Flanagan family was very well known in their town of Christchurch, New
Zealand. Sarah's brother ran a
respectable hotel in which she worked as a housekeeper at times, though
she mostly taught piano lessons. Sarah's family was very upset when for
the second time in two years, she told them she was pregnant, though
she was not married. Out of shame, the family hired a nurse and swore
her to secrecy about the child, she would never be allowed to tell who
the mother was.
Sarah delivered her baby boy at home and the Doctor who had delivered
the baby was told to come and go in secret. After he was born, it was
decided that they were not going to keep him and he was given to a
woman named Jane Freeman who is also told to use the backdoor so that
she can come and go undetected by any of the neighbors.
Jane is told that Sarah's name is Mrs. Stevens and that her husband is
gold mining and is away while working. Sarah and her mother visit the
baby from time and time and one night they tell Jane that they are
going to take the baby telling her that Sarah will be joining her
husband on the West Coast.
Reports say that Sarah ended up telling police that she was walking
down the street on her way to visit a friend before she left with the
baby when two men came up and asked her where she was going to which
she replied for them to let her pass. Sarah says one of them took her
baby and the other tied her hands and pulled her along behind until she
fell down unable to walk from being tired. Claiming a third man walked
up to them, Sarah said they then took her baby and left and she could
only say that one of the men resembled her husband.
Two little girls, Beatrice and Annie Combs were gathering fruit in an
unclaimed garden and they found a the head of a baby boy. At home, the
girls told their mother, but she doesn't believe them until she goes
and sees the
head for herself. Unable to find anything, she calls on the police who
take lanterns and go searching in the bushes for the child's head.
Unable to find anything other than a shawl with blood on it, the police
believe it was all a hoax and they leave. Returning the next day, they
find the baby's head and it's obvious that animals have been eating it
and dragging it around.
Police do not believe that story and soon Police Officer Daniel
Flanagan and his wife Anna who also worked
for the Police, were arrested as well as their daughter, Sarah, who was
31 years old and had been trying to leave town to go to Sydney, her
parents would say they were sending her away so she could get over her
baby being stolen, the Police did not believe this.
In court, Anna and Sarah were immediately hysterical and they
interrupted the lawyers and the police on many occasions during
the their trial, so much so that they had to be taken from the court
room several times, always while crying. Sarah was constantly yelling
out that they were all innocent, including her father, though charges
against him had been dropped.
Sir R. Stout and Mr. Stringer represented Anna and Sarah in court
and Mr. Martin represented the crown in the court proceedings. In court
it came out that Sarah had delivered a son and Anna had felt like she
wanted to kill the child and instead the boy was "put out to nurse", as
they called it. On the 5th of January, the women went to the home of
Jane Freeman to take the child away, saying that Sarah was going to be
with her husband. The next day is when the girls found the child's head
along with some rope and some clothing that had been taken with the
baby when they had left with him. A few days later, Sarah told Jane the
story about the men, the same one she would tell Police.
Anna and Sarah were both found guilty and though due to her age, it was
recommended by her lawyer that the court be lenient on her, both women
were sentenced to death. On March 13, 1891, the sentences were said to
have been changed to live in prison, even then it was reported that in
November of 1892, Sarah had by then become a bit crazy and was taken to
a Christian Psychiatric Hospital.
All I can find from there is that people signed petitions for Sarah to
be released into the care of the Minister Of Justice in 1894 and that
she was released in 1895. Anna was released in 1906 after being in
prison for 15 years.
There are different reports saying that the grandmother of this baby
was called Sarah Jane and that the mother of the baby was Anna
Flanagan. The one newspaper article I was able to see said that the
names I have used in the story above are the real ones,
Grandmother is Anna and mother is Sarah.