Sunday, April 13, 2014

Jane Marlow Helps to Solve a Murder

Bridge at Littlebeck, North Yorkshire Moors
By Brian Norman, Accessed via Wikipedia Commons

While doing some random googling this morning, I stumbled across a story about my three times great grandmother, Jane Marlow (a.k.a. Marley). She was born Jane Fewster in about 1800 in Eskdaleside, North Yorkshire, and married George Marlow on January 19, 1826 in Whitby. She was the daughter of Thomas Fewster and Jane Ward, the mother of William Marlow, and the grandmother of Joseph H. Marlow. I was delighted to find this story, as it is unusual to find such detail about the life and personality of an ancestor in England who lived so long ago, particularly a female one.

The Annual Register, or a View of the History and Politics of the Year 1857, includes the following story:

York Assizes—Murder—Sarah Jemmison was charged with the wilful murder of her illegitimate son, Joseph Jemmison, on the 9th of December last.

From the evidence it appeared that the child whose death was the subject of inquiry was born three years ago, and was soon after its birth placed out at birth with a Mrs. Jane Marley, at Sleights, near Whitby. The child remained there for a long period, and the payments for its board being very irregularly made, and an arrear of 6l. or more having accumulated, Mrs. Marley declined any longer to keep him, she being herself in a position in life too poor to support any additional burden. The prisoner was then living as servant with Mr. Pearson, at Egton, a farmer, and in his absence she brought the child to his house. On his return he objected to its remaining there, having, as he said, as many as he could keep himself already. The prisoner proposed then that she should take her boy to a relation at Moorsholm, a distance of twelve miles. The farmer consented, and sent his son, a young lad, with his donkey and cart, to help her on the road. She parted from the lad at the junction of two roads, taking that which led to a large tract of moor land. The child was never seen again alive. This was in December last. Three months after a shepherd observed his dog feeding on something, and on inspecting it, found it to be the leg of a child. He returned home, taking it with him, and on someone’s suggestion the dog was kept without food for two days, and then let out. He at once went out to the moor in question, and returned apparently sated. He was then again taken to the moor, and led the way to a spot near where Pearson’s son had parted with the prisoner, and there a thigh and, not far off, the skull of a child were found. Further search was made, and other parts, sadly mangled and torn, as was supposed, by the dog, were discovered. On the skull were traces of injuries as to which evidence was laid before the jury by medical men, to the effect that in their opinion those injuries had been inflicted during life, and were not such as could be caused by the gnawing of a dog. The falsity of the prisoner’s statement was also proved: she had said, when asked what she had done with the child, that she had left him with Mrs. Wilson, his father’s sister.

After an absence of about an hour the jury returned a verdict of “Guilty”, but with a recommendation of mercy on account of the prisoner’s destitute condition. Sentence of death was passed, but, on the recommendation of the Judge, was committed to penal servitude for life.

In Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths around the Tees, the author Maureen Anderson expands upon the story. She relates that Sarah’s sister had originally taken the baby to stay with Mrs. Marley. On November 29, 1856, Sarah went to Mrs. Marley and informed her that she could not pay her the money that she owed her, but would try to pay her soon. She stated that she wanted to take the boy away, ostensibly to the poor house with her. Mrs. Marley apparently told her not to take the child that night, but to return the next day. When Sarah came for him the next day, the boy was wearing a white shirt with a slit on one of the sleeves, as he had had a “sore arm”. This shirt apparently matched one which had been found by the dog. Anderson goes on to state that Mrs. Marley went to the Pearson home a few months later to try to collect her debt, but to no avail. Sarah came to her house the next week, and told her that the child was staying with his father’s sister near Guisborough, “adding as a joke that his uncle would kill him because he was fond of pulling the cows’ tails”. When Mrs. Marley asked if she had clothes for him, she told her that the family had a boy a little older who had died whose clothes he was wearing. Later, after being apprehended by the authorities, it came out that Sarah had murdered her child and left his body on the moors.


I have since found references to newspaper reports which indicate that Mrs. Marlow’s suspicions led to Sarah’s arrest. (The names “Marlow” and “Marley” seem to be interchangeable, as we have found in the past).

No comments: