Australia · Executions · Famous Last Words · Female Killers

Baby farmer hanged for death of 2 babies

January 15, 1894
Brunswick, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Francis Lydia Alice Knorr is executed for the deaths of 2 infants

Depression-era Australia was a hard time for most, with jobs few and far between and no public welfare available to assist those who were struggling. Because of this, many turned to petty crime to make ends meet. Such was the fate of Francis Lydia Alice Knorr when her husband was arrested and she found herself broke and pregnant.

Knorr quickly turned to baby farming, a practice in which parents who could not afford to keep their children would pay a small fee to keepers who would attempt to relocate them, often by selling them to other families. An unfortunate side effect of baby farming was that it was not terribly profitable unless the child could be placed with another family quickly; the expenses of a child could surpass any money made rapidly. And so many lives were lost by baby farmers trying to keep their profits.

Knorr moved around often during her time as a baby farmer, using her maiden and married names as she moved. At some point, two children in her care were buried in her garden of one of her homes. The house’s next tenant found the body of a baby girl while digging, and police discovered the body of a baby boy in the same garden. The bodies were quickly traced back to Knorr who reportedly said “I know why you have come” when police found her. She claimed during trial she had buried the children, but they had died of natural causes. The Crown, however, demonstrated the boy at least had been strangled, noting his neck had been restricted to half its normal size using tape. Knorr was found guilty and sentenced to death.

While government officials did not wish to grant any leniency, wanting to make an example of Knorr to deter any other murderous baby farmers, the public was divided on the issue; Knorr’s original executor committed suicide a few days before the execution after his wife threatened to leave him if he hanged Knorr. Nevertheless, she was executed on January 15 at the age of 25, her last words being “Yes, the Lord is with me! I do not fear what men may do to me, for I have peace, perfect peace!”

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