Sarah Jones –Infanticide in Monmouthshire.


Researched and written by this month’s guest contributor Monty Dart. 
The words used in this account come from contemporaneous reports of the trial.


Sarah Jones was described in The Times 24th April 1827 as ‘this unfortunate victim to seduction’.  She is reported to have been about 26 years old and came to trial at Usk, Monmouthshire for the murder of her new-born female child in October 1826, her mother Mary Jones was charged for aiding and assisting in the crime.  The first witness in Court was next-door neighbour Ann Jones, a servant at The Tredegar Arms public house, in Bassaleg.  The cottage where Sarah, her mother Mary, father Thomas and brother (also Thomas) lived, was a tiny, one up two down dwelling.  Ann Jones gave evidence through an interpreter – many of the witnesses spoke Welsh as their first language.  She had ‘observed an alteration in the size of Sarah Jones.  I thought she was with child and told her so.  She denied it.  She was very large before 23rd (October 1826) and small afterwards.  She told me she had the dropsy.’  Ann Jones continued,  ‘I went to see her on Tuesday 24th, she was in bed.  I saw nothing particular in the room, but there was a bad smell.’  The following day she saw Sarah again and noted that ‘she was then as thin as I am now.  I had some talk with her and said she had better confess.’


Another neighbour said that on several occasions she had remarked that Sarah was pregnant, this was met with denial but she did admit to ‘not being well’. She also saw Sarah in bed but was ‘unable to observe her size, she kept her clothes, so.’


On Saturday 28th a gamekeeper, Peter Potter found a bundle tied in a pocket handkerchief, in the cart-house of Sir Charles Morgan, of Tredegar House.  In the bundle was a piece of sacking, sewn with three large stitches, on investigation he saw the body of a child with streaks of blood on it.  Rumour was such in the small village that he immediately approached one of his labourers, John Flook and indicated the bundle. In evidence he said ‘He took the parcel and we went together to the prisoner’s house and found the father and the two prisoners in a room downstairs.  Flook laid it down on the chair and I said to the mother (Mary) ‘Do take it and let it be buried like a Christian and not like a dog’.  She took up the parcel but seemed not to know what I meant.  I said ‘Take it out and you’ll know what I mean.  She felt it round before opening of it, and said, raising her hands, ‘I never knew nothing of it before.’  I said, ‘If you did not, your daughter did and she ought to be ashamed of herself.’ The pathetic bundle was left on the chair – in the evening Sarah’s father and brother took it to the cemetery, within yards of the house and buried it.  However, word of this came to the ears of the Coroner, who ordered an exhumation.


Jehoida Brewer, surgeon of Newport examined the body. ‘It appeared to have been dead four or five days. I found two cuts in its throat: one about three inches in length and an inch in depth.  The jugular vein and carotid artery were nearly divided.  The wounds were quite sufficient to produce death.  The child had come to maturity.  I opened it; the lungs were perfectly inflated and of a florid red; the heart was completely exhausted of blood; the vessels were empty. If the child had not lived, the lungs would have not been that florid red colour.’  His last statement, ‘The prisoner had lately been delivered.’ sealed Sarah’s fate and resulted in her arrest by police constable Edmund Rees. 


Margaret Kenvin – another neighbour, took up the story. ‘On Monday 30th October I saw Sarah Jones.  I said ‘You have done for yourself. You do say nobody knows of this but yourself.’  She answered me ‘Nobody knows indeed’. I said ‘Who cut its throat?’ She said ‘I did do it myself.’


PC Rees told of the arrest. ‘I made her no promise or threat.  I said ‘How did such an unhappy job as this happen with you?’ She said ‘The child was born dead.’  She stopped a moment and then said ‘It was him, he the villain that deceived me and persuaded me not to let anybody know of it, and to keep it secret.  No good can ever come to him.’


The jury retired for half an hour, they acquitted Mary Jones but found Sarah Jones guilty and sentence of death was pronounced upon her.  Mr. Justice Bosenquet said ‘You stand before the court, and before your God, convicted of having violated the ties of nature, by putting to death a child, the offspring of your own body, and the fruit of your own crime.  I cannot hold out the slightest hope of life to you.  This is an awful scene and an awful lesson to have brought young women into the same situation as you were brought into, but more awful to the individual to whom your destruction is owning.  He will have to answer to his God, but whether here he will be answerable I cannot say.  The law allows you but a very short interval.  Let me earnestly and affectionately exhort you to implore, through the merits of your Redeemer, the mercy of that God whom you have offended.’


Sarah was to hang in three days time (on Wednesday the 11th of April 1827) and during the last few hours told of the pitiful details that brought her to her present state. Having thus far concealed the pregnancy, she discovered just three months before the confinement, that her seducer, Flook, had married another woman.  She hatched a plan to take revenge on him by murdering his child.  Having ‘found herself ill’ on Monday 23rd, she took to bed and whilst her mother was downstairs, delivered herself of the child and slit its throat.  She hid the body between the sacking and the bed.  When Flook came to see her on the Friday, she told him of the deed and begged him to bury the child but he failed her once again by leaving it on the cart, where it was found by Potter.  She swore her mother knew nothing of the pregnancy, though in such a tiny cottage, it is doubtful.  However, Mary Jones’ shock when the body was revealed was considered genuine by the jury.


On the morning of the execution, Sarah Bayley, a thief, who shared the cell said that Sarah had ‘slept remarkably sound’, though ‘she had been disturbed by the vision of her coffin beside the bed and since her sentence could feel the sensation of the rope around her neck and often lifted her hand to remove it.’ After the sacrament Sarah was ‘ushered to the drop, walking with a steady step.’ She took her leave of those about her and ‘begged the executioner to draw her clothes tight around her. This he did with a handkerchief and the drop fell.’ It was said that on it being made known that the part of her sentence relating to her dissection was remitted, she felt much gratified.’


James Flook disappeared before the trial and was never brought to book for his part in the crime.


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