CRUELTY TO A CHILD - EXTRAORDINARY CASE IN IRELAND. A WOMAN CHARGED WITH CAUSING THE DEATH OF HER DAUGHTER
The correspondent of The Central News at Coleraine reports that considerable sensation has been caused in that town and neighbourhood by the committal for trial, on a Coroner's warrant, of Mrs Annie Margaret Montagu, the charge against her being the causing of the death of her daughter, Mary Helen Montagu, aged three years.
The accused is the wife of Mr Montagu, of Cromore House, Coleraine, eldest son of Lord Robert Montagu, who is an uncle* [sic] of the 7th Duke of Manchester.
The offence, as is alleged, was committed on February 13th, and on that day, according to the evidence taken at the inquest, the child was locked in a dark room by her governess as a punishment for some offence.
A short time afterwards, Mrs Montagu went into the room, and, it is said, tied the little girl's hands behind her back with a stocking, and, having fastened to this a piece of string, fixed it to a ring in the wall of the room.
About three hours later the mother went to the door of the room, and called her child by name several times, but there was no answer.
She opened the door, and, going to the place where she left the little girl, found her dead.
She carried the body to her own room, stripped off the clothes, and tried to restore life, but without success.
She then called the governess, and told her what had happened.
At the conclusion of the evidence, the Coroner (Mr. Caldwell) committed Mrs Montagu for trial at the Londonderry Assizes.
*Lord Robert was the 7th Duke's brother.
The Press Association's correspondent has had an interview with Mr A C Montagu JP, the father of Helen Montagu, aged three years, who was found dead in a small dark room, where she had been tied to a ring in the wall by her mother, under circumstances detailed above.
Mr Montagu, who lives at Cromore House, Portstewart, is a son of Lord Robert Montagu, and a grandson of the Duke of Manchester.
He was formerly a lieutenant in the navy, but was compelled to leave the service, owing to an exceptional tendency to seasickness.
Mrs Montagu, who stands committed for trial on a charge of killing her child, is of Scotch extraction, and the daughter of a late wealthy London tea merchant.
She is a lady who is noted in the North of Ireland for her daring horsemanship and her splendid management of high-spirited animals.
They move in the best society, and Cromore is one of the finest mansions in the district, being surrounded by an extensive and valuable estate.
The circumstances of the child’s death, so far as they have leaked out through the meagre reports of the coroner’s inquest, which lasted five hours, have caused the greatest excitement in Ulster.
When, the correspondent proceeds, he called on Mr Montagu, he found that gentleman engaged with his spiritual adviser, the local parish priest.
He willingly granted an interview and escorted the correspondent upstairs to the dark room.
This is an apartment about 6ft. square, with no fireplace or window, and opens into what is known as the children's room, which is bright and airy.
Two rings were fastened by screws into a board, and it was to one of these rings that the child was tied.
There is no ventilation in the apartment except what comes from beneath the door, a mere chink and from* between a couple of badly placed boards.
Mr Montagu mentioned, in the course of the interview, that the little child was his only daughter. He has seven sons.
In reply to a question he stated that it was erroneous to say, as had been implied, that the child got no food on Saturday from breakfast time, which was eight o'clock.
She had come down late that morning, the conjecture being that she was not feeling very well and it was in consequence of this that she got the meal at eleven.
Asked how such a punishment came to be awarded to a child of three years for soiling her clothes, Mr. Montagu said:
"Mrs Montagu entertains very strong opinions on the subject of the upbringing, training, and correction of children. Her theory, which I think to a great extent is right, is that the spirit of disobedience, or any tendency to disobedience, must be conquered from the very earliest years.
She insists upon obedience and cleanliness in her children, and unless they are punished early they soon learn bad habits. She also believed in restraint and confinement as the best punishment."Asked if it was not too long to leave the child without visiting her, Mr Montagu replied,
"Yes, perhaps it was too long, but then Mrs Montagu has so much to do. I believe she was out for some time while the child was confined, and most of the rest of the time she was in the kitchen attending to various domestic duties."Mr Montagu added that he thought the governess was kind to the children. She had never been anything to the contrary.
She had been with them a year last October. It was on the governess’s report of misbehaviour that Mrs Montagu acted.
The child was a little wilful at times, and Mrs Montagu believed that the natural inclination to that must be suppressed, or the child would grow quite beyond control.
The correspondent adds that the body of the child was buried with great privacy: Mr Montagu and one of his boys took the coffin in the family carriage, which, with blinds drawn, was driven in the direction of Bushmills, where there is a Roman Catholic burying-ground.
[A cablegram in another column states that Mrs. Montagu has been sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment, for the murder of her daughter].
First published in May, 2014.