1880: Extraordinary Confession of Child Murder near Aldeburgh

The following extraordinary statement has just been voluntarily made by a girl named Howe, and inmate at the Manor House Refuge for the Destitute, Dalston Lane, E.

June 15, 1880

Frances Ellen Howe, aged 19, states that whilst in service at Aldbro’, in Suffolk, she got acquainted with a young woman about 18 years of age, named Fanny Reeves, who on one occasion, shortly after their acquaintance, asked her to accompany her across the water to a place called Sunbl-n (or similar). They went there together about four o’clock in the afternoon, and whilst there, the girl Reeves murdered her baby, about two weeks old, which she brought with her, by cutting its throat, and afterwards threw the body into the water. She (Howe) states she did not mention the circumstance to anyone in Aldbro’ on their return, nor, indeed, to anyone till she told it to one of the girls here, who communicated it to the matron here. She further said the woman Reeves was subject to fits, and shortly after the murder was taken ill at her lodging in Aldbro’, where she died. Howe saw her before she died, when she told her not to tell anyone what had happened.

A few weeks after this Howe was arrested in Aldbro’, and taken to Ipswich, where she received six months’ Imprisonment, and then came here.

The woman where Reeves was confined with the child was named Jones, and lived in a little group of cottages a little way beyond the town, No. 24 on the door.

The girl was buried in the chapel burying ground, about a mile from the town, and she was present at the funeral, though not as belonging to it. The lodging she died in was not the same as that before mentioned, but was near where she was in service. Her parents lived at Saxmundham, and were known as “bad people”.”

Our Aldeburgh correspondent adds: – “It will possibly be within the remembrance of some of our readers that Frances Ellen Howe was convicted here in November last for stealing a sovereign from Samuel Ward, a fisherman, who had charitably given her a night’s lodging, and that she was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment in Ipswich Gaol for the offence. On leaving the prison she was admitted into the above-mentioned institution, where she made this startling confession a few days ago, and which the Chaplain at once committed to writing.

“The statement being sent on to W. Hammond, our police-officer here, he at once prosecuted active inquiries, but up to the present the result leads him to believe the confession to be an entire fabrication. The girl was well-known here as a bad character, but, being an orphan, several ladies of the town endeavoured on many occasions to reform her. Their efforts were, however, fruitless, as Howe persisted in returning to her vagrant habits.”

We shall give the result of any further inquiries with regard to this extraordinary confession in our next impression.

The Ipswich Journal, Tuesday 29 June 1880