Amelia Dyer

Perhaps conforming to the conventional morbid and dark underlying nature of the Victorian society, the discovery of the crimes of prolific serial killer Amelia Dyer, shocked both contemporary and nineteenth-century audiences. She was renowned for murdering potentially over 400 babies in which she bought from struggling mothers who could no longer afford or cope to care with their infants. Her crimes, when discovered, brought infamous media coverage and shock, calling attention to the issue of a lack of support and welfare for Victorian women while also breaking conventions in the depiction of all women as delicate and pious beings. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that Amelia Dyer went down in history as one of the most cold-blooded serial killers of Victorian England.

Baby farming was a profession that was becoming ever more popular in Victorian society due to the lack of welfare state and support for single mothers and poor parents. Dyer would leave articles in newspapers advertising her adoption of babies from those who could no longer cope, in exchange for some money. The babies were quickly taken in and strangled to death with white tape, allowing Dyer to pocket all the money and not have to spend any on the babies. These children were revealed to have suffered tragically at the hands of this supposedly motherly figure, who after callously murdering the infants, placed their bodies into bags and suitcases, in which she dumped in the Thames or disposing of them in other means. Initially, her murders caught the attention of doctors and police, in which Dyer was arrested and sentenced to six months for neglect. However, her mental health suffered and resulted in a serious suicide attempt from the intoxication of laudanum, meaning that Dyer was released, and inevitably, returned back to baby farming.

In 1896, a package containing a small infant was spotted by a canal boat operator on the Thames near Reading, in which the police were notified. The writing on the package contained crucial information, an address, which led to the door of Amelia Dyer herself. She was apprehended and arrested on the 3rd of April, 1896, and charged with murder. Her son-in-law, Arthur Palmer, was also charged with accessory. Dyer appeared at the Old Bailey on the 22nd of May and pleaded guilty to just one murder. Her defence was insanity, however, the jury quickly found her guilty in just four and a half minutes, meaning she was sentenced to death. Dyer was killed by death by hanging on the 10th June 1896 at Newgate Prison. When asked before her execution if she had anything last to say, Dyer replied, “I have nothing to say”, in which ended the life of one of the most cold-blooded, and shocking murder cases in Victorian England.

From, The Victorian Blogger


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