Amelia Dyer was Victorian England’s most notorious “baby farm” killer and was responsible for the deaths of perhaps 400 infants in her care. She was tried and convicted by a jury who found her guilty after only four minutes of deliberation. Dyer was executed by hanging in 1896 in London.
At the time, newborn babies – especially those born out of wedlock – were commonly “adopted” by others in return for a small fee from the parents, paid in installments or upfront. Amelia Dyer’s baby farm was a horrendously squalid environment where babies were starved and neglected to save money and increase the profitably of the venture.
As Dyer’s ruthlessness increased over time, she began to murder infants immediately after she received payment from parents. The bodies of the babies were disposed in a nearby river or body of water, and Dyer moved from town to town to avoid suspicion. Her activities continued for decades, even as she was committed to an insane asylum on two separate occasions.
In 1896, a barge traveling on the Thames River discovered a parcel containing the body of an infant who had been strangled to death. Authorities searched the river and found at least forty more children who had been murdered in the same manner. One of the parcels contained a name and an address in Reading, which led investigators to Amelia Dyer’s doorstep.
Tried in the Old Bailey courthouse in London, Amelia Dyer was convicted of killing seven infants whose corpses could be directly linked to her. Police were convinced she was responsible for dozens, if not hundreds, of other murders. Amelia Dyer was hanged on June 10th, 1896, three weeks after being convicted.
Modern researchers have estimated that Amelia Dyer killed as many as 400 babies over the course of her life.