Shocking Neglect Case from Denaby

January 1923

Mexborough & Swinton Times January 13

Shocking Neglect Case From Denaby.

Husband and Wife Sent to Prison

Appalling Revelations

An astounding case was heard at Doncaster on Saturday, when Harry Spriggs, a miner, and his wife Mary, were accused with having neglected their six children whose ages ranged from 11 months to 15 years, Supt. Minty remarking that he had never read a more shocking report than that presented to him by the officer in charge of the case, Sergt. Elliott.

The parties live in Edlington street, Denaby, and Supt. Minty explained that the police were able to produce documents showing that an average income of at least £6 weekly had, of late, been going into the home for the maintenance of the family.

Outlining the case for the prosecution, Supt. Minty said the two defendants lived with their six children in Edlington street, Denaby. Police-Sergt. Elliott visited the house in the early morning in consequence of certain allegations made by Joseph Spriggs, defendant´s son, who had been arrested on a charge of housebreaking, and who had pleaded that he wanted food. The wife, Mary Spriggs, answered Sergt. Elliott´s summons at the door. The place was in darkness, and the latter had to put a penny in the gas meter in order to obtain a light as there was no money in the house.

On the morning in question the place was destitute of food, the family were practically devoid of clothing, and the house was in a shocking sanitary condition. A boy, aged 15, and a girl, aged 13, were sleeping in the same bed as three other children.

Segt. Elliott, describing his visit to the house on January 9, bout 5.55 a.m., said the female defendant told him she had no money and witness found the place in a filthy condition. The family had no coal, and despite the fact that there was a baby eleven months old, no milk or other food was in the pantry or elsewhere. The place was cold and draughty. In a back bedroom he discovered five children, including the baby, of mixed sex´s occupying one bed. The bed was covered with dirty clothing. In the front bedroom witness found a two-year-old boy sleeping with only a dirty torn counterpane as covering.

“The ceilings were quite black; and the walls hung with dirt. And the air was not fit to breathe”, added Sergt. Elliott. On his paying a subsequent visit, witness observed that conditions were little better than previously. The children were huddling together for warmth, and he found them all puny, undergrown and mentally deficient. Some pairs of worn out boots were in the house.

Evidence was forthcoming to show that the family´s average income was over £6. a week.

The male defendant said he had had some “short weeks”, and denied that the children were puny and under-developed, but Supt. Minty pointed out there were seven previous convictions against defendant for not sending his children to school, which was in itself evidence of neglect.

Mr. J. E. Cliffe, on of the magistrates (to defendant): Surely, if you had £5. a week – a deduction of £1. 13s. from the figures recorded in your family´s average income – you could keep the children under better conditions. If you had £2. a week, you could keep the place clean.

The Chairman (Mr. J. Brocklesby), in sentencing both defendants to imprisonment – the man for two months, and the woman for one month – a decision against which the wife pleaded – said they were both guilty of gross neglect, or such conditions could not possibly have existed. The circumstances were very regrettable, but they were in a position at least to provide the necessaries of life.

Son Committed to Quarter Sessions

The hearing was followed by a charge of housebreaking at Denaby, against a son Joseph Spriggs, aged 19 ½ , who admitted in a statement to the police having broken into the house of Frederick Woodmansey, 145, Doncaster road, Denaby, and having stolen 10s. 4d. in cash, in addition to food, valued at 1s. 6d.

Prisoner, it was stated, smashed a pane of glass in order to gain access to the house, while complainant was away at work. Finger prints were discovered on a piece of smashed glass, and these were sent to the Criminal Investigation Department for the West Riding at Wakefield, where impressions, taken from the thumb of the prisoner, and those found on the glass, were proved to be identical. Enlarged photographic reproductions were handed to the magistrates for examination.

Woodmansey related how he found the place in a state of disorder on his return from work.

In his statement to the police, prisoner admitted having been told by his father to go out and get something to eat. He also detailed how he committed the robbery, and took half a pie from the table for food.

Harry Aspinall, of the Criminal Investigation Department, gave evidence, and prisoner was committed for trial at the next Quarter Sessions.

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