reputation of one of her sex? Was it improbable that this girl herself might have so damaged herself as to procure abortion? Had she, too, no friends who had an interest in doing it? What was the motive for lending herself to such an atrocious crime? All the reward it had been proved she had received or had in prospect was eighteenpence.

His Lordship, addressing the jury, said it was the law of England that a person who, pursuing a felonious intent, brought about the death of another person was guilty of murder. Thus, if this woman endeavoured to procure abortion and in doing so produced Mary Ann Saltar’s death, it was murder. But if treating Mary Ann Saltar for an innocent purpose and not to procure abortion and death – through her unskilfulness – followed it was not murder but manslaughter. It was important to consider whether drugs and instruments had been used. Then who used it? Could the poor woman herself or her friends? No suspicion was associated with the friends; and it must be remembered that the deceased and the prisoner were in frequent association.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter.

The woman : I am not guilty. I am entirely innocent. It is only a vile conspiracy on the part of Mrs Saltar and her friends. Oh, my lord. I knew no more of her true condition than you did. Oh, my poor children, don’t take me away from them.

His Lordship said it was necessary that he should inflict a severe penalty for the atrocious crime of which she had been found guilty. The sentence of the court was that she be imprisoned for ten years.

Prisoner with the exclamation “Oh my dear children,” fell weeping upon the neck of her husband – a quiet homely but now crying countryman. A gaoler attempted to roughly part them but his Lordship sternly rebuked him. The unfortunate woman sobbed bitterly, wailing of her poor children. All the man – pressing her closely to him – could say was, “We shall meet in heaven. There we shall know each other. Never mind, never mind.”


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