Unsolved Murders

Emily Johnson

Age: unknown

Sex: female

Date: 17 May 1913

Place: 97 Napier Street, Burton-on-Trent

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Emily Johnson died from an illegal operation.

A woman was charged with her murder, but the bill against her was thrown out by the Grand Jury at the Staffordshire Summer Assizes on 5 July 1913.

Emily Johnson went to stay with her mother on 2 April 1913. The mother said that she knew that Emily Johnson was in the family way and said that on the Monday following, 7 April 1913, Emily Johnson went out of the house at about 9.30am or 10am. She said that Emily Johnson was away for about half an hour and that when she came back she told her where she had been and made a communication with her.

Her mother said that on the Wednesday afterward, 9 April 1913, Emily Johnson was taken ill and complained of pains all round her stomach and her mother said that she advised her to go to bed. Her mother said that Emily Johnson showed signs of being unwell in the way that women suffer and that she asked her to go and fetch the woman that was later charged with her murder. The mother said that she went and fetched the woman at 4pm or 5pm on 9 April 1913, going to her house and telling her that Emily Johnson was very poorly and had asked her to come and see her. She said that the woman agreed and came to their house about half and hour later.

Emily Johnson's mother said that when the woman came over, she went to see Emily Johnson in her bedroom and examined her. She said that she examined her private parts and her clothing and told them that Emily Johnson would be alright, telling the mother to give Emily Johnson some warm tea and some warm milk.

Emily Johnson's mother said that the woman was in the house for just a few minutes.

The mother said that Emily Johnson didn't get any better and said that the next day Emily Johnson had a show and a slight miscarriage, saying that she was present when it happened.

Emily Johnson's mother said that Emily Johnson had asked her to go and call the woman before the miscarriage came and her mother said that she did so and that the woman arrived at their house between 4.30pm or 5pm. She said that when the woman came to the house she examined Emily Johnson's private parts again and said that Emily Johnson would be alright. She said that she stayed for a few minutes. Emily Johnson's mother said that before the woman left, she told her to keep giving Emily Johnson warm tea and milk.

However, Emily Johnson's mother said that Emily Johnson got no better, but got worse and said that the following day she sent for the doctor who then ordered her removal to the workhouse infirmary where she later died.

The police later went to New Street in Burton on 7 April 1913 where they met the woman suspected of carrying out the illegal operation and arrested her. When they arrested her the woman said, 'I don't know her and have never been to her house'. However, the policeman that arrested her noted that at that time he had not yet alleged that she had been to Emily Johnson's house.

However, after the woman was formerly charge the following day, she said, 'Oh, I know the woman now'. She then said, 'She came to our house on Monday and told me how she was. She said she had had a fall. I told her that it would very likely bring her on. Well, I know it would do because I did not touch her more than that', at which time she put her thumb to the first joint of her right hand. The woman then said, 'Her mother came to me on Wednesday and when I went to see her, she was alright, but when her mother came on Thursday it was all come. I know she will go on alright. I am not afraid of that. I don't know what they are making the bother about'.

A doctor that saw Emily Johnson on the Saturday morning, 12 April 1913, at the Burton Union Infirmary, said that he examined her and found that she was suffering from sub-acute peritonitis caused by the septic condition of the inside of her womb. He said that there was an offensive and profuse discharge indicative of septic inflammation of the inside of the uterus and that he judged that the condition was due to an incomplete septic miscarriage. He said that he scraped her womb and said that that strengthen his opinion and that he then treated her daily but said that on 19 April 1913 Emily Johnson had a sudden attack of collapse and died.

He said that before she died, she gave him certain information.

He said that when he carried out her post-mortem, he said that there were no marks of external injury. He noted that there was milk in her breast which he said was indicative of pregnancy. He said that when he opened her abdomen, he found general peritonitis which was secondary to the septic state of her uterus but said that he found no puncture or laceration of her uterus. He said that her vagina was normal but that her fallopian tubes were inflamed externally and that a septic miscarriage would have set up the whole condition that he saw. The doctor said that if an abortion had been set up skilfully that there would not necessarily be any trace of the operation left to be seen.

However, the charges against the woman were thrown out at the Assizes although she was charged with several other accounts of carrying out illegal operations.

It was heard that a previous woman, from Church Road, Woodville had gone to see the woman at 20 Mosley Street, Burton-on-Trent on 22 March 1913 and told her that she was pregnant and asked if she could help her. She said that she told the woman that she was right in January and February but had caught since then. She said that she had heard of the woman by people talking. The woman said that they did not discuss a charge but that they went into a front room where the woman put her hand on her stomach but said that the woman told her that she could not tell how far she had gone. The woman said that the other woman asked her to put her foot on a chair and said that she then then felt the other woman put her hand on her private parts and then felt something like a finger go into her private parts. She said that she was suffering from piles at the time and the other woman's other fingers were causing her piles pain. She said that she told the other woman that it was very awkward her having piles and that her womb was very high. The woman said that when she asked what the charge would be, the other woman said a Guinea. However, she said that the other woman told her that she hadn't done her any good and said that she could come again the next day.

The woman said that the she returned the next day and that she again sat in the chair and put her leg up. However, she said that the other woman told her that she could not do anything until her piles where better and told her that she would have to come again on the Friday and told her to bring some Brandy with her in case she felt faint. The woman said that when she returned on the Friday she told the other woman that her piles were more painful and said that when the other woman did something to her it caused her pain and made her feel faint. After, the woman said that she agreed to go to see the other woman again on the Sunday 6 April and said that when she went to see her on 6 April the other woman again asked her to put her foot up and and said that she put her hand up her clothes but touched her piles and she said that she could not stand it. The woman said that after she said that the other woman told her that she had done her no good on account of her piles and her womb being so high.

On 8 April 1913 the woman said that she visited the other woman and went upstairs to a room where the woman felt her private parts again. She said that then, later on Wednesday she felt pains in her stomach and back and wrote the woman a letter. The woman had told her that if she had occasion to write that she was to address the letter to a different name, a Mrs Goodall. On 12 April the woman said that she went to 20 Mosley Street but didn't stop as she found that the woman had been arrested.  On 13 April the woman sent for a midwife and felt a little better and then on 14 April she went to see a doctor in Woodville who found that she was four months pregnant and that a miscarriage was pending. The doctor said that he tried to prevent the miscarriage but that the miscarriage progressed and was completed the next day by about 9am. The doctor said that there was no septic poisoning adding that it was possible to cause a miscarriage without any signs. He said that her piles would have caused pain but were not much inflamed.

Another woman aged 21 from Barton-under-Weedwood said that she visited the woman after having a man in October 1912. She said that she knew she was in a family way and knew a woman in Burton who knew of her condition and on 12 November 1912 she went to see a woman at Park Street, Burton and whilst there the other woman turned up and they were introduced. The woman said that she told the other woman that a miscarriage would be 15/- and asked if she had the money but the woman said she didn’t. She said that the other woman asked her if she could borrow the money, but the woman said that she told her that she couldn't. The woman said that she told the other woman that she could pay by instalments and said that the other woman said that she wanted 10/- up front and the rest in weekly payments. The woman said that she told the other woman that she could not do that and offered to pay so much a week which was agreed. She said that they then went into a room and that she put her foot on a chair and then saw the other woman with a knitting needle or pen holder in her hand. She said that the other woman asked her to bend down and said that she put the knitting needle or penholder or whatever it was up her person and that it hurt very much. She said that the other woman then told her not to tell anyone. The woman said that she went home straight away and went to her room and found blood in her undergarments and the next day had a miscarriage. She said that she was about four months gone in the family way.

When the police had searched the woman's home on 11 April they found two knitting needles, a pen holder and also the letter from the first woman.


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


see Staffordshire Advertiser - Saturday 05 July 1913

see Derby Daily Telegraph - Saturday 17 May 1913

see National Archives - ASSI 6/48/2