Page 25.


The Bay where Florence Knaggs and her dead baby were found.


On Thursday, the 28th of March 1935 East Cleveland was agog with the news that the previous day about noon, a Skelton woman had been found unconscious at the foot of a cliff in Runswick Bay and her baby laid on the beach.
The woman had been seen going towards the "scaur", which was unusual at that time of year and after rough weather.
A party of men set out to find her.
The baby was taken to a nearby joiner's shop where artificial respiration was tried to no avail.
The woman was carried to the Royal Hotel, where she was seen by Dr W L Brown and Dr Dorothy Brown. After a time she recovered and was removed by the Whitby motor ambulance to the Whitby Institution, where she was treated for exhaustion.
The mother was identified as Florence Mary Knaggs, aged 25.
On the following Tuesday she was conveyed to the Whitby Police Station and was charged with the Murder of her own child, an offence which in those days could carry the Death Penalty by hanging.
Florence was single and had lived at 25 John St, New Skelton since childhood.
She had attended the nearby Stanghow Lane Elementary School and was in standard 6 on attaining the leaving age of 14.
She then went into domestic service in various places in the North Riding of Yorkshire. 18 months with Mr James Ackroyd of West Barnby; 6 months with Mr Thomas, farmer of Great Ayton; 2 years with Mr Little, farmer of Upleatham; 3 months at home; 1 month as a maid at Skinningrove Hospital; 4 months with Mr Hall, farmer of Marske; 12 months domestic service in Redcar; Situation at Little Hampton; returned to Redcar; 6 months at home when her mother fell ill and stayed until she died on the 8th April 1932; day maid for a Miss Powell at Saltburn until January 1934; domestic service at Birmingham.
Finding herself in an advanced state of pregnancy in April 1934, she went to live with her sister Mrs Olive Wheldon at Ivy Cottage, Carlton in Cleveland.
Her child was born here on the 18th June 1934.
No one could persuade her to reveal the name of the father.
She went back to New Skelton and with her own father took over a Fish and Chip business at 25 John St, but it was not a success.
On the 25th February there was a fire there of unknown origin.
All her employers spoke of her as being reserved, honest, of averge intelligence, good moral character and a hard worker. She had left her situations of her own free will.

On Friday, she appeared before the Magistrates at Whitby charged that on the 27th Feb 1935 in the township of Hinderwell at Runswick Bay, feloniously, wilfully and with malice aforethought did kill and murder Michael Knaggs aged eight months.
The local press described her as "a tragic figure in a black waterproof coat and light blue beret sat at a table, looking very young and extremely pale."
The Clerk asked her if she had any objection to the case being remanded for one week?
The prisoner answered "No" - quietly, but without emotion, and passed her right hand across her eyes.
She was remanded to Durham Gaol.
An Inquest on the baby victim was held conducted by Mr H Barugh, coroner, Guisborough.
Here Florence's father, Henry [Harry] Knaggs of 25 John St, New Skelton and previously of 29 Harker St, Skelton Green, stated that he was an unemployed steel works labourer.
The child was the illegitimate son of his daughter, Florence Mary Knaggs, and was eight months and a fortnight old.
At about 9.45 a.m. on Wednesday, last week, his daughter left his sister's home in Grange Street, Brotton, with her little boy.
She said she was going to New Skelton. He never saw the boy alive again.

When she appeared at Court again fourteen witnesses were called by the Prosecution, Mr F. D. Barry of London appeared for the Director of Public Prosecutions, and Mr Colin E. Brown defended.
Florence's father gave evidence that she had been staying with his sister at 21 Grange St, Brotton and on the morning of the 27th she had said she was "going to Skelton to light the fire and do the beds."
She took the child with her, but a conductor gave evidence that she in fact caught a bus in the opposite direction and bought a single ticket to Hinderwell, where she left the vehicle at 10.22 a.m.
A Butcher of Staithes stated that he met the accused in Runswick Bay and the baby was crying.
A Crane Driver gave evidence that he was walking home from work at Port Mulgrave and at Ling Mow Cliff met the accused carrying her baby along the beach path.
It was a very wild day, a high wind and bitter cold. He later saw Florence walking away from the water's edge in a zigzag path towards the cliff.
She had no hat or coat and no child. Her clothes were wet up to her waist and when asked about the baby she replied, "I've lost it".
The man searched the water's edge and finding nothing went home to tell his wife, who informed P.C. Chorlton.
A fisherman said he had found the body of the child and two medical practitioners confirmed death was by drowning.
It was stated that her father's parents had lived in the Skelton district all their lives and her mother's parents had come here 40 years ago.
All were now deceased, but there no evidence of any mental problems with them or any of Florence's siblings, Winnie, Madge, Olive or Thomas.
Evidence of a vital nature was offered late in the afternoon by Dr H. H. Raw, when the findings of his post-mortem examination were closely examined by Mr Brown.
Dr. Raw explained his reasons for the assertion that the cause of death was drowning and agreed that during its lifetime the baby must have received the greatest care and attention from the accused mother.
Women in the body of the Court wept openly when Dr. Raw described the baby as “a very well-developed and well-nourished baby, in fine condition.” She was sent for trial at the Yorkshire Assizes at Leeds.
Florence Mary Knaggs was a piteous figure as she was assisted out of the Whitby Police Court, where she had undergone a six hours’ ordeal, on Wednesday. Hour after hour she had sat almost motionless at the solicitors’ table, taking not the slightest interest in the proceedings and the gradual building up of the case for the prosecution, her red-rimmed eyes staring as though unseeingly across the Court. It was only when the clothing of her dead baby was produced, towards the end of the case, that she almost broke down.

The Prosecution alleged that Florence Knaggs had taken her child on the beach at Runswick Bay and caused its death wilfully.
Standing between two wardresses, Knaggs pleaded not guilty to the charge in a low, but clear voice. She heard a chain of Crown witnesses over 6 hours, almost unmoved, and only revealed undue emotion when her Counsel referred to her deep feeling for the dead child.
Mr R.D. Ross M.P., appeared for the Crown, and Mr Willoughby Jardine K.C. and Mr H. Brian Taylor, instructed by Mr Colin E. Brown (Whitby), defended.
Mr R.D. Ross, opening for the prosecution, described the events which led up to the tragedy.
Knaggs, he said, was away from her home in domestic service, and shortly after she returned to her home at New Skelton, in June, last year, she gave birth to a male child, Michael, the subject of the proceedings that day.
She was unmarried. While she was at home with her father, she ran a fried fish shop independently, and on February 25th a fire took place in the shop. Knaggs, her father, and his family then moved to Brotton, to stay temporarily with relatives.
On the day to which the jury’s attention would be called, February 27th, Knaggs got up at 8.30 a.m.
At 9.45 a.m. she left the house at Brotton, telling her father that she was going back to New Skelton to light the fires. She took the child with her.
But, instead of going back to New Skelton she took the bus to Hinderwell.
In the bus, the conductor noticed nothing unusual about her. She arrived at Hinderwell at twenty-two minutes past ten.
A quarter of an hour after that, she was seen close to Runswick Bay, and at that time the baby was crying.
He should emphasise that the day in question did not appear to be a day which would be likely to induce any mother to take her child to the sea, because it was a particularly cold and blowy day, with showers of sleet.
It was a point which should be considered as to why a woman should take a child of this tender age to a place like that under such circumstances.
About 11 a.m., a man named Herbert Miller saw the prisoner carrying the child and walking along beneath the cliff.
She was at the edge of the water, and the baby was still crying. The net incident in the story was the fact that the same witness, on his return, saw the woman walking in a zig-zag fashion from the direction of the edge of the sea towards the cliff.
This man asked her where her child was, and the reply was that she had lost it. He noticed that her clothing was very wet and carried out a hurried search for the child amongst the boulders and along the seashore, but he was unable to find it.
He asked her where she was going, and she answered “Staithes”.
Miller hurried home, where he communicated the facts to his wife, who fetched Police Constable Charlton.
In the meantime, three other men were conducting a search for the woman and the child and eventually, about half way along the beach, they saw Knaggs.
She was about seventy-five yards from the water and lying on the beach. She was wet, cold, and numb, and bluish in the face, but they saw she was living and gave her what assistance they could.
At the same time, one of these men found the body of the child lying about ten yards from the water.
“You will be told by Dr Raw, who carried out the post mortem, that, in his opinion, the child died from drowning, and very quickly, owing to the bitter cold of the water at that time of the year, and the tender age of the child.”
Turning to Knaggs, Counsel said that undoubtedly she was in a very distressed condition when she was taken to the Whitby Institution, and there seen by Dr Raw.
He found she was very dazed. She had improved considerably from that time, under the care and attention to which she had been subjected.

Wilfred C. Doran, a Professional Photographer, of 8 Belle View Terrace, Whitby, stated he was instructed to take photographs of the beach at Runswick Bay, where certain positions were pointed out to him.
He made a survey of the beach, and later made a plan, which he produced, together with a number of copies.

Henry Knaggs, 25 John Street, New Skelton, father of the prisoner, described himself as a steelworks labourer.
His daughter lived with him, but she had been away for a time in service at Birmingham. In June, last year, she had a child.
It was named Michael Knaggs, and it was the child he identified at the inquest.
Witness had nothing to do with the management of the fish shop in which the fire occurred.
It was run by his daughter in the house in which they lived.
Cross-examined by Mr Jardine, witness said his daughter would not tell him the name of the man responsible for her condition.
"She thought the world of the child."
"It was your daughter who was in charge of the house: she cared for her baby, and looked after the house ?" "Yes sir. My wife is dead."
"Referring to the 27th, so far as you know, she certainly had every intention of going back to live at New Skelton with the baby ?"
"Yes, Sir."
"On that morning, did you think your daughter was ill ?"
"She was very depressed, cold and shivery."

Herbert Henry Gott of Brotton, a bus conductor in the employ of the United Automobile Services Ltd, said that Knaggs boarded the bus travelling towards Hinderwell at 9.45 a.m on the 27th.
She carried her baby in her arms, and took an 8d ticket, single, to Hinderwell. There was nothing peculiar about her.

George Race Hodgson of Glenvale, Staithes, a Butcher, said that he was at Runswick Bay on the 27th.
He was going up Runswick Bank at 10.40 a.m. when he saw a woman carrying a baby down the bank. The baby was crying.
Herbert Miller, a crane driver of Hinderwell, said he left his home to go to Runswick Bay that morning.
He went along the beach and reached Runswick Bay at about eleven o’clock. He saw Knaggs carrying the baby, walking under the cliffs. The baby was crying loudly.
He continued to Runswick on his errand, and there saw a man named Clark. Witness proceeded home along the beach, taking his ordinary course.
When he had walked a little way, he saw the young woman coming from the direction of the water’s edge without the baby.
She was walking in a zig-zag fashion, and appeared to be staggering. Her hat and coat were missing. She walked up the beach towards the old mine shaft and sat down at the foot of the cliffs.
Witness went up to her, and asked where the child had gone, and she replied, “I have lost it.”
He went down to the water’s edge to search the rocks, but he found no trace of the boy.
He had noticed that the Woman’s clothes were wet. Mr Jardine cross-examined witness at some length as to the state of the tide.

Edward Clark, Bay View, Runswick Bay, fisherman, described the finding of the dead body of the child.
He was mending his crab pots in his house when he heard a child crying. Looking through the window, he saw a woman carrying a child. He could not identify the woman.
It was then between eleven and noon. After he had seen Miller, he and Ernest Brackley and another man went along the beach, and when they came to the big boulder they separated. It was a nasty day, with the wind from the south-east.
It was fair in the morning, but it rained in the afternoon, and it was blowing hard all the day.
Brackley and witness went beneath the cliff, and the other man along the water’s edge. Witness was on higher ground than Brackley, and he saw the woman first.
She was lying by a rock. He shouted to Brackley, who went up to her, and witness began to search for the child.
He saw it, and pointed its position out to Brackley, who reached it first. Then they found the hat, coat, handbag, some money, and the baby’s bottle.
The handbag was a little nearer to the sea than the other articles, and the hat and coat were wet; they were in a pool of water.
The tide was on the ebb, probably three and a half hours’ ebb. The child was about ten yards from the edge of the water.
Mr Jardine:- "Having regard to the fact that a neap tide ebbs slower than a spring tide, do you think at two hours’ ebb the tide would be just about ten yards further up than it would be at three hours’ ebb ?"
"At two hours’ ebb, the tide would be above the body of the child.
"Do you really think so ?"
"I do."
"Were you not asked this very question at the Whitby Police Court ? You know Mr Colin Brown? Did he not ask you how far the tide would ebb in an hour ?"
"I said about ten yards."
"Was your answer in fact “not far ?”
"It may have been. The tide would be ten yards below the child when we found it."
Ernest Samuel Brackley of Runswick Bay, an Auxiliary Postman, corroborated.
Albert Walker, another Runswick Bay man, stated he was the third man in the party which found the woman and the dead body of the child. Mr Jardine did nt cross-examine these witnesses.
P.C. Charlton and Police-Sergeant James H. Welburn gave evidence and again Counsel refrained from questioning them.

Dr. Dorothy Brown, of Poplar House, Hinderwell, said she was called to the Royal Hotel, Runswick Bay, and there found Knaggs in an exhausted condition, as though she was suffering from cold and exposure.
She saw the child. It was dead. From external appearances, she formed the opinion that death was due to drowning.
Mr Jardine{- "Was the woman’s first coherent word to ask for Michael ?"
"The only indication you had that the child’s death was due to drowning was that the body was wet ?"
"Yes, a little water came from the mouth."
"Which is a sign of asphyxia ?" "In conjunction with the wet clothes, water from the mouth is, I should say, a sign of drowning." At this stage, Mr Jardine asked permission to recall Brackley. Counsel asked if witness noticed the time when he went down to the beach, and Brackley replied that the Institute clock was at half past twelve."

Dr H.H. Raw of Whitby, considered the principal witness in the case for the prosecution, was next called by Counsel.
Dr Raw said he conducted a post-mortem examination on the day following the child’s death.
“I came to the conclusion that the child met its death by drowning, and that death ensued very rapidly.
It was an exceptionally cold day, with both rain and sleet, and a very cold wind. If the child was immersed in the sea on a day like that, death would be very likely to ensue very rapidly.
I found another circumstance which would lead me to believe that death might take place very rapidly, in the fact that the child had a very large thymus gland.
We know that children who have a great enlargement of this gland are liable to very sudden death from any shock.
I think it is quite probable that water so cold would cause death in a second or two. I could find no signs of any other cause of death.
I saw the prisoner on the 27th; she was admitted to the Whitby Poor Law Institution at 3 p.m., and I saw her at 3.30 p.m.
She was then in a very dazed condition, and took a long time in answering questions, as though she hardly understood the purport of my questions.”
Some questions, continued Dr Raw, Knaggs did not seem to be able to answer at all.
She said she could not remember how she got onto the beach at Runswick Bay, and said she did not know whether the baby had fallen over the cliff.
He noticed she had a good reaction from the state of collapse in which she had been discovered; her pulse was good, and her skin warm.
Witness came to the conclusion that she was not a very intelligent person, but she was so dazed and ill it was not possible to form any very sound opinion of her condition at the moment.
Mr Jardine:-"When you examined her, did you find a bruise on the outer side of her left ankle ?"
"Yes, that was two days later, when I made another examination. She was too ill at first. Two days later, I found a series of bruises on the left ankle, the left topia, and the left forearm above the wrist.
There was a long abrasion of the skin on the left shoulder. There was a short abrasion on the inner side of the right knee-cap.
"That was at least consistent with a fall on her left side on that rocky beach ?"
"That is right.
"On the first day, she was asking for the child ?"
"I saw the patient on different occasions. I rather doubt whether she asked for the child the first day, but certainly the next day she was fretting, and constantly asking for it.
"Eventually, you had to tell her ?"
"Yes, I had to tell her that the child died."
"Then do you think this girl was deceiving you ?"
"I do not think she knew. I do not think she had any intention of deceiving me."
"With reference to the fire, did she tell you that on Monday she had been to Middlesbrough to see her landlady, that her landlady was insured, and that really it was not a serious business ?"
"That was with a little prompting. I suggested that she seemed to be upset by a small amount of damage."
"She was your patient following the occurrence, and at that time she was described by you as being dazed. Were you able to form an opinion whether the woman knew what she was doing when she was on the beach ?" "I do not know whether she knew."
"This child had a thymus gland which was two-and-a-half times larger than normal ?" "Quite that. Probably more than three times the average weight. It ought to be seven grammes. This child’s thymus weighed twenty-five-and-a-half grammes."
"The effect of that abnormality on a child is to make it very susceptible to shock ?"
"Very susceptible to shock. Immersion in water, either by deliberate drowning or by a fall into a pool would be a serious matter for that child ?"
"Was there conspicuous absence of signs of drowning ?"
"There was not a complete absence. There were signs in the lungs, such as one finds in the case of drowning."
"The lungs in this case were not “ballooned ?"
"They were not. Only a small quantity of water entered the lungs. It had, apparently, not made many respiratory efforts during drowning."
There were no signs of external lividity ?"
"The child’s body was pale all over. There were the usual purplish patches, but the body had no general lividity.
During further cross-examination by Mr Jardine, Dr Raw agreed that clenching of the hands, dilation of the pupils, and open eyes were common signs of drowning.
Except for one eye being slightly open, these signs were not present in this case.
Mr Jardine:- "I put this to you – this child was dead, and left on the beach. Is it not a true inference from what you say that the child died from the shock of the cold water and the signs of asphyxia were from the struggles which followed ?"
"These could not have caused asphyxia.
"There was nothing to show the extent of the immersion ?
Mr Ross: "Did you notice any symptoms of derangement of the mind when you had the girl as your patient ?" "None."
"Would the evidence of death which you have given have any effect on the symptoms which you afterwards found on the body ?"
"A great effect. The ordinary symptoms would be very slight, and might be completely absent in such a case."
Mr Justice Porter: "Would it be possible for the child to fall into water face downwards and remain so a sufficient time to cause asphyxia ?"
Dr Raw:- "It would be."

Superintendent Harrison’s evidence of charging Knaggs was next taken, and this completed the chain of witnesses for the Crown.
Mr Jardine then said he thought it possible that the Crown might have called the Medical Officer of H.M. Durham Prison. Since they had not called him, he begged leave to do so.
Dr Derry stated that when Knaggs came under his observation, early in March, she was a particularly undernourished and anaemic young woman.
Her physical condition had improved very much since that time. She was extremely depressed; so much so that he was at times fearful she might have suicidal tendencies.
She had attacks of depression at intervals, and it was reported to him that once she contemplated suicide.
She stated she could remember nothing from the time she took a bus until she found herself in front of a fire, being given a warm drink.
Witness had examined her on several occasions as to the loss of memory, and she had repeatedly told him she had no memory of the events between those times.
He had been over the ground again and again, and her loss of memory was always fixed at the same time.
Mr Jardine:- "Does she resent your questions ?"
"Not at all. There is no resentment whatever.
"Are you able to form an opinion from your protracted observations sufficiently to tell me whether you think that on the morning of the 27th of February this woman was in a mental condition to know what she was doing ?"
"I think she was not."
In answer to Mr Ross, witness said there was no time when she was in his care that Knaggs acted in such a manner that he could have certified her.
In reply to Mr Justice Porter, witness said he formed the opinion that her mental state would be such, on the day of the tragedy, that Knaggs would have no ability to form an intention at all.
He agreed that not only would she not know an act was wrong, but that she would not know she was performing the act.
At this stage, there was an adjournment of one hour for lunch.

In his address to the jury, Mr Ross said they had been faced with a task not agreeable, either to himself or to the jury, but it was his duty to put before them, as best he could, the facts so far as they could be ascertained.
In trying to relate what happened, and the happenings which led up to the death of the child, he had no wish to strain the evidence either one way or another, but it was his duty to place before them matters for their judgement as clearly as he could.
This was a case in which they had to use their judgement as men of the world, as to what actually happened on this occasion.
It was impossible to deal with the case without sympathy with the prisoner, but sympathy must not debar judgement in their proceedings that day. What were the facts ?
“We know of the fire at the shop where this woman lived. We know that the weather on the day of the tragedy was not such as would persuade anyone to go to the seaside, most of all a woman with a very young child, and here one remembers that the woman herself was cold and shivery on that morning.
What would make her go down by the sea for any innocent purpose? She got on a bus which went to the opposite direction to New Skelton, and travelled by that bus, apparently quite normal in her manner, with the child.
There is no suggestion that she was not fond of the child, but you will remember that sometimes persons will endeavour to put an end to the life of those they love most deeply ?
She arrives in the neighbourhood of Runswick, and is seen by witnesses. The baby is crying.
Do you suppose a woman who is fond of her child – as no doubt the prisoner was – would have persisted in going down to an exposed seashore with this young child continuing to cry.
We then hear of her walking under the cliff, the child still crying, and crying loudly. It is a terrible day, with a strong wind blowing from the south-west.
My friend will no doubt suggest happenings which he will say have occurred, or may have occurred, during the interval between the times when Miller saw the prisoner first and saw her a second time.
I can only suggest to you that these facts I have outlined are significant. We want to know what happened during the time when Miller was away.
What had they to help them? In this case, they were assisted by a number of photographs. Was it going to be suggested that there was some accidental happening which led to this child’s death ?
In his submission, that was entirely contrary to the evidence they had heard. They saw on the plan the place where the child’s body was found, also the positions of the handbag, coat, hat and child’s bottle.
The child could not have got to that point without the mother’s assistance – that was quite clear.
Why should she carry it out in the direction of the sea? What innocent explanation occurred to them – because, frankly, nothing occurred to him – as to why the mother should carry the infant in the direction of the sea, and how she let it be immersed in the sea, because the whole of the doctor’s evidence pointed to its death having been caused through having been dropped into the water.
His original story that the death of the child was caused by its immersion in water was unchanged. What would they think of the hat and coat being left where they were? They would see from the photographs that the hat and coat were far inland from the point where the child’s body was picked up.
Perhaps his friend might suggest a reason why a woman having had the great misfortune to drop by accident her baby in water, should place her clothes on the beach.
On the other hand, what possible purpose could there be in taking off her hat and coat, and then taking her baby down to the sea?
In his submission, whatever the state of mind of the poor girl was at the time, the death of the child could not have come about by any accidental happening.
As to the bruises found upon her, whether they would enter into the story or not, he did not know, but they did know that she was found lying upon the beach, and from the photographs he judged that the beach at the point where she was found was a very rocky and stony place.
It was feasible to think that the bruises could have been caused by the woman throwing herself down upon the stony beach.
The question of her state of mind, of course, was quite a different matter.
They had heard the evidence of two doctors who saw her shortly after the events in question, and he must remind them of this fact – if they thought the woman actually caused the death of the child by putting it, or letting it be put into water, then it was for them to be satisfied that she was not responsible at the time“
"If,”, said Mr Ross, in conclusion “you can accept the situation that she had gone to Runswick Bay innocently, with no intention of drowning the child – Runswick Bay was in the opposite direction to New Skelton – that she had taken off her hat and coat and left them on the beach, and then, through some accident, having carried her child in the direction of the sea, it got in the water – if you think all that was accidental and innocent, then she will be not guilty.
If you come to the other conclusion – and I know you will do so with the detachment of the full knowledge of your duties – I submit that your verdict must be that of guilty, whether you think she was at that time sane or not: that is a matter you will settle for yourselves upon the evidence.”

Rising for the Defence, Mr Willoughby Jardine said he ventured to think there were cogent facts for the jury’s consideration.
He had to address them in that case asking them to reject a verdict of murder, and, secondly, even a verdict of murder though the murderess was at the time insane – for in his submission, the proof of murder failed.
The proof of murder – the law had been re-affirmed by the House of Lords within the last few months – must be evidence of killing with the intention of killing.
In this case, the law required evidence that Knaggs killed the child, and intended to kill it.
If they were satisfied that she killed the child and intended to kill it, it was murder, and only after that fact had been established did the question of a special verdict arise.
What he desired to know was whether, in this case, where the burden of proof was upon the prosecution to prove the killing and the intention of killing, it had been satisfactorily made out, and whether they did not think that the facts, proved from what happened on the beach, were consistent with accident without intention of killing ?
It had been said that an accurate explanation was required as to how she came to be on the beach at all.
That was quite true, and it might be that in a different case, where they were dealing with a person about whom no medical evidence had been given, and no evidence relating to her state of mind had been proved, it would have been a terribly cogent argument against the accused.
But in this case there was uncontradicted evidence that the woman was distraught; would he be wrong in saying there was uncontradicted evidence that she started the morning ill ?
The doctor was clearly of the opinion that the jury would be right in believing she would not know what she was doing.
He invited them to remember that the whole environment of the case was inimical to killing anything intentionally.
He knew perfectly well that, in some cases, it was stated that it was an unwanted baby and a nuisance – a case of a woman burdened with a child.
“It is not true in this case. The child was eight-and-a-half months old, and there is unchallenged evidence it had eight-and-a-half months of care and attention from its illegitimate mother – the same care as it would have received from a married mother.
I can only venture to remind you of the fire, that she treated it quite rationally on the Monday, and went over to see the landlady.
It was insured, and the woman agreed that the matter was comparatively trifling. What, I would ask you, is what happened on the beach ?
What is proved to have happened on the beach? The child was immersed in water – true. Its clothing was wet, and it died from shock. What was the state of the tide ?
I suggest to you it is critical to know the state of the tide. The photographs are what I really like, and I invite you to say they really tell a story.
Miller stated in evidence that the tide was high at 9.39. What was its state at eleven ?
The tide had been ebbing since the time given by Miller. Where was the woman then ? He put it to them that she was in a very extraordinary condition that morning and no one knew where she wandered.
He could not help them about that, except by the evidence they had heard. She was not deceiving the doctors when she said she had no recollection of the events of the morning, and they could only go by the evidence of the prosecution.
She was seen coming from the direction of the sea – of course she was. Anyone coming over the boulders would quite rightly describe her as coming from the direction of the sea.
He put it that what had happened was that she had lost the child at the very edge of the sea.
“Now we come to the absolutely critical point. Is it proved to your satisfaction that the child was placed in the water, such water as there was at that point ?
Was it put there deliberately for the purpose of drowning it, by the woman, or is it not quite likely and equally consistent with the evidence that the woman, stumbling about on the beach, stumbled over that very boulder, trying to pick her way along the beach, and in that way went full length on her left side, incurring a series of bruises ?
I agree there is no proof, but I respectfully submit to you it is as likely an explanation, in view of the facts of this case, and the affection of that girl for her child as the proposition that she went out that morning deliberately for the purpose of drowning her child.
How could the jury draw an inference from the clothes and their position, and the position of the bottle and handbag ?
He did not hear them invited to draw any inference from these facts that she intended to kill the child; and he went further, and invited them to say there was no inference of murder to be drawn from those incidents.
The only inference he could suggest was that the woman was behaving in a strange manner, quite inconsistent with murder, and more likely to be consistent with accident.
He could carry it no further, but he submitted there was uncontradicted evidence more consistent with accident than murder.
But if what the prosecution claimed was true, he could only say that there was irrefutable evidence to say that the woman was insane, according to law, at the time.

Mr Justice Porter occupied half-an-hour in his summing-up. All criminal cases, he told the jury, were matters of supreme importance, but of all criminal cases, those of the most supreme importance were murder cases, even though the proof in murder cases did not differ in the strength required, from the proof required in any criminal case.
It was proper and right and inevitable, owing to the seriousness of the crime, that a jury should consider such cases with the greatest possible care before they came to a conclusion.
“In this case,” he continued, “there are three possible verdicts upon the evidence given before you.
The first, of course, is guilty of murder; the second is guilty of murder, but insane at the time when the act was committed; and the third is Not Guilty.
I need not say to you what murder is. For the purpose of this case, of course, it is killing the child, but the mere killing is not necessarily murder. You have to consider the killing, and the circumstances in which the killing takes place.
So far as murder is concerned, you will remember that the particular phraseology used is “of malice aforethought”; and in order to have murder you must have malice aforethought.
I do not think I need worry you as to the meanings of intention; in this case you can treat it in the ordinary way, as meaning that the person meant to kill.
It is only if you establish this fact to your satisfaction that you come to the second verdict possible.
If there was killing, and intentional killing, was the person at the time in such a state of mind either that she did not know she was killing, or she did not know that the killing was a perfectly proper thing to do ?
“Therefore, in the first place, you have to have the killing, and be sure that the particular person did it. If I drop something accidentally out of my hand, and it falls on someone’s head and kills them, that is not murder.
This is not intentional killing. You have got to have the intention before you get murder. It will not do for murder in this case if what happened was not that the woman either put the baby intentionally into the water, or let it drop intentionally into the water.
If what happened was otherwise, such as that the woman, in a distracted state of mind, wandering about on the beach, stumbled, and accidentally let the baby fall, and that caused death, then you have not got the beginnings of murder.
“What you have got to consider is the view you take as to whether this was an intentional killing or not.
There are circumstances which the Crown put before you, upon which they say you ought to draw deductions that this killing was intentional killing.
They say you have a woman fond of her child – a loving mother – but a woman distracted by illness, and partly by a fire which occurred; in a state of mind that she felt it would be better for the child not to live.
They ask you to draw that conclusion from the fact that a mother who says she is going to New Skelton takes a bus in the opposite direction, on a cold day, with wind and rain, and goes to the seaside, to a place where she has never been before.
Once there, frightened, and tired of life, she thought it better to put an end to the child’s life.
If that was the true reason, and the true conclusion, and that she was not insane at the time, then that would be murder, however much you might pity the person who did the act.
Of course, one has to criticise it, and consider what the position actually is.
“You might very well, if there was no evidence from the doctors as to the woman’s state of mind, say to yourselves that it looks as if the explanation might be, and must be, that the woman thought the child would be better dead.
In these matters, though, one ought to take careful consideration. The only medical evidence is that on that day, judged by the condition in which the doctors afterwards found her, she was not in a fit condition to form an intention.
For the moment, I am not dealing with the state of mind with regard to insanity. That goes a long way towards disposing of the beach, and the fact that the woman went to Runswick Bay on that day.
If you take that view of things, you might well take the view on her part there was no intentional killing of the child, and that she wandered about, falling, as suggested, over a stone, with the child falling into the water. She then staggered up to the side of the cliff.
“You ought, when you are dealing with this case, to ask yourself if any deductions can be drawn from the hat, coat, purse and the money upon the beach.
You might think that she took off her hat and coat for the purpose of wading into the sea, and for the purpose of drowning the child. On the other hand, if there are any deductions to be drawn, you might well say there is not enough evidence from the mere fact that her hat and coat were found, and that she did not form any intention of drowning the child. Then she would be not guilty of murder.
There is some support for this view when you think what happened later. First of all, you remember that afterwards she was asked where the child was, and she said “I have lost it”.
What do you think of that? What deduction can you draw ? That the woman had just drowned her child, and was completely without knowledge of what she was doing? Ask yourself that question.”
Reminding the jury that Knaggs asked for her child afterwards, Mr Justice Porter asked them to draw their deductions from that fact.
From that fact could they deduce that she was a guilty woman, or did they think she was in such a frame of mind that she had no intention, or that she was incapable of forming an intention ?
One thing was certain, the child was not in any depth of water. Drowning was immersion in water for a sufficient length of time to distend the lungs with water; but in this case drowning, in accordance with the medical officer, was a different thing.
It meant, perhaps, immersion of the face for a moment which caused shock sufficient to result in death in a second or two.
If they came to the conclusion that she did deliberately go to that spot intending to destroy the child, and did so, then they would find her guilty.
It was then they had to be satisfied as to the state of her mind. One of the doctors said that she would not know what she was doing at all.
Giving a final direction to the jury, Mr Justice Porter said “Every criminal, if you have a reasonable doubt, is entitled to the verdict of not guilty, but it is not a question of saying ‘Give them the benefit of the doubt’.
It is a verdict of not guilty because the matter is not proved. If you think there is reasonable doubt in your minds the duty of the jury is to say not guilty.”

The jury retired at 3.38 p.m. They returned at 4.11 p.m., and, in a tense atmosphere, the foreman announced a verdict of “Not guilty”.
Knaggs received the fateful verdict without visible impression, and Mr Justice Porter immediately said
“Let her be discharged.”
He then thanked the jurors for their services, and told them their services would not be required again at the Assizes on that occasion.

There was a joyful reunion between father and daughter in a corridor outside the Court at the close of the case.
As Knaggs left the Town Hall, she was surrounded by women who had followed the case from the public gallery.
There was a rush to shake hands as the smiling woman left for the station and her home at New Skelton.
What happened to Florence after this is not presently known.
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