Unsolved Murders

Mary Monica Egglestone

Age: 16

Sex: female

Date: 31 Dec 1927

Place: Hunt Lane, Bentley, Doncaster

Mary Monica Egglestone died from an illegal operation. Three people were tried for her manslaughter but acquitted although they were convicted of lesser offences.

Mary Egglestone died on 31 December 1927 and was buried soon after but her body was later exhumed on Thursday 9 February 1928 under Home Office instructions.

When she died her cause of death was initially given as acute rheumatism and very high temperature.

However, certain circumstances later arose that led to further inquiries and Mary Egglestone's body was exhumed and a post mortem was carried out by the original doctor and an expert pathologist from Leeds and it was found that she had died from blood poisoning and had recently had a child. They gave her cause of death as being due to septicaemia and acute inflammation and agreed that a child had been born and that death had resulted from subsequent poisoning of the system.

However, the pathologist said that there was no positive sign of anything unnatural.

Mary Egglestone had lived in Daw Wood Villas, Bentley, Doncaster with her parents and had been a colliery cashier.

It was heard that at some time in 1927 that a young man had met Mary Egglestone and courted her and that some seven months before her death she had given him certain information.

Following the further investigation three people were charged with her manslaughter, they were:

  • 23-year-old woman, Hunt Lane, Bentley, typist with Doncaster Corporation, (12 months' imprisonment).
  • 25-year-old man, Hunt Lane, Bentley, motor engineer and miner, (8 months' imprisonment).
  • 30-year-old Australian woman, Delamere Terrace, Paddington, London, (18 months' imprisonment).

At the trial the prosecution had said, 'The case for the prosecution largely depends upon the evidence of the accomplices, or of those persons who were at least cognisant of what was happening'.

It was heard that the man that had been dating Mary Egglestone's sister had had a conversation with the 25-year-old man in April 1927 and that he had told her that he had thought that Mary Egglestone was worried and so he said that he told him that he would speak to her on the subject. He said that on a Thursday in November 1927 that he went to Hunt Lane were there was a discussion as to what was to be done about telling Mary Egglestone's mother.

He said that the 23-year-old woman then had an interview with Mary Egglestone's mother which lasted about an hour who had until that time been ignorant of Mary Egglestone's trouble. After some talk on the subject the 23-year-old woman mentioned a friend, who it was said, although her name was not mentioned, had been the woman from London.

It was heard that Mary Egglestone's mother had expressed the hope that nothing illegal would be done but that she was over-persuaded by the 23-year-old woman and discussion took place on the cost which the 23-year-old woman suggested would probably be £5, but that she was not sure. It was noted by Mary Egglestone's mother that it was not definitely decided that the woman would be called in.

The couple from Hunt Lane along with Mary Egglestone's sister's fiancee then went off to a dance to fetch Mary Egglestone's sister and the four of them then went off to Hunt Lane.

On 26 November 1927 the fiancee went to Hunt Lane and was handed a telegram which read, 'Will wire when visiting. - Woman from London' and on the suggestion of the 23-year-old woman he took it to Mary Egglestone's mother suggesting that it would be a comfort to her. It was noted that Mary Egglestone was also shown the telegram and that she had then thrown it into the fire.

It was heard that next, on 10 December 1927, that as a result of a message that the fiancee went to Hunt Lane early in the morning where he saw the couple there along with the woman from London to whom he was introduced and who made a certain statement to him. He said that the 23-year-old woman later told them about a child.

It was heard that Mary Egglestone later returned to her mother's house on 14 December 1927 and was employed in light domestic duties at which time nothing appeared to be wrong. However, on 23 December she took to her bed and died on 31 December 1927.

When Mary Egglestone's mother was questioned, she denied that it had been arranged for the 23-year-old woman to look after Mary Egglestone until the child was born and said that it had been for a certain purpose that Mary Egglestone had gone to Hunt Lane.

Although they were all found not guilty of manslaughter they were all convicted of conspiracy for an illegal purpose. The two women were convicted of using means to procure abortion whilst the couple that had lived in Hunt Lane, Bentley were convicted of concealment of birth.

It was said that Mary Egglestone had left home on 9 December 1927 and gone to stay with the couple that lived in Hunt Lane, Bentley and that whilst there that the woman from London had come up and performed an illegal operation on her.

The 23-year-old woman said that she had known Mary Egglestone's family for some years and the woman from London for three years and that in August 1917 the woman from London and her 8-year-old son had spent eight days with them and again stayed on the night of 9 December 1927. She said that the woman from London had met Mary Egglestone on her first visit.

She said that it wasn't until the end of August that she heard that Mary Egglestone was worried and said that around 2 December Mary Egglestone's sister's fiancee came to her and told her that he was anxious about Mary Egglestone and asked her whether there was anything that she could do to help her. She said that she then went to Mary Egglestone's mother and told her not to upset herself as she knew a friend who would probably help her and take Mary Egglestone away until it was all over and that Mary Egglestone's mother consented to Mary Egglestone going away. She said that the purpose of Mary Egglestone's visit to Hunt Lane was for her to meet the woman from London and to go away with her.

She said that Mary Egglestone stayed with her on the night of 9 December, bringing with her a suit case, a parcel and a handbag and that the woman from London was to take her back with her the following day and that no event as was alleged happened at the house took place.

The 23-year-old woman admitted that she had refused to make a statement at first and when asked why she said that Mary Egglestone's mother had asked her not to make any statement.

The 25-year-old man said that he hadn't known that there had been anything wrong with Mary Egglestone although he had had his suspicions. He said that the first that he definitely knew was when his wife told him that Mary had had a miscarriage. He said that the body of an infant was then burned. He added that he took no active part in getting the woman from London and that in fact he knew nothing about it.

When the 23-year-old man was cross-examined, he agreed that it was his case that he was in absolute ignorance of the whole affair. When he was asked why he refused to make a statement to the police he said that it was because he wanted to see a solicitor.

When he was asked whether he had ever thought to ask why the woman from London was coming all the way from Coventry to have a chat with Mary Egglestone he said 'No'. When he was asked whether he thought it wiser not to ask he replied, 'No'.

When he was asked whether he was not interested in what was happening in his own house he replied, 'Mary was a big friend of ours'.

When he was asked whether he thought that it was odd that in the afternoon that the woman from London  had arrived to have a talk to Mary Egglestone that Mary Egglestone had arrived at 7.30pm with luggage, he agreed that he did. When the judge said, 'But you did not trouble to ask any questions?' the 25-year-old man said, 'No, I always looked upon it that if they wanted me to know things they would tell me, and if they didn't they would not'.

The prosecution asked, 'You suspected what was the matter with Mary. Did you ever think of sending for her mother?', to which the 23-year-old man replied, 'Her sister was with her'.

The prosecution then said, 'You remained quite passive', to which the man replied, 'I was out in the afternoon'. The prosecution then said, 'At all critical moments. You went out with the dog?‘ and the man replied, 'There was nothing critical to me'. He added that the matter didn't become critical until later by which time Mary Egglestone's mother was there and added that he didn't complain afterwards of what had happened in his house.

Mary Egglestone's sister said that she had never heard any discussion at any time about an illegal operation. She said that she had been at Hunt Lane when Mary Egglestone was there on 9 December 1927 but did not see the other girl that was also said to have had an illegal operation performed on her there.

She said that she later advised her mother, who was then there, to send for a doctor, but said that she had replied, 'No. I must not call a doctor, because the scandal would get about the village'. She said that she then suggested that another woman be called, but said that again that her mother objected, stating that if she were called that scandal would also quickly run round.

Mary Egglestone's sister's fiancee said that when he was introduced to the woman from London at Hunt Lane that she said to him, 'I have performed on Mary at eight o'clock last night'. He then spoke to the disposal of the child's body. When the defence asked him, 'Assuming there was conspiracy in this case, you were in it from start to finish?' to which the fiancee said, 'Yes'.

When he was asked, 'Did you, knowing people take drugs for this kind of thing, suggest it to Mary?' he replied, 'Yes, I did first of all'.

He was then asked, 'With reference to the baby, did the 23-year-old man say, as any other might, 'What on earth am I to do with this?'', the fiancee replied, 'No, sir'.

The defence then said, 'Be careful of this. You went down with him to the scullery. Did you suggest disposing of the body?', and the fiancee replied, 'No, sir'.  The defence then asked, 'And did you put it on the fire?' to which the fiancee replied, 'No'.

When the woman from London was called to give evidence she said that her husband was in Australia and that she lived in a flat in London and that she had known the 23-year-old woman's sister for some years. She said that she had become friendly with Mary Egglestone during a visit to Hunt Lane in August 1927 and had continued to correspond with her after her return to London.

She said that Mary Egglestone wrote her a letter in November 1927 saying that she was in trouble and that her parents must not know and asked her whether she could arrange for her to go away and said that she replied, stating that she could come and stay with her in London. However, she noted that she pointed out to Mary Egglestone that her parents would have to be told and that eventually it was agreed that that should be done.

She said that in the meantime that she obtained a post as a private detective and went to Coventry to start her duties. She said that on the Saturday she left London for Coventry and received a letter saying that Mary Egglestone was very ill and had been taking drugs and was very worried and asked whether she would come as soon as possible. She said that her return fare to Doncaster was then sent to her in Coventry and that on the following Friday she went to Hunt Lane, but said that no events of an illegal character took place.

At the inquest on Saturday 11 February 1928 Mary Egglestone's sister said that the 25-year-old man had showed her the child after it was born and told her that he was going to burn it.  She said that it had been a male child. She said that she later saw the fire burning and understood that the child had been burned.

When the judge sentenced them he told the woman from London that if there had been any material in her record that had suggested that she had been committing the offence systematically that he would have sent her to penal servitude, but said that with great hesitation he did not propose to do that, noting that his hesitation was due to the fact that he had little doubt that she had been doing it systematically.

When the judge addressed the 23-year-old woman he said that it was a most lamentable thing to see a woman of her age in the dock found guilty of charges of that sort. He said that upon the evidence he could not doubt that she was not herself doing it, but said that she was engaged in procuring victims for the woman from London to carry out the operations.

It was noted that they had also faced another charge with reference to an illegal operation that was carried out on another girl who it was said had also gone to Hunt Lane where the woman from London carried out an operation on her.  The woman, who had been 27-years-old, said that on 9 November 1927 that the 23-year-old woman had come to see her, saying that she had heard a rumour about her and that a conversation took place and that she eventually decided to go to Hunt Lane.

The defence said that the action of Mary Egglestone's mother in allowing her to go on with her household duties in the condition she had been in was a grave contributing cause to the illness that ended in her death.

The court heard that the question which really had to be decided was as to how much it could be proved that the miscarriage had been the result of an illegal operation, it being noted that all the witnesses for the prosecution who had spoken of the events of 9 and 10 December 1927 had been tainted witnesses.

The women had wept as their sentences were being passed and the woman from London almost collapsed.

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

see www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

see Leeds Mercury - Monday 26 March 1928

see Yorkshire Evening Post - Saturday 24 March 1928

see Leeds Mercury - Monday 13 February 1928

see Aberdeen Press and Journal - Saturday 11 February 1928

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Tuesday 06 March 1928

see Yorkshire Evening Post - Saturday 24 March 1928

see Daily News (London) - Monday 26 March 1928

see Weekly Dispatch (London) - Sunday 25 March 1928

see Hull Daily Mail - Monday 26 March 1928