Old New Zealand

...Minnie Dean Hanging...

'Baby farmer' to hang for murder

Otago Daily Times: June 22, 1895

INVERCARGILL: The trial of one of the most remarkable criminals that has ever lived in New Zealand was concluded here today, Minnie Dean, the now notorious baby-farmer, being found guilty and sentenced to death for the murder of Dorothy Edith Carter, an infant she received for adoption.

A considerable amount of interest has been manifested in the proceedings, the court being crowded every day during the trial, which has been a most exhaustive one, occupying three and a-half days.

Prior to yesterday, the general impression seemed to be that the evidence pointed strongly to the accused's guilt, not only with regard to the murder of the particular infant she was charged with doing away with, but with regard to several other unfortunate children whose birth had been their parents' shame.

However, after Mr Hanlon, counsel for the defence, had addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoner, many were inclined to think it not unlikely that a verdict of manslaughter would be returned against her.

Today, therefore, when it was known that Mr Justice Williams, who had tried the prisoner, was going to sum up, and her fate would probably be determined, the court was even more densely thronged than it had been hitherto.

The judge summed up strongly against the prisoner, and his remarks were evidently directed with the distinct object of counteracting any influence that the speech of the learned counsel for the defence might have been expected to excite on the minds of the jury in determining them to come to an erroneous conclusion.

He warned them against returning a verdict of manslaughter unless they were satisfied that the conclusion was fully justified by the evidence, and added: "Looking at the evidence as it came before the court, I must say it seems to me such a verdict would indicate a weak-kneed compromise."

The jury retired to consider their verdict, and half an hour later returned to court with a verdict of "Guilty".

The verdict was received by the prisoner with remarkable composure, and when she was asked whether she had anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon her, she merely replied in a voice distinctly audible and free from emotion, "No; I have only to thank Detective McGrath for the kindness I have received From him.

Then his Honour assumed the black cap and pronounced the fatal words which sealed the doom of the murderess whose systematic and heartless cruelty had sent so many helpless and innocent little victims to their last sleep. June 22. 1104