Date: 21 Nov 1936
Place: Field Lane, Alvaston, Derby
Elizabeth Ann Minion died from an illegal operation.
A woman was tried for her murder but acquitted.
Elizabeth Minion was initially buried but her body was later exhumed. When her husband heard of the exhumation order he committed suicide by gas poisoning. His 14-year old daughter said that she was the last to see him and said that he had kissed her and had questioned her about fear. She said that it was a long time before she went to sleep because he kept coming upstairs and then going down again. She said that when she asked him who was downstairs she said that he replied, 'Nobody'. She said that when she went downstairs the following morning she smelt gas and found a note that read, 'Do not strike a match'.
Elizabeth Minion's mother said that Elizabeth Minion had had three miscarriages and that prior to the last one in June 1935, she had told her that she was, 'going to have a woman do it for her'. The mother said that she told Elizabeth Minion, 'You ought to have more sense' and told that she would go once too often. Elizabeth Minion's mother said that Elizabeth Minion then turned nasty and so she left the house.
Elizabeth Minion's sister said that about six-weeks before Elizabeth Minion died, her mother sent her with a note to a 57-year old woman that had been living in Eagle Street, Derby. She said that after the woman read the note that she gave her she said, 'Tell your mother I will come this afternoon'. The sister said that her mother later told her that the woman had been and that her mother then told her to put something on the fire which she said proved to be the body of a very little baby.
At the inquest the sister was asked if she could recognise the woman and said that she could and stood up and pointed to the woman who was sat at the back of the court.
A former neighbour of Elizabeth Minion said that Elizabeth Minion had told her in April 1936 that she was in a certain condition, but that she was not going to go through with it. She said that she was sometime later called to Elizabeth Minion's room and said that she saw Elizabeth Minion in bed and said that she pointed to the body of a fully developed male child and asked her if she would burn it but said that she refused to do it. She said that Elizabeth Minion later told her that her sister had done it.
At the inquest, the police said that when they had searched the woman from Eagle Street, they had found a bone penholder and a bone crochet needle in her stocking.
A pathologist who saw Elizabeth Minion when she was received at the infirmary said that he had come to the conclusion that Elizabeth Minion had been suffering from septicaemia and said that she had told him that she had brought about a certain result herself about four weeks earlier.
The pathologist that carried out Elizabeth Minion's post-mortem after she had been exhumed said that he entirely agreed with the former pathologist in that Elizabeth Minion's death had been due to a septic abortion. He added that his examination found what might have been a scar and that when he was shown the bone penholder and bone crochet needle he said that either one of them could have produced the injury that he suspected had been present.
When the Coroner summed up he said, 'I hope that whatever comes of this case it will have some effect in leading the misguided women of the town, who may be tempted to be mixed up in an abortion, to realise the grave dangers they are running'.
The jury retired for about a quarter of an hour and then returned a verdict of murder against the woman from Eagle Street and she was sent for trial. However, at the Derby Assizes on 20 November 1936 the judge ruled that there was not sufficient evidence to go to the jury and she was discharged.
However, the woman was convicted on four charges of using instruments or other means with intent to procure the miscarriages of women between 1931 and 1936, and one of attempting to commit a similar offence in October 1936.
One of the women that she had carried out an illegal operation on said that after finding herself pregnant she went to see the woman at Eagle Street and told her that she had got the money, but said that the woman told her, 'I can't do it today. Come tomorrow'. The woman said that she then went the following day and was taken into a downstairs room by the woman where she performed an operation on her. The woman described the operation performed on her in court and said that after it was conducted that she gave the woman a pound note. She said that she later visited the woman at Eagle Street again and underwent a further operation.
She said that then on her way home she felt very ill and that two days later she was removed to the City Hospital where a miscarriage later took place.
Another woman said that she had discovered that she was in a certain condition in March 1931 and that in April she went to see the woman who was at the time living in Gloster Street in Derby. She said that when she saw the woman and told her of her condition and inquired whether she could do anything for her, the woman had at first refused. However, the woman said that she pleaded with her several times and that after some refusals, she consented to do what she required.
Another woman said that she saw the woman at Eagle Street at a shop and the woman took the two instruments shown at the trial, the bone penholder and bone crochet needle, and a piece of rag and used them. She said that afterwards she gave the woman £1.
A fourth woman gave a similar story saying that she had seen the woman sometime in 1935 and told her that she was in a certain condition. She said that she then underwent two operations and that after the second operation, a miscarriage took place.
Another woman who was a cleaner at the Derby police station said that, acting on instructions from the detective-inspector, she went to 76 Whittington Street where she was admitted to the house. She said that she saw the woman from Eagle Street that was on trial for the murder of Elizabeth Minion and said that she told her that she was pregnant. She said that a further conversation then ensued, and she asked her if she could give her some pills. She said that the woman told her that she did not give pills and added that her fee was £1.
The cleaner said that she then went back to 76 Whittington Street on 3 October 1936 with a £1 note that the police inspector had given her. She said that the woman invited her upstairs and into a bedroom where she was taken to a receptible filled with hot water. She said that the woman then said to her, 'What I do for you I want you to keep quiet. You will be all right. Do not be frightened'.
The cleaner said that a little later there was a noise outside the room and detectives entered.
The detective inspector said that he had handed the cleaner the £1 note on 2 October 1936 and said that on the morning of 3 October 1936 he had gone to 76 Whittington Street in Allenton where he had gone into a back bedroom and seen the woman on trial with the cleaner. He also said that he was present when the bone instruments were found in the woman's stocking and said that when he went downstairs he found the £1 note he had earlier given the cleaner in a handbag in a perambulator.
At the trial the defence for the woman said that the women had paraded their shame before the court and said that there were 100's of things in any house, like the bone instruments, that were innocent enough even though they could be used for unlawful purposes.
When the judge summed up he warned the jury that they should scrutinise carefully the evidence of the women that had said that they had had illegal operations by the woman on trial, noting that they were accomplices in the eyes of the law and were equally guilty. He also noted that there was very little corroboration in the cases of the woman but that strangely enough their evidence had not been challenged in cross-examination.
The woman was found guilty on all five counts of procuring abortion etc but the charge of murder against her over the death of Elizabeth Minion had been dropped two weeks earlier, at which time she had been acquitted of that charge.
see Dundee Courier - Saturday 21 November 1936
see Illustrated Police News - Thursday 05 November 1936
see Nottingham Journal - Monday 26 October 1936, (includes picture of Elizabeth Minion)
see The Scotsman - Saturday 21 November 1936
see Derby Daily Telegraph - Saturday 21 November 1936
see Derby Daily Telegraph - Friday 20 November 1936 (picture of Elizabeth Ann Minion with a baby)
see National Archives - ASSI 13/66