15th September 1861


A boy was suffocated on Friday week in Wiltshire, through a whole onion sticking in his throat.


A poor child named Stevens, only eight years old, and son of a circus proprietor, was burnt to death at Leicester last week. Whilst acting the part of a monkey in a piece entitled, “The Monkey and the Indians”, for which purpose he was dressed in wadding and a flax imitation of hair, he had to climb a rope, but he ascended too high and the material took fire from the chandelier. The poor boy was instantly one mass of flame. He fell to the ground, so severely burnt that he died the next day.


On Thursday afternoon, Phoebe Browning, of Cold-harbour, Canterbury, was charged with having strangled her child, Thomas Browning. Susannah Collard, wife of John Collard, said:

“Yesterday afternoon I saw the prisoner on the high road by Wingate-hill with a baby in her arms. The child’s legs were hanging down more like those of a dead than a live child. They were very much emaciated, and exposed to view. I asked her what was the matter with the baby. She made no reply. I said, “Then I will look at it, as the poor little thing is dying, I know.” She answered immediately, ‘Oh no it is not, for the doctor says it will never die.’

“I said to her, ‘If Superintendent Walker was to come along I would make him take you and the child.’ She replied, ‘If I was to see Superintendent Walker come along, I would murder the child at once.’

“I left her and went a little way, but I did not like to leave the woman with the baby. I went back and tried to take the baby from her, when she ran to the corner of the lane close by, and sat down in the hedge.

“I went up to her and said I would take the baby home. She said, ‘I will kill it before you or anybody else shall have it,’ and immediately squeezed the throat of the child with her hands, and it was only with difficulty that I got the child from her. The child’s eyes were ready to bolt out of its head, and it appeared to be in a dying state.

“When I had got possession of the child, the woman ran off in the direction of Boughton.

“I brought the child into Canterbury, and took it to Mr Tassell, a surgeon, who gave it some medicine. It died this morning, shortly before noon.”

A certificate from the medical officer said: “Phoebe Browning is affected with mental imbecility. She requires a person to take care of her, her husband being anxious to go hopping.”

The prisoner was remanded.


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