The Death of Patrick and Beatrice Conroy's child - Sheffield 1953.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Messenger dated 1st December 1953 

Surname First name(s) Spouse District Vol Page 
Marriages Sep 1953 
CHADWICK Beatrice E CONROY Sheffield 2d 380 
CONROY Patrick CHADWICK Sheffield 2d 38

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Messenger dated 2nd December 1953 

The first two cuttings seem to indicate that the child was born on Monday 29th June 1953, and very shortly after birth, it suffered a fracture of the skull that led to its death. The child's lifeless body was then placed in a sack where it remained until it was discovered on 4th July 1953. The couple were initially committed for trial on the charge of concealing the birth of a baby but later a Sheffield Coroner's jury returned a verdict of "Murder" against Patrick Conroy and "Infanticide" against his now wife Beatrice. There seems to have been a lack of direction on this matter. The jury were clearly of the opinion that both parents had taken part in a "deliberate act of killing" but issued two different verdicts (the difference between murder and infanticide is purely age-related - it usually refers to a person usually the mother killing their child in the first 12 months after birth.). It was if the jury wanted to state that Patrick Conroy was the murderer i.e. the person who fractured the child's skull and Beatrice although a party to the act, did not do the actual deed.

The Prosecution were not going to go down this path and made an application for both parents to stand on the charge of capital murder. This was granted and both appeared in the dock at Leeds Assizes charged with murder. Both pleaded not guilty but to no avail. They were both found guilty and sentenced to death by Mr. Justice Glyn-Jones. The newspaper report states that the jury deliberated for four and a half hours before returning with their verdict. This is a long time for such an open and shut case, and probably demonstrates a certain reluctance to pass a verdict that would result in the death of a woman. But as the law stood there was no room for maneuver - they were both guilty of murder and the law at the time stated that there was only one penalty for such an offence - death by hanging. The other interesting point to note is that neither the jury or the judge made "a recommendation for mercy" for either party, an indication that both were deemed to be culpable of the child's murder.      

Yorkshire Evening Post dated 4th December 1953

Sunderland Echo dated 4th December 1953

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Messenger dated 11th December 1953.

The couple were to be hanged at Strangeways Prison in Manchester on Tuesday 22nd December 1953 but 12 days before the execution the couple lodged an appeal. The grounds for the appeal seem thin. The Court of Criminal Appeal were noted for their reluctance to overturn the original verdict and so it came as no surprise when the appeal was dismissed on Wednesday, 18th January 1954. 

The Times 19th January 1954

The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Messenger dated 19th January 1954 also carried a report of the Appeal hearing. The Court commented that the trial judge had been scrupulous in his conduct of the case and summing up. The jury had been correct when it heard that the couple had gone out of their way to ensure that no-one else would be present at the birth of the child. And the injuries that the child received were undoubtedly caused by both parties acting in unison. The verdict was a sound one and there were no grounds for overturning the verdict.

A new execution date had to be set. The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Messenger dated 27th January 1954 carried a small report on its front page stating that the couple were to be executed on Wednesday 3rd February 1954 at Strangeways prison - it would be the first hanging of a man and wife in Britain since 1849. The couple had now exhausted every avenue and their only chance of avoiding execution was by "the exercise of the Royal Perogative." Power was vested in the Home Secretary of the day to show mercy and commute the penalty of death to a custodial sentence. The Home Secretary in January 1954 was Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe who will be remembered as the person who refused to commute the death penalty on Derek Bentley. It was only on Monday 1st February 1954, two days before the date of execution, that it was announced that the Home Secretary had decided to commute the death penalty to one of imprisonment for both Patrick and Beatrice. No reason was given for the decision. 

Patrick was released on licence on 10th November 1958 - he would have served just over five years for the murder. I do not know how long Beatrice served but it would have been a similar length. I do not know what became of Patrick but there is a record of Beatrice's death. She lived to be 78 years of age and died in Sheffield in 1994

BEATRICE EMILY CONROY 
England & Wales deaths 1837-2007 
County Yorkshire
Year 1994
Birth Year 1918
Event Quarter 12 District SHEFFIELD 

And the child - just one report states that it was a boy. It was born in the same year as me but it's life was over before it began. 

The houses on Sheaf Avenue were demolished and the road no longer exists. There is a photograph on Picture Sheffield for those interested.   

Sources

BMD

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Messenger 

Sunderland Echo

The Times

Yorkshire Evening Post

Notes

Reference: PCOM 9/2194
Description: CONROY, Patrick: at Leeds Assizes on 3 December 1953 convicted of murder; sentenced to death (commuted); released on licence 10 November 1958
Date: 1953-1958 Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Former reference in its original department P92169
Legal status: Public Record(s) Closure status: Open Document, Open Description

Reference: ASSI 87/29
Description: 
MURDER: Conroy, Patrick and Conroy, Beatrice Emily
Date: 1953 
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Closure status: Closed Or Retained Document, Open Description
Access conditions: Closed For 75 years
Closure criterion: Not used at this date
Lord chancellor's instrument: LCI 41 - Series containing both closure and accelerated opening instruments
LCI signed date: 1975 June 01
Record opening date: 01 January 2029

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This page was last updated on 04/01/17 10:06