Attempted Murder In Kentish Town

Of all the murders and violent crimes that took place in 19th century London, some of the most disturbing are those that were perpetrated against innocent children.

The North Londoner, on Saturday the 6th of March 1875, published the following disturbing story:-


At the Central Criminal Court on Wednesday, Anne Maria Wells, 30 , a married woman, Jane Reeves, 24, and Mary Anne Reeves, 23 (sisters), were indicted for feloniously attempting to murder a child named Ada Maud Mary Edwards.

The indictment contained a number of counts, some of which charged the prisoners with feloniously casting and throwing the child over a wall into a ditch, with the intent that it should perish and die of cold and exposure.

Mr. Poland and Mr. Mead conducted the prosecution. The prisoners were defended by counsel.


It appeared that the prisoner Mary Anne Reeves, who had been in the service of a gentleman in the Euston Road, was delivered of the child in question in October last, and it was placed in the charge of a Mrs. Andrews, who resided in Harwood Street, Kentish Town.

The prisoner Jane Reeves lived in the same house, and she also had a baby, and it appeared that Mary Anne Reeves had to pay ten shillings a week for the support of the two children, and this was, no doubt, a great burden to her, and was alleged to have been the cause of what afterwards occurred.


On the 30th of January the prisoner Wells appeared to have taken the child away from Harwood Street, and on the same evening it was found in Franklin Street, Kentish Town, where it had evidently been thrown over a wall four feet high.

It was wretchedly cold, and was removed to the workhouse, where it was discovered that a handkerchief had been tied very tight round its neck, and it had also received injuries on the head by the fall, but it eventually recovered.

The prisoner Wells was found guilty of felony, and the others of misdemeanour. Wells was sentenced to ten years’ penal servitude, and the others to four months’ hard labour.


The North Londoner featured the following update on Saturday the 27th of March 1875

Dr. Hardwicke, the Coroner for Central Middlesex, held an inquest at the Prince Alfred Tavern, Crowndale Road, St. Pancras, on Tuesday, touching the death of Ada Maud Mary Andrews, alias Ada Reeves, aged II months, whose death took place in the St. Pancras workhouse, from exposure and violence through being thrown over a wall in Franklin-street, Kentish-town, under circumstances already reported in this journal.

Inspector James Harris, Y division, watched the case, and the evidence adduced showed that deceased’s mother, Mary Ann Reeves, was a servant in the employ of the Rev. Mr. Peters, of 50, Fitzroystreet, Euston-road.


The deceased, in consequence, was put out to nurse with its aunt, Jane Reeves, who lived with Mrs. Andrews, at 7, Harmood-street, Kentish-town.

On the 3oth of January, a woman of the name of Wells, about seven o’clock in the evening, took the child away from Harmood-street, telling Mrs. Andrews that it was going to be put out to nurse.


Two hours afterwards, as a woman was passing down Franklin-street, Kentish-town, she heard cries of a child proceeding from over the railway wall. A railway porter coming along, she informed him, and he procured a light, and in a ditch he found the deceased.

It was taken to the Kentish Town Police-station and afterwards to the St. Pancras Workhouse, when it was found to have sustained injuries to the head.

A handkerchief was tied tightly round its neck.


The police the same evening took Annie Maria Wells into custody for attempting to murder the child, and likewise the mother, Mary Ann Reeves and her sister, Jane Reeves, for being accessory to the above offence before the fact.


The prisoners were taken to the Marylebone Police Court, and committed to the Central Criminal Court for trial.

On the 3rd instant they were tried and found guilty, Wells being sent to penal servitude, and the sisters to be imprisoned for four calendar months each, with hard labour.


The deceased, although she had been under the care of Dr. Joseph Hill, the resident medical officer to the St. Pancras workhouse, gradually got worse, and died on Thursday last.

The cause of death was inflammation of the brain, from the injuries she received, and inflammation of the lungs through the exposure.

The jury returned a verdict of “Wilful murder” against Annie Maria Wells, Mary Ann Reeves, and Jane Reeves.


The Morning Post, on Thursday the 8th of April 1875, published the following article about the case:-

In the case Anne Maria Wells, who was charged with wilful murder, an application was made to postpone the trial to the next sessions.

The prisoner, it will be recollected, was charged at the last session with other women for endangering the life of the same child by exposing it to the inclemency of the weather, and she was convicted and sentenced to 10 years penal servitude.

The child, it appears, has since died, and the coroner’s jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against the prisoner.

The court granted the application for a postponement.