In A Human Moment

Miscellany from the 19th century

Starvation Of An Idiot Child

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Yesterday morning an inquest was resumed, at the Earl of Ellesmere Tavern, Bromley, respecting the death of William Conde, aged 12 years.

The boy’s death took place at No. 7, North Street, Bromley, on Saturday fortnight. The body presented a most horrible appearance of emaciation. The weight was only 20lb. 12oz. ; the girth round the chest was but 17 inches, that round the abdomen 14 inches, and that of the thigh 6 inches. The father endeavoured to account for the size of the body by swearing that the age of the deceased was only 8 ½  years, but he ultimately had to admit that the real age was 12 years. The father also admitted that the deceased had not been out of the house for six months, nor out of the room for eight weeks before his death; but he maintained that the boy “ate more than three of the other children.”

Lavinia Rios said that she lodged at No.7, Upper North Street. The first she saw of the deceased was a week after Christmas, when at six o’clock one morning he slipped into her room and asked her for a bit of bread. He stared about with a frightened air, and witness would have been terrified, but that she remembered having heard something about a boy being kept in one of the rooms. She gave him a bit of bread, and then he asked her to take him to live with her, because his mother beat him so. She never saw him again till he was dying. She often heard some child beaten.

The landlady of the house said that the Conde family came to lodge with her about a year and eight months ago. She never saw the deceased until eight months ago, and not again till he was dying. About eight months ago a disturbance took place, when the neighbours insisted on the child being shown to an inspector of police. Witness often heard the cry of some child that Mrs Conde was beating, but she could not tell which child it was; it was a weak cry, and used to get weaker and weaker. There were four children in all. She did not think the boy was an idiot.

Mrs Murray, another lodger, gave similar evidence. She only saw the child once during several months. He stole some fish once out of her cupboard and ate it.

Mrs. Rios, recalled said that the cry which she used to hear was very peculiar; had heard it no more since the boy died. she had no doubt it came from the deceased.

The landlady said that she remembered that she had seen the deceased three times altogether; on each occasion he asked her for bread; she gave him some, and he ate it ravenously. He also asked for water. He appeared very frightened, and he ate the bread as if starved. The cry she used to hear was generally loud at first, as if from a blow, and then it used to grow faint and weak.

Dr. Kernott, of Poplar, said that he was called in to the deceased when he was dying. There were bruises on the body and arms, as if from being beaten. The body, which was 41in. long, weighed only 20lb. 12oz. There was no fat whatever in the system. There was some slight disease of the lungs, but not sufficient to cause death. The cause of death was starvation. The organs in general, the brain, &c., were in a healthy condition. Syncope, from want of nourishment, was the immediate cause of death. No doubt exposure and general hardships would tend also to produce the fatal syncope.

When all the witnesses had been examined the coroner briefly summed up the case, and said that the evidence seemed to point clearly to the conclusion that the boy was deprived of life by systematic starvation, and the case was therefore one of murder.

The jury unanimously returned a verdict of “Wilful murder” against John Conde and Mary Conde, his wife.

The coroner then issued his warrant for the committal of the father and stepmother of the deceased to Newgate to await their trial at the ensuing sessions of the Central Criminal Court.

When the two accused persons were being removed to prison considerable uproar took place. The mob, which was composed principally of women, made a determined effort to get at them, and the groans and yells were frightful. The police escorted the man and his wife towards the cab which had been procured, but the crowd, closing in, seemed bent on tearing the supposed culprits to pieces. Conde struck out savagely at the women, and so, with the assistance of the police, he kept them at bay, and got off pretty well; but his wife was not so fortunate, her bonnet and clothes were torn, and the police had to struggle hard to save her. With great difficulty the prisoners were got into the cab and driven off to Newgate.

The Morning Post, Thursday, March 07, 1867; pg.7; Issue 29091
Gale Document Number: R3210467265

For readers interested in the outcome of the trial, the transcript is available from the Old Bailey Online.
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 7.0, 31 August 2014), April 1867, trial of JOHN GEORGE CONDE (40) MARY CONDE (39) (t18670408-404).

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