Evil Female Murderers. Part 15
Frances Stewart nee Cox and was generally known as ‘Fanny.’ She was born in 1831. She lived with her daughter, Henrietta Scrivener, and her husband Joseph, who was a carpenter at No. 4, Lordship Place, Chelsea.
She had lived with her daughter for about two years. The living arrangements were in general happy although Frances didn’t like her son-in-law too much and quite often had words with him.
The ‘Scriveners had been married for about two year and in 1873 she gave birth to a son, Ernest, a healthy and happy baby boy. They all doted on this little baby and ‘Fanny’ showed a lot of affection towards the baby, often taking him out in his pram. They were often seen out together.
On the morning of the 27th April 1874 her daughter informed Fanny that she and her husband were going away. My mother didn’t like this and didn’t want us to go. My mother had started to drink and that worried her daughter because of the times she took the baby out. Fanny had had a terrible row with her son-in-law about the middle of March and although it had calmed down it was still ‘simmering’ just below the surface and Fanny, would mention it every time she could. She liked her son-in –law less every day.
They kept a number of chickens in the back yard and her daughter was a bit worried about whom way going to look after them while they were away. For some unknown reason fanny broke open the door.
Sometime between 5 and 5.30pm on Tuesday 28th April 1874 Fanny took the baby, Ernest out for a walk. She had said nothing about this to her daughter or her husband.
The mother missed the baby and although her mother wasn’t at home either she assumed she had taken him out. She was perfectly sober and so at first I didn’t worry.
As the evening wore on there was still no sign of her mother or the baby. By this time she was really worried and informed the police.
About midnight Fanny knocked on the front door of a friend’s house, Charlotte Sparville, a single lady. She lived at No. 23, Spencer Road, sands End, Fulham. She was asleep when Fanny knocked on her door and wondered who was there. She opened the front door and saw Fanny with a baby. I knew the baby to be that of Mrs. Scrivener’s. Fanny asked her friend if they could stay there the night. Charlotte asked what she was doing out at that time? She replied that something unpleasant had happened at home. That is why she didn’t want to go back. She lay down on the floor with a blanket and they slept there that night.
In the morning they had breakfast and they left the house somewhere between 12 and 1pm. Fanny, with the baby wandered around the streets all day and was pretty tired and hungry. In the evening, she went to Chelsea and knocked on the door of a friend, a Mrs. Ireland who knew both her and her daughter Henrietta. Mrs. Ireland invited the exhausted Fanny in and then she went out to get some beer for her. She asked her to take the baby home to its mother who was very worried by now. Fanny said that she loved the baby and the baby loved her.
On that same evening Joseph Scrivener received a very disturbing letter suggesting that Fanny was going to drown herself. The letter continued with these words: ‘Joe, I have left Mrs Sparville’s if you or your wife had come here you would have found the child. It is the only thing I can do to make your heart ache as you have made mine so long. Fanny put the letter. Joseph immediately went to the police with this letter.
Frances however was still alive and was seen on Friday the 1st May in Great Green Street, when she pushed the note through the letter box of the house where her youngest daughter worked. This time the note read ‘Come at once as I have done murder and I want you to give me into the hands of Justice.’ Later Frances went to the door and spoke with Caroline who by then had seen the note she had written. Caroline sent for the police
She was arrested and taken before a Magistrate who immediately committed her for trial. She was remanded into nearby Newgate Gaol. However, at this point there was no body to show that Frances had murdered anyone.
Anyway, about a week or so Henry’s little body was found floating in the Thames River by a waterman named Edward King near the Millwall Dock. There were no external injuries and the cause of death was drowning.
While Frances was in Newgate Gaol she was visited by her daughter who told her more about the circumstances of her son’s death. She told her daughter that she had been crossing Albert Bridge over the River Thames and they were both very tired. She could not find a seat anywhere on the bridge. She lent against the bridge parapet and lost her grip on Henry who then fell into the river below.
Frances’ trial started on Wednesday 10th June 1843 and was quite a short one. The Jury were sent out and returned after just a few minutes with the ‘guilty’ verdict. However, in view of her age, as well as recently losing her husband plus her known love for her grandson added to the provocation of her son-in-law, the Jury added a rider to their guilty verdict. They recommendation Frances for mercy, saying she was under a lot of strain.
The Judge wasn’t very happy with the recommendation even though he was reported as saying that she had committed the act under some perversity of her mind.
Sir Richaard Asheton Cross, the Home Secretary at the time, saw no good reason to interfere with the due cause of the law in this case and that the sentence should be carried out.
On the morning of the execution William Marwood pinioned her arms to her side and then led the possession from the cell to the shed where the executions were then held. Once on the trap door he made the final preparations including putting the white hood on her head. Reporters were not allowed in the shed but had to stay outside.
According to a story in the ‘Echo’ newspaper, Marwood bungled the hanging by not tightening the noose sufficiently and she struggled somewhat. Whether this happens to be true or not, is open to argument, especially as the reporters were not allowed inside the shed and so how did they know what actually happened.
However, in evidence to the Aberdare Committee, Mr. Leonard Ward, who was the Chief Warder at Newgate at that time stated that Frances turned her head at the last moment and so altered the position of the eyelet to the back of the neck but she still died instantly. Her body was left hanging for an hour which was customary, the idea being that this would ensure total death… Her body was then taken down for the inquest prior to being buried within the prison walls.
William Marwood was to hang another eight more women between 1874 and 1883.
This case did not attract great publicity at that time and Madame Tussaud’s did not feel the need to make a wax effigy of Frances for their ‘Chamber of Horrors.’ They only made effigies of people who had committed more heinous crimes than Frances had committed.
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