Lodge, infant

Lodge infant 1919 December 28th

Inquest at the Workhouse

The City Coroner (Mr A M Wilson) held an adjourned inquest in connection with the death of the female child of Elsie Lodge, of Salisbury, at Tower House (formerly called the Workhouse), on Friday afternoon. Mr F H Trethowan represented the mother. At the opening of the inquest Mr L S Luckham, the Guardians’ medical officer, said the child had a separate existence. There were no marks of violence, and he came to the conclusion that it died from want of care and attention at birth.

Mr A E J Ward, medical practitioner, of Brown Street, said he went to the house in which the mother was on November 28th and asked her where the child was. She pointed to a chest of drawers and said, “In the drawer,” and there he found the body of a female child wrapped in a cloth. It must have been dead some hours. He ordered the mother and the child to Tower House. The mother’s condition was pretty good, physically, but mentally she was considerably distressed.

In reply to Mr Trethowan, the doctor said she answered his questions quite frankly. It was possible that after he child was born the mother fainted.

Elsie Lodge, giving evidence, said she went to bed early on the night before the child was born because she was feeling ill. The child was born at 10.15pm on November 27th. After its birth she fell on the floor, and did not remember how long she remained there, but she afterwards got up and put the baby into bed, but she did not think it was alive because it was so cold.

Replying to Mr Trethowan, she said she must have fainted after the child was born. She did not expect the child until about the end of December.

The Coroner said the question for him to decide was how far the mother could be held to be guilty of criminal neglect. They all knew what the girl ought to have done, she ought to have told somebody about it; but he supposed she was ashamed to do so and that she did not think she was going to have the baby so soon. He found that the child died from natural causes, aggravated by neglect and want of attention at birth. He did not find there was any wilful neglect, because it was laid down in a case some years ago that the neglect of a mother to take proper necessary precautions for the birth of a child and the preservation of its life afterwards was not an omission of duty, and he thought that that ruling exonerated her.

Salisbury Magistrates case 1920 January 15th

Charge of Birth Concealment Dismissed

Elsie Lodge, of 7, Highfield, Devizes Road, was charged with endeavouring to conceal the birth of her child by making a secret disposition of its dead body on November 28th.

She was represented by Mr F H Trethowan, and Mr W H Jackson prosecuted.

Mr Jackson said he though that from the depositions of the Coroner’s inquest the Bench would have no doubt that there had been a case of concealment of birth, which would render it imperative on the Bench to commit the defendant for trial. The defendant was a cook employed in Glenmore Road, and on Thursday, November 27th, she complained of pains in her back. The nurse of the house (Nurse Jacob) gave defendant some whisky and afterwards attended her during the evening and last saw her at 10 o’clock, when she made no statement as to what was likely to happen, but she appeared to be in great pain. In the morning the nurse went to the defendant’s room and found evidences of a miscarriage. The girl concealed the fact that at about a quarter past ten, or about a quarter of an hour after the nurse had left her the previous evening, she had been delivered of a child. It appeared from the defendant’s statements, and from the discovery made by the doctor quite late on the following day, that the body of the child, wrapped in a garment, was found in a drawer which was closed. There were one or two matters which a jury would have to consider, and they were also matters which came before the Bench for their consideration, in order that they might decide whether there was a prima facie case.

First of all the child must be identified as the child of the defendant, because it must be proved that it was a dead body that was disposed of, and that it was disposed of for concealment not from a particular person, but from the world at large. The Bench had to consider what evidence there was of deliberate action on the part of the defendant. The matter, of course, came before the City Coroner and the verdict of the Coroner, who sat without a jury, was that the child had died from natural causes, following want of care and attention at birth. At the proceedings before the Coroner the defendant gave evidence, and he read the statement that the defendant had made.

Coming to the question of the active attempt at concealment, Mr Jackson said their worships would probably remember that there was a similar case in the neighbourhood about nine months ago. He felt fairly confident his friend would refer to it, because the case was committed to the Assizes and the jury dismissed it. That was a case in which a land worker put the child in a basket under a bed. In the present case the baby was put in a drawer, wrapped in a cloth, which would have the effect of concealing it, and the drawer was closed. It did not matter at all whether the place in which the body was deposited was intended to be its place of final concealment or not, any place of temporary concealment was sufficient. He submitted that there had been a deliberate attempt at concealment, and that defendant’s dealings with those who she had been associated with had been to convey the impression that she had only had a miscarriage. If the facts were proved it would be the magistrate’s duty to commit the defendant for trial.

Evidence was given by Kate Jacob, the nurse, Dr A E J Ward, and Dr L S Luckham. Dr Ward said that when he asked the defendant where the child was she pointed to the drawer. There were no marks of violence on the body. The physical condition of the mother was good, but she was extremely excited, and distressed mentally. He thought that what had happened to her would be apparent not only to medical people but to others.

Dr Luckham said the child had had a separate existence, and he concluded that it died from want of care and attention at birth.

PS Millett said that when he charged the defendant she said, “What will they do to me?”

Mr Trethowan submitted that the prosecution had disclosed no case on which they could send the girl for trial. In considering an offence of this nature there were two facts which had to be taken into account, first, the fact of the birth itself had to be concealed; and, secondly, there must be a secret disposition of the body. The child was put in a drawer, which was not locked, and he did not think that was a secret disposition. Then Dr Ward had said that it must have been obvious to many people that a child had been born, and there was not the slightest evidence at all that the girl had concealed the birth of the child. When the doctor asked the natural question she immediately pointed to the drawer. Did that go to show she had been concealing the birth? They could hardly expect her to be anxious to inform some one of what had happened.

He was not complaining that the prosecution had been brought, but his friend had had the difficult task of making bricks with straw, and the Police had probably taken the proceedings in order that they should be a lesson to the girl. He suggested, however, that the case should not be carried as far as the Assizes, because the punishment fell upon the unfortunate parents who had had already to incur considerable expense, and would have to incur still more. He pointed out that in the case Mr Jackson had referred to the land worker denied at first that anything was the matter, even though the people around her were suspicious, but in the present case as soon as the defendant was asked she pointed to where the body was. He went on to quote a number of cases in support of his contention, and submitted that there was no concealment of the fact that the child was born, and no secret disposition of the body.

The Mayor said the Bench had come to the decision that they would dismiss the case, but they were of the opinion that the Police were quite right in bringing it forward. They felt it would have saved the girl a great deal of trouble if she had been candid and had confided in her parents. They were extremely sorry for her.

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