Monday 27 November 2017

August 1891 - Body of a Child Found in a Box Left in Queen Street Station

On the 6th of August 1891 staff at the Queen Street Station cloakroom began to notice a foul smell emitting from a box that had been checked in on the 21st of July, on opening it they discovered that the box contained the body of a child.  The body was that of a female child, less than 6 months old, wrapped in newspaper, a towel and a piece of blanket, a post-mortem examination would later reveal that the child had been born alive. Examinations would later reveal that the cause of death was due to pressure on the infant’s chest.

Detectives discovered that the box had been handed in on the 21st of July by a woman who gave the name of MacKenzie, but beyond this, almost certainly fake, name, detectives had few leads that looked likely to result in the identification of the depositor. In an effort to stir up new leads, police began to widely circulate descriptions of the box and its contents in the newspapers, an effort which paid off when a woman came forward linking the piece of blanket wrapped around the body with a woman who had abruptly quit her lodgings in Crown Street around the same time that the box was deposited in the station, and was known to have recently given birth to a female child.

Detective-Inspector Carmichael and Sub-Inspector Elliott managed to trace the midwife who had attended the woman, who confirmed that a child had been born on the 17th of July, four days before the body had been left in the cloakroom of Queens Street Station. The midwife also told detectives that the woman had told her that the child was going to be taken care of by her sister, and asked for a piece of flannel in order to keep the child warm on the journey, the midwife later identified this piece of flannel to be the same as the one found in the box. It was discovered that, following the birth of the child, the woman had pawned all her furniture, quit her lodgings, expressing her intention to enter domestic service.

Pursuing this lead, detectives decided to make inquiries at various register offices in the city, leading to the discovery that the woman identified by the midwife had recently secured a position as a domestic servant at a home in Kelvinside. On visiting the home, detectives were surprised to find the door opened by the woman herself, when the detectives informed the woman that they were detectives, she was reported to have replied: ‘I expected it; no one should do evil that good may come out it.’ The woman was then conveyed in a van to the Central Police Office where she gave the name of Mary Ann Anderson or Smellie and her age as 32 years. She informed officers that four years earlier her husband, a timekeeper, had died, leaving her with their two girls, aged 4 and 7. Following her husband's death, she supported herself and her daughters by keeping lodgers in their house on Elderslie Street until they had to move to cheaper lodgings in Crown Street. Soon after this, the woman placed the two girls in a home, and she maintained that the motive for the murder of her illegitimate child was to prevent reproach falling on them.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Plain Jane Doe, I came across this news story:

    Maybe you could help him find pictures of his sons? You seem to have a real talent.