Swan Hill Murder? (General)

by Mike Pinchin @, Bedford, England, Saturday, February 16, 2019, 20:25 (30 days ago) @ Gary37

Like everyone else I can’t find any reference to a murder at Swan Hill about 30 years ago. However, there had been one more than 150 years ago or, to be strictly accurate, it was a suspicion of murder for which an indictment never actually materialised.

It concerned a woman who gave her name as Peggy BARLEY, an Irish woman, who was travelling on foot from South Wales to Gloucester via Woolaston, Alvington and Aylburton. With her was her two-month old child. Witnesses saw her with the then distressed child just beyond Brookend and she was later seen at a lodging house in Aylburton without the child. Three labourers found the body of a child in a ditch about half a mile beyond the last sighting which places the scene close to Swan Hill. They conveyed the body to the Swan Inn at Cone, the nearest Public House, (now a tea room, I think) and were initially turned away. They turned back towards Alvington but were called back to the Inn where they left the body and proceeded to inform the authorities. Peggy BARLEY was traced to Gloucester where she was arrested on suspicion of having murdered her child.

The BNA Gloucestershire Chronicle - Saturday 07 February 1852 carried a lengthy report of the inquest.

“The jury found a verdict to the effect that the woman and child seen at Chepstow and other places on the road were the deceased, into the cause of whose death they were inquiring, and Peggy Barley ; that the child was placed in the ditch in which it was found by the said Peggy Barley ; but that there was not evidence sufficiently clear, and positive, to prove to the satisfaction of the jury whether deceased met his death wholly and solely in a natural way or whether his death arose or was accelerated by violent means. The jury further presented, that the conduct of Barley, if not actually criminal was most gross, highly culpable, and deserving of punishment, for secretly leaving, exposing, and deserting her child, in the way she did, and then going off to a distance without communicating the circumstance to any person—a fact sufficient of itself to excite against her regards foul play having been used towards her child.”

There was an enquiry concerning whether she could be prosecuted for exposing and deserting the body of her child but no action was taken for want of evidence.


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