Dennis "Denny" O'Neill
March 2, 1932 - January 9, 1945
Find A Grave Memorial
(In the picture above are: Terry, Dennis and Fred)
Food for the two children in the home of Reginald and Esther Gough was not enough to keep a young boy nourished. Terence O'Neill would tell authorities that he and his brother were fed only three pieces of bread and butter a day and with that they were given tea to drink. Terence and Dennis would risk a beating in order to get food, because they were so hungry. Sneaking into the pantry resulted in both of them being beaten and each of them were hit at least 100 times with a strap, every day. When Dennis could no longer stand the hunger, he would go to where the cattle were kept and drink milk directly from one of the udders.

On May 30, 1944 Terence and Dennis had been given over to the care of Newport County Borough Council by the Newport Juvenile Court after it was discovered that they were in need of care. On July 5, 1944, they were sent to live with Reginald and Esther who owned a farm in Hope Valley. Their brother Frederick was sent to live with a woman who lived nearby, named as Mrs. Pickering.

At about 1:am on January 9, Esther made a phone call to the doctor and said that Dennis was having a fit. Arriving at about 3:30am, the doctor found that Dennis was dead and his condition was described as appalling. The inquest in to his death would find that he died of cardiac failure. The death of Dennis came after a beating in which he was hit several times on his chest and then beaten on his back with a stick. Dennis was underweight, undernourished, thin and well below the normal weight for a child his age. On his feet he had septic ulcers and his legs were severely chapped. Pictures taken at that time would show that he had been beaten and tortured under sadistic treatment at the hands of the Gough's.

It was discovered that on the night before his death, Dennis had been tied to a bench, naked and was beaten with a rope and a stick until his legs were all swollen and bruised. This was punishment for biting into a food root called a Swede. Dennis was unable to stand after that and was locked in a cubbyhole. This was also the night that he was beaten by Reginald Gough and the next morning he was beaten again, before he died.

On February 3, 1945, Reginald Gough was charged with manslaughter and his wife, Esther was charged with willful ill treatment, neglect and exposure that caused suffering and injury and then on February 12, she was also charged with manslaughter.

On the first day of the trial, Terence testified for hours about the food they were given and the beatings. He said that the night before he died, Dennis had been sent out to collect sticks and when he had returned with only a few sticks, Reginald had sent him out again. Dennis stood in the yard crying and shivering from the cold. Esther dragged him by his hair out to the bushes. That night he was beaten for taking a bit of the swede. The next day is when  he was stripped naked and beaten by Reginald and the follow day is when he died.

The second day would start with Terence on the stand again for three more hours of testimony about his treatment. The third day he testified again only this time he said that sometimes he and his brother had misbehaved and they deserved to be punished for it. He admitted that Reginald had played Cricket and Football with them and that the Gough's made sure they both said their prayers every night. he changed what he said about their food and said they all ate the same things at meals.

Miss Eirlys Edwards, a clerk with the Newport Education Committee, testified that she had been to their home on visits and that she saw the boys were treated with very little affection at all. Eirlys said that Terence seemed to be well cared for, however, Dennis seemed to be ill and he seemed frightened. Eirlys asked Esther to take him to the doctor and she agreed to take him. Eirlys recommended to the committee that the boys be removed from the home of the Gough's and Mr. W. J. Edmonds, the Deputy Director Of Education, said on that stand that he had requested that the Shropshire Education Committee remove the children.

Police Sergeant Macpherson said that he had visited the farm after the death of Dennis and found that their bedroom was filthy and it was not furnished in the proper way. He then looked in  the bedroom of the Gough's and found that  their room was clean and had the proper furnishings, it was a pleasant room. He testified that Esther had told him that Dennis had been complaining about his feet hurting since they day he came to live with them. She said that Dennis and Terence had been fighting the night before Dennis died and that fight was the reason for the condition of his body. She claimed that she and her husband had rarely hit the boys and when they did, it was only after they misbehaved.

Reginald and Esther Gough were held for trial at Shrewsbury Assizes and they were both denied bail. On February 27, Justice Hilbery transferred the case to Stafford Assizes at the request of the councils for the defendants. On March 15, 1945 the trial began in front of Justice Wrottesley with W.H. Cartright Sharp as prosecutor, J. F. Bourke representing Reginald Gough and A.J. Long as representation for Esther Gough.

On the first day of court it was said that the Gough's had a contract that required them to bring up the O'Neill children as their own in exchange for 1 a week. It was also revealed that Terence had the order of events a little out of order and the doctor said that Dennis had already been dead for four to six hours by the time he got to the farm.

Reginald testified on the second day of trial that he and his wife had been kind to the children and they had fed them well. Reginald said that in spite of the fact that boys often misbehaved, they were rarely punished for it. When he  talked about the beating Dennis had received, he said that Dennis was not tied to the bench and that the whole thing was a joke that they had all laughed  about at the time.

On the second day, Esther testified that she had been married since February of 1942 and they had no children of their own. She agreed with some of what Terence had said and claimed that she was afraid of her husband adding that if she had told the police the truth about what had happened, her husband might have killed her since he was the one who told her that Dennis was dead and that she should lie to the doctor.

When the trial ended, the judge told the jury that they were not allowed to find Esther guilty of manslaughter because she was not strong enough to have hit Dennis hard enough to cause him to die. The jury was instructed that they could find her guilty of neglect.

The jury took 22 minutes to deliberate and on March 19, 1945 they found Reginald Gough guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to a disgustingly short sentence of six years in prison. Esther Gough was found guilty of neglect and her sentence was another disgusting one, six months in prison. The judge said that because he had been made aware of the fact that Reginald had been convicted of assault against Esther in 1942 and that she had left him that same year and applied for a separation, he went easy on her. He felt that she was guilty of treating the boys wrongly and that her own treatment was not a valid excuse for the way she treated them.

People were shocked to learn that the Gough's were given custody of the boys even though Reginald had a conviction for violence. Politicians were appalled to learn that the boys had been living with the Gough's for six months before there was any kind of a check up on them. On March 22, 1945, the Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, said that an investigation would be made into the case. Sir Walter Monckton was appointed to head the investigation.

On April 10, 1945 the inquiry opened at Newport Civic Center and the report came out on May 28th. Though the report had criticisms of both councils which had been involved, it did not name anyone by name and said that the failures were not deliberate on the part of either council.

March 26 brought about an investigation by the Shropshire County Council and it was held in private and chaired by Sir Offley Wakeman. That report was out on June 30 and asked for a thorough reorganizing of the boarding out of children. The Council accepted all blame that was given to the them, though no blame was placed on any one person.

Death occurred in Wales

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