In a solemn court session at Newcastle West, Hannah Ahern faced the harrowing consequences of her actions as she was found guilty of the wilful murder of her newly born female infant. The jury, while delivering the damning verdict, did not overlook a strong recommendation for mercy, underscoring the gravity of the case.
Ahern, formerly an inmate of the Newcastle West Workhouse and more recently a wards woman in the same institution, stood accused of a heinous crime that shook the community. The court heard that her condition had been noticed by the Matron, leading to her relocation to the maternity ward. Tragically, it was later discovered that she had given birth to a child, and a subsequent search unveiled the lifeless body of a female infant with a tight string around its neck, the tongue protruding. Medical evidence confirmed that the infant was born alive, meeting an untimely demise through strangulation.
During the court proceedings, Mr M. J. Henry, B.L., defended Ahern, expressing his efforts to explore legal avenues that might spare her from the usual sentence for infanticide. However, the investigation yielded no such provision, leaving the court with limited options.
In a twist of fate, it was revealed that Ahern had a prior conviction in 1905 for concealing the birth of a child, a fact that did not escape the attention of the court. Mr J. Gaffney confirmed that she had pleaded guilty to the offence at that time but had been allowed to go free.
Addressing Ahern directly, the presiding judge conveyed the gravity of the jury’s decision. The jury, he remarked, had reached an unavoidable conclusion based on Ahern’s admission to the crime on two separate occasions. Notably, the judge mentioned Ahern’s previous conviction in 1905 for concealing the birth of a child, though the circumstances of that incident were not entirely clear.
Regrettably, the judge informed Ahern that, according to the law, the only sentence available for such a crime was death. Expressing his discomfort at delivering such a verdict, he underscored that the jury’s recommendation for mercy would be forwarded, with his own strong plea for leniency. The judge acknowledged the unpleasant duty he had to fulfil and expressed hope that Ahern would reflect on the gravity of her actions.
In a solemn moment, the judge, adorned with the black cap, passed the sentence of death, scheduling the execution for Monday, 8th August. The courtroom atmosphere weighed heavy with the sombre realization of the tragic events that led to this grim outcome.
Dublin Daily Express – Friday 08 July 1910