Transcript:Bendigo Advertiser/vXIIn3222pSupp1



An inquest was commenced on Tuesday, at the Red Lion Hotel, Sydney Flat, on the body of a child about four weeks old, named (though not registered) Rebecca Balderstone, who was found dead in her bed on the morning of Monday, the 18th instant.
Mary Ann Hervey, the wife of a digger, in her evidence, said that on the 16th instant the mother of the child, Maria Balderstone, came to her hut between one and two o'clock, and asked witness to write a letter for her to somebody at Kangaroo Flat. The woman was in a drunken state, and witness declined writing the letter, telling her to come when she got sober. She was so intoxicated at that time that she was scarcely able to walk. Witness did not allow her to enter her place, and the woman therefore sat on a form outside for half-an-hour, and then left, returning about three-quarters of an hour after for her can, which she left behind her. Witness then asked her if she had not been home to her baby, when she replied, "Curse" or "damn the child," and said she had not. She was waiting for her husband, and the baby was well enough. Witness had attended to her in two previous confinements, but not in the one when this child was born, refusing because of the woman's intemperance. At the woman's previous confinement the witness was present, and three nights after that child was born witness stayed with her till twelve o'clock to prevent her from smothering it, she was so intoxicated, Christopher Balderstone was as bad, if not worse than his wife for drunkenness. Witness had no ill feeling towards them, nor had she ever quarrelled with them.
Mary Ann Rayner, the wife of a digger, deposed to having known Maria Balderstone ten or twelve years ago, when she was a single and virtuous woman. Witness delivered her of the deceased child on the 22nd August, and the child was a fine and healthy one. For the last three years the mother had been of intemperate habits. Twelve hours after this child was born witness heard in her tent, 200 yards from Balderstone's, the mother's voice outside the Chinese store scolding her husband, who, witness believed, had been drinking. Witness had at her place all the woman's clothes; therefore Mrs Balderstone must have wrapped herself up in the blankets, and gone there in that state, though the day was very damp. She afterwards had told witness she did this. Witness was certain the deceased was not Balderstone's child, but that of a dark man, named Brown. Witness attended at the Chinese store as servant. Mrs Balderstone came to the store on Saturday half intoxicated, and had a glass of ale, after which witness told her to go home to her baby. Witness could not be certain whether she went home, but she heard her voice, between the Chinese store and Dolman's, all Saturday and Saturday night, until eleven o'clock on Sunday morning. Witness did not see her, as there were bushes between, but believed she did not go home to the child from eleven a.m. on Saturday to about eleven a.m. on Sunday. On Sunday evening, at eight o'clock, Mrs Balderstone, with a strange man, came into Ah Tee, the Chinaman's store, and insisted on having a quart of ale, which they had, but did not pay for. The woman was very abusive, and both she and her husband were drunk at the time. After remaining about ten minutes, they went away quarrelling to their home, she very drunk indeed.
Dr Harry Leigh Atkinson, of Sandhurst, deposed to having made a post mortem examination of the body of the child, which he believed to be about four weeks old. The body was well nourished, and apparently that of a strong infant. The face and lips were very much congested, being dark and livid, as was also the extremity of the tongue. Externally, more especially on the left side of the body, there was a large amount of post mortem lividity. It would appear to him that the child had been lying on the left side upon the face at the time, or immediately after death. On the inner side of the left knee there was an abrasion of the cuticle about half an inch square, and also an eechymosis of about an inch square in the skin itself at that place; there was also a slight eechymosis on the opposite surface of the other knee. Several of the nails of both fingers and toes were very livid. There was also an abrasion on the nates. The nostrils were also filled with mucous mixed with blood. On opening the neck and examining the larynx and trachea, he found their internal surface congested and covered with tenaceous mucous mixed with blood. The bronchial tubes were in like manner congested and filled with frothy mucous mixed with blood. The lungs were much congested. The pericardium contained about a drachm of serum. The cavities of the heart were occupied with dark fluid blood. On opening the abdomen he found that the stomach contained about an ounce of fluid, that was mixed with coagulated milk. The stomach itself, intestines and other abdominal viscera, were healthy. On raising up the scalp he found the anterior and left sides of the head considerably congested. There was about half an ounce of serous fluid at the base of the skull. From the appearances described he was of opinion that death was the result of congestion of the lungs and brain, probably consequent upon the deceased child having been overlain or otherwise suffocated. The abrasions on the knees were caused by pressure. There was considerable odema of the face on both sides indicative of suffocation.
Bridget Bakey, a digger's wife, said she had seen the deceased child occasionally since her birth, and at those times she was healthy; but witness had not spoken to the mother for a fort night before Monday morning, when between seven and eight o'clock Mrs Balderstone sent for her to see the deceased. She went and saw the child lying on her left side, the face quite black, and the hands cold. Balderstone was not there, but Mrs Balderstone was then sober. On seeing the child dead witness without asking any questions returned to her hut.
Wm Dowson, manager of Dolman's store in Beelzebub Gully, said that on Saturday between two and three o'clock, Mrs Balderstone called at the store for yeast and had some ale there. She was not then drunk, but appeared to have been drinking. She was in and out of the store several times that day, and the last time he saw her was at eight o'clock. She was not then sober, but able to take care of herself. On the next (Sunday) morning she was at the store again between nine and ten o'clock, when she appeared sober. She came again with her husband at about three o'clock, when she appeared more under the influence of drink than before, and her husband was not very sober. They had a pint of beer each and remained an hour. Witness would not swear that Balderstone and his wife were not drunk on both Saturday and Sunday.
Henry Hunt, restaurant keeper, said that on Saturday afternoon, about four o'clock, Maria Balderstone came to his store inquiring for drink, which he refused her. She was then rather drunk or mad, he supposed drunk. She abused him for refusing her drink, and he had to put her out of the place. He did not see her again until five or six o'clock on Sunday afternoon, when she was with her husband and appeared to be quarrelling with him. Neither then appeared sober.
The inquest having been then adjourned till yesterday morning at ten o'clock, it was resumed at that hour, when the following further evidence was adduced.
Christopher Balderstone, a digger residing in Red Jacket Gully, said he had married the mother of the deceased child in 1862, having had three children by her before marriage and two since. On last Sunday evening, at about five o'clock, he returned from Raywood where he went on Saturday. When he got home his wife was on the stretcher sleeping. He did not speak to her but went out to Dolman's store to fetch tobacco. Suspecting his wife had been drinking he asked Dowson about it. Dowson replied she had asked for drink, but he would not serve her with it. His wife followed him to Dolman's store; he had a glass of ale there, and his wife two, which Dowson drew, they then went to Ah Tee's store and had each another glass of ale there. They left that place at about seven o'clock and went home. His wife then took the child on her knee and suckled it, and they went to bed at about eight o'clock, placing the deceased between them. Their daughter Mary Ann also slept in the same bed. He was accustomed to awake to have a smoke in the middle of the night. He awoke at about twelve o'clock, and awaked his wife that she might suckle the infant. She lifted it up and putting it to her breast said it was dead. Not thinking it necessary to give any alarm until morning, they left the child in bed, and got up and waited till then, but had no drink during the night. Two men were with them at Ah Tee's store, on Sunday evening, and one of them, named John Kenny, came home with them. The other was a stranger, but witness fancied his name was George. Kenny stopped a quarter of an hour there. To witness' knowledge the man George was not in his hut on Sunday last, but witness and his wife were in George's hut on their way home. They had a glass of ale there from a man called French Jack. Mary Ann who is nine years of age, was with deceased while they were away. His wife never followed him to Ah Tee's store within twenty-four hours of her confinement, he could not, however, swear to forty-eight hours.
George Lewthwait Wilson, a digger, said he saw Mrs Balderstone, at Dolman's store, between ten and eleven o'clock on Sunday morning, when she seemed sober. He saw her again in the evening between five and six o'clock. She with her husband and two children called at his hut, and remained an hour. They had bread and meat, and tea, but no ale to his knowledge. He went with them to their hut, and after remaining a minute or two, they went to Ah Tees where Balderstone called for half a gallon of beer, which was given to him by Mrs Rayner. He stayed only ten minutes there, having only one glass of the beer, and then went home, when it might be about half-past eight o'clock.
To a juror: French Jack came into his hut while the Balderstones were there, and just before they left. French Jack gave them no drink to his knowledge, and could not have sent for any without it.
A witness named Makey (should be Bakey --Wongers 11:52, 12 October 2013 (UTC) ) was called, but could give no evidence, as he was himself, he said, dead drunk on Saturday night, but he heard Mrs Balderstone going home on Sunday evening, singing "The Rattling Boys from the County Down." Her husband was with her.
A son of the last witness, twelve years of age, was called, but though he could repeat the Lord's Prayer and the Creed, and professed to be a Roman Catholic, he could not tell the nature of an oath, had never heard of such a thing, and did not seem to comprehend that telling a lie was an evil or punishable. His evidence was not taken.
Bridget Bakey, re-called and re-sworn, said that on Saturday night she heard the deceased child crying, and her sister talking to her. She knew it was with hunger that she cried, and she did not believe the mother was at home on Saturday night, at least till she went to sleep, which was late, as she did not get to bed till twelve o'clock. Mrs Balderstone usually made noise in coming home, and that night she did not hear her at all. On Saturday night she (Mrs Balderstone) must have been drunk. The evidence of all the witnesses was then read in the presence of Mrs Balderstone, and she and her husband were desired, if they thought fit, after the reading of each to ask any questions they might think proper.
Mary Ann Rayner further deposed that on Saturday night she heard the screams of the child, which were so violent that she remarked to Mrs Ah Tee, "The next time we hear anything about that baby it will be dead." She could not sleep because of the screams, and if it had not been that she had to nurse Mrs Ah Tee's child she would have gone and put the deceased to her own breast. To a juror: She bore no animosity towards Mrs Balderstone. She had felt towards her a great respect at the time she knew her in Adelaide, and Mrs Balderstone herself could not say that any animosity existed.
The jury, after about an hour's consideration, returned the following verdict, viz.: -
"That between the hours of nine and twelve o'clock on the night of Sunday last, the 17th day of September inst, the deceased child, called Rebecca Balderstone, came suddenly by her death from suffocation whilst in bed with her parents, Christopher and Maria Balderstone, at their hut in Red Jacket Gully, district of Sandhurst. We find that the deceased came by her death through the culpable neglect of her parents, especially that of her mother, both being in an intoxicated state on the night aforesaid."
The parents of the child were then committed on the Coroner's warrant for trial, and the witnesses were bound over to appear at the next Circuit Court.