Saturday, January 23, 2016

Amelia Dyer: Britain’s Baby Butcher, Part lll

This baby farmer who starved her infant charges to death for profit over almost 30 years came under the suspicion of the authorities several times.

When Dyer suspected the police were onto her, she would use insane asylums to hide. The first time she did this she worked in one as an attendant.

Wells Pauper Lunatic Asylum, Somerset.

Amelia also avoided the authorities by moving a lot and using several aliases--three were, Thomas, Smith and Harding. She plied her trade as far afield as Liverpool and Plymouth.

Three years after Amelia's first husband died she remarried William Dyer, a brewers laborer from Bristol. They had two children, Mary Ann aka Polly and William Samuel.

She eventually left Dyer when he lost his job. Amelia now strapped for cash decided to change the way she baby farmed.

Instead of her babies dying of neglect and starvation she now murdered them as soon as they were born or shortly after she adopted them. This immediately increased her profits.

She suffocated the babies she helped to deliver.  

She would smother them as soon as they came out—not allowing them to turn blue which would indicate they had taken their first breath. She did this so they would look like stillbirths so the death certificates “were all above board.”

She strangled other babies that came to her after birth—tying a white tape around their necks twice, and then knotting the ends tightly.

When her daughter Polly asked her why all the babies disappeared she told her that she was an “angel maker.” She stated she was “sending them to Jesus because he wants them more than their mothers.”

By this point, Amelia had a real taste for killing. She felt she had a God-like power to watch her unfortunate victims “peacefully die.”

Amelia successfully avoided the police until the late 1870s, by this time over 100 babies had died or been murdered under her care.

Each time the authorities came close she would panic, break down, try to commit suicide and then feign insanity, which guaranteed a placement in a mental asylum.

After her releases, she would go right back to baby farming.

But in 1879, a doctor became suspicious at the number of times he had been called in to certify children’s deaths that were under Amelia’s care.

Inquests for each infant were held in Somerset and the authorities had no doubt these infants had died of neglect and opium overdoses but there was one problem-- they could not prove it.

So despite their suspicions, Amelia received only a 6-month sentence of hard labor instead of being hanged.

Amelia was an emotional wreck during the time she spent in jail. But as soon as she was released, she continued farming. Now she became determined to leave no evidence that would lead to her being captured again.

She had cause to worry for by 1884 British society was taking a dim view of baby farms that showed signs of neglect or abuse—more people began to report their suspicions.

The first Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act was passed in 1889--mostly due to efforts by Benjamin Waugh.

Amelia, to cover her tracks, stopped bringing in coroners to write death certificates and instead just started to murder the babies under her care quickly.

She would keep their corpses until they decomposed so it would be harder to identify them. She wrapped them in brown parcel paper and then tied it with string. She then dumped these bodies into the River Thames.

She buried others in the yards of homes where she lived.

Caversham Lock with the footbridge
known as "The clappers" is where
Amelia disposed of her infant
Amelia’s long-term laudanum use did actually affect her mental state—she now often was completely detached from reality.

Her murders and profits increased. Witnesses reported seeing 6 infants going into her home daily—she was also often seen leaving with brown packages.

In Part lV, of Amelia Dyer: Britain’s Baby Butcher a concerned mother comes forward which leads to more trouble for Amelia.

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