Sensational Mystery of a Child’s Death – Inquest Complete

July 1915

Mexborough times, July 17.

Denaby Sensation
Mystery of a child’s death

Jury fail to identify mother

On Monday evening, at the Denaby main Institute, the inquest on a male infant discovered in an ash pit at Clifton Street, Denaby main, on June 15 was completed

Mary Ellen Winterburn, wife of a wounded soldier, is under arrest in connection with the affair, and she attended the proceedings in charge of a detention officer. Sapper Winterburn, the husband, who has twice returned from the front, having been shot at Armentieries, and later gassed at Ypres, was also present, and gave evidence. The details were of the most part unsavoury.


Annie Webb, widow, now of Mansfield, formerly of 51, Loversal Street, said she was mother of Mary Ellen Winterburn, the woman arrested in connection with the discovery of the body. Mrs Winterburn formerly lived with witness, but at Easter witness turned her how out. During the time she was living with witness her husband was away training in the Army. Witness suspected her of being about to become a mother, but she denied it.

Answering Mr Supt Minty, witness said she turned her daughter out because she could not afford to keep her, nor could she afford the expense of the impending confinement.

Mrs Winterburn said her mother was not keeping her; she was keeping herself.

Mary Helen Faulkner, 5 Marr Street, new Conisbrough, said she known Mary Helen Winterburn nine years. About eight weeks ago she met her at the Balby Street School, and said ” My word Nelly, you look bad.” She replied, “there is nothing the matter with me.”

In further conversation, Mrs Winterburn said she had put her husband’s belts round her to deceive her mother and her husband had now taken the belts away. She had had the appearance of being pregnant, and witness suggested so, but she denied it. Witness thought her appearance was consistent with recent confinement.

Hannah Barlow, 91 Clifton Street, New Conisbrough, widow, said she had known Ellen Winterburn 12 years, and had seen her frequently in recent times. Witness, about Whitsun type, questioned her about her condition and she denied that there was anything abnormal. There was no doubt in witnesses mind that she had been in a pregnant condition, and she lost that condition about a week after witness questioned her.


Albert Henry Winterburn (173rd Field company, Royal Engineers), stationed at Chatham, said he was the husband of Mary Ellen Winterburn, but he had not lived with her for two years. He left her, and had been living in new Conisbrough, up to enlistment.

Since enlisting he had seen his wife twice, but had had no intercourse with her. In March, when he saw her, he suspected her condition, and questioned, but she “passed it off.”. The next time he came home on furlough he went to his wife’s house, intending to stay with her. He noticed that she was looking thin and pale, and remarked upon it, but she made no direct reply.

There was a sickly smell from the neighbourhood of the pantry. It smelt like a dead body, the same sickly smell as he had experienced when at the front in France.

Witness called attention to this and his wife said it was some salmon she had been buying. She never made any statement as to what had happened to her. Witness was present when his wife was arrested.

Answering a juryman, witness said that in March, before he went out to the front, he sent his wife two body belts. Witness also stated that he was thoroughly convinced that his wife had had a child.

In cross examination by Mr Supt. Minty, witness said he opened the windows to release the foul smell. He found bloodstains in various parts of the house.

Mrs Winterburn questioned her husband are receiving his reply, promptly called him a liar.

The coroner: I can fine people for being disorderly, and to call a person a liar is disorderly so you had better be careful.


The coroner intimated that that was all the evidence available for the jury. He proceeded to give an able direction on the law. He warned the jury that however strong might be their suspicions, the weak point in the evidence was a lack of convincing proof connecting the woman Winterburn with a dead child. If the jury felt in establishing a connection between Mrs Winterburn and the child, they would then have to consider whether her conduct amounted either in point of wilful omission or commission, to manslaughter, or it might be to murder. With the question of concealment of birth, the jury had nothing to do.

After a brief deliberation, the jury returned a verdict to the effect that the child died from want of attention at birth, but that there was not sufficient evidence to establish the satisfaction of the jury the identity of the mother.

Mrs Winterburn was driven away in the presence of a large, but undemonstrative crowd.

Prisoner was formally committed for trial at the Leeds Assizes a week later