Monday, 14 December 2015

Dead Baby’s Mother Gaoled for Neglect

Tuesday 14th December 1915: Mrs Nellie Selina Waterworth, the wife of a Luton soldier who was severely censured by the Coroner at the inquest into the death of her baby on 27th November has appeared at Dunstable charged with neglecting her three remaining children. Since the inquest she had moved from Luton to Dunstable and taken a house under the name of Smith. On December 8th Mr. C. Boskett, a plumber, and William Loughton, a painter, had gone to a house in Manchester Place where he saw Mrs Waterworth with her three children, Bert (aged 8), Doris (aged 5) and James (aged 3). They were sitting round the fireplace, but there was no fire. The children were poorly dressed and the youngest had no boots. Later in the day the children were running about the garden without boots in the wet and cold. There was still no fire in the house and the mother was away for some time. The children were crying. They saw no fire in the place for two days. Mr. Boskett said he would have given them fire and food, but had been told that the mother had an Army allowance. William Loughton gave the eldest boy a penny to get some cake.

A neighbour corroborated the men’s evidence and said that Mrs Waterworth left the children and when she returned swore at one of the children who was crying. Two soldiers had inquired for her saying “Do you know where a woman is that lost a baby?”  Two policemen had visited the house but nobody was at home. Later that evening she was seen in the High Street arm in arm with a soldier and was taken to the police station. The next night he visited the house and found Mrs. Waterworth washing the children, but there was no fire. Mrs Purser, the police matron, said that the children were well nourished, but very dirty and neglected. They smelt badly and were filthy, but did not have vermin. They were insufficiently clad and their condition was likely to cause them suffering. They had since been provided with clothes by the Poor Law Union. Mrs Waterworth admitted that she had been visited at home by a N.S.P.C.C. inspector and told she neglected her children. She was using the name Smith at Dunstable because she was ashamed of herself. She admitted knowing soldiers at Biscot huts, leaving her children and being in public houses with soldiers.

The Mayor sentenced Mrs Waterworth to two months’ hard labour and told her she was not only a disgrace to her sex, but to humanity, and had not the affection for her children that an animal had. The children are to be taken care of at the Luton Children’s Homes at Beech Hill.

Source: Luton Times, 17th December 1915

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