Foul deeds indeed

Hertfordshire Mercury, 18th April, 1914


On Wednesday evening, a man named Cramphorn, a general labourer, and a married woman named Macklen, were arrested at Hitchin and were taken to St Albans in connection with the disappearance of a child, in possession of whom they had been seen on Good Friday in the neighbourhood of St Albans.

On the Saturday when the child had first been noticed as being missing, the story was told that the child had been taken over by Cramphorn’s brother, but enquiries by the police did not tend to confirm this statement.  Later on, it was ascertained that the child had died and had been disposed of in a field near St Albans.  Diligent investigations were then undertaken by the police in the neighbourhood of Windridge Farm, St Albans, and Redbourn, and the couple were detained pending further enquiries.

On Thursday morning, Edith Elizabeth Macklen and Bertie George Cramphorn were charged at St Albans with the wilful murder of Abraham Henry Macklen.

Evidence was given by Police Constable Selby to the effect the the child had been missing since Good Friday, and that upon searching for the prisoners, he had found the woman in a gypsy’s cart at Knebworth, and the man lying beside a caravan on a fairground at Hitchin.  Asked where the child was, the woman had said that it was at an address in Blacksmiths Lane, St Albans, but that she did not know the number of the house or the name of the people at the property.

Observation had been kept on Cramphorn who, going to a public-house, had left by the back door and, after scaling the rear fence, had bolted across a field.  He had been pursued by P.C. Selby, and had been brought back to the fairground where both prisoners were detained and taken to Hitchin Police Station.

Superintendent Sullivan stated that that morning Cramphorn had been taken to Windridge Farm, St Albans where he had pointed out a spot in the bank where the child’s body had been found, poked into the earth.  The body had been removed to the public mortuary.

The prisoners were remanded.  At the inquest, however, on the 3 month old child of Edith Elizabeth Macklen, it was she who, in conjunction with labourer Bertie George Cramphorn, stood charged with the wilful murder of  the child whose body had been found buried at the farm.  Charles and Edith Cramphorn, brother and sister of the male prisoner, said that they had last seen the child in the possession of the prisoners.

Police Sergeant Wade said that Macklen had told him that she had left her husband because he had starved both her and the child, and had since lived with Cramphorn who had been very kind to her.  They had been turned out of their lodgings on 9th April and had then been sleeping under some hay-ricks near St Albans and, when she had woken one morning, the child had been dead.  She had said that she had no money to bury the child, so she and Cramphorn had made a hole with their hands in a bank in the field and had covered the body over.

The jury found a verdict of manslaughter against both of the accused who were afterwards brought before the Magistrates and further remanded.

Before the St Albans Magistrates on the Saturday, the charges against them, of the murder of the 3 month old child, were read.  The Counsel for the Public Prosecutor argued that, on medical evidence, the murder charge could not be sustained and thus suggested an alternative charge of manslaughter.

Doctor Spilsbury and Doctor Bovill, who had carried out the post mortem examination, stated that the fracture found on the child’s skull was not a wound such as would be produced by direct violence, but more by sustained pressure.  The Chairman of the Bench then said that, as far as the murder charge was concerned, the Bench had only one duty and that was to dismiss the prisoners.  He added that he did not know what course would be taken on the coroner’s warrant.

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