“You’ll know all mine by the tape around their necks”
In 1895 Amelia Dyer, a 57-year-old ex-member of the Salvation Army, set herself up in Reading, England as a childminder, or what the Victorians called a baby farmer. She placed advertisements in local newspapers offering her services. In March the body of a child was found floating in the Thames, a ligature around the neck. The body had been wrapped in paper bearing an address in Reading — Amelia Dyer’s address but when the police went to the house, it was empty.
In November 1895 25-year-old barmaid Evelina Marmon gave birth to an illegitimate daughter she named Doris in Cheltenham. No one knew who the father was. She advertised for someone to look after the child but, by coincidence, an ad next to hers read, “Married couple with no family would adopt healthy child, nice country home. Terms, £10.” A Mrs Harding of Oxford Road, Reading, had placed it. Evelina wrote and received a reply from Mrs Harding, “I should be glad to have a dear little baby girl, one I could bring up and call my own. We are plain, homely people, in fairly good circumstances. I don’t want a child for money’s sake, but for company and home comfort. Myself and my husband are dearly fond of children. I have no child of my own. A child with me will have a good home and a mother’s love.”
A week later, Evelina arrived to drop off Doris, leaving the baby, clothes and £10. Mrs Harding was in fact Amelia Dyer and Evelina never saw her daughter again. On 4 April 1896 Dyer was arrested and charged with murder, by which time at least six babies had met their end. She was sending little children to Jesus, she said, because He wanted them far more than their mothers did. All the babies had been strangled and wrapped in paper parcels.
“You’ll know all mine by the tape around their necks,” she told police.
Reading, Berkshire, England
Amelia Dyer appeared at the Old Bailey on 22 May 1896 and pleaded guilty to the murder of Doris Marmon. James Billington hanged her at Newgate Prison on 10 June 1896.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Two years after Amelia Dyer went to the gallows, another baby was discovered dead in a string parcel at Newton Abbot. She had been given to a Mrs Stewart to care for, for £12. Mrs Stewart was Polly, Amelia Dyer’s daughter.