BABY'S EMACIATED CONDITION
SERIOUS ALLEGATIONS AGAINST A FOSTER PARENT
There was a sensational development to the inquest which was held at the Epsom Court House on Saturday morning on the body of Muriel Millard, the six months old child of a single woman named Nellie Millard. After hearing the evidence the jury returned a verdict of "Manslaughter" against a Mrs. Skinsley, of Epsom Downs, who had charge of the baby, and a charge of manslaughter has since been preferred against this woman.
The inquest was conducted by Mr. Gilbert White (the District Coroner), and Mr. A.G. Ebbutt (Clerk to the Epsom Board of Guardians) and Miss King (Inspector under the Children Act,1908) watched the proceedings.
Lillie Millard, the mother, said she lived with her aunt at Langley Bottom Farm. Her child was born at East Hampstead Infirmary, the father being a farm labourer. She understood that he had been killed at the Front. When she left the Infirmary the child was taken by her cousin, Mrs. Skinsley, who was then living at Woldingham, and afterwards she removed to Middlesex, and thence to Epsom. Witness worked at the Epsom College, and would have to leave there now. She saw the baby once a week, the last time being on the previous Sunday. It was always very delicate, but apart from that was all right, although on Sunday she noticed that it had a cold. On Thursday afternoon she heard that it had died. She did not know anything about the child having to be registered.
In answer to the jury, witness said the child was always clean when she saw it.
Mrs. Skinsley, 1, Mayfield-terrace, Epsom Downs, wife of William Skinsley, farm labourer, said she had no children of her own. When she took the deceased in she was living at Woldingham, and the mother arranged to pay her 3s. a week. Soon afterwards the mother went into service at Woldingham. Witness had to keep the matter quiet, otherwise the mother would have lost her situation. She told no one she had the child, and did not register it, not knowing that registration was necessary. Subsequently she moved to Whyteleafe, then to Shepperton, Middlesex, and later to Langley Bottom Farm, where her mother resided. She stayed there a fortnight, and then went into two unfurnished rooms at a house in Mayfield-terrace. Her husband was earning 18s. a week. The baby went on pretty fairly all the time. Witness gave her groats, cornflour and new milk, but she did not seem to grow at all. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy lived at the house, and she spoke to Mrs. Murphy about the child. On Sunday the baby had a cold, but it too its food all right. She fed the child with a medicine bottle, which had a dummy and tube attached to it. The mother knew there was no proper feeding bottle, although she saw the child every Thursday and every other Sunday; she did not say witness ought to have one. The baby took the food until Wednesday mid-day. It slept well on Thursday morning, and woke up now and then. Witness tried to give it some food on Thursday morning about seven. An hour later she looked at it and noticed it looked funny about the eyes. Witness spoke to Mrs. Murphy, and upon her advice went for her (witness's) mother, who was, however, unable to come, but told her to fetch her husband, who was at the camp, so that he could go for a doctor. Witness afterwards went for a doctor, but he was out, and she again went at twelveo'clock; the child was dead then.
By The Jury - She did not notice any sores on the child; she bathed it on the previous day. There was a shortage of water at Langley Bottom.
By P.-s. Kersey - She used to undress the child, and its clothing was removed the day before death occured.
Dr Thornely, who made a post-mortem examination, said the child was dirty and emaciated. The clothing was in a dirty state and apparently had not been removed for a long time. The skin was very dirty, and there was a small sore at the back of the head, probably caused by the child lying in one position. There was another sore on the lower part of the back. The weight of the deceased was 8-lbs. 15-ozs., whereas the average weight of a child that age was 12-lbs. He could find no disease of any of the organs, but there was an entire absence of food. The child had just got its first tooth, which gave some colour to the possibility of its having died in a fit. The main factor in the death of the child was insufficient food and neglect.
The Coroner - Do you say that death was due to improper and insufficient food?
Dr Thornely - I could not say thtat that was the immediate cause of death, but predisposed it. A healthy child might die in a fit.
The jury retired to consider their verdict, and upon their return the Coroner announced that he had decided to adjourn the inquest until Monday afternoon.
"NEVER SEEMED TO THRIVE."
Further evidence was given at the adjourned inquest, which was held at the Court House on Monday afternoon.
Mrs. Agnes Monger, of Langley Bottom Farm, whose husband is a foreman carter, said that Nellie Millard was her niece, Mrs Skinsley being her step-daughter. She saw the child often from December to January, and it seemed to go on fairly well. It used to have a pint of milk every day as well as groats. The child, however, never seemed tothrive on its food, and witness advised Mrs Skinsley to change its food as there was skin disease at the back of its head. Mr. and Mrs. Skinsley lived with here for a fortnight, leaving on April 26th. Witness last saw the child on the Monday prior to its death. When she remarked that the child ought to have a bath she was told that there was no water.
P.-s. Kersey stated that on the day following the child's death he went to 1 Mayfield-terrace, where the child was lying in a perambulator. It's clothing was in a filthy condition, and the bedding in the perambulator, consiting of an old pillow and old clothing, was dirty. The child had not been washed for some time. In moving the clothing he found that the baby was in a very dirty state.
Dr Thornely, recalled, said there had been neglect both as regarded cleanliness and nourishment. The neglect was not recent. Convulsions might have been the cause of death, but there was little evidence as to that.
The jury returned a verdict to the effect that death was due to malnutrition and neglect on the part of Mrs. Skinsley.
The Coroner - Mrs Skinsley will have to go for trial to the next Assizes on a charge of manslaughter.
The jury expressed the opinion that the mother was deserving of censure, and wished to commend the police for the way in which they had conducted the case.
The Coroner censured both Miss Millard and Mr Skinsley, and told the man that he had had a lucky escape, as it was a question whether he was liable as well as his wife.
ACCUSED BEFORE THE MAGISTRATES
Mrs. Skinsley was brought before the magistrates - Messrs. Basil Braithwaite (Chairman) and Mr.W. Dorset - at an Occasional Court on Tuesday and charged with the manslaughter of Muriel Millard by neglecting and withholding sufficient food from the child.
Det. Inspector Pride stated that at three p.m. on the previous day he attended the ERpsom Court House, where the inquest was being held, and the jury having returned a verdict of manslaughter against Mrs. Skinsley, who was committed to prison on the Coroner's warrant, he arrested her. He said to her "I am a police inspector, and shalla arrest you for the manslaughter of Muriel Millard by feloniously neglecting her." She made no reply to the charge, and he took her to the police station, where she was formally charged. On this evidence witness applied for a remand.
Asked if she had any questions to put accused replied in the negative, and the Bench adjourned the proceedings until Wednesday week, the woman having to remain in custody.
From 'The Epsom Advertiser', 21 May 1915, transcribed by Nick Winfield