Baby murderers

Believe it or not, my costs law practice once saw me act for a toddler murderer.  Annie Cossins, a NSW academic, has written a book about Sarah & John Makin which reveals that many a small child has been murdered in Australia: The Baby Farmers (Allen & Unwin, 2013).  The Makins’  back gardens had 12 dead babies buried in them.  She and her husband were tried for murder of one of them before a jury and the case went to the Privy Council on a tendency and coincidence evidence point which is still cited in evidence texts, e.g. Jeremy Gans and Andrew Palmer’s excellent Uniform Evidence (OUP, 2010) at [12.1.4].  Cossins analyses the fairness of the trial, concluding that the judge was out of his depth, and analyses in a layman-friendly way how the evidentiary issues in the case (in which the Makins sat mum) would be dealt with today.  The Makins were wretchedly poor.  One of them was hanged.  There is a chapter entitled ‘Was Sarah Makin Really an Evil, Deadly Woman?’  Interesting stuff; as the blurb says the trial ‘exposed a shocking underworld of desperate mothers, drugged and starving babies, and a black market in the sale and murder of children … only a century ago’.

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