See also Britain’s worst ever serial killer: The Victorian ‘Angel Maker’ who murdered 400 babies 

Amelia Sach  (pic below) (1873 – 3 February 1903) and Annie Walters (1869 – 3 February 1903) were two British serial killers better known as the Finchley baby farmers.

Crimes

Amelia Sach operated a “lying-in” home in Stanley Road, and later at Claymore House in Hertford Road (both in East Finchley), London. Around 1900, she began to advertise that babies “could be left”, and took money for adoptions. The clients, judging from the witness accounts, were mostly servants from local houses who had become pregnant, and who had employers who were keen for the matter to be resolved discreetly. There was a charge for lying-in, and another for adoption, a “present” to future parents of between £25 and £30.

Annie Walters would collect the baby after it was born, and then dispose of it with poison — chlorodyne(a medicine containing morphine). They were caught after Walters raised the suspicions of her landlord in Islington who was a police officer. An unknown number of babies were murdered this way, possibly dozens.During their trial at the Old Bailey, the quantity of baby clothes found at Claymore House was used as evidence of the scale of their crimes. A local campaign to have their sentences commuted to life failed, and they became the first women to be hanged at Holloway on 3 February 1903, by Henry Pierrepoint, the future father of Albert Pierrepoint, the only double hanging of women to be carried out in modern times.

Background

Little is known about Annie Walters, but Sach’s background is well-documented: Amelia Sach was baptised Frances Amelia Thorne in Hampreston, Dorset, on May 5, 1867. She was the fourth child of ten and had three sisters. She married a builder called Jeffrey Sach in 1896. Sach was active long before she engaged Walters. By 1902 she was working from ‘Claymore House’, a semi-detached, red-brick villa in East Finchley, North London.

Sach was herself a mother; the England and Wales census of 1901 shows that a child was born to her in Clapham. She lied about her age — she was 32, not 29. Walters’ background is unknown, but she had been married. She seems to have had a drinking problem and she would periodically advertise herself as a sick nurse. On her arrest she was determined to be “feeble”, that is to say, feeble-minded.

There is a small possibility that the pair may have been involved in an earlier homicide that resulted in another woman being executed. In 1899, Louise Masset was tried for the murder of her young son Manfred, whose body was found in the ladies’ lavatory at Dalston Junction railway station. Circumstantial evidence suggested that Louise was the murderer, and the killing was to be rid of a supposed encumbrance due to her wanting to marry a man named Lucas. However, in her claims of innocence, Louise said she had taken Manfred out of the care of one woman to give him to two ladies she met who had an establishment for the care of growing children. The police claimed they made some effort in looking for the two women, but the extent of their investigation is unknown. In any event, Louise Masset was tried and convicted of the murder and, despite a petition for mercy, was executed in early January 1900.

Aftermath

The bodies of Sach and Walters were buried in unmarked graves within the walls of Holloway Prison, as was customary. In 1971 the prison underwent an extensive programme of rebuilding, during which the bodies of all the executed women were exhumed. With the exception of Ruth Ellis, the remains of the four other women executed at Holloway (i.e. Styllou ChristofiEdith Thompson, Sach and Walters) were subsequently reburied in a single grave (plot 117) at Brookwood Cemetery. The grave is marked with a horizontally laid grey granite tombstone, and the names of all the occupants are engraved on it. The precise location of Sach and Walters’ grave within Brookwood Cemetery 

“Claymore House”, the semi-detached, red-brick villa where Sach had lived and worked in 1902 acquired a bad reputation due to the criminal activities which took place there. Some time after the trial of Sach and Walters, the building had its name chiselled off the stone plaque above the window and is now anonymous

Baby farming

Baby farming was a term used in late-Victorian Era Britain (and, less commonly, in Australia and the United States) to mean the taking in of an infant or child for payment; if the infant was young, this usually included wet-nursing(breast-feeding by a woman not the mother). Some baby farmers “adopted” children for lump-sum payments, while others cared for infants for periodic payments. Though baby farmers were paid in the understanding that care would be provided, the term “baby farmer” was used as an insult, and improper treatment was usually implied. Illegitimacy and its attendant stigma were usually the impetus for a mother’s decision to put her children “out to nurse” with a baby farmer, but baby farming also encompassed foster care and adoption in the period before they were regulated by British law.

Richer women would also put their babies out to be cared for in the homes of villagers. Claire Tomalin gives a detailed account of this in her biography of Jane Austen, who was fostered in this manner, as were all her siblings, from a few months old until they were toddlers. Tomalin emphasises the emotional distance this created.

Particularly in the case of lump-sum adoptions, it was more profitable for the baby farmer if the infant or child she adopted died, since the small payment could not cover the care of the child for long. Some baby farmers adopted numerous children and then neglected them or murdered them outright (see infanticide). Several were tried for murder, manslaughter, or criminal neglect and were hanged. Margaret Waters (executed 1870) and Amelia Dyer (executed 1896) were two infamous British baby farmers, as were Amelia Sach and Annie Walters (executed 1903). The last baby farmer to be executed in Britain was Rhoda Willis, who was hanged in Wales in 1907. The only woman to be executed in New Zealand, Minnie Dean, was a baby farmer.

Spurred by a series of articles that appeared in the British Medical Journal in 1867, Parliament began to regulate baby farming in 1872 with the passage of the Infant Life Protection Act. A series of acts passed over the next seventy years, including the Children Act 1908 and the 1939 Adoption of Children (Regulation) Act, gradually placed adoption and foster care under the protection and regulation of the state.

The term has been used to describe the sale of eggs for use in assisted conception, particularly in vitro fertilization.