WARNING - Article contains graphic content that some may find distressing

A Child's Body in a Sewage Tank

Essex Standard - Saturday July 16th 1887

Saturday July 16th 1887



A startling discovery was made on Saturday morning, when a man named Turner, in the employ of the Braintree Local Board of Health, while at work near the sewage tanks, observed an unusual substance, which, on being taken out was found to be the arm of a child.

Information was given to the police, and Supt. Elsey and Sergt. Barnard were quickly on the spot. The outfall of the main sewer was watched, and in the course of a short time the other arm, the head, and portions of the body came down the pipe into the tank. The skull was battered in, and there was every indication of the poor child-for the limbs were part of a child's body, having been murdered and then cut to pieces and put down the sewer. As the various portions were found, they were carefully washed and placed in a jar of spirits of wine, and taken charge of by the police-constables, who remained day and night to watch the outfall for further portions of the body. The age of the child is a mere matter of conjecture, but among the fragments recovered was a portion of one lung, which upon being placed in water was found to float thus proving that the child was born alive. No clue has, we believe, been yet obtained as to the Perpetrator of the crime, although the police are making every enquiry. The limbs are those of a well-developed infant. The legs have not been found, and there is nothing to show whether the child is a male or female.


An inquest on the body was opened on Monday, at the Horn Hotel, before Mr. J. HARRISON, jun., Coroner. The jury consisted of Messrs. W. Southcott, E. Blomfield, G. Spurgeon, J. E. Andrews, C. Howard, G. Rowe, W. Hawkes, H. Joscelyne, G. C. Row, C. Boyton, G. R. Gowenlock, C. Townrow, W. B. Parnwell, W. Case, and J. Dyster. Mr. Southcott, having been chosen foreman, the jury viewed the recovered portions of the body in the room in jars. The following evidence was taken:-

George Turner, engine driver, in the employ of the Braintree Local Board of Health, said - About 9.15 on Friday night, I saw something floating in the first sewage tank; I skimmed it off, but it was too dark to see what it was, and so I put it on the grass until next morning, when I found it was the arm of a child; I took it to the Surveyor, who at once sent information to the police.

Sergeant Barnard deposed to watching the outfall of the sewer, and recovering the right arm and head of a child and some small pieces of flesh.

Mr. C. E. Abbott, M.R.C.S., said - On Sunday, July 10th, Supt. Elsey delivered to me three jars containing the mutilated remains of an infant; on examination, jar No. 1 was found to contain the greater part of a head, which, from the size, appears to be that of a child at full term; the top of the head had been severed, and the bones of the roof of the skull removed with the brain; the face has been much compressed from forehead to chin; it has, on the right side, been divided through the orbit to the mouth; the lower jaw has also been divided; the arms have been removed at the shoulder joint; they have the appearance of a well-nourished healthy infant; jar No. 2 contained various pieces of skin and flesh, in a sodden condition and partially decomposed; from the mangled condition of the contents of this jar I am unable to say from what part of the body they came; jar No. 3 contained the greater portion of one lung which had been that of a living child.

In answer to the CORONER, witness said the piece of lung floated readily after strong compression, and decomposition had set in but little; the child had probably been dead two or three days; witness was strongly of opinion that it died after delivery, and that death was caused by violence.

By the Foreman. The body had not been severed by experienced hands.

Mr. J. Mortimer, surveyor of the Local Board, corroborated the evident of the witness Turner, and deposed to having had the sewers flushed on Saturday afternoon.

Supt. Elsey deposed to taking charge of the portions of the remains found and securing them in jars; he said he had at present no clue to the mystery, and asked for an adjournment; he added that the Chairman and Surveyor of the Local Board had rendered every possible assistance to the police.

The inquiry was then formally adjourned for a fortnight.