Thursday, September 22, 2011

Isabella Newman, Australian Child Care Provider & Serial Killer - 1913

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Melbourne, December 9. – Sensational developments occurred this afternoon in connection with the investigations by detectives into the mysterious disappearances of several babies adopted by the woman Isabella Newman, who committed suicide at her house in Mordialloc, after detectives had placed her under arrest. The bodies of two babies were unearthed in the fowlhouse at the woman’s residence. Dr. Mollison, Government pathologist, has not yet examined the bodies, but the detectives are certain that both infants were murdered, and that the burial of their bodies proves that. Mrs. Newman carried on baby farming chiefly with illegitimate children. The officers will continue digging to-morrow, as at least four other babies are missing.

[“The Mordialloc Mystery. - The Search For The Babies. - Two Bodies Found.” Dec. 10, 1913, p. 3]


EXCERPT (from long article below): In the case of the children, there was no doubt that the two found buried had been murdered by the deceased, and the one found in the sea had been murdered by her before she threw it in. If the woman from Fitzroy had seen the last-mentioned one who she might have been able to identify it us the one she had entrusted to the so-called  Mrs. Williams [Isabelle Newman].


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): At the Melbourne Morgue, Dr. Cole, P. M., held an inquest concerning the deaths of two infants whose bodies were found at La Belle Farm, near Mordialloc, on the 9th instant, of a child whose body was found on the beach at Carrum on October 24, and Mrs. Isabella Newman, which occurred at La Belle Farm, near Mordialloc, on the 5th inst.Dr. Mollison, Government Pathologist, said that on the 10th inst. he made post-mortem examinations of the bodies of two male children. One weighed about 7 1b. and the other 6 lb, being fully developed. He was dutiable to ascertain the cause of death the first, but, the other appeared


The evidence of Mr. C. A. E. Price, Government Analyst, was to the effect, that the internal organs of these infants showed no signs of poisoning.

Constables Bateman and White gave formal evidence as to the finding or the bodies m loose sandy soil under a shed at La Belle Farm.

Constable J. E. Carr deposed to receiving a message on October, 24 regarding the finding of the body of a male child on the beach at Carrum, about six miles from Mordialloc. The child had been trussed up like a fowl, the arms having been crossed and the legs doubled up in front of the body.

Dr. Brett said that on October 25 he held a post-mortem examination of the body of a well-developed male child four or five weeks old which had apparently been dead only a few hours when found. Death had been caused by suffocation, which; howover, was


to drowning.

John Henry Broughton. to whose place the child’s body had been taken after discovery, said that when the tide was going out at Carrum there was always a strong current from Mordialloc.

Thomas Charles Newman, husband of Isabella Newman, said the deceased was 43 years of age. He last saw her alive on the morning of the 5th inst., when she was bright and happy. He knew of no reason why the should take her own life. He marred his wife when she had just turned 19. He was uncertain as to the ages of his two eldest children. One was 22 or 23 and the other 19 or 20. They had lived at Mordialloc for five or six years. He was earning £3 8s a week as a laborer for a contractor under the council. His wife did the housework and kept poultry. She had been pretty often in Melbourne of late years, and always went alone. He made a statement to the police at the detective office. He was asked to go along, He went there about 5 p.m. one day and did not leave till 11 a. m. the next. He didn’t make his statement till morning.

The Coroner: Didn’t you make any to protest? – It wasn’t any use.

Why didn’t you go away? – I said didn’t know anything about it, but; I felt, that I couldn’t go out.

Did the police threaten you? – Well, they cross-examined me very closely.

Did they accuse you of anything? No, not exactly.

Now that he was under oath, witness declared that the statement he then made was true. His wife said she would like a baby to keep her company as she was lonely, and he told her she could please herself. “She deceived me,” he went on. He gave her all the money be earned, and while eldest boy and girl were working they sent her 15s a week each.

To Sub-Inspector Westcott: He didn’t have any sleep during the night that he was examined at the detective office.

Sub-Inspector Westcott: Your wife was charged before with trafficking in babies? – I don’t know anything about that.

You saw me over the case when your wife was arrested?— Yes.

When you saw strange babies coming home didn’t you think of the otherwise? – She seemed quite safe with children, she was so kind and attentive to them.

Mr. Price said that an analysis of the contents of Mrs. Newman’s stomach showed that she must have taken enough strychnine


From half the contents of the stomach he recovered 625 grains, though half a grain was a poisonous dose. Dr. Brett detailed the result of the postmortem on Mrs. Newman. Death had been due to paralysis of the heart following on strychnine poisoning.

Thomas Oldleld Newman, 16, told of the arrival of the detectives at the farm on the 5th inst. His mother said they could search the house, and they did so, one accompanying them. His mother washed and dressed the baby, and then, after taking in some hot water, he nursed the baby until she would be ready. While waiting ho hoard her call out, and the police burst into the room. He had several times heard her


but he had never token much notice.

The Coroner: Why did you go to the detective office? – The constable took me.

Why did you not tell them you didn’t want to go? – I thought I would have to go.

They didn’t arrest you? – I don’t know what they’d call it.

How long were you there? – From a quarter to 5 in the afternoon till 10 o’clock in the morning. I waited in the office till 9 o’clock, and then Detective Sainsbury spoke to me for two and a half hours.

Did they put any pressure on you to act you to answer? – Oh, no, they just asked us questions in the ordinary a fact, they offered me a cup of tea.

You felt better after that?— You bet I did.

Continuing, young Newman said that he had been put to some discomfort at first, but on asking permission had been allowed to retire. Such convenience had, however, been withheld from his sister, a sense of delicacy preventing her making the request.

The Coroner intimated that the names of certain female witnesses connected with the case and who had given the police material were not to be made public.

An elderly woman,


said that on October 23 last her daughter gave birth to a male child, and they hot being able to rear it, an advertisement was inserted m the daily papers asking for someone to adopt it. Mrs. Williams called and said that she had no children of her own, nor was she likely to have any, but she wanted one for company. hile her husband, who was a commercial traveller, was away. She at first wanted £6 or £8 to buy a perambulator and cot, but afterwards said se would be satisfied if witness provided those things. The parties met at Malvern station on November 5, when the child was handed over together with a parcel of clothing. The child’s mother was also present, and ”Mrs. Williams” kissed her and assured her that, her baby would be well looked after. Saying that it was too late to go home, “Mrs. Williams” asked witness t go to town with her. They went, to the Palace Hotel, where the foster-mother-elect booked a room, afterwards informing witness that she had booked the next room for her husband, who would help her home with; the child next day. She paid her  and was to send another before Christms. Thereafter no further payments would be desired, as she would then look on the child as her own. The child was then 17 days old.

The Coroner: Did it not occur to you or your daughter to go and see the child at any time? – My daughter was too ill. After she came out of the hospital it took all my time to look after her until she went as Hastings.



with your daughter’s consent?— Yes. I thought Mrs. Williams was a genuine woman.

Another widow, a young attractive looking woman living in Fitzroy, said her sister gave birth to a male child on October 19 last. Attracted by an advertisement in the ‘‘Age,” she called at 14 Perth-street, Pinhran, and saw “Mrs. Williams.” After talking over matters, “Mrs. Williams” said she would need about £20. A few days later, at a second interview, “Mrs. Williams” said she would take £10, but declared, “Mr. Williams says I must get £20 before I take the baby.” Witness said she would only give £10, and she wanted to see the baby in a months’ time when she would give another £10. The baby was handed over, together with some clothes, which, having been redeemed from a city pawnshop, Were produced in court by the policte and identified by witness. A week later witness received a letter saying the baby was well, and asking for the other 10. Witness wrote and told “Mrs. Williams’ that she had better call. That she did on December 3. Asked where the baby was, she said, “At home with Mr. Williams.” Witness demanded to see the baby, and would not let “Mrs. Williams” out of the room. The latter then said witness could come to a place in the city, where Mr. Williams was, and ho would tell, her, that the baby was all right. They went there and in a fernery was a man whom “Mrs. Williams” pointed out as her husband. Witness identified Newman then in court, as that man. The two women then took train, to Mordialloc, and drove out to the farm by cab. On the way she heard the cabby address the other woman as Mrs. Newman. On arriving at the house, Mrs. Newman kept witness waiting a few minutes, and then, pulling down the blinds m the front room, pointed to a cot in the corner, and said, “There’s your baby.” Witness said,


Mrs. Newman insisted. “It is,” she said; but witness, pulling off the shawl that covered it, said, “My baby was a boy; this is a girl.” Pressed for an explanation, Mrs. Newman said that her husband would not allow a baby boy in the house, as he wanted a girl, and the child was with a nurse at Malvern. Continuing, she said, “Give me till 4 o’clock on Friday afternoon (December 5) and I’ll bring your baby back and you can decide whether you will let the nurse have it or take it yourself.”

Detective Sainsbury said that on the 5th inst. he, with Detective Olholm, went to La Belle Farm with a warrant for the arrest of Mrs. Newman for receiving payment for boarded-out infants. On being questioned, deceased declared that the only infant she had received was the one then m the house. On making a search, they, found a quantity of babies’ clothing, and told deceased she would have to accompany them to the detective office. On being called when deceased had taken poison he administered an emetic of soap and water, but that was ineffective, and she was hurried to the township in a cab.

To the Coroner: When the bodies of the babies were found, there were only Connie and Tom, the eldest girl and boy, at home. Witness sent Detective Olholm with them to Melbourne, and waited for the father. Learning in Mordialloc that Olholm had taken the father with him, witness went to South Yarra, whence he took Mrs. Otter, the second daughter, to the detective officer. There they were questioned separately, Olholm being with witness all the time.

The Coroner: On what plea did you take her? Did you arrest her?— I didn’t arrest her.

Did you tell her she needn’t come?— No.

Did you tell her what her rights were – I told her she was wanted to explain what she could.

How long were you questioning them? — From 10 p. m. 7 a.m. I questioned Tom first.

Did you write the statement as it was taken? – No: I had a conversation with him next. I took three to three and a half hours with him. Then he was allowed to go to a back room and a statement was taken from Alice. Tom’s statement was finished after midnight.

(Testily) Then why not let him go get rest somewhere?— We had still to question his father.

Was nothing done for his comfort — nowhere he could lie down? – Oh, no. There was a chain and a table m the room. He


than what I did.

Were they in any way ill-treated? –

No, they were neither mentally nor physically distressed. The only one that had any hardship was myself, as I was questioning them all night.

This was done by you with the consent of your superior officer?— Yes.

It is not a new practice — No; it has been used ever since I’ve been in the force about ten years. (Proudly) I did It in the Peacock case, having Poke under examination from 9 a.m. till 4 a.m. the following day.

It is sanctioned by the official authorities?—Yes.

Do you think a sleepy man or woman would be in the best condition to defend themselves against searching police question? – I should not think so.

Do you think this method of examining witnesses who are suspect helps in the detection of crime?—(Authoritatively) It is the only method –

(Surprisedly) The only method – Yes

If a person says he wont say anything, what can you do – Nothing –

Did you tell those people what their rights were? — I didn’t say rights. –

(Firmly) Yes, it is a right ever since Magna Charta. You know of Magna Charta? – Yes.

And why should the police do these ? You


 —That’s one of the risks we take.

I think the public ought to know what their rights are in these matters.

Dr. Cole then said there was no doubt that the woman Newman had committed suicide by an enormous dose of strychnine. From the evidence of two of the witnesses it appeared that the baby farming had been made easy to the woman. The desire to get rid of undesirable children made her methods easy. I do not think there were many such people about, but these things were made possible for them. There was a great contrast between the two witness. The mother of the girl was evidently very desirous not to see the child again. Her methods were not anything like those of the other woman, to whose action the whole case had been due. The Neglected Children’s Department, of which she had been ignorant, would have suited her purpose very well. The deceased had felt she could not face the police any more, and yet by her methods— which brought her in a lot of money – she continued braving the law. As far as the husband was concerned, he had been suspected, and


of knowing something about it. It was the police examination of witnesses that he wished particularly to deal with. No doubt the police, with their particular method, were not so much to blame as the law and the authorities that permitted it. Ever since the signing of Magna Charta every free man had had certain rights. Under arrest things were different. There had not been enough evidence to arrest the husband as an necessary, though his conduct was very suspicious. He wasn’t as innocent a person as he made out he was. These people, who were under suspicion – and reasonably so – had been taken to the detective office and kept there through the night, with no accommodation except seating. It would have been better had they been given some lodgings until morning, and then the day been devoted to questioning, but even then knew they would have been


all night. The torturing of persons with the idea of procuring evidence was sanctioned by the code of Just-man, one of the earliest foundations of English law, but the torture of innocent people and long since bean abolished by law. In England it was in common use from 1460 to 1640, the last country to abolish the practice being Russia, over 100 years ago. In France adopted an entirely different system. The questioning was on oath before a judge, a trained official. There lay the great distinction. Here the statements were made before a police officer, and taken down by the same or another officer, and many people did not know what they were signing. On being produced in that court or any other those statements might be, and often were, denied by the people und there was nothing to prevent their doing so. The best plan would be for the police to collect evidence outside any statement. Then if the person concerted wished to make a statement ho could do so. Under Magna Charta a person not accused of anything was not bound to answer any questions that might incriminate himself or anyone else. The authorities should consider the matter with a view of having it altered by legislation, as there was no doubt but that Magna Charta, the great Charter of British liberty, was against it.

In the case of the children, there was no doubt that the two found buried had been murdered by the deceased, and the one found in the sea had been murdered by her before she threw it in. If the woman from Fitzroy had seen the last-mentioned one who she might have been able to identify it us the one she had entrusted to the so-called  Mrs. Williams [Isabelle Newman].

[“Newman Baby-Farming Case. - Two Babies Suffocated. - American ‘Third Degree’ In Australia.  - Coroner Recalls ‘The Great Charter’ - Demands Legislative Reform.” (From Melbourne “Truth.”), New Zealand Truth (Wellington, New Zealand), Jan. 17, 1914, p. 5]

[Image from: “Baby Framing Revelations. – Premiums Paid and Babies Disappear. – Two Baby-Bodies Disinterred By Police. – Overtaken by Nemesis False Foster-mother Poisons Herself.” (from Melbourne “Truth”), New Zealand Truth (Wellington, New Zealand), Jan. 3, 1914, p. 5]






For more cases of “Baby Farmers,” professional child care providers who murdered children see The Forgotten Serial Killers.

[1519-1/4/21; 2036-2/21/22]

No comments:

Post a Comment