Article from the Bury Post August 1849:


“On Friday last, Mary Robinson, aged27, of Redlingfield, near Eye, was examined before J.T. Tuck, Esq. and the Rev. T.L. French, on the charge of murdering her illegitimate child, John Robinson, aged 15 months, by administering poison, on the 16th August. The hearing lasted from 12 until 6 o’clock, resulted in the committal of the prisoner to take her trial for the murder at our next assizes. The prisoner had for some time lived with her parents but her father (a labourer) being unable to support her, insisted that she should go out in service; her mother also advised her to go out, and told her to take the child with her. On the morning of the 16th, about 10 o’clock, her friends left the cottage for about ten minutes, during which time it is alleged that the prisoner gave the child a draught of “Sir William Burnett’s Disinfecting Fluid”. On the friends’ return, it is said, they had conclusive evidence that this had been the case, beside which the child was in great agony, and frothed very much at the mouth. The assistance of the neighbours was sought, and as soon as possible medical aid was afforded, but although suitable antidotes were administered, the child expired at nine in the evening. The prisoner’s father, three of her sisters, and her aunt are principal witnesses to her guilt.”

The trial actually took place the following year, on August 5th 1850 at the Suffolk Summer Assizes and was reported at length in the Ipswich Journal. Mary was described as “A stout, round-faced, fresh-coloured, healthy looking woman, rather above the usual stature, with a mild but firm expression of countenance. She was dressed in a red and blue plaid shawl, with a straw bonnet and green ribbon. She pleaded not guilty in a firm but respectful tone”.

She was not questioned during the trial but witnesses stated that she had insisted she had given the child only bread and water and they also said she had been kind to him and played with him during his short life.

The bottle of disinfecting fluid had been sprinkled about the house in diluted form because of “fever”.

Mary’s mother said that her children could read a little and could not write. Tests had been carried out which confirmed that this fluid had caused the child’s death. The jury heard of efforts to save him. No one had seen Mary give anything to her child. There was a model and a plan of the house in which nine people were living at the time. Many witnesses were questioned and great care seemed to be taken to find the truth.

In summing up the judge instructed the jury that the case had not been properly presented by the prosecution and reminded them they must have no doubt if they were to bring a guilty verdict. It took two minutes for Mary to be declared not guilty.

The Census for 1851 lists Mary Robinson, pauper in Hartismere Union Workhouse, Eye. Her family were still living in Horham Road, Redlingfield.

Linda Hudson (Published in Athelington, Horham & Redlingfield News Summer 2017 issue No 38).