England · Female Killers

Woman kills two young children, cuts own throat

December 29, 1856
Walworth, London, England
Martha Bacon kills her two young children and cuts her own throat

Martha had recently been released from a mental hospital, placed there following accusing her husband of murdering his mother. While Martha’s husband Thomas was out of town, Martha’s aunt Harriet Payne sent her daughter to check on Martha, concerned that someone in such a delicate mental state would have a difficult time alone with two small children. The daughter returned stating no one answered the door, so Harriet visited the home herself the next day.

Martha was found some 290 yards from her house, and Harriet asked where she had been. Martha claiming during the night a strange man broke into her home, killed her children, and attempted to kill her as well. To prove the final aspect, she showed Harriet several gashes on her throat. Harriet and Martha returned to the home to find Edwin (2-and-a-half years old) with his throat cut ear-to-ear in his baby chair, his head slumped on a small table in front of him. Harriet noted Martha did not react to seeing her son and casually mentioned “The baby, too, is murdered up-stairs.” Sarah (11 months old) was found on the floor in a pool of blood, her head nearly severed.

Martha was arrested when a surgeon examined her throat wounds and determined them to be self-inflicted. Based on this evidence, and the lack of evidence to support Martha’s story of an intruder, she and Thomas were brought to trial. During the course of the investigation it was revealed the children had previously survived another disaster: while Martha was still in the mental facility, the family’s home caught on fire. The children were rescued by a servant, and Thomas was arrested on suspicion of arson, though he was acquitted.

Witnesses testified Thomas had been a loving father, and quite fond of both his children. Due to this testimony, no motive could be found against Thomas and he was found not guilty. Martha’s past experience in the mental hospital was used against her, and she was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Martha was subsequently placed in Bethlem Hospital, then transferred Broadmoor Hospital where she spent the remainder of her life, dying in 1899 of stomach cancer.

After Thomas was released from the trial of the murders of his children, he was promptly arrested for the murder of his mother. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang, though his term was commuted to life in prison. He died in a prison hospital in Australia in 1869.


Photo source: London Overlooked

Sources:

  • “The Walworth Tragedy: Were the Bacons Guilty?” London Overlooked. Accessed: December 28, 2018. http://london-overlooked.com/walworth-tragedy/
  • “The Walworth Murders — Trial of Bacon and His Wife.” The Belfast News-Letter. May 16, 1857
  • “The Double Murder in Walworth.” Daily News [London, England]. January 3, 1857

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