October 27, 1899
Louise Josephine Masset (36) kills her 3-year-old son
Masset’s son Manfred was left in the care of a guardian named Miss Gentle from the time he was 3 weeks old, and his £12 a year (approximately £1,550 in today’s economy) maintenance was paid by Manfred’s father. While Manfred was in Gentle’s care, Masset would make regular visits.
On October 27, Masset picked up Manfred from Gentle, claiming his father in France wanted to assume custody. Masset and Manfred traveled to Dalston Station together, and Masset returned alone. That same day, a woman found the nude body of a young boy in the ladies’ lavatory of Dalston Station. The child had been covered loosely with a shawl leaving only his head exposed, which showed signs of beating. Pieces of bloody clinker brick were found near the boy’s body, though it was determined the boy had died from asphyxiation, likely from his mouth and nose being covered. It was surmised the child had been stunned with a blow to the head with the brick and then manually suffocated. The coroner estimated the child had been killed within an hour of his body’s discovery.
The boy’s identity could not be determined and news was spread that he was available at a local mortuary for viewing with the hopes someone would recognize him. Gentle happened to visit the mortuary “more out of curiosity than anything else,” and positively identified the body as Manfred. Masset had not been seen by her friends in a few days but was eventually tracked down and arrested.
According to Masset, she brought Manfred to the station to deliver him to two women who would accompany him on the train ride to his father. Masset produced a 12 shillings (approximately £47 today) fee for the women and asked for a receipt. The women agreed and stated they would ask one of the shops for a paper and pen, asking Manfred if he would like to come with them for some cake along the way. The trio walked to a refreshment-room. Masset never saw any of them again.
During trial it was shown the pieces of brick near Manfred’s body was similar to those from the garden of Masset’s home. It was also revealed Masset had begun a relationship with a 19-year-old man, and the prosecution suggested to the court Masset had “wished to be relieved of the encumbrance of the child.”
Masset was convicted of Manfred’s murder and sentenced to death. She occupied the same cell in Newgate Prison that housed the infamous baby farmer (a person who accepts adoption fees to place children with new families, then murders the children to keep the fee) Amelia Dyer until her own execution in 1896.
Masset was executed on January 9, 1900, becoming the first person to be executed in England in the 1900s. She confessed to her crime on the gallows and left the final statement: “What I am about to suffer is just, and now my conscience is clear.”
“Execution of Louise Masset.” The Birmingham Daily Post. January 10, 1900
“Louise Masset in Newgate.” Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper [London, England]. December 24, 1899
“Dalton Murder Trial.” Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper. December 17, 1899
“Dalton Murder Trial.” Liverpool Mercury. December 16, 1899
“The Murder of a Boy At Dalston.” The Standard [London, England]. November 1, 1899