British Executions

Ada Chard Williams

Age: 24

Sex: female

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 6 Mar 1900

Crime Location: 3 Grove Road, Barnes, London

Execution Place: Newgate

Method: hanging

Executioner: James Billington


Ada Williams was convicted of the murder of 21-month-old Selina Ellen Jones and sentenced to death.

She battered and strangled her at Grove Road, Barnes, London and then threw her into the River Thames around 23 September, 1899.

However, her case was controversial as there was nothing in the evidence to indicate whether it was her that had murdered the child or her husband. As a result, her execution was deferred until further consideration into her husband’s role in the murder could be made. However, nothing further came to light and Ada Williams was executed on 6 March 1900.

Selina Jones's mother had read an advert in a newspaper offering homes for unwanted children and she took Selina Jones to the home where she paid £3, the full cost being £5. When she went back later with the remaining £2 she found that neither Ada Williams nor Selina Jones were there. The woman went to the police but they could not do anything because there was no body.

However, later, the body of Selina Jones was washed up on the banks of the River Thames at Battersea and Ada Williams was arrested.

It was thought that Ada Williams had murdered many other children. The court heard that she would tie up the bundles containing the dead babies using a specific knot, the Fisherman's knot.

Ada Williams was tried with her 47-year-old husband but he was acquitted. It was noted that the jury had returned a verdict against her husband of guilty of being an accessory after the fact, however the verdict could not be accepted as he had not been tried on that charge.

Her husband was from Cambridge but had since led a roving life and it was not known the degree of his culpability in the murder or other things that they had done since marrying in July 1893.

It was stated that the murder was undoubtedly a cruel one, being committed for the basest motive, for money.

However, it was said that considerations regarding the legitimacy of carrying out her capital sentence stood. It was stated that if Ada Williams had been absolutely alone in the commission of the crime, then there would be no hesitation in carrying out the sentence, in spite of her youth or sex, but it was noted that the evidence was a perfect blank as to the respective parts taken by Ada Williams and her husband in the murder.

It was noted that Ada Williams's husband took his full share in the baby farming transactions, calling for letters and assisted in the hiring of a room for the night in Southerton Road, Hammersmith.

Further, it was stated that with the exception of the cruelty and language spoken of by Ada Williams's neighbour at Grove Road, that there was nothing to show that Ada Williams committed the murder rather than her husband except for the letter that she wrote to the police, with regards to which there was a question as to whether the letter had been written by her or under her husband’s influence or coercion.

However, it was noted that from what was heard from outside sources, (Governor of Prison etc), that it appeared that Ada Williams was hot-tempered, violent and hysterical, whilst her husband was a man meek and small, and so the probabilities were in favour of the murder having been committed by Ada Williams whilst the tying up of knots etc were probably done by her husband.

However, it was asked whether it could be fairly stated that it was more than a probability  that that was the true explanation and whether it would be safe to hang Ada Williams when they were absolutely in the dark as to whether it was her hand that actually committed the murder, and then leave the possibility open to the chance that at the last minute her husband might come forward and say, 'I did it', to which it would be impossible to prove that he was not speaking the truth.

However, no reprieve was given and Ada Williams received the final punishment.

Selina Jones's mother was single and had lived at 16 Spicer Road, Finch Road, Battersea, London. She said that in December 1897 she had been living with her father in Woolwich but on 17 December 1897 she was confined in a Home at Clapham where she gave birth to Selina Jones who, upon the recommendation of the woman there, she put in the charge of a certain woman until March 1998 when she took her back and sent her to a woman in Gee Street, St. Luke's, paying her 5s a week from March to July 1898, for her care.

She said that she went there and visited Selina Jones and said that as far as she saw that he had been in good health and had flourished. However, she said that in July 1900 Selina Jones's father ceased to contribute and she then paid only half-a-crown a week for her care.

However, she said that she then saw an advertisement in the Woolwich Herald on 18 August 1899 which read, 'Adoption. A young married couple would adopt healthy baby; every care and comfort; good references given; very small premium. Write first to Mrs. Hewetson, 4, Bradmore Lane, Hammersmith'.

She said that she wrote to the address saying that she had a child and asking how much she wanted to adopt it and got a response saying that they wanted it for their own, and wanted £5 down. She said that she answered, stating that she could pay £3 and sent a photograph of Selina Jones, noting that the photograph, which was taken in 1898, was later sent back to her in a subsequent letter. The photograph was later produced at the trial at the Old Bailey.

She said that she asked for an interview and an appointment was made to meet at Woolwich Station about Thursday 24 August 1899, a week before Selina Jones was handed over. She said that at the appointment that she met Ada Williams, who she knew as Mrs Hewetson, and went with her to her mother's house where her mother told Ada Williams that they wanted her to take care of her for a certain time but that they would later want Selina Jones back. She added that arrangements were also made for the mother to see Selina Jones once a fortnight. She further added that her mother said that she would also come up to see Selina Jones presently.

Selina Jones's mother said that Ada Williams told her that her husband was a clerk in Hammersmith and that she understood her to say that she lived at 4 Bradmore Lane, the address that was in the advertisement.

She noted that no arrangement was made about the money on that occasion and that she also told Ada Williams that she would always like to provide it with clothes.

She said that she then told the woman at Gee Street that she was going to take Selina Jones away and later wrote to Ada Williams stating that she would have Selina Jones on the Tuesday.

She said that she then made an appointment for the next Thursday after the interview in Woolwich to meet Ada Williams at Charing Cross Station.

She said that she then got a letter from Ada Williams, the only letter that she ever received from her, stating that she had taken a new house in Hammersmith and that all the neighbours would think the child was their own as well as inquiring at what part of Charing Cross Station they were to meet.

Selina Jones's mother said that some days before 31 August 1899 that she bought some child's clothes that she took to the woman at Gee Street on the Thursday, and that the woman then handed Selina Jones over to her that same day along with all the clothes that she had been wearing.

She said that she then took Selina Jones to Charing Cross Station, main line, along with the clothes and saw Ada Williams at Charing Cross South-Eastern Station with whom she then went to Hammersmith by 'bus. She said that they then went to The Grove and stopped at a house there, noting that Ada Williams told her that it was the house that she had taken, however, she said that it was not occupied although there were some workmen in it.

She said that she then went with Ada Williams to 2 Southerton Road in Hammersmith that Ada Williams told her belonged to a friend of hers, noting that Ada Williams told her to say nothing about the child not being hers, but didn't give her a reason for that. She said that when they got to Southerton Road that she was introduced to the friend, as Ada Williams's sister-in-law.

She said that she then had some tea at the house and paid Ada Williams £3 and gave her the bundle of clothes. She noted that she had definitely arranged to pay her £5.

She said that after tea, she, Ada Williams and Selina Jones left the house at Southerton Road and went to Hammersmith Station where she then left Selina Jones with Ada Williams and went home.

She said that she was due to pay the remaining £2 the next Sunday, but said that Ada Williams would write her a letter to let her know where, adding that she was going to send her husband with Selina Jones to meet her at the station. However, she said that she got no such letter and didn't know what station to go to.

However, she said that she still came up to Hammersmith on the Sunday, 3 September 1899, and went to the house in The Grove , but found it occupied by some other people.

She said that she then went to 4 Bradmore Lane and found that it was a newspaper shop. She said that she had a conversation with the proprietor and then went to 2 Southerton Road where she spoke to the woman there after which she went back to Bradmore Lane and then went home.

She said that she went back the following day, 4 September 1900, and then went to the police station and made a complaint and then afterwards to the West London Police Court.

She said that the next that she heard of Selina Jones was when she got a message from the police on 27 or 28 September 1899 to go to the mortuary at Battersea. She said that when she went there that she saw the dead body of Selina Jones, noting that she had curly golden hair and had been vaccinated on her left arm. She added that Selina Jones also had a peculiar nose and a protruding navel.

She said that on 28 September 1899 she was also shown a quantity of child's clothing and recognised the red plaid dress that she had given Ada Williams in a parcel when she had gone to see her. At the trial she noted that she had made the dress and produced a piece of cloth that she had had left over after making it. She also identified a coat that her mother had bought for Selina Jones.

She said that she also recognised a number of other items that Selina Jones had been wearing, a pair of shoes, a pair of brown socks, and a petticoat but noted that Selina Jones had not been wearing the socks or petticoat on 31 August 1899, saying that they were handed to Ada Williams. She also recognised a number of other items, including a bib that Selina Jones had been wearing.

When Selina Jones's mother was cross-examined, she said that Selina Jones had not lived with her from her birth but had been with the two carers. She said that she took Selina Jones back from the woman in Gee Street because she went to live over a stable, and kept no servant. She added that she had not liked the carer's conduct at Gee Street and that it was that that had induced her to take Selina Jones from her.

She said that there was no trouble about money, but said that Selina Jones's father did not keep up his payments, adding that she didn't like the woman in Gee Street's actions with Selina Jones, adding that she had a good deal of bother with her.

She said that £3 was all she could afford and that she paid £2 for the new clothes, but that the others were what she had at Gee Street.

She added that she had seen Selina Jones pretty frequently in her life, and that she had no doubt that the child she saw at the mortuary was hers.

The woman that lived in Gee Street that had taken Selina Jones said that she had taken charge of Selina Jones from about March 1898 to 31 August 1899 and was paid 5s a week and then half-a-crown a week. She said that she had no child living with her and that Selina Jones had been the only child living with her.

She said that Selina Jones's mother came to see Selina Jones most Sundays. She said that Selina Jones had very good health and had been vaccinated while with her on the left arm.

She noted that whilst Selina Jones was with her that she had a little accident that left Selina Jones with a scar on her face, stating that when she took her to be vaccinated that she put her thumb in her face and took a little piece of flesh off which made the blood come and left a scar. She noted that she had very long nails and never cut them or bit them.

She said that Selina Jones had golden curly hair and rather a large navel.

She said that Selina Jones's mother came and took Selina Jones away on 31 August 1899 saying that she had been wearing a pair of shoes and a frock that she later identified at the trial. She also looked through a bundle of clothes and said that she recognised all of the items other than a plaid frock.

She said that a police officer took her to Battersea Mortuary on 28 September 1899 where she identified the body of Selina Jones, noting that she noticed the scar on her face.

A woman that lived in Greenwich Road said that she had been the manager of the Woolwich Herald and that advertisements passed through her hands prior to appearing in the paper and that on 16 August 1899 she received a letter with a draft advertisement on the back. She said that the communication read, '4, Bradmore Lane, Hammersmith, August 16th, 1899. Sir, Will you please insert the following advertisement in the next issues of your four papers. Enclosed is 1s. 4d. in halfpenny stamps, and oblige. Yours truly, M. Hewetson', whilst the draft advertisement read, 'Adoption. Young married couple would adopt healthy baby; every care and comfort; good references given; very small premium. Write first to Mrs. Hewetson, 4, Bradmore Lane, Hammersmith'.

The newsagent that lived at 4 Bradmore Lane, Hammersmith said that he took in letters there for people at 1d apiece. He said that he remembered about 16 August 1899 that the man that Ada Williams was tried with came in and asked him to take in letters in the name of Hewetson. He said that the letters came to his premises addressed to that name and that the man would come in and call for them. He said that he remembered a Sunday in September when Selina Jones's mother came in and called on him. He added that among other letters he had noticed that one of them had a Woolwich postmark, adding that the last letter addressed to Hewetson came on the Wednesday before the Sunday on which Selina Jones's mother called. He said that he thought that about seven or eight letters came altogether.

The woman that had lived at 12 Southerton Road, Hammersmith said that on 31 August 1899 she had had a notice in her window saying, 'Apartments to let'. She said that she remembered that on that day Ada Williams and a man came in and Ada Williams told her that she wanted a room for, 'me and my baby', for the night and that she was moving, but didn't want her husband to sleep there. She said that Ada Williams gave the name of Hewetson and told her that the baby was with her sister-in-law at the time.

She said that she let her have the room for 3s and that later that evening Ada Williams and Selina Jones's mother arrived with a child and a parcel. She said that when she opened the door to her that Ada Williams said, 'I have brought my sister in-law back with me, you don't mind, do you? Can I have some tea?'. She said that they all had tea after which they all went out, with Ada Williams saying that she was going to see her sister-in-law off by train.

She said that when Ada Williams and the man came earlier that the man stood on the mat while the arrangements were being made with Ada Williams and that after they left that she didn't see the man again. She said that after Ada Williams and Selina Jones's mother left with the child that Ada Williams came back and said, 'I do not want to sleep here tonight, my furniture has come, and my husband has got a bed up, will you fetch me down the bundle off the bed, because I do not want to go upstairs again'. The woman said that she then got the parcel for Ada Williams and that she then left the house immediately with the baby and the parcel.

She said that she didn't see Ada Williams again until she later picked her out from some other people at an identity parade.

A woman that lived at 27 The Grove, Hammersmith said that in the summer of 1899 that her father bought the house and that there was some work to do on it and that when they moved in on 31 August 1899 the workmen were working there. She said that they had lived there since and that she could not recollect Selina Jones's mother calling there on a Sunday after they moved in.

A woman that lived at 2 Grove Villas, Grove Road, Barnes with her husband said that they went into occupation there about 16 August 1899. She said that at that part of Grove Road there were three houses that stood together in a row called Grove Villas. She said that No 1 was empty and remained so after they occupied No 2 and that No 3 was occupied by Ada Williams and her husband.

She said that whilst she was there that she noticed that there was a little boy there who was about 10-months old. She noted that Ada Williams kept no servant. She said that she knew them as Mr and Mrs Chard Williams.

She said that she only went into No 3 twice and that Ada Williams only came into her home once.

She said that Ada Williams told her that her husband was a tutor at a college at Clapham, noting that she saw him about daily. She said that Ada Williams told her that the boys at the college were having their holidays, and that was why he was at home.

She said that she remembered going in to tea about a week or a fortnight after they went there at which time she saw Mr and Mrs Chard Williams and the boy, noting that he was the only child there in August 1899. However, she said that in the first week of September 1899 she saw a little girl there who she afterwards came to know as Lily, noting that she thought that she was about 2-years-old.

She said that Ada Williams told her that the child's name was Lily and that she was her sister's child, who lived at Uxbridge, and that her sister was nursing the child's grandmother, who was dangerously ill, and that the child would have to remain with her for certainly a week. The neighbour noted that on that occasion that she saw Ada Williams's husband put the child into a corner and give it a smack, noting that the child cried and that after that she saw her out in the front garden once or twice, noting that there were gardens at the front and back of the houses. She said that she was playing about, as far as I could see, quite happily.

She said that on one occasion, whilst she was in her garden, that she heard the child crying in No 3 and heard Mr Williams say to Mrs Williams, 'Don't do that', to which she said Mrs Williams said, 'You mind your own damned business, or I will serve you the same'. She said that  Mrs Williams then came out into the garden and told her that Lily had dirtied on the floor, and she had beaten her with a stick for doing so, and left her lying in it, and that Mr Williams had taken the child up to the bathroom, and changed its linen and bathed it, and that he had taken the stick from her. She said that she said to Mrs Williams, 'Poor little thing!', and that she said, 'Serve it right'.

She said that a day or two after that she went into No 3 again, and Mrs Williams showed her some wheels on the child's back. She said that they stood out as thick as her finger and that Mrs Williams said, 'Look what I have done'. She said that she said, 'What would the mother say if she saw them?', and that Mrs Williams replied, 'I don't care what the mother would say'. She said that the marks were dark-red and that Mrs Williams told her that she had had Lily's brother under her care two years before, and she wondered they let her have the girl. She said that Ada Williams never told her  what had become of the little girl's brother.

She said that she said, 'It is a poor little mite', and Ada Williams said, 'She is fretting for the mother'. She said that Lily was looking miserably thin. She added that she never saw it out in the road or taken out for exercise, or anything of that kind and only saw it in the garden and heard her crying continually.

She noted that she could not say whether Mr or Mrs Williams were in the house on those occasions.

She said that on Saturday, 23 September 1899 that she paid a visit to some relations at Greenwich and that on that morning before she left home she heard Lily crying, and that when she was going away Mrs Williams came to the gate to see her off. She said that she didn't return home until the Monday following, 25 September 1899, getting home at about 7pm at which time she heard nothing from the adjoining house during the night, but said that on the  Tuesday morning she saw Mrs Williams and said to her, 'How unusually quiet lily is!', to which she said Ada Williams told her that the mother had come and taken her home on the Sunday, and added, 'It is a damned good job it has gone, now I feel in Heaven'.

She said that about that time Ada Williams told her that Lily's mother had left some of the child's clothes behind, and said that she could have them if she liked in exchange for an art flower pot of hers that Ada Williams had seen in her house and that it was arranged that she should take the flower pot, and she should take the clothes in exchange. She said that Ada Williams brought the clothes out into the garden, stating that the clothes consisted of a plaid frock, two flannel petticoats, a pair of pink socks, three vests, three pairs of drawers, and an outdoor coat.

She said that all the items were retained by her until she handed them over to the police inspector.

She said that she saw Mrs Williams several times after that but could not say the exact dates and later saw her in October, after which she ceased to see her, but saw Mr Williams once, and said that she asked him when Mrs Williams would return, and said he told her that the friend she had gone to nurse was dangerously ill and he could not say when she would be back. She added that he told her that she had taken the little boy away with her to.

She said that she remembered some furniture being removed from the house, but could not say who removed it, noting that it was moved at about 10 o'clock at night, but that it was about three weeks after her return from Greenwich.

She said that she didn't notice anything peculiar about Lily, and didn't notice the size of her feet or hands, or if her nose was broken, or notice any scars on her face.

A builder who lived in High Street, Barnes said that he had acted as agent for the owner of 1,2, and 3, Grove Villas. He said that they were new houses in July and August 1899 and that they had  gardens in front and rear. He said that in July 1899 he had an application from a Mr Williams for the tenancy of No 3, and the house was let to him by an agreement dated 18 July 1899 for three years, at a rental of £28 a year. He said that the name he knew him by was William Goodwin, Devonshire Road, Chiswick and that he signed the letter in his office to the owner of the houses:

'High Street, Barnes, July 18th, 1899. Mrs. B. B. Barker. Madam, In consideration of having possession forthwith of the house and premises in Grove Road Barnes, for which I have this day signed an agreement for a three years tenancy from September 29th, 1899, I agree to pay you the sum of £3 10s., half a quarter's rent to that date, and to observe all the covenants of the agreement during that time. Yours faithfully, WILLIAM GOODWIN. Witness, JAMES SALE'.

He said that Mr Williams went into occupation almost at once, but could not say the date, but said he handed him the keys at the time the letter was signed, on 20 October 1899.

He said that he later received a letter that read:

''Durban House, Grove Road, Barnes, October 19th, 1899, My dear Mr. Sale, Just heard from the governor; he is returning to town on Saturday evening. I am to meet him, and if I can get back in time I will call on you with the £3 10s. Should I be too late I will be at your house the first thing on Monday morning. Sorry to have kept you waiting. WILLIAM GOODWIN'.

However, he said that on the same day he got that letter he got a visit from a man in the evening who told him something, and that two or three days afterwards he went with a carpenter to the house, noting that they had to break through a window to get into the house, which was then empty. He said that they then secured the door with a padlock and came away. He noted that they did not take any string, or rope, or anything there.

He said that he had had about three conversations with the Mr Williams altogether and did not notice that he was deaf.

A waterman that lived in Asterly Road, Fulham said that on 27 September 1899 at about 9am, he had been working on a barge on the Thames off Church Dock, Battersea when he saw a brown paper parcel in the water tied up with string. He said that he pushed it ashore and saw a child's foot sticking out of the parcel. He said that he then saw a police constable and called his attention to it whilst it was still in the water and left him in charge of it.

The police constable said that when the waterman called his attention to the brown paper parcel in the Thames that he looked at it, and saw a baby's foot sticking out. He said that he pulled it in and took it from the edge of the water to the mortuary at Battersea, where he took from the outside of it the paper in which the whole thing was wrapped up. He said that he then came upon a kind of pink-coloured flannelette sewed round the body from the shoulders down to the haunches, with double white thread, and between the legs and around the haunches was a white napkin. He said that the head was covered up with a white cotton bag, tied round the neck with a piece of cotton stuff, the same as the bag was. He said that it was a piece of selvedge torn off. He said that on removing the flannelette from the body he found it was tied up with a kind of sash-cord or blind-cord, the heels being drawn up over the chest, on each side of the head, under the ears, the left arm being thrust under the left leg, between it and the body; the right arm being squeezed between the body and the leg in a straight attitude and secured by the cord or line.

He said that he then sent for a doctor who cut and removed the cord. He said that he cut nothing himself except the outside string and the paper. He said that he then took the pink flannelette off, but left on the head covering and the string on the body. He later produced each item at the trial.

He said that he was familiar with knots and the making of them, noting that he had been in Her Majesty's Navy for just over 12 years where he had learned to tie all knots which were required in the Navy. He said that in the blind cord there were knots that were well known to those familiar with knots, stating that there were three knots known as the fisherman's bend and another known as the half-hitch, noting that there were eleven half-hitches in the string round the brown paper and six half-hitches in the blind cord. He added that there was also a reef knot which he said was for reefing sails. He said that he also found seven overhand knots in the cord round the brown paper and one in the cord that tied up the body.

He said that he took particular notice of the position of the child's limbs at the time it was found, as well as the position of the strings and cords which bound it up and later prepared a doll about the size of the child, with just the same presentment as he found the child when he took it to the mortuary and which also showed the position of the knots as best he could get them to the original.

He said that when some pieces of cord were later shown him that had been found at the house, that in one piece of sash-line, which was a good bit thicker than that found round the child, he found one overhand knot and one half-hitch. He said that in another piece of cord from the house he found three fisherman's bends, thirteen half-hitches, and eight overhand knots. He said that in another piece of sash line that he found one half-hitch and one overhand knot, noting that they were broken pieces tied together and that they were a bit thinner than the piece found round the child's body. He said that the sash-cord and the blind-cord were all the same kind.

When he was cross-examined, he said that he examined the wrappings round the body and found there was no name on them. He said that none of the string found in the house corresponded with the string round the body, noting that he didn't search the house and that that was all the string he had.

He said that the sash-line was the ordinary sash-line that went up the side of a window, but said that it would be a very big window that used a line of that description.

He said that if he went to an ordinary string-drawer that he would not expect to find knots like the ones he had found, noting that the overhand knot was a common knot, but that the half hitches were  more remarkable. He noted that there were two kinds of fisherman's knots, one that was used for attaching cat-gut to a line, and the other for attaching one end of a line to another.

The Divisional Surgeon of Police that carried out the post mortem said that on 27 September 1899 he was called to the mortuary at Battersea where he saw the body of Selina Jones tied up and her head wrapped up and a cloth still round the buttocks. He noted at the trial that the model that the policeman presented was exactly as he saw the child before he cut the cords, noting that the head was in a bag, and was tied round the neck, which he removed and then cut the cord that tied up the body.

He said that from the appearance of the body, it had been dead from three to six days and in his opinion it had been in the water for more than one day and that its appearance was consistent with it having been placed in the water on the afternoon or night of Saturday, 23 September 1899.

He said that he noticed that the tongue was between the lips, the hands clenched, that there was no appearance of any goose skin, that the finger nails were blackened, there was no froth exuding from the mouth or nose, and no foreign body in the air passages. He added that there was a large bruise on the left side of the head, extending from the temple to the back of the head, and covering a space, roughly, about the size of the palm of one's hand.

He said that he made a post-mortem examination 1½ hours after he saw the body and found a quantity of clotted blood between the skin and the skull. He noted that there was no fracture of the skull and that the bruise was caused before death, and must have been given with considerable violence, and, in his opinion, intentional violence. He noted that it could not have been from any accidental fall, in his opinion, unless it had been dropped from a great height. He said that the ordinary effect of such a bruise would have been to stun a child.

He said that he came to the conclusion that the child was about 18 months old and noted that it weighed 19½lb, and was 31in in length and was well developed.

He said that he noticed signs of constriction all-round the child's neck, exactly corresponding to the tape round it, stating that they were marks of strangling and that he found that the lungs were congested, the right side of the heart full of dark fluid blood, the left side empty and the bag of the heart having a slight excess of fluid. He noted that the other organs were normal.

He said that the last indications were consistent with asphyxia, or suffocation and that the condition of the heart was proof positive of suffocation.

He noted that there was no matter under the lungs or in the stomach and that by the condition of the different organs he was of the opinion that the child had been suffocated by strangulation and not by drowning, noting that he didn't find any signs that one generally sought for as an indication that the child was suffocated by drowning, except the heart, which would be common to both.

He said that he had enough to satisfy him that the cause of death was suffocation, and that by the string round the child's neck.

He said that he thought that the child had been put into the water when dead, noting that he didn't see any signs that the child had struggled after it was tied up, which he said was one of the reasons why he thought that it was stunned at the time.

He noted the child had been vaccinated on the left arm and that its navel was slightly protruding, owing to some of the changes that took place after birth, and I noticed a little scar on the left cheek that had become black from the water.

A wardress at Her Majesty's Prison, Holloway said that she had had charge of Ada Williams on 18 December 1899 and that at her request she gave her a piece of paper with some initials on it. She said that Ada Williams had been in the cell alone at the time and that a little later she handed her a letter.

The letter was then taken away and examined and compared to the letter that Ada Williams had previously sent Selina Jones's mother as well as to the Woolwich Herald.

A man that practiced at 59 Holborn Viaduct said that he had a good many years' experience in examining handwriting and that he had examined the letter that Ada Williams had written at HMP Holloway as well as the three other letters that she was known to have written to Selina Jones's mother, the clerk at the Woolwich Herald and to the police prior to her arrest and said that in his opinion they were all written by the same person.

The letter that Ada Williams wrote to the police prior to her arrest was addressed to: To the Secretary, Criminal Investigation Department, New Scotland Yard, and read, 'Sir, I must apologise taking this liberty, but I see by the papers that I, in conjunction with my husband, are suspected of murdering the little female child found at Battersea on September 27th. The accusation is positively false. The facts of the case are these: I, much against my husband's wish, in August last advertised for a child, thinking to make a little money, the result of which was the adoption of this little child, with whom I received the sum £3. My next act was to advertise for a home for a little girl; I used some shop in Warwick Road, West Kensington, I forget the number, but I used the name of Denton, or Dalton, I am not sure which. I received about 40 replies, from which I chose one, from George Street or George Road, Croydon. The lady from Croydon, Mrs. Smith by name, agreed to take the child for £1 and clothes. I met her at Clapham Junction, the Falcon Hotel, on a Saturday about the middle of September; we were to meet at 7 o'clock. I arrived at time, but Mrs. Smith was 20 minutes late. I handed the child over to her, and she was then quite well. That is the last I saw of her. I have, it is true, been carrying on a sort of baby-farm; that is to say, I have adopted babies, and then advertised and got them re-adopted for about half the amount I had previously received. I have had five in this way; two died while in my care, but I can prove that every attention and kindness was shown them; no money was grudged over their illness. I can prove this by the people with whom we lodged, and also by the doctors who attended them. Two I have had re-adopted; one went to Essex, the other to Bristol, and the last one I parted with as above stated. From the accounts in the papers I am alleged to have carried on this system for six years; now, that, too, is utterly wrong. I am evidently mistaken for someone else, as the first one I ever adopted was in November, 1897. You will say, 'If innocent, why not come forward?' There have been innocent people hanged before now, and I must admit that at the present things look very much against me, but it is not fair to go entirely on circumstantial evidence. I am trying to find the woman to whom I gave up the child, but, unfortunately for me, I destroyed her letters, and if I came forward there would be no possibility of clearing myself unless I could find some clue about her. In conclusion, I must tell you that my husband is not to blame in any way whatever; he has always looked upon the whole matter with the greatest abhorrence, but only gave way to me because he was, through illness, out of employment; he never, however, once touched any of the money I made by these means.

Yours truly, (Signed) M. HEWETSON.

P.S. We left Barnes simply because we were unable to meet the rent, and some time before we heard of this lamentable affair. The shop in Warwick Road is a newspaper shop, the Hammersmith Road end, and only a few doors down on the right hand side'.

In regard to her letter, it was noted that a clerk in the office of The Essex Weekly News, which also owned The Essex Independent, The South end Observer, and The Barking Observer, said that she received a letter on 27 July 1899 that read, '27, Warwick Road, Kensington, W., 26/7/99. Sir, Will you kindly insert the following in The Essex Weekly News series; enclosed is postal order for 1s. 6d., and oblige yours truly, G. DALTON: Advertisement: 'Home required for young child; terms 16s. per month, paid in advance; references given and required. Mrs G. Dalton, 257, Warwick Road, Kensington''.

The clerk said that the advertisement appeared in the newspapers, with the last date appearing being 3 August 1899. She noted that they were weekly papers coming out on different days of the week and that the advertisement would have appeared in one edition of each paper.

A woman that lived at 257 Warwick Road, Kensington said that she took in letters for people at 1d a piece.

She said that she remembered receiving a number of letters addressed to her premises in the name of Dalton in the summer of 1899, stating that a man came for them, although she was doubtful that she could recognise him again. She said that the letters were given to him and that there had been about 40 of them altogether. She added that on one occasion a woman came with the man but said that she would not be able to recognise her, noting that she only saw her once and that that was in August 1899. She added that she could not remember the last time the man came in, saying that she thought that it might have been the last week in August.

She added that she did not receive letters for the person named Dalton at any later time.

A woman named Smith that had lived in George Street, Croydon said that she had lived there at Whitecliffe's Stores for about 12 months, and left on 7 August 1899. She said that she knew of no one else in the street named Smith and that George Street was the only one she knew in Croydon.

She added that she didn't know Ada Williams and had never seen her and that she had never delivered a child to her anywhere.

A postman that had delivered letters in George Street, Croydon in September 1899 said that he had been on duty there for three or four years and that in August 1899 he had delivered letters to Mrs Smith at Whitecliffe's Stores.

He said that in addition to her there was a Mr Smith who had a confectioner's shop, and one who traded as a hosier in George Street, but that those were the only Smiths he knew. He added that he did not know of a street called George Road. He noted that there were four deliveries and that he delivered there three times a day.

The Mr Smith with the confectioner's shop at 53, George Street, Croydon said that he was a single man and that there was nobody connected with those premises named Mrs Smith and that he had been there about nine years.

The Mr Smith with the hosier's shop at 44 George Street where he traded as Smith & Wilson, said that he was married, and that Mrs Smith lived a short distance from Croydon. He noted that he had been in George Street four years and that there was nobody named Mrs Smith connected with his shop.

Ada Williams was traced to a coffee shop after she wrote the letter to the police after reading about suspicions against her relating to the finding of Selina Jones in the River Thames. In her letter she had said that she had 'sub-farmed' Selina Jones to a woman called Mrs Smith who lived in Croydon and further took full responsibility for the business that she had carried on, exonerating her husband.

The proprietor of the coffee shop at 26 Gainsborough Road, Hackney said that in November 1899 that he saw an advertisement in the Daily Chronicle that his wife answered and that in consequence of that Ada Williams came to her shop and told her that she was a widow with one child. He said that she then came to assist his Missus in the business, noting that he engaged her for that.

He said that she brought a child with her four or five days after she entered upon her duties, which she did late in November 1899, identifying the child as the little boy she had previously been seen with in Grove Road. He noted that Ada Williams's husband also came to his shop on 7 December 1899, which was the first time he saw him, noting that Ada Williams told him that he was her brother-in-law which he said he accepted.

He said that he didn't stay the night but that he did come again the following evening and was there when the police came and arrested them. He noted that he was going to give up the business on 11 December, and had given Ada Williams notice, and that she was due to leave on the Saturday morning.

When the police arrived at the coffee shop at 26 Gainsborough Road, Hackney on the evening of 8 December 1899 they found Ada Williams's husband in the kitchen and Ada Williams upstairs kneeling on the floor packing her trunk.

When Ada Williams's husband was arrested and told that he was to be arrested for being concerned with Ada Williams in the wilful murder of Selina Jones about September 1899 he said, 'We are guilty of fraud, but innocent of murder'.

When the police went upstairs and introduced themselves, Ada Williams said, 'I know, you have come about the Battersea job. I knew it was you as soon as I heard your step on the stairs'. When she was told that she was to be arrested for the wilful murder of Selina Jones, she said, 'Have you got my letter?' and when the policeman said 'Yes', she said, 'That letter is God's truth, but I know I cannot clear myself; my husband was not in the house when I took the child away'.

When the police later looked through Ada Williams trunk they found a large quantity of children's clothing. However, when Selina Jones's mother examined the items she noted that some of Selina Jones's clothes were missing.

Ada Williams was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

However, her execution was delayed whilst police made further enquiries into the involvement of her husband in the murder and other similar murders.

On 23 February 1900 it was agreed that the decision whether or not to interfere with Ada Williams's sentence should be deferred as long as possible in order that all available light be thrown on the case, which the police report described as a 'very difficult case'.

It was stated that at that time that there were two very important points for consideration:

  1. Is there reason to suppose that the crime was committed by Ada Williams in conjunction with and under the influence of her husband?
  2. Is there any reason for a reprieve on the ground that further light may thus be obtained in reference to other similar cases, with the view of possibly bringing the husband to justice?

It was stated that those two points hung together and that it was important to collect the various circumstances that pointed to the husband's complicity.

It was stated that beyond the fact that the husband was a Cambridge man, they had at the time little information as to his doings before his marriage with Ada Williams on 25 July 1893 at which time he seemed to be 52. It was said that he seemed to have led a wild and roving life ever since leaving Cambridge and it was stated that it would be desirable to get further details about his life.

It was noted that his stepfather left him £100 and that he had to be advertised for, and that he appeared to have used that money to set up a small newsagent's business at 16 Gate Street in Lincoln's Inn Fields and took Ada Williams to.

It was determined that a few weeks after the marriage that Ada Williams had brought home a baby named Mabel who was said to have been her sister's child. The shop was then given up and they quarrelled and separated, however, in June 1896 they were found employed by the Salvation Army and living at 27 Limehouse Causeway and then afterwards at 62 Shelgate Road in Battersea, where Mabel was still with them.

At that time they took a newly born child represented to be an illegitimate child of Ada Williams's sister. A doctor attended the child at the end of 1897 and found it to be suffering from neglect and it died two days later. The doctor said that he considered the case unsatisfactory, but certified it as a death from bronchitis.

It was said that from that time onwards that their life seemed to follow a kind of system.

On 14 February 1898 they took 82 Brodrick Road in Wandsworth Common on a 3 year agreement at £34 rent. They lived there with Mabel and a 4 month old baby till 22 May 1898 when they left at night, having paid no rent.

The same process was next gone through with a house in Merton where they had a 4 or 5 month old baby, but whether that was the same child as at Wandsworth, was not known. Whilst there they took that baby away and when they returned without it they said that it had died at Brighton.

Again, the same thing happened with a house at Kingston, they took a 3 year agreement which they followed by absconding at night in December 1898. It was noted that there was no evidence of any child there.

They next lodged, in December 1898, at Ham with a girl of 15 months. Then at Richmond, in the same month, December 1898, with a girl about 18 months named Maggie. Maggie however disappeared, with no one knowing how or where.

Still in 1898 they took a £50 house at Richmond and paid one quarter's rent. There they had a boy called with them who was thought to have been the boy that they had at Grove Road, called Freddy, and who they still had at the time of their arrest.

They made two other removals and then took lodgings at Gunnersbury in January 1899, which they took for 12 months, but they removed to 3 Grove Villas on 28 July 1899.

It was said that in each case they took a house or lodgings under a false name and little could be discovered as to their goings on.

However, it was stated that there was direct proof of their having lived by fraud and baby farming.

As well as their living arrangements, the police report also considered the finding of several other children found in the River Thames.

Baby A:

  • Body of female child, age 1 month, found 24 July 1899 on foreshore of Thames, Lonsdale Road, Barnes.
  • No marks of violence about body.
  • Had been in water about 3 days.
  • Arms bent upwards from elbows.
  • Legs drawn up in front of body, one foot placed on each side of neck.
  • Tightly bound with string passing round body, head bent on chest.
  • It was sewn in white napkin with black cotton, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string.
  • Cause of death: gastro enteritis.

It was said that in that case that the description of the way in which the child was tied up was the same as that of the child found on 31 July 1899, also at Barnes, and Selina Jones, and that the string round both bodies was knotted in the same way.

Baby B:

  • Male child, 3 weeks old, found 31 July 1899 on foreshore of Thames at Barnes.
  • No external marks of violence.
  • Only in water a few hours.
  • Body wrapped in piece of red flannelette.
  • Legs and arms tied up to body with piece of string
  • Death believed to have been due to diarrhoea arising from improper feeding.

It was noted that the knots and tying were the same as those found on the baby found on 24 July 1899 and those found on Selina Jones.

Baby C:

  • A male child, age 6 weeks, found in Thames 25 August 1899 on foreshore off Barnes Terrace, Barnes.
  • Wrapped in piece of American cloth, placed in bag of same material and the whole enclosed in an old black leather handbag tied round with piece of black satin.
  • Cause of death: wound four inches in length across skull and fracture of skull.
  • Body trussed up into the smallest possible compass.
  • Arms across chest.
  • Thighs doubled up over stomach, and legs from knees bent backwards and pressed down upon the thigh.
  • Small piece of string tied round the outside of the old canvas bag with four knots on it, but they do not correspond with the knots on the string found on the other bodies or at the house in Barnes.

It was said that the only evidence that had reference to Ada Williams was that of a policeman and his wife who said that in May 1899 that Ada Williams and her husband came to live next door to them and that the husband used to carry a black handbag exactly like the black handbag in which the child was found and that an American black cloth marketing bag that they found in the house after they had left was also like the black handbag that formed one of the coverings of the child found on 25 August 1899. However, it was noted that the American cloth marketing bags were extremely common and were sold in scores in small shops for marketing purposes.

In the case of Baby C, a verdict of wilful murder was returned by the Coroner's Jury against some person or persons unknown.

The police examined certain items that were recovered, including:

  1. The cloth which was stated to be tied up in the same way that the murdered child was tied.
  2. The actual cord and knots with which the murdered child was tied.
  3. The knotted cord found in Ada Williams's house.
  4. The pieces of cord with which two of the other children found in the river were tied.

A man that, in his Woolwich days, had much experience of knots, pointed out the scientific character of the knots that corresponded with some of those represented on page 289 of Vol II of Brand & Little's Dict of Science, Arts, Knots, and which he said were evidently tied by a most experienced hand.

As such, it was said that the appearance of the same well defined knots in point 2, 3 and 4 above and the fact that each of the three children found in the River Thames  were tied up in the same manner, led almost irresistibly to the conclusion that the same hand or hands that tied up Selina Jones, also tied up the others.

It was further stated that it was difficult to believe that that had been done by Ada Williams alone.

As such, the police report stated that taking in connection with their previous history, that it appeared that there was a very grave suspicion, at any rate, that the husband as well as Ada Williams were concerned in the wicked work.

With regards to the evidence connecting Ada Williams's husband to the murder, it was noted that it was he that had made arrangements to receive letters at 4 Bradmore Lane in Hammersmith in the name of Hewitson and also he that called for them.

He had also been present when the arrangement for the rooms at Southerton Road was made and he was described as having been 'about daily' at 2 Grove Villas. It was further noted that the letter of 5 December 1899 was probably his composition, it being stated that it was hardly a letter that Ada Williams could have written alone, although it was noted from her letters from prison that she did show herself to be a woman of some education.

It was also noted that there was also the tying up of the child, which it was stated, looked like man's work.

The police report stated that on the whole, except in the instance of his interference when Ada Williams was beating the child, that there appeared very little to distinguish between the two cases, adding that the jury might have nearly as much justification for drawing an unfavourable view in his case as in Ada Williams's.

One of the judges that the police spoke to said that he was inclined to think that the view of the jury was that the woman actually committed the murder and that her husband disposed or helped to dispose of the body.

The police concluded their 23 February 1900 report by stating that the most favourable way in which the case could be put for Ada Williams was, assuming that her husband had also been convicted, that  she would be respited on the ground of the assumed influence of her husband.

The report stated that that appeared to be a very difficult question and reiterated, as it stated at the beginning of the report, that the decision to interfere with the sentence or not should be postponed until all sources of further information had been exhausted. It was further noted that the letters from Ada Williams's husband to Ada Williams further looked as if it was possible that he could yet make some further disclosures.

Further consideration was given to the fact that in some cases of criminal acts committed by married women that the mere fact of the presence of the husband at the time of the commission of a crime by his wife was regarded as prima facie evidence that the crime was committed under his coercion, and that unless that was disproved by affirmative evidence, it amounted to a defence in point of law.

However, it was further noted that it was laid down in the text books that there was no such presumption in the case of treason or murder. (see Stephen's Digest Art. 3/ Russell on Crimes 1 p139). It was noted that with regard to that that murder was the exception to the rule as well as the fact that there didn't appear to be any cases where the presence of the husband had been held to be a defence in the case of a murder committed by the wife. Reference to the case of Mannings in 1849 was raised, however, it was noted that in that case the point was not raised. It was also noted that it had been dealt with at some length by the Recorder of London in his charge to the Grand Jury, as detailed in Carrington and Kirwan p903.

It was further noted that the whole law on the subject was also elaborately discussed in Carrington's argument in R vs Cruse as laid out in Carrington and Payne p552. As such, it was thought on the whole that it should be taken to be law that if it had been shown in the case of Ada Williams that her husband had been present, that circumstances would not have afforded any defence because of that to Ada Williams, even if there had been no evidence to show that she took the more active part in the transaction.

However, the police report went on to state that it was however a different question where a murder was shown to have been a joint act of the husband and wife whereby the presumption arising from the presence and authority of the husband ought to weigh in favour of the exercise of the prerogative of mercy.

However, it was noted that it was true that it was not taken into account in the case of Mannings where both where executed. It was further noted that the police had further been unable to find amongst the Home Office precedents any case in which there had been a reprieve of a capital sentence on that ground.

However, the police report further stated that they could find no other case since Mannings where both husband and wife were executed for murder, or where a wife had been executed for a murder committed in the presence of her husband. However, it was noted that there was one case, that of John and Mary Cox where the wife was respited, but apparently only on the grounds of pregnancy after which her sentence was commuted.

As such, the police report stated that looking at the analogy of the law in less serious cases, that unless there was affirmative evidence to show that the wife took the leading part, or in all events, an active part and that the act was really an independent act of the wife, then the fact that the husband had been present was usually a sufficient reason for not carrying out the capital sentence.

The police report stated that the difficulty in Ada Williams's case was increased by the absence of evidence as to the actual act of murder and by the course that the case took at the trial . It stated that how the murder was committed was a matter of inference and to some extent conjecture, with the jury finding that it was done by Ada Williams and that the child was probably first stunned and then strangled and then tied up and thrown into the water. The police report, referring to an earlier report detailing their reasons, then stated that they inferred that the last of the three acts had been carried out by Ada Williams's husband, adding that it certainly seemed more probable that it was his act than that of Ada Williams and that if that was the case then was there any strong reason to suppose that it was more probable that the stunning and strangulation had been the act of Ada Williams rather than of her husband?

The police report stated that they didn't think that there was an means of solving that question.

However, the police report stated that it was perhaps on the whole, rather more probable, looking to the fact that Ada Williams was the person who was in closest contact with Selina Jones and to what they knew of her disposition and treatment of her, that those acts were done by her, but questioned whether there was any ground for more than probable conjecture?

The police report added that if the acts were those of the husband that it would be a perfectly fair inference that Ada Williams was party to the crime, but noted that they did not think she would be executed.

The police report stated that in favour of the acts being hers, that there was the letter written to the police taking the blame on herself and exculpating her husband, but noted that they could not attach much importance to that, or rather, noted that if as had been inferred from internal evidence, that the composition of the letter was the husbands, and not Ada Williams, that it rather seemed to tell against the husband rather than Ada Williams.

However, although the police report stated that there were various expressions in her letters written from prison that seemed to support the view that the act was her own, that they didn't think that much dependence could be placed on the letters.

The police report noted that with regard to the course taken at the trial, that the jury indicated their view to be that the husband was an accessory after the fact, which they said probably meant  that the disposal of the body was his act. However, it was noted that he was not tried  on that charge and consequently got off free.

As such, it was stated that it was impossible in that connection not to attach great importance to the finding of other bodies of children dealt with in the same way so as to lead most strongly to the inference that the hand which tied up Selina Jones also tied up the others.

As such, the police report stated that if that hand was, as they believed, the husbands, did that not, coupled with the fact as to the shifting of lodgings and assuming false names, and the presence of various children, lead strongly to the inference that he had been an active participator in what was done to Selina Jones and other children?

The police report then stated that, if so, then the case came nearly round to this, that it was fair for the present purpose, to regard the husband as not improbably equally guilty with Ada Williams.

As such, the police report asked whether that justified applying to her the benefit of the analogy of the merciful interpretation of the law that applied in certain less heinous cases.

The police report concluded in stating that that seemed to the police the only ground that could be urged in favour of a merciful consideration. The report noted that it was not a strong or logical one and that it could be urged on the other hand that an example ought to be made of so atrocious a case, but added that they felt that the question deserved very full consideration before deciding to let the law take its course.

However, Ada Williams was executed at Newgate, being the last woman executed there, on 6 March 1900.

It was said that throughout that Ada Williams had maintained the most callous demeanour and that it was only within the last few days that she appeared to appreciate her position. It was said that she was paid several visits whilst in prison by her mother, brother and husband, the latter being particularly depressed at the farewell parting, which took place on the Saturday afternoon.

It was said that Ada Williams was on the Monday removed from the ordinary cell allotted to condemned females to that used by condemned men, which was in close proximity to the scaffold, and there passed her last night. She retired to rest at the usual time, but was very restless, and slept very little. She rose at six o'clock on the Tuesday morning, 6 March 1900, and expressed herself quite prepared to meet her doom.

The chaplain remained with her to the last.

It was said that she exhibited  not the slightest sign of fear when, at three minutes to nine o'clock, James Billington entered the condemned cell and, in the presence of the officials, quietly pinioned her arms. Ada Williams was then escorted to the scaffold by the male warders. She walked without assistance, and being put in position on the drop, the rope and white cap were quickly adjusted, and the bolt drawn.

Her death was stated to have been instantaneous.

It was noted that Ada Williams made no statement of any kind beforehand.

It was also noted that a small crowd had assembled outside the prison to witness the hoisting of the black flag.

see Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 22 February 2014), February 1900, trial of WILLIAM CHARD WILLIAMS(47) ADA CHARD WILLIAMS(24) (t19000212-185).

see Wikipedia

see Execution Of The Day

see Western Times - Tuesday 20 February 1900

see National Archives - CRIM 1/59/4, HO 144/280/A61654

see Woolwich Herald - Friday 18 August 1899, p12

see Eastern Daily Press - Wednesday 07 March 1900