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Joseph Osuagwu

Age: 6

Sex: male

Date: 20 Oct 1961

Place: 25 Sebastian House, Hoxton Street, London

Joseph Osuagwu died from injuries thought to have been caused by a coal shovel and generally starved and maltreated.

His mother was tried for his murder but acquitted.

Following Joseph Osuagwu's death on the morning of 11 September 1961 the police saw his mother on at 7.55pm at Old Street Police station and said to her, 'We have seen the body of your son Joseph. He is covered in cuts and bruises, which we believe you have caused by hitting him with a metal shovel, kicking him and punching him. As you know, he died after being taken from your flat to hospital this morning. Joseph Osuagwu's mother said, 'It wasn't me who hit him last night, it must have been my husband, when I was out. I have only hit him with a strap when he was stealing in the kitchen'.

When she was cautioned and told that she would be charged with causing grievous bodily harm to Joseph Osuagwu she said, 'It's my husband, I only used a strap'.

Joseph Osuagwu's step-father said that he lived at 25 Sebastian House in Hoxton Street, N1 and was a machine operator.

He said that he married Joseph Osuagwu's mother in 1955 at which time she had four children, one of whom was Joseph Osuagwu who had been 8 months old at the time. He said that after their marriage that they had twin boys together but that recently only Joseph Osuagwu and the twins had been living with them in Hoxton Street.

He said that Joseph Osuagwu's mother didn't have enough patience with Joseph Osuagwu and that she sometimes hit him most severely, sometimes using her hands and sometimes using a coal shovel.

He said that she was impatient with him because she complained that his father had deceived her and that seeing Joseph Osuagwu reminded her of that. He added that she used to also complain that Joseph Osuagwu used to help himself to food in the kitchen.

Joseph Osuagwu's step-father said that Joseph Osuagwu behaved normally for a child and was 6½ years old.

He said that on 31 August 1961 that he went to the police station because on the morning of 29 August 1961 he had been in bed when he heard Joseph Osuagwu crying and that he had had to go into the passageway to try and stop Joseph Osuagwu's mother from hitting him. He said that she was hitting Joseph Osuagwu with her hand and that when he held her she told him that she must deal with Joseph Osuagwu, saying that he must have a cold bath as a punishment. However, he said that the reason for the cold bath as a punishment was because of the bruises Joseph Osuagwu had from her kicking him.

Joseph Osuagwu's step-father said on 31 August 1961 Joseph Osuagwu  had been in bed becuse he and his mother went to court. He said that when he got home after going to get his cards that he saw Joseph Osuagwu's mother and she told him that Joseph Osuagwu had left the house. He said that they thought that he might have gone to the play centre and that Joseph Osuagwu's mother went to look for him there and then brought him home. However, he said that later that evening that she started to hit Joseph Osuagwu with the coal shovel. He said that he saw that the punishment was too heavy and that he demanded her permission to take Joseph Osuagwu away which he said she allowed. He said that he went to see some friends and arranged that and then returned home and told her that someone had agreed to take him.

He said that the following morning that Joseph Osuagwu's mother didn't give Joseph Osuagwu enough to eat and said that he told her that she had to remove the punishment because of the friends' arrangement. However, he said that she then told him that Joseph Osuagwu was not going anywhere.

He said that he threatened to call his friend to witness what was going on but that knowing that she wouldn't let him take Joseph Osuagwu that he went with Joseph Osuagwu to the police station where a lady police officer examined him after which she took him home.

He said that when they got home that his mother wasn't in and so he gave Joseph Osuagwu some milk to drink and left him to wait for his mother. He said that that when he go back that his mother told him that after he had left Joseph Osuagwu that Joseph Osuagwu had gone out looking for he and that as he was wondering that a police officer found him and brought him back. He said that Joseph Osuagwu's mother then told him that the police officer had told her that he was trying to blackmail her and that Joseph Osuagwu didn't have enough injuries to warrant them enquiring about them.

Joseph Osuagwu's step-father said that after that that the punishments of stopping his food went on and that she continued to hit him, although not so hard as before.

He said that on 9 September 1961 that Joseph Osuagwu seemed weak and so when his wife went out she told him that she would give him something to eat when she got back. He said that when she came back she asked whether Joseph Osuagwu had stolen anything and that he replied, 'No' and laughed about it and that after that his mother gave him some rice to eat.

He said that during the evening whilst he and his wife were in the bedroom that they heard a cry, and, thinking that it was the twins, they went to look but found that it was Joseph Osuagwu. He said that they took him to the toilet and Joseph Osuagwu appeared ill and so his wife told him to fetch some water and that she then gave him some tablets which she told him were Codine after which she put him back to bed.

He said that they then went back to their bedroom and that he started to abuse his wife, telling her to switch her mind off Joseph Osuagwu, telling her that she was wicked. He said that she took it calmly. He said that he then told her that whilst she had been out that Joseph Osuagwu had had a cup of tea and said that she then said, 'Joseph's going to have more now to eat'. He said that she then abused him knowing that he had told lies and went and got Joseph Osuagwu and took him to the kitchen where she gave him soup from a saucepan on the side and water.

He said that he persuaded her not to give him anymore and said that she told him that he had caused Joseph Osuagwu to misbehave because he had opposed her punishment.

He said that Joseph Osuagwu didn't seem to want to drink the water but said that she made him and started hitting him. He said that he then went back to his room and started dressing to go to the police station, but said that when he told her where she was going that she said that she wouldn't hit him again.

He said that when he changed back into his sleeping dress that he heard Joseph Osuagwu crying again and then saw that his mother was hitting him again and so he got dressed again. He said that she was hitting him with the coal shovel.

He said that when he came out of the bedroom that he saw Joseph Osuagwu lying down in the front room, shivering and vomiting, but said that his mother said that he would be all right. However, he said that he told her that his condition would not be all right and that when he tried to go to the police station that she begged him not to go, dragging him. However, he said that he ran to the police station whilst she was running after him and trying to hold him back.

He said that when he got to the police station that he saw an officer and told him what had happened and that his wife interrupted him.

He said that the police then came back to the house with him whilst his wife went for her doctor.

He said that when the police saw Joseph Osuagwu's condition that they sent for an ambulance after which his wife came and told him that the doctor was in Balham. He said that they then took Joseph Osuagwu to the hospital, all of them going and that whilst there a nurse asked his wife what had happened to Joseph Osuagwu but that she didn't answer after which a police officer told her that Joseph Osuagwu had died.

He said that he said that all his struggle to try and save him had been in vain.

He said that they then went in a car to the police station and they asked him who did it and that he replied, 'My wife did it' but said that the police then told him that his wife had said that it was him that had done it.

He said that on 11 September 1961 that the police came to the house and asked for the shovel and that his wife brought them a shovel, but said that the one that she had brought was not the right one and that he then went to look for it but couldn't find it. However, he said that he later went with the police to buy another shovel that he said was exactly the same as the one that his wife had used to beat Joseph Osuagwu.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk

see A Calendar Of Murder, Criminal Homicide In England Since 1957, Terence Morris and Louis Blom-Cooper

see National Archives - CRIM 1/3753