Hannah Halley – A horrible murder in
final case on infanticide we examine the case of Hannah Halley who like so many
young women at the time found herself in a seemingly impossible situation. She murdered
her new born infant because she could not keep her job and nurse a baby and
without the job she could not afford to support the child. Thirty one
year old Hannah worked at the Darley cotton mill in
Derbyshire and gave birth to the baby on
Earlier that day her landlady and a friend of the landlady had noticed that Hannah looked very unwell and she agreed that she felt ill. She went up to her room where she gave birth a little later and the two women heard the cries of a new born baby and went up to offer assistance. When they entered the room Hannah denied that she had given birth and was seen putting a jug under the bed which she had previously been trying to conceal under her clothes. Hannah continued with the denial so one of the women threatened to get the local constable and left the room to do so, followed by Hannah. The other woman was then able to recover the jug and was horrified to see the baby inside, dreadfully scalded but still alive. It seems that Hannah had pushed it into the jug and poured boiling water over it.
The constable was sent for and arrested Hannah at the house and she was taken to Friar Gate Gaol to await trial for the murder. Amazingly the poor little baby lived until the following Saturday.
It transpired that Hannah had had a child five years earlier so she did know that she was pregnant. It is not known what became of this child.
to wait to come to trial until the following March when the next Derbyshire
Assizes opened. Her case was heard before Mr. Justice Best on Friday the 22nd
of that month. She was charged with the wilful murder of her infant and
evidence was given against her by the two women, the constable and a doctor.
A very clear case was presented to the jury proving not only the act but also
the intent to kill, as evidenced by Hannah’s frequent denial of her pregnancy.
Consequently they had no difficulty in reaching a guilty verdict. Mr. Justice
Best sentenced Hannah to death and she was taken back to Friar Gate Gaol and
lodged in the basement condemned cell for the last two days of her life.
Having been sentenced on a Friday and Sunday being a “Deis
non” the execution was to take place on
The gallows was erected on the pavement outside the main door in preparation. As was normal Hannah received the support and ministrations of the prison chaplain over the weekend and spent much time in prayer with him. It is recorded that she slept only fitfully and appeared almost prostrate with fear and grief. However when the time came she seemed to find reserves of courage and climbed the steps of the gallows with a surprisingly firm step watched by a large crowd. She submitted herself to the necessary preparations and prayed with the chaplain. When all was ready the drop fell and Hannah reportedly died with very little struggle. Her body was afterwards sent for dissection in accordance with her sentence.
the last woman to be executed at
Two other women
had been hanged in