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Infanticide at Witham Railway Station



Some excitement was caused at the Witham Railway Station late on Saturday night by the report that a child had been found dead in a railway carriage.

It appears that on the arrival of the 11.55 p.m. down train, which goes no further than Witham, a porter named Hubbard found a brown paper parcel in one of the carriages at the rear of the train. Only three passengers got off, and these were two fishermen and a well-known inhabitant. On taking the parcel up its contents appeared somewhat bulky. The station-master (Mr. Daniels) and the police were at once communicated with. On being opened it was found to contain the body of a fully developed male child. It was conveyed to the Witham Police Station, and during Sunday a post-mortem examination was made by Dr. Gimson, assisted by Dr. Kirkland. It was ascertained from appearances that death had been caused by strangulation. The body was well nourished, and the child had probably lived about two days. The police are making inquiries. It is stated that at Chelmsford a woman was seen to leave the carriage in which the body was found. The body was wrapped in an old chemise, a coarse brown apron, and two pieces of brown paper. Mr. L. I. Allshorn, the station-master at Chelmsford, states that several passengers, including three or four women, alighted from the train at Chelmsford. No clue has been obtained with reference to the woman who is alleged to have got out of the carriage in which the body was found. Mr. Raglan Somerset (Deputy Chief Constable) and Supt. H. G. Ackers, of Witham, are prosecuting enquiries into the matter.


On Monday, Mr. John Harrison, jun., Coroner, opened an inquiry on the body at the Police-station, witham. Mr. Supt. Ackers watched the case on behalf of the police. Mr. Henry Barwell was the foreman of the Jury.

In opening the proceedings the CORONER intimated that, after hearing the evidence that could be produced that day. it would be necessary to adjourn the inquiry for some Time. There was no doubt a foul outrage had been committed, and there was no doubt the child's death was attributable to violence.

Walter Hubbard deposed - I am a goods porter at Witham Station on the G.E.R.; it is part of my duty to search the carriages of the 11.15 down train; I was doing this on Saturday night last when observed a brown paper parcel under one of the seats in a compartment of a third-class carriage, next to the guard's van at the rear of the train; I handed to the foreman porter, Dowle; the train goes no further; it leaves Liverpool Street at 10.16.

By the Foreman. Only three persons got out of the train at Witham, two fisherman and a man named Dodd.

Joseph Dowle said- 1 am foreman porter at Witham station, and was on the platform when the 11.55 down train ran in; the last witness handed me a parcel which he said he had found under one of the seats; there was no direction on it; I allowed the train to go into its sidings, and then took the parcel into the booking-office; in a few minutes, there being a somewhat unpleasant smell, I opened it, and found it contained the body of a male child; it was wrapped in the chemise and apron produced, and then in two sheets of brown paper, and tied up with string; I proceeded to the police station and gave information. By a Juror. There were no particular marks on the parcel; I subsequently handed it to Police-Sgt. Amos.

Dr. Gimison deposed- I made a post-mortem examination of the body; it is that of a male child, a little over 19 inches in length and weighing 8 ½lbs.; it is a well- nourished child; the only external marks I could find were upon the right side of the neck, where there were three marks, one being as large as a bean, where the skin was broken; on either side of this was a -smaller mark about three-quarters of an inch from the larger one extending from the larger mark was a green-coloured ring going all round the neck and sharply defined proceeding to the left side and back of the neck, I found discolouration of the fat and tissue all round the neck until it reached the wind- pipe, where a considerable extravasation of blood appeared on both sides, and some in front; then from the windpipe I traced the ring mark all round; the lungs were seen to be fully expanded; they contained plenty of air, and floated readily in water; the heart on its right side was gorged with dark blood; the stomach was empty; I concluded that the child had lived and had had a separate existence, and that its death was caused by strangulation, produced probably by a small cord or piece of tape. By a JUROR. I should think the child lived probably a day or 36 hours. There were distinct traces of a knot on the side of the neck.

R. H. Alliby said- I am a guard on the Great Eastern Railway, and was in charge of the 10.16 train from Liverpool Street, arriving at Witham at 11.55. The carriage in which the body was found was a third-class and next my van. This carriage was full when we left Liverpool Street ; I took no particular notice of the passengers, who appeared to leave the carriage at all stations. The train stops at all stations below Stratford; the largest number of passengers alighted at Maryland Point and Forest Gate. I was not in charge of the train all day; it makes several journeys, but is supposed to be searched on its arrival at Liverpool Street. It stands in a siding some time before starting and the carriage doors are not locked. Police sergeant Amos deposed to taking charge of the body from the witness Dowle. He produced the chemise, apron, and brown paper. On one sheet was part of a label, "Jones, Peckham," which he subsequently found to be part of the label of "Jones and Higgens, drapers, Peckham." On the other sheet there had been a label, but it was torn completely off; the name of "Pixley 10" was written in blue pencil and also in black ink. By a Jurer: The chemise was not marked in any way. The inquiry was then adjourned for a fortnight.