Shocking Child Neglect – Filler Sent To Prison – Baby’s Death By “Slow Murder.”

April 1909

Mexborough and Swinton Times April 10, 1909

Shocking Child Neglect.
Denaby Filler Sent To Prison.
Baby’s Death By “Slow Murder.”
An Abominably Lazy Husband.

One of the most shocking cases of the kind ever heard in this district engaged the attention of the Doncaster West Riding magistrates on Saturday, when John Sydney Barnett, filler, of, was summoned by Inspector Dolan, N.S.P.C.C., for neglecting his children, and also by his wife, Leonora Smith, for neglecting to maintain his family.

“A Bad Case.”

Mr. W. Baddiley prosecuted in both cases.

He said this was, in his opinion a bad case. Defendant was a young man, well able to work, but declined to do so except for about two days a week, and then spent what money he earned in drinking and gambling. There were two children of the marriage, and in consequence of defendant leaving his wife practically to starve, the younger child died of bronchial pneumonia. Even then defendant declined to come near his family, but idled his time away. When his wife asked him for money he told her to go on the streets and earn some. Defendant had been warned by the N.S.P.C.C. officer, but had not taken the slightest notice. Witness could have regular work at the colliery if he liked to go to it. For the past twelve weeks he had earned £10 13s. 11d. He had only worked two or three days a week, and had earned on the average 17/10 per day. One week he earned £2 11s. 2d., but then he took to going two days a week. One week he earned 11s. and gave his wife 2s. The next week be earned the same, but only gave his wife 4/9, whilst another week he gave her 5s. out of 11s. He lived with his mother, who found him in food. He left his wife and children practically starving. They had been helped by neighbours, but one of the best points of the new Children’s Act was that the fact of neighbours preventing a man’s family from starving did not relieve him of any responsibility

Baddiley then proceeded to call evidence

The Inspector’s Evidence.

Inspector Dolan said he had had this case under his notice since September last year.

On the 24th of that month he warned Barnett, concerning whom a complaint, had been made to him He gave defendant another warning on October 2nd. On that occasion defendant made use of filthy language towards wit Barnett lived at 2 Annerley Street, Denaby Main and was a filler. His youngest child died on March 23rd this year. He had made enquiries as to what defendant could earn, and found that if he liked to work he could earn 35 or 36s. per week. On November 2nd last he saw defendant, and gave him a third warning, which was repeated on Feb. 5th this year.

On March 22nd witness visited defendant’s house. Both children were clean, but badly nourished.’ The younger of the two was apparently very ill. There was no food in, the house. Witness spoke to the mother, who told him that during the nine days that the child had been ill she had not been provided with the means of obtaining food beyond what she received from neighbours. He .saw defendant and told him that the younger child was dying from starvation. He asked defendant why he had not been to work, and he replied, “See the doctor.” Witness had already seen the doctor about the case He told defendant that the case was a ‘serious one, and that he would be reported

On the 22nd the wife told witness that during three weeks she received 10.s. from defendant. On inspecting the house, he found that there was practically no furniture in it, and no bed clothes except an old quilt that covered the sick child. Witness found that the child had been insured into companies, one policy been taken out by the defendant, and the other by his mother.

Cross-examined: When witness gave defendant the warnings he always took them in a most indifferent manner. Once witness sent a little girl with a message to defendant, and the latter would use of the most filthy language towards her.

Wife’s Distressing Story 

Leonora Barnett, wife of the defendant said they were married in 1906. They had had two children. Ada and Emily. The latter died on March 23rd. Since they had been married defendant had refused to work, although he had plenty to go to. If it had not been for the help, of the neighbours and witness’s mother the first child would have been where the baby was now. Defendant never worked from March 11th to the 22nd. He went to the doctor and brought back a bottle of medicine, but witness saw the doctor herself and obtained a certificate that defendant was able to work. Defendant spent his time in playing football in the street. She gave the details mentioned by Mr. Baddiley as to the amounts given, her by defendant. What food she and her children had had was provided by her mother and neighbours. Defendant had never bought a single article of clothing for herself or the children. More than once defendant had gone out with 30 shillings in his pocket and returned home drunk without any money on him at all. On Sunday, March 14th, the younger child, a baby, was taken ill. Once witness went for three days with but one meal. When the child fell ill there was no food in the house. When she asked him for money he told her to go out on the streets for it.

Cross-examined: Defendant had never been much good to her. He never gave her a sovereign if he earned three.

Re-examined: During their short married life defendant had broken up three homes.

A Lazy Son-In-Law.

Mrs. Leonora Bigland said she was mother of the last witness. Defendant was a lazy man, who refused to work, but who would drink all he could get. She had a large family of her own but had had to find food and clothing for defendant’s wife and family. Witness and her husband fitted up the first home for defendant and his wife. When Barnett earned any money be spent it in drinking and gambling. In. September last defendant s conduct was such that witness wrote to inspecting Dolan about him. On the day that the second child was born there was no fire or call in the house.

Mary Galvin said she had no defendant for several years. Witness went to see is why when the chair was taken ill. There was no call one in the house, and had it not been for witness and other neighbours and Mrs Barnett’s mother, defendant’s wife and children would have starved.

Medical Testimony.

Dr. Twigg said he attended the younger child, and found it to be suffering from bronchial pneumonia. He first so her on the 17th, when she was much emaciated and suffering from a bronchial cold. The child had had no proper food for some time. There was no furniture in the house, neither warmth, food, or anything else. If the child had had proper nourishment its life could have been saved.

Cross examined : Defendant, came to ‘witness and said he had, a cold, ,and had some medicine. It, was the rule, when a man was away from his ‘work for two days to go, to the doctor for a note. Witness gave him ,a note to the effect that, he was fit for work

Re-examined: Defendant, never used the note that witness made out.

A Poor Defence.

Defendant was then sworn. He complained that his wife had left home for days at a time. He said his wife’s mother had always wanted his wife to leave him. He had taken his money home to his wife.

Cross examine: Witness had not been to work since Monday last, “because they bad been tantalising him.” It was untrue that he would not work for his family. It was also untrue that he got drunk. He had some beer last Thursday, but was not drunk. He was not sober. He struck at his mother-in-law that evening. The most he had ever given his wife was 25s. He denied the figure supplied by the Colliery Company to the effect that he earned £2 11s. 2d. on. Jan. 13th. He spent some of the money he earned that week and other weeks to get some of his own clothes out of pawn.

George Barker was called as a witness by defendant He said he had known defendant for five years, and had “always found him all right.’

Cross-examined: Witness knew nothing about defendant’s domestic affairs.

Six Months for “Slow Murder.”

The Chairman, said the bench considered that this was one of the worst cases that had ever been brought before them. Defendant’s conduct practically amounted to slow murder of the child. He would be sent to prison, for six months, with hard labour.

The Bench then proceeded to hear an application by Mrs. Barnett for a separation order, with an order of maintenance to be made against her husband.

Mrs. Barnett gave evidence in support of the application.

The Bench made an, order of separation, and ordered defendant to pay 10 shillings a week towards his wife support.