Date: 20 Sep 1957
The mummified body of a newly-born child was found in a suitcase in a house in Westwick Gardens, West Kensington.
The child's mother was a 23-year-old Irish petrol pump attendant and it was determined that she had kept the child's body in a suitcase for 18-months without telling anyone.
An open verdict was returned at the inquest after it was heard that the cause of the child's death could not be determined and that there was no evidence to show whether the child had been born dead or alive.
The child's body had been in the suitcase under her bed and was not discovered until six weeks after she moved out leaving it there. It was discovered by the landlady who had opened it to find the child's body after which she called the police. The police arrived at the house at about 8.30pm to find the large suitcase in the back garden and the baby in the package inside.
A police detective said that when the suitcase was opened on 6 September 1957 that he found the child inside wrapped up in brown paper along with some bloodstained clothing and underclothing.
The child's body was then taken to Hammersmith mortuary.
The woman had left Westwick Gardens and moved to Ranelagh Road in Harlesden.
When she gave evidence at the inquest she cried and said that she had been alone when she had given birth to the child in the darkness two weeks before she was expecting it. She also said that after the baby was born she noticed that it was dead and said that she was desperately frightened and put it in the suitcase and place some clothes on top of it and left it under her bed.
When the Coroner asked her if she could remember when she had given birth to the child she said that she could not but thought that it had been about March 1956.
When the Coroner asked her whether she recalled whether the child had cried she said that it had not.
She said that it was her first baby and that she placed it in the suitcase because she was frightened. She said that nobody knew that she was going to have a child and that she never saw a state registered nurse or a doctor. She said that the day after she gave birth to the child that she felt weak but was able to go out shopping and that the following day she went back to work.
The pathologist that examined the child's body on 6 September 1957 said that when he was shown the suitcase he found that it contained some clothing along with the child's body and that the child had undergone a state of mummification. He added that after conducting the post mortem that he had come to the conclusion that the child had been born about two weeks prematurely.
He said, 'The cause of death was completely unascertainable and I found no evidence, such as one sometimes comes across, of wilful child destruction. It was impossible to tell whether the child had lived a separate existence, that is to say whether it had been stillborn or not'.
After the evidence was heard the police said, 'Our enquiries are complete and it has been decided that no action will be taken'.
see West London Observer - Friday 20 September 1957, p9
see West London Observer - Friday 13 September 1957, p14
see Hammersmith & Shepherds Bush Gazette - Friday 20 September 1957, p1