Date: 14 Sep 1956
Place: Nelson Close, Sompting
A newly-born male baby was found dead in a parcel at a house in Nelson Close, Sompting on 14 September 1956.
The child's mother was tried for infanticide but acquitted.
The child was found with a cloth tied round its neck and had died from asphyxia. The prosecution had said that the mother had strangled the child by tying a woman's slip round its neck and face stating that she already had three children and that she could not manage another one.
However, the woman said that she did not remember giving birth and had collapsed several times and later found her child dead.
She said that the baby had not been an unwanted child and that the birth had been expected at about the end of October 1956. However, she said that on 14 September 1956 that she had expected her husband home from work at about 6.30pm and that apart from her three children she was home alone. She said that after her husband had not returned by about midnight that she went to bed, but said that she went into labour soon after.
She said that she afterwards went into the bathroom and collapsed on the floor in the darkness and said that when she recovered consciousness she found herself in her bedroom and realised that her baby must have been in the bathroom. She said that she was too weak to stand, but that she managed to pull herself along the floor on her stomach to the bathroom, noting that she had a series of blackouts on the way and could not remember doing it but said that she must have as she next remembered finding herself lying on the bedroom floor with the baby who she said did not cry and was terribly cold.
She said that she then wrapped the baby up whilst she was lying on the floor and that she did not realise that night that the child was dead. In her statement she said that she had wrapped the child up in newspaper and put the woman's slip around its head.
She said that she next had a vague recollection of her husband coming into the room the following morning.
She said that she later recalled putting the baby under the bed and realised that it was dead, saying that she was shocked and terrified.
One of her neighbours said that she had noticed that the mother was pregnant about four months earlier, but that the mother had never spoken about that at all.
She said that on 14 September 1956 that she had looked after two of her children whilst the mother went off shopping and said that when the mother returned she was very weary and tired but that she went out again and returned exhausted.
She said that she went to the mother's house again the following morning and saw bloodstained pieces of paper and rag on the floor and said to the mother, 'Oh, why didn't you tell anyone?' and said that the mother replied, 'It is all over now', and added that it had all happened at about 3.30am in the morning.
She noted that the mother told her not to go into the bathroom.
She said that she then offer to get the mother a doctor, but said that the mother refused, saying that she didn't want one, but said nothing to her about having given birth to a child.
She said that on the Sunday the mother seemed 'very bad and too far gone to talk' but that she shook her head to the suggestion that she should call her a doctor.
She said that on the following Tuesday that she found the baby's body under the bed in the mother's bedroom.
A doctor gave evidence to say that he saw the mother on Sunday 16 September 1956 and found her to be gravely ill, saying that she told him that she was three and a half months pregnant but that upon examination he found her to be seven months pregnant and said that he arranged for her to go to hospital.
Another doctor who said that the mother had been a patient of his said that he had attended her confinement in May 1955 after the birth of her baby, noting that the other doctor that had attended the mother on 16 September 1956 had deputised for him. He said that when he examined the mother on Tuesday 18 September 1956 at her house he found the body of a male child under the bed with a piece of cloth covering its mouth.
He said that he had considered that the balance of the mothers mind could have been disturbed by the birth of her child whilst she was alone.
A consulting pathologist at Worthing Hospital said on 18 September 1956 that he saw the baby's body partly under the bed at the house. He said that it was wrapped up in newspaper and had a woman's slip round the neck and the left arm of the body. He said that the slip was wrapped firmly but did not appear to have been pulled tightly.
He said that the post mortem showed that the body had been that of a mature male infant weighing nearly 10lb and that on the child's neck there was sharply defined irregular area showing bluish discolouration and that he was satisfied that the baby had been born alive and had lived for more than a few minutes.
He said that the cause of death was suffocation and that he believed that that had been caused by the white cloth.
A police detective said that he attended the mother's house on 19 September 1956 at about 4.10pm and saw the body of the baby lying partially under the bed wrapped up in comic newspapers with the baby's head protruding from the top of the paper. He said that he also found a number of articles of clothing in the bathroom.
He said that on 20 September 1956 that he went to Southlands Hospital to see the mother and said that when he arrived the mother asked, 'What is this all about?', and said that she was told that the baby had been found under the bed at her house with a woman's waist slip around its neck. He said that when he asked the mother whether she had anything to say, she said, 'It happened last Friday when my husband was out' and that after that she made a statement.
The police arrested her on Tuesday 25 September 1956.
After hearing the mothers story the judge described her story as a 'very sad experience' and said that no jury would convict her of infanticide and after some discussion the prosecution agreed to accept a formal verdict of not guilty of infanticide but guilty of concealment and she was conditionally discharged.
The mother was the wife of a labourer.
see Worthing Gazette - Wednesday 12 December 1956
see Worthing Herald - Friday 14 December 1956
see Worthing Gazette - Wednesday 10 October 1956