Girls Agony Life of Awful Cruelty at Denaby – Kept Locked Up, Kicked & Bruised All Over

May 1911

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Monday 01 May 1911

Girls Agony
Life of Awful Cruelty at Denaby
Kept Locked Up
Kicked Under Chain and Bruised All Over

An extraordinary story was told at the West Riding Police Court on Saturday, when Thomas M. Bermingham, miner, and widower was summoned at the instance of the N.S.P.C.C. for cruelty to his daughter, Annie, aged 15 years.

From the evidence it appeared that the girl had been to a life of isolation and torture.

Mr. Baddiley, prosecuting on behalf of of the N.S.P.C.C., said the case was a very bad one. In addition to the charge of cruelty, it was a wonder that the prisoner had not turned the child’s brain. For considerable time they had lived at Whinney Hill and there the neighbours seldom saw the girl. She was locked up in the house, and numerous occasions the neighbours heard screams.

The Colliery Company’s agent entered the house and found every door, window, and aperture of any description securely fastened, even the door of the bedroom in which the girl slept.

When the prisoner went to work he fastened the room from the outside, and the girl could not possibly get out. When a complaint was made recently they disappeared, and went to live at Denaby. Then the same kind of thing went on. Nobody saw the girl except in the company of her father, and nobody could gain admission to the house.

The inspector went to the house to examine it. According to the girl story to him, she had been beaten with a broom handle and pick shaft.

She alleged her father had cut her head often, knocked her teeth out, and cut her lip. On her scalp there was a scar about an inch long, another over her left eye, and another a little higher up. In a lower jaw two teeth were broken off, and there was a scar under the lower lip. The matron of a home at Rotherham had examined the girl and found her bruised all over.

Inspector Lloyd, N.S.P.C.C., said that when he saw the girl she was extremely nervous.

Always Locked Up

Several people who lived near the prisoner at Denaby gave corroborative evidence, various witnesses describing the girl’s screams as “awful,” “cruel,” and “heartrending.”

Prisoner, interrupting: Before God, I have always done my best for this girl to help her upright. I ask the court to give me a chance.

None of the witnesses had been able to see the girl because she had been locked up.

The girl herself, who repeatedly burst into tears was giving evidence, said she left her home a fortnight ago, because she was afraid of her father. She had always been kept locked up. The scars on her head with caused by her father striking her with a pit shaft. Her father kicked her in the mouth and broke her teeth.

“He once,” she added, “pulled a handful of hair out of my head and put it on the fire so that no one could see.” He had also threatened to knock her brains out so that she could see them. He gave her running kicks underneath the chin.

Once she never went to bed for a whole week because he was on the “booze,” and would not let her go. She had been without food, or even a drink of water, for as long as two days, and he once threw a knife at her.

After one beating he strapped round the arms and legs like a dog. When he went out he left her at home, and he would make her lock the door on the inside, and put the keys through a hole in the top of the door, so that he could take the key away with him.

Mr Baddeley, to the use a lot of bolts and things, asked if they were used by the prisoner to keep her isolated in the house.

Answering in the affirmative, the girl said, “I don’t want to go back to him; I am afraid of him.”

Prisoner, who had been feet in the dock all the time, and was restrained with difficulty from interrupting, began a rapid cross examination.

“Have I not been a good father to you?” He asked – “No,” replied the witness, “you have not.”

“You Deserve It.”

You are getting your father into prison. – And you deserve it.

Doctor J.J. Huey, of Mexborough, who examined the girl on April 18, said he found her anaemic, debilitated, and in a very nervous condition. She had a scar on the scalp about 1 inch long, and two scars on the forehead. Parts of two teeth were broken, and she had a scar on the inner side of the lower lip. Considerable violence must have been used.

Miss Eva Lynn Brewster, of the Rotherham House of Help, stated she found that the girl had three marks on her left leg, a bruise on the thigh, and three scars on her right arm.

Prisoner, in a statement, said he had only chastised the girl in an upright and proper way. He denied that he had kept her a prisoner in the house.

Prisoner was cross-examined by Mr Baddeley.

Is the girl speaking the truth or is she not?

Prisoner: No sir.

Can you explain how she got all the bruises on her?

Prisoner: As for the scars, I cannot give any account.

Prisoner maintained that he had used the girl properly.

Mr Baddeley asked: Where you fined in December, at Rotherham, for assaulting the girl? – That was a bit of a tap.

You have another child: where is she? – She is in the hospital.

Mr Baddeley: She is in the asylum?

Prisoner: She was in the hospital, and she is now in the asylum.

What were you convicted for at Sheffield? – Because I went to the States and neglected paying for her.

What did they give you? – Five weeks.

Where you brought before the Justices in the States for offences against that girl? – I was locked up, remanded, and the case dismissed.

The girl was recalled, and said her father got seven weeks imprisonment for that offence.

Prisoner: I was in just over six weeks. (Laughter.)

The Chairman (Mr Yarborough) said prisoner had treated the girl with considerable cruelty, and that practically kept her in a state of imprisonment. The Bench had not the power to give him more than six months with hard labour and that sentence will be passed upon him.

Prisoner: Will you let the girl be taken to a Catholic Home?

The Chairman: The girl will, I hope, never go into your company again.

On the application of Mr Baddiley, the Bench Made an Order for her to be sent to the Rotherham Girls House of Help until she is 16 years of age.

Six Month’s Hard Labour

Addressing the prisoner, the Chairman said the Bench had not the slightest  doubt that he had treated the girl with the greatest cruelty, and he had also kept her a prisoner.

“Unfortunately,” he continued, “we have no power to review a longer sentence than six months hard labour, and that is the sentence we pass on you.”