Amelia Elizabeth Dyer née Hobley (1838 – June 10, 1896) was the most prolific baby farm murderer of Victorian England. She was responsible for many deaths—possibly 400 or more. Amelia was born the youngest of five in the small village of Pyle Marsh, the daughter of a master shoemaker, Samuel Hobley, and Sarah Hobley née Weymouth. Her childhood was marred by the mental illness of her mother, caused by typhus. She married George Thomas. George was 59; she was 24. For a couple of years she trained as a nurse enabling her to acquire useful skills. Amelia learnt of an easier way to earn a living—using her own home to provide lodgings for young women who had conceived illegitimately and then farming off the babies for adoption or allowing them to die of neglect and malnutrition.
Amelia had to leave nursing with the birth of a daughter, Ellen Thomas. In 1869 the elderly George died. Keen to make money from baby farming, she advertised to nurse and adopt a baby in return for a substantial one-off payment. For some time, Amelia eluded the police, but was caught in 1879. She was sentenced to six months’ hard labour for neglect. She resumed her nursing career and she began disposing of the baby’s bodies herself. In January 1896 Amelia acquired an infant named Doris Marmon, travelled to her 23-year-old daughter’s house, found some white edging tape, wound it around the baby’s neck and tied a knot. Death would not have been immediate. The following day, Wednesday April 1, 1896, another child, named Harry Simmons, was taken to Mayo Road. However, with no spare white edging tape available, the length around Doris’ corpse was removed and used to strangle the 13 month-old boy. On April 2, both bodies were stacked into a carpet bag and dropped into the River Thames. Watch Martina Cole’s Lady Killers – Amelia Dyer
On March 30, 1896, a package was retrieved from the Thames by a bargeman. It contained the body of a baby girl, later identified as Helena Frye. There was enough evidence to lead police to Amanda, and on April 3 police raided her home. They were struck by the stench of human decomposition. Amelia was arrested and charged with murder. The Thames was dragged and six more bodies were discovered, including Doris Marmon and Harry Simmons, Amanda’s last victims. On May 22, 1896, Amelia appeared at the Old Bailey and pleaded guilty to one murder, that of Doris Marmon. Her family and associates testified at her trial that they had been growing suspicious and uneasy about her activities. Amelia’s defence was insanity. It took the jury only four and a half minutes to find her guilty. In her 3 weeks in the condemned cell, she filled five books with her “last true and only confession”.|Her execution was not delayed and she was hanged at Newgate Prison on Wednesday, June 10, 1896.Asked on the scaffold if she had anything to say, she said “I have nothing to say”, just before being dropped at 9am. Watch the Baby Butcher – child killer from the past