Infanticide at Culham Station
17 February 2023
Travellers waiting for their train at Culham train station may be charmed by the historic Tudor Revival-style station building, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and built in 1844. They are probably unaware of the grisly discovery made at the station in 1873.
The stationmasters grisly discovery
On 4 March 1873, Culham stationmaster William Bradshaw became concerned that passenger Jane Haines was taking an unusually long time in the station toilets. On investigating he found a scene that caused him to first send for a local matron, then a surgeon, and later the police.
Jane Haines had recently been fired from her job as maid at Rectory House, Sutton Courtney by her employer Rev. Howard Rice after he discovered she was pregnant. Haines had travelled to Culham station with the intention of catching a train back to her parents house near Wantage. Unfortunately, before her train arrived, Jane Haines went into labour and gave birth in the station toilet.
Her baby did not survive. When Bradshaw found Haines, she had stuffed the bloody and lifeless body of her new-born son into a carpet bag she was carrying.
A surgeon examines the body
Local surgeon Arthur Anthony Harris was summoned to examine the baby's body. Haines claimed it had been stillborn, but to his shock, Harris realised that the babies throat had been slashed, severing its windpipe. A bloodied pair of scissors was found in Haines's possession.
The inquest into the baby's death returned a verdict of 'wilful murder' against Jane Haines, who was kept in custody to be tried on an additional charge of 'concealment of birth' at the upcoming assizes.
Jane Haines is put on trial
At the assizes, Jane Haines claimed that the baby had died on account of being born two months prematurely. Oddly, the prosecution offered no evidence against the charge of wilful murder and the charge was dropped.
Jane Haines was also acquitted of the charge of 'concealment of birth' on what seems like a technicality. Her defence successfully argued that because the body was placed in an open carpet bag, it was not an attempt at concealment. The carpet bag was merely the most convenient receptacle in which to transport the body.
With both charges having been dripped, it seems that Jane Haines faced no punishment for the apparent killing of her son.
- 'A Grim Almanac of Oxfordshire' by Nicola Sly (The History Press, 2013, ISBN: 978752465814)
- Jackson's Oxford Journal, Saturday 8 March 1873
- Jackson's Oxford Journal, Saturday 5 April 1873