Pretty little six-year-old Marie Ellen Bailes
Pretty little six-year-old Marie Ellen Bailes left her home on Friday 30th May 1908 at 1.45 pm, and her parents never saw her alive again. She had her mother’s colouring, with fair hair, blue eyes, a pale skin and topped with rosy cheeks. She wore a black skullcap dressed with two silk-ribbon rosettes, a white pinafore, a blue-check dress, black stockings, and boots – slightly scuffed at the toes, and a pure-silver necklace with a medal of the Virgin Mary about her neck. Her father, Alfred, was ex-army. Unlike most men at his work, he didn’t spend his lunch hour at the pub. He went home and ate with his family. Not that he was a teetotaller. He liked a drink as much as the next man, but he felt he’d done that. He’d seen much and experienced more than most in his military career. He now took his pleasure in his family – one boy and one girl.
Marie was a bright, happy, and healthy child. Her father said, adding, with a catch in his voice, “We made a pet of her.” Marie Bailes left school at five minutes past four on Friday afternoon, 30th May 1908. Both Bailes’s children attended St John’s school, Duncan Terrace, Islington. It took Marie twenty minutes to walk to school. Mostly she walked home with her big brother and sometimes with another little girl named Marie Kirsch. That Friday, the school kept Marie’s brother late at school for a misdemeanour. Her brother left the school thirty minutes after his sister, and Marie walked home without her elder brother’s company.
Thomas Bone, a little boy of eleven, attended the same school as Marie Bailes, and knew the deceased girl. On Friday afternoon, he walked home with another lad named Tyler. They walked from the school and along Duncan Terrace to Packington Street. ‘Near the bottom,’ he saw Marie Bailes. She was with the little girl, Marie Kirsch. He asked Marie Bailes where she was going and she said, “I am going home.” The two little girls skipped away from the two older boys. Neither boy saw Marie Kirsch nor Marie Bailes enter their respective homes.
Alfred Bailes retuned from work at 5.15 pm and found his wife greatly distressed. She told him their daughter was missing. He immediately alerted the police at Upper Street police station that his daughter had not arrived home. He then set out on a prolonged but fruitless search. The police issued and circulated a description of the little girl to all police divisions. Alfred Bailes, his friends, and neighbours walked the streets in search of his daughter. He went to Highbury Fields and the canal ‘everywhere that children liked to play’. He returned to his home several times to check whether Marie had returned but with each passing hour, and in the dark, his stomach felt as if he carried lead in his gut.
On Saturday morning, at 8.30 am, William Joseph Votier, a lavatory attendant, at the corner of St George’s Road, near the Elephant and Castle, Lambeth, noticed a man descending the steps carrying a neatly tied brown-paper parcel. He appeared nervous, and glanced furtively about him. The man asked the attendant for the key to the locked lavatory cubicle; he seemed unfamiliar to the place. He carefully placed the parcel on the floor while he took a penny from his pocket. The attendant did not notice the man leave the convenience and supposed he probably used the other entrance. A few minutes later, the attendant discovered the abandoned parcel behind the cubicle door. He carried the package to his office, cut the string, and a tiny hand flopped from a tear in the brown paper.
PC George Allward stood on point duty at the Elephant and Castle on Saturday; William Votier summoned him to the lavatory, beneath Fred Upton Hatters shop, at 8.55. The policeman untied the parcel, removed more of the paper wrapping and pieces of flannelette and linen from the child’s face, and knotted in position with string. He revealed the ‘shockingly mutilated’ body of a little girl. The child was ‘trussed like a fowl’ . . .
At 11.00 am, Saturday, Alfred Bailes again visited the Police Station in Upper Street, Islington, to ask whether they had received any news, and the duty sergeant informed Alfred they’d heard nothing.
“No news is good news,” the sergeant cheerily said.
That adage was about to come true. Alfred Bailes had just reached the corner of Upper Street when a helmet-less constable came dashing after him. He told Alfred that a child’s body had been found south of the river. Alfred Bailes heart must have sank, but another part of him knew that this body couldn’t be that of his daughter – not that far from home. He then realised, whoever she was, she was someone’s child, and he hated himself for wanting that small body to be the subject of another parent’s grief. He added guilt to his growing pile of negative emotions.
Police Constable Brown asked Alfred Bailes to accompany him to Lambeth. The killer left Marie Bailes’s body in a lavatory adjacent to a tube station with a direct link to the Angel Islington, and run by The City and South London Electric Tube Railway. Alfred Bailes and Constable Brown travelled on the same line that the killer most probably took to dispose of his child, just ten hours earlier, in silence.
The thigh bone is the longest bone in the human body. A six-year-old child, with a nine-inch femur, could be trussed into a bag no larger than twelve inches. The official description issued by the police of the distinctive blanket wrapped about Marie Bailes was: Length, 7 ft 2 in by 5 ft 6 in. Two blue lines outer, two yellow lines inner, one red centre – darned, centre much worn, red stitched, binding completely off one end. The mother identified the pieces of linen, but did not recognise the blanket.
At the close of the opening inquest, a man in court wished to ask the doctor some important questions. Replying to the Coroner, he said for twenty-five years he had been calling public attention to the horrors perpetrated on children. The Coroner told him to consult with Inspector Scott, but he was dissatisfied, and after protesting, he went and whispered to the jury. The Coroner ordered him from the court, and as he went he said, “I am satisfied. I have told the jury.” The inquiry adjourned for a fortnight.
A public house stood next to St John’s Roman Catholic School. Duncan Terrace, sat at the junction of two main thoroughfares, City Road and Pentonville Road on the eastern, western side, respectively. The Angel Islington tube Station, intersected these two main roads. To the east from City Road is another main route, the New North Road, and Prebend Street made an excellent cut through from one main arterial route to another.
At the entrance to Prebend Street was a tree-lined small park with a urinal sited at the eastern side. Pentonville Prison was but half a mile from Mary Bailes’s school. Scotland Yard believed that the killer originally buried little Marie Bailes body in a builder’s yard. “There are many of these yards,” Superintendent Frost said, “in Islington and the neighbourhood, and the doors are seldom closed.” The earth found on the body was consistent with this theory; it being of a dry character and containing fragments of horsehair, such as is used in the mixing of cement.
The first portion of Prebend Street’s terrace was numbered numerically and consisted of an assortment of apartments and shops. Prebend Street continued with even numbers to the south and odd to the north. The two Maries would probably have crossed the road together – their homes were both on the southern side. Marie Kirsch lived at 9 Prebend Street, which was opposite the little park. If Marie Bailes accompanied her friend across the road to her house, and continued on to her home at number 66, the park and a urinal would have been to her left. This green space and lavatory would have been an excellent position for a lone predatory male to lurk. Further along, outside the pawnbrokers at 13 Prebend Street, a fixed point policeman stood on duty. A constable was permitted to walk twenty-five yards from his fixed point but must remain in sight of the fixed point whilst on patrol. Strangely, there is no reference to this policeman seeing little Marie Bailes, but she must have passed him to reach her home.
Mary Bailes’s funeral took place at Kensal Rise. Several thousand people lined the route and the public displayed great sympathy. The crowd hushed as the cortège drew alongside. Silver handles ornamented the little polished elm coffin, a simple cross, and a plate, bore the inscription, Marie Ellen Bailes. Died 29th May, 1906. Aged six and a half years. RIP. White and violet flowers, formed in wreaths and crosses covered the coffin. Several coaches carried friends and relatives of the dead child, followed the hearse. Every carriage contained additional wreaths and flowers. The interment took place at St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green.
Mary Ellen Bailes’s inquest resumed after a two-week adjournment at the request of the jury. Mr and Mrs Bailes, dressed in black, occupied seats at the back of the court. Detective Inspector Scott said that continued inquiries had been made in every possible direction. Every piece of information that had been suggested had been followed, but had led to no good result, and no arrest was pending.
Alfred Bailes entered the witness box to deny a rumour, current in Islington, that he was not the father of the child. The report, he said, had caused him great pain. He gave proof of the incorrect nature of the account. Strangely enough, he had been the object of some suspicion merely because he happened to be wearing a pair of grey trousers, such as those worn by the man carrying the package and mentioned by the lavatory attendant. That fact had caused more than one person to cast questioning glances at him, which conveyed the impression present in their minds that he might be the man for whom the police were searching. It didn’t take the police long to discover that Alfred Bailes was at work and multiple witnesses stated they saw him on his usual walk home at the time the child was first reported missing.
“Search for the Woman.” A man, named Alexander Macdonald, rose at the back of the court, and suggested that the deed had been committed by a woman. There was every indication of it. The coroner had not asked if the police had inquired after a woman. This was a most unsatisfactory inquiry, and he, the speaker, protested, in the name of the public, against the police dominating the court to the prejudice of justice. He had, he said, been threatened by the police for the murder, and would not be surprised if they got somebody murdered for the special purpose.
The Coroner said, “The jury do not wish to hear you any further.”
The jury agreed to a verdict finding that the child was killed by some person or persons unknown, and against whom a verdict of wilful murder was returned.
It was rather a shame that the coroner didn’t listen to Alexander Macdonald. He had rather a lot to say, and it wasn’t his first appearance at a trial and inquest . . .