Baby Boy Flanagan
January 5, 1890
Find A Grave Memorial

The 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.

This page was created on June 1, 2014
Death Occurred in New Zealand

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