Unsolved Murders

Infant Hemmings

Age: unknown

Sex: male

Date: 17 Apr 1909

Place: Mardy, Rhondda Valley

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Ms Hemmings and her newly-born child and infant child along with three other children called Rees died in a mysterious fire at their cottage.

It was noted that Ms Hemmings, under the distress of the fire, had given birth to a child that she was bearing at the time.

The cottage had been occupied by Ms Hemmings and her husband and infant child along with another man and wife with their four children.

Ms Hemmings's husband said that when he smelt smoked, he asked Ms Hemmings to go and see what the matter was and that when smoke filled his room, he jumped out of bed and escaped through the bedroom window, leaving their child in bed. It was also noted that he did not later inquire as to the whereabouts of Ms Hemmings.

The father of the other children said that he managed to get his wife and one of their children out of the fire but that when he returned for the other children they were hidden from his view by a dense cloud of smoke. He said that he called out to them but that his hair was burnt off and his face scorched as he groped about on the floor searching for them, but that he was driven back by the fire.

He said, 'I was awakened by Mrs Hemmings, and rushed downstairs into the kitchen and found the large chest of drawers on fire. I tried to tumble it out of the kitchen on to the landing, but it suddenly gave way in handling and fell to pieces and burst into huge flames. I ran down to the cellar to the tap for water, but it ran very slowly, and by the time I again reached the kitchen it was enveloped in one mass of flame. I saw that my bucket of water could be of no use, so I rushed upstairs shouting to the children to come to me. My little three-year-old boy jumped into my arms, and I called on the others to keep close and follow me downstairs. When I got the lad safely out I found that the others were still inside. I returned for them, but was driven back by the smoke and flames'.

He said that his youngest daughter, aged one and a half was burnt as she lay in bed and that his two other daughters, aged five and seven had tried to follow him out but that they must have become frightened and were smothered by smoke.

It was heard that Mrs Hemmings had, in seeking to rescue her baby, fallen prostrate and had given birth to a stillborn child.

At the inquest a policeman said that they were definitely informed that the occupants of the house had escaped. The policeman said that when he asked Ms Hemmings's husband why he had not done something to rescue Ms Hemmings, he had replied, 'She had the same chance to get away as I did'.

The police said that after they asked Ms Hemmings's husband if there was anyone else in the fire, he had been in a dazed state and had said, 'No', and so they had focussed their efforts on saving the adjoining properties and that it was not until later that they found out that other people had been in the cottage.

It was said that after the fire had spread to the adjoining cottages that the floors and ceiling crashed in and buried the children alive.

The adjoining cottages were damaged, but their occupants had escaped.

It was also reported that that when the fire was discovered, Ms Hemmings's husband and the other man and wife had all escaped by climbing down the rainwater pipe from a bedroom window, but that Ms Hemmings had tried to save her child but had been overcome by the smoke.

After the fire was put out the bodies of the four children were said to have been found charred in a huddle in the corner of the bedroom. It was also reported that their bodies were found in the cellar and that Ms Hemmings's baby was tightly clasped in her arms.

When Ms Hemmings's body was found, it was found that she had given birth to a child in the excitement of trying to save herself and the other child that was in her arms.

The coroner noted that Ms Hemmings's husband was deficient in the qualities that made up a man.

At the inquest, the fire brigade noted that they had been handicapped by an insufficient water supply. It was reported that all they had were a couple of useless hose-pipes. When the coroner read out the verdict, he urged the local authorities to provide better facilities for utilising the services of the fire brigade.

see The Scotsman - Saturday 17 April 1909, p10

see The Scotsman - Wednesday 14 April 1909

see Herts & Cambs Reporter & Royston Crow - Friday 23 April 1909

see London Daily News - Wednesday 14 April 1909