Thursday, September 22, 2011
Agnes Norman, 15-Year Old English Female Serial Killer - 1871
The records of medical science prove that a mania for destruction is not an unknown form of insanity, and plenty of instances are given in which persons who were in other respects perfectly sane felt an intense delight in scenes of death and suffering. An account in given in the Annual Register of a young woman employed in London, who daily subjected her little charges to a regular process of torture, not by way of punishing them for any offence of which they had been guilty, but simply for the gratification of her own fiendish tastes. We have never seen any attempt made to explain the cause which leads to such a horrible phase of mental depravity. In most cases, however, we imagine that it originates in the indulgence of little acts of petty spite and revenge, and that little by little a longing to destroy and to give pain, instead of a desire to perform kindly acts, obtains the complete mastery until murder becomes a passion, as in the case of this miserable girl. It is not by any means a pleasant matter to dwell upon; indeed there is something unusually repulsive in the idea of a woman taking a pleasure in tormenting and destroying the innocent little children who were confided to her keeping; still if, as we think it does, her case serves to exemplify the terrible consequences which may follow from giving way in early life to unkindly and inhuman instincts, it is worth taking note of and bearing in mind.
[“Murder As A Pastime.” The Times (Ottawa, Canada), Jun. 10, 1871, p. 2]
FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): Agnes Norman was, on August 14, sentenced to ten years penal servitude for having attempted to strangle a little boy named Parfitt; and so ends one of the strangest stories of crime which have ever found their way into our criminal records. It will be remembered that this girl was accused of having murdered children in various houses in which she had been maid-servant; and it was also stated that her mania for killing extended itself to parrots, dogs, and other animals. What is definitely known is that certain young children whom she had under her care died suddenly, and without apparent cause; and that the mothers suspected her of having smothered them while in bed. The jury, however, acquitted her on all charges except one, not deeming the evidence sufficient in the others; and she is now reaping the penalty of having attempted to murder a child who was fortunately rescued. It is obvious, however, that this girl presents one of those curious phenomena with which our jurisprudence finds it difficult to deal. None of the ordinary motives of cupidity or revenge would seem to have influenced her; and one is naturally led to ask how a mania of this kind is to be distinguished from that of insanity, which relieves its victims from responsibility. In other directions, it is true, Agnes Norman would seem to be sane enough. There is something, how ever, very horrible in the notion of an apparently quiet girl going about a house in the character of an assistant domestic, with her thoughts perpetually turning on the possibility of killing something. Will ten years’ penal servitude cause the leopard to change its spots?
[“The Child Murderess.” Town and Country (Sydney, Australia), Nov. 4, 1871, p. 599]