This is the case of Mary and Lilian Jones.
These two women, mother and daughter, were charged on 8th February 1915 as follows:
Lillian Jones, born 10th May 1894 – wilful murder of her new born child at Whittington.
Mary Jones, born 1856 – wilful murder of the new born child of Lilian Jones at Whittington.
Evidence provided by the police and a next door neighbour revealed that the body of Lilian’s baby was found buried with a piece of tape around his neck and wrapped in a coarse apron, buried in the back garden of her mother’s house.
Death was found to be caused by suffocation and strangulation.
Evidence from Lilian herself was muddled and conflicting. She stated that the child was only of 3 months gestation; however, the postmortem indicated a full term infant.
The women were sent to the Shrewsbury assizes on 10th February 1915 where the jury found them both guilty of wilful murder but requested mercy. Judge Avory donned the black cap and pronounced that both women would be taken away and hanged by the neck until dead and their bodies burned. This sentence was immediately reduced to penal servitude for life. They were then sent to Aylesbury prison.
Mary was released from prison, on what we would call today a ‘life licence’, on 22nd August 1917. She went to a cottage in Wern where she received monthly visits from the police from 20th September 1917 to 24th March 1922. She had to notify the police if there was any change of address. On 19th May 1922, when she was 66 years old, the Order under Section 5 of the Prevention of Crimes Act 1878 made her a free woman.
Lillian was also released from prison on 12th June 1918, moving to properties in Weston Rhyn. Between June and October 1918 she was visited by PC Davies. Then, on 22nd November 1918, her visits were taken over by WPC Lenn and Westerdick until 26th February 1919.
Lillian married James Horace Pierce, born 11th August 1893, at the Registry Office in Oswestry on 22nd February 1919. He was a railway goods checker in Oswestry and was described in the “Register of Convicts” as a respectable man. A letter was sent to the Home Office to moderate Lilian’s licence, and on 26th March 1919, she was removed from the register and the Order under Section 5 of the Prevention of Crimes Act 1878, was served on her. She became a free woman on 4th April 1919, when she was 25 years old.
Lillian and James lived in Oswestry all their lives. So far we have found no record of any children. Lillian died in September 1974 and James died in March 1975.
From the very brief details we have, it is clear that there must have been very powerful extenuating circumstances surrounding the death of the new born for both women to be treated by the justice system with such leniency.