See this lady? You would NOT want to lock horns with her. You certainly wouldn't give her your baby. But in the late nineteenth century, that's exactly what a lot of women did. Why? Because in an era when having a child out of wedlock was so severely frowned upon, Amelia Dyer took advantage of this. She advertised in the press offering to "adopt" unwanted babies, charged the poor grief - stricken mums GBP 10 for the privilege, took the wee babes off their hands - and then drowned them in the River Thames. Pocketing the cash, she strangled her victims with white tape, then wrapped their bodies either in brown parcel paper or in a carpet bag, to be recovered only weeks - or months - later. As well as relating the story, the authors explore the circumstances that enabled such crimes to be committed. Unregulated "adoption" was a widely acknowledged problem. The Child Protection Act did not yet exist. In Mrs Dyer's case, though, such shameless profiteering did not, ultimately, go unpunished: the police finally located Mrs Dyer, kept her under surveillance and then mounted a "sting" operation, using a young woman to pose as a potential customer.
Amelia Dyer was arrested when she opened her front door to find two policemen on her doorstep. Finally confessing, she said, "You'll know all mine by the tape around their necks." She was hanged in 1896.