Eva Hornsby
January 5, 1895
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Born Minnie McCulloch, living in Scotland, she lost her mother to Cancer and her father was a railway engineer. At some point in her life, Minnie moved to New Zealand and in the early 1860's, she was living with two young children who she claimed were the children of a man she told people she had been married to until he died, no where is there any evidence that she had been married.

In 1872, Minnie did get married, to a man named Charles Dean. In the beginning of their marriage, Charles was an innkeeper until the gold rush died down and they decided to become farmers. When farming did not work out, the couple moved to Winton and Charles became a pig farmer while Minnie decided to take in children and care for them as a source of income. Women could bring children to her and leave them, for either one lump sum of cash or weekly payments. It was reported that Minnie would sometimes have as many as nine children in her care.

With infant mortality being a big problem in new Zealand during this era, children seemed to die under Minnie's care. In March of 1889, a six month old baby died of convulsions, then in October of 1891 a six week old baby died of cardiovascular and respiratory problems and then when a boy supposedly drowned while he was in her care in 1894, she buried him in the garden, all of which caused people to start becoming suspicious. Other children in Minnie's care would go missing without explanation.

A coroners inquest was held and Minnie was not held responsible for any of the deaths. The damage was already done though and the people of the town began to not trust Minnie. Minnie was looked at as a baby farmer by the people in town. At this time, infanticide was out of control, women would kill children who they had been trusted to care for so they wouldn't have to support them financially. During this time, childcare legislation was almost to the point of being nonexistent which mean that Minnie did not have to keep records of any kind to show how many children she had and what happened to them when they were gone. Minnie didn't have to explain anything to anyone so proving how many children had been there and if any had disappeared was almost impossible.

In January of 1895, Minnie was seen getting on a train, she was holding a young baby along with a hatbox. When Minnie left the train, she was not carrying the baby, only the hatbox. Railway Porters would later say that the hatbox was much heavier than it should have been. Jane Hornsby reported that she had given her granddaughter, whose name was Eva, to Minnie and that was proven since clothing belonging to the infant were found at Minnie's home. When Eva could not be found, a search was done along the railway line, Eva was not found in that search. Even though Eva had not been found, Minnie was charged with her murder.

Eventually a garden was dug up and the bodies of two babies and one boy who was thought to have been about three, were found. Eva was one of the babies and it was found that she had died of suffocation. Another child who was identified as Dorothy Edith Carter was said to have died of an overdose of a medication given to children to sedate them, the medication was called Laudanum. A cause of death for the little boy was never found. Minnie was charged with the murders of all three children. The picture below is of Police, digging in the garden.



Defense Attorney Alfred Hanlon said in court the deaths had all been accidental and Minnie had only covered them up to avoid being scrutinized by the public the way she had been before. On June 21, 1895, Minnie Dean was found guilty of the murder of Dorothy Carter and she was sentenced to death. It was later learned that Minnie had cared for at least 28 children over the years. Five of these children had grown and were said to be healthy, six were reported to have died, one was living with her parents who had come back to get her and two had been daughters that Minnie had when she married Charles. Sadly, there were 14 children who were never found either alive of dead. Outside of the courtroom, during the trial, someone was selling baby dolls inside of hat boxes, a picture of one of them is below.



On August 12, 1895, the executioner at that time, Tom Long, hung Minnie Dean. Minnie is the only known woman to have been executed in New Zealand and capital punishment has since been abolished. Minnie's crimes brought changes and there was legislation passed in 1896 called The Infant Life Protection Act.



This page was created on June 5, 2014
Death Occurred in New Zealand

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