Amelia was born Amelia Elizabeth Hobley on Oct 1837 in Clifton, Gloucestershire, England She was the youngest of 5 children to Samuel Habley 1798-1859 & Sarah Weymouth 1806-1848.
She was a very bright child learning to read and write at a young age.
Her mother Sarah contracted Typhus ( is a disease caused by an infection with the Rickettsia bacteria. Fleas, mites (chiggers), lice, or ticks transmit it when they bite you. Fleas, mites, lice, and ticks are types of invertebrate animals known as arthropods). She would have fits of rage.
After her mother death in 1848, she went to Bristol to live with her Aunt. While there she received her apprenticeship with a corset maker. Then her father passed away in 1859. Her brother Thomas received the family shoemaker business. During this time she became estranged from one of her brothers and about 1861 when she was 24 years old she met and married 59 year old George Thomas. They both lied about their ages on the marriage license.
She started training as a nurse and used their home for unmarried mothers who wanted to farm off their unwanted babies, which there seemed to be plenty of, as well as plenty of families that wanted the babies. By the way, this is against the law even back then.
Mothers would leave their unwanted babies to be looked after as "Nurse Children"
These young women were often exploited for financial gain; if a baby had well-off parents who were simply anxious to keep the fact secret that they had given birth to a baby. The single fee for the full transaction might be £80 but may be dropped to £50 if that is all the woman could afford. Should the particular mother be poor than £5 would be the cost, even then the poor mother might struggle to find that sum? Sometimes the women would go out and suffer the humiliation of becoming a prostitute just to raise the cash that was needed. That certainly wasn’t an easy decision for these girls to make. They had to be careful they didn’t become pregnant again.
Amelia had to leave nursing with the birth of her daughter, Ellen Thomas but in 1869 George Thomas died aged 67 years and Amelia needed an income. She remembered what Ellen Dane had told her and thought she would try it and see if she could make a living at it.
At some point in her baby farming career, Amelia was prepared to forgo the expense and inconvenience of letting the children die through neglect and starvation; soon after the receipt of each child, she murdered them; thus allowing her to pocket most or all of the fees she had been given.
For some time, Dyer eluded the resulting interest of the police. She was eventually caught in 1879 after a doctor was suspicious about the number of child deaths he had been called to certify while in Dyer’s care.
When she came out she appears to have started to begin abusing alcohol and opium-based products early in her ‘killing career.’ Her mental instability could have been responsible for this. In 1890, dyer cared for the illegitimate baby of a governess. When she returned to visit the child, the governess was immediately suspicious and stripped the baby to see if a birthmark was present on one of its hips. It wasn’t, and prolonged suspicious by the Authorities led by dyer having, or feigning a breakdown. Dyer, at one point drank 2 bottles of ‘laudanum’ in a very serious suicide attempt, but her long-term abuse had built up her tolerance to opium products, so she survived.
She returned to ‘baby-farming,’ and murder. Dyer realized the folly of involving doctors to issue death certificates and so began disposing of the bodies herself, after all they were small bodies. The precarious nature and extent of her activities again prompted undesirable attention; she was alert to the attentions of the police – and of parents seeking to reclaim their children. She and her family frequently relocated to different towns and cities to acquire new business. Over the years, Dyer used a succession of aliases.
In 1893, Dyer was discharged from her final committal at Wells mental asylum. Unlike her previous ‘break-downs, this had been a most disagreeable experience and after that she never entered another mental asylum in her life. Two years later, in 1895, dyer moved to Faversham, Berkshire accompanied by an unsuspecting associate, Jane ‘granny’ smith whom Amelia had recruited from a brief spell in a workhouse and Amelia’s daughter and son-in-law, Mary Ann (known as Polly) and Arthur Palmer. This was followed by a move to Kensington Road, Reading, Berkshire later that same year. Smith was persuaded by Amelia to be referred to as ‘Mother’ in front of innocent women handing over their children. This was an effort to present a caring Mother-Daughter image.
|In the Central Police Court to-day the case in which Annie Batten (70), a widow was charged with having caused the death of Ethel May Perry on October 21, 1902.|
In early May the inquests were held on the six bodies and no evidence was found to link Mary Ann or Arthur Palmer acting as Dyer’s accomplices. Arthur Palmer was discharged as a result of a confession written by Amelia Dyer. In Reading Gaol she wrote a very lengthy story telling how the different events happened.
On the 22nd May 1896, Amelia Dyer appeared at the old Bailey and pleaded guilty to one murder, that of Doris Marmon. Her family and associates testified at her trial that they had been growing suspicious and uneasy about her activities, and it then emerged that Dyer had narrowly escaped discovery on several occasions. There was evidence from a man who had seen and spoken to Dyer when she had disposed of the two bodies at Caversham Lock also proved very significant. Her daughter had given graphic evidence that ensured Amelia Dyer’s conviction.
The only defense that was offered was one of insanity but that was dismissed.
The Judge summed up and asked the Jury to retire. They returned within just five minutes to find Dyer guilty. The Judge then sentenced her to death, being guilty as charged.
At 9am precisely on Wednesday 10th of June, she was hanged at Newgate Prison by James Billington. She was asked if she had anything to say and she replied, ‘I have nothing to say.’ Billington then released the trap door and she was hanged in that position for exactly one hour which was customary.
|Amelia's letters of confession and a lock of hair. By kind permission of Ken Wells – Curator of the Thames Valley Police Museum, Sulhamstead, England|
She murdered 300 babies and was charged with only 2 murders.