In 1857 Sarah Jemmison was 25yrs old, she worked for a farmer called William Pearson at his farm near Egton. Sarah had an illegitimate baby who she named Joseph. She left Joseph in the care of a Mrs Marley who lived in Sleights. Sarah was unable to keep up the payments so Mrs Marley returned the baby to Sarah. The baby was wearing a white shirt with a slit in the sleeve
Farmer Pearson wasn’t happy about having to feed Sarah’s baby so Sarah took her baby over to Moorsholm saying that she was going to leave the baby with Mrs Wilson, the baby’s father’s sister. The baby was never seen again.
Three days later a shepherd, Mr Green, was working on the moor side of Freebrough Hill when his dog brought him the remains of a decayed human leg. On investigation a babies skull and a white child’s shirt matching Joseph’s was found. The skull showed signs of trauma indicating that the baby had been decapitated after death.
Sarah was arrested and taken to York Assizes where she was found guilty of the murder of her illegitimate child or ‘murder of a bastard’. She was sentenced to death which was commuted to penal servitude for life, after a plea for mercy.