Dunn, Thomas Edwin

Hertfordshire Mercury, 15th February 1908


On 10th 1908 Edwin Watson Dunn, aged 25 and of Paul’s Lane, Hoddesdon, was convicted of the murder on January 4th of that year of his eleven-month-old son Thomas Edwin Dunn.

Edwin had been happily married but unemployed and unable to find work for some time. He bought spirit salts and swallowed half himself and gave the other half to his son in a fit of depression, immediately admitting so to his wife when she returned home and found the baby with evidence of having consumed a corrosive substance. The local doctor was immediately called and attempted to treat the child throughout the night, though it sadly died the following morning. The local policeman PC Gray had already been called and had arrested Edwin promptly and with little fuss, originally for attempted murder. Once the facts of the case became known the case attracted considerable local attention and on January 11th it was decided Edwin was to be prosecuted at the assizes the following month. In the intervening period he was incarcerated at Brixton prison, where a Dr Scott looked over him to assess him for insanity at the time of his actions.

At the trial, Judge Murphy was to quick to assure the jury that the prisoner had committed the crime, the question was whether he was responsible for his actions at the time. His mother, Elizabeth Dunn, confirmed numerous siblings of Edwin had been in institutions and that his father had been an eccentric man. This was backed up by Dr Scott, who suggested a history of extreme melancholia in the family resulting in extraordinary actions when times were bad meant that Edwin was not responsible for his actions at the time of the murder, and that he was not merely morbid due to unemployment but that it had triggered an insane response in him. The jury agreed and Edward was found guilty but irresponsible for his actions.

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