We have talked about female killers who have murdered or are suspected of having murdered over 100 people. Jane Toppan, Elizabeth Bathory. There is one more name to add to the list. Amelia Dyer. She is suspected of murdering over 100 babies. The exact number is unknown, being that in those time there was no forensics or technologies we have today, as well as her way of moving around and using aliases. Did she really murder over 100 innocent babies?
Amelia Dyer Before Murders
Amelia Dyer was born in 1837 in a small village named Pyle Marsh near Bristol in England. Her father was a well-known shoemaker around the village. Like other female killers, Amelia Dyer had a mentally unstable mother, and this would cause her to have an unhappy childhood. Her parents had nine children, but her two younger sisters passed away. Therefore, Amelia became the youngest one in her family. Even being the younger one, she was the one who mainly took care of her mentally-ill mother. When she was older, Amelia became an apprentice to a corset maker.
After her mother’s death, Amelia drifted away from her family. Therefore, she didn’t have any financial support from them. It might be why she married 59-year old George Thomas. It is said they lied about their ages on their marriage certificate. He was 48, and Amelia added six years to be about 30 years old. I am not sure why they lied, being that she was not underage, but it could be how it was during those times.
When she got married, Amelia went from a corset maker to a nurse. But, when Amelia gave birth to her daughter, she stopped working to take care of her daughter. In 1869, Amelia’s husband George Thomas passed away, so Amelia knew that she had to get back to work to make money for her family. When she was a nurse, midwife Ellen Dane became somewhat of a mentor to Amelia. She taught her that she could make money by becoming a midwife and provide lodging to unmarried pregnant women who couldn’t take care of their babies, so they wanted to put them up for adoption. However, Ellen Dane, who quickly migrated to the United States before the authorities caught on to her) also taught Amelia how to get rid of the babies who couldn’t be adopted. Amelia remembered what Ellen taught her and decided to become a Baby Farmer.
Amelia, the Baby Farmer
During that time, the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act was passed that allowed fathers of children born out of wedlock to not have to financially support them. Therefore, single mothers in Victorian England had a rough time. Let’s also remember that birth control was not readily available as it is today. Therefore, single women became desperate when they found out they were expecting. Due to this, Baby Farming became more popular. This is where adoption gents were the “middle man” between the unwed mother and the families wanting to adopt a baby for money.
A few of the baby farmers would sedate babies with opiates. Some of those would even purposely starve babies and cause some of them to prematurely die. Amelia Dyer was, unfortunately, one of those.
When her husband passed away, Amelia Dyer placed ads in newspapers. One was “Married couple with no family would adopt healthy child, nice country home. Terms – £10.”
When single pregnant women contact her, Amelia would assure them that she will take care of the baby and find a good home with loving adopted parents.
This isn’t what Amelia would usually do. She would take the babies and either starve the babies to death, similar to another female killer Miyuki Ishikawa, drug the babies with opiates, or strangle them.
She was able to continue murdering innocent babies for almost ten years before she started raising suspicions.
In 1879, doctors realized that there were too many death certificates for the babies under Amelia Dyer’s care. Amelia was sentenced to only six months of hard labor.
When she got out, Amelia spent some time in several mental asylums. In 1895, Amelia Dyer relocated to another town. She realized her past mistake of having death certificates, so she decided to dispose of the babies’ bodies instead. How did she decide to do this? She decided to start dumping the bodies in the River Thames.
Amelia’s luck ran out when one of the babies’ bodies was fished out of the river. The package that contained the little baby’s body was examined. It had an October 24, 1895 stamp from a local post office. There was also the name of Amelia’s married name “Mrs Thomas” and her former address” 26 Piggott’s Road, Caversham” They questioned her old neighbors. The latter directed the police to where Amelia currently lived.
When they searched her property, they found piles and piles of baby clothing and newspaper ads. On April 3, 1896, Amelia Dyer was arrested for murdering a child. When the police searched the Thames river, they found the bodies of six more babies with the same tape around their necks.
Later, they found another package that contained the body of a one-year-old baby.
The trial began, and Amelia Dyer was sentenced to death. On June 10, 1896, Amelia Dyer was hung at Newgate Prison.
Amelia Dyer is one of the most prolific serial killers in the Victorian era. She took advantage of the times that she lived in to get away with murdering many innocent babies. In doing this, she also victimized their mothers, who were already so by the times they lived in. These mothers thought they were giving their babies better lives, but instead, they were being drugged, neglected, and murdered. For what? Money. This story also shows that Amelia Dyer was not the only one hurting babies because she got the idea from another midwife. It’s alluded that other baby farmers were doing the same. She definitely deserved to hang for her crimes.