Amelia (Hobley) Dyer

Amelia Elizabeth (Hobley) Dyer (bef. 1837 - 1896)

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Amelia Elizabeth Dyer formerly Hobley aka Thomas
Born before in Bristol, Gloucestershire, Englandmap
Sister of
Wife of — married (to ) in Bristol, Gloucestershire, Englandmap
Wife of — married in St Philip and St Jacob, Bristol, Gloucestershire, Englandmap
Died in Newgate Prison, London, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 31 May 2014
This page has been accessed 4,534 times.

Categories: Bristol, Gloucestershire | This Day In History June 10 | Newgate Prison | Nurses | Death by Hanging-England | Serial Killers of the 19th Century | Murderers | Black Sheep Unconnected Profiles | Profile of the Week Winners.

This profile won Profile of the Week the Second week of June 2014.

Amelia Dyer was the most prolific baby farm murderer of Victorian England. She was tried and hanged for one murder, but there is little doubt she was responsible for many more similar deaths—possibly 400 or more—over a period of perhaps twenty years.

Amelia Dyer
Amelia Dyer

Amelia Elizabeth Hobley, daughter of Samuel Hobley and Sarah Weymouth, was baptised on December 31, 1837 at St. George, Bristol, Gloucestershire, England.[1] She was the youngest of five children.

Amelia's father was a master cordwainer,[2] thus the family was prosperous enough for the children to learn to read and write. Although the young Amelia developed a passion for literature and poetry her childhood was somewhat marred by her mother's mental illness, caused by typhus. On many occasions Amelia was witness to her mother's violent rages and often had to care for her. [3]

Amelia was 10 years old when her mother died in 1848.[4] She went to live with an aunt shortly after. During this time she trained as a Corset Maker and in 1861 she moved into lodgings where she met the 59 year old George Thomas whom she married in 1861.[5]

A few years into her marriage, Amelia trained to be a nurse and became acquainted with a midwife, Ellen Dane. It was Ellen who informed her of an easier way to make money. This involved taking women into her home who had conceived illegitimately during the later stages of their pregnancy and then farming off their babies for adoption. For this she would be well paid. There was also the option of nursing or adopting a baby for a one off payment. In both instances the babies were left to die from neglect and malnutrition.[6]

This information must have stayed with Amelia because following the birth of her own daughter, Ellen Thomas and the death of her husband in 1869, she left nursing and needed to find another way to make money. The industry she chose was baby farming.[7]

On December 21, 1872 Amelia married William Dyer, a brewers Laborer from Bristol.[8] The couple had two children together, Mary Ann , known as Polly and William Samuel. It is believed there where other children who didn't survive infancy. Eventually Amelia left her husband.[9]

Amelia once again turned to baby farming and in 1879, after a doctor had tipped of authorities about 4 baby deaths in the space of two weeks, she received a six month prison sentence for child neglect. If anything this only taught her that she shouldn't leave a paper trail. She started to get rid of the bodies herself.[10]

To avoid detection Amelia remained constantly on the move taking on many aliases to retain her anonymity. She was receiving up to six babies a day. Some mothers came back to claim their children but Amelia had already gone and their children were no more.[7]

Amelia also had many confinements in mental institutions. Whether these episodes were genuine, caused by her substance abuse or an act is not known. But her breakdowns tended to happen after the authorities or parents had been poking around for information on the children.[11]

Amelia placed adverts in newspapers advertising that a married couple would adopt children for a fee of £10. Evelina Marmon saw one such advert after she had purchased the newspaper to see if her own advert, requesting for a family to take her child, had been included.

Sample of advert placed by Dyer

Evelina replied to the advert placed by Mrs Harding, one of Amelia's aliases. The two ladies met up on March 31, 1896 and after paying the £10 fee Amelia left with baby Doris in her care. The next day she took in another child, Harry Simmons.[12]

Prior to this on March 30, a bargeman had fished a packet out of the Thames, inside where the remains of a child, Helena Fry. An important clue was found by police on the brown paper that Helena had been wrapped in. The address of a Mrs Thomas. Another of Amelia's aliases. [7]

After the discovery of Helena Fry the police searched the river. Two more tiny bodies were found. Doris Marmon aged 4 months, and Harry Simmons, aged 13 months. In all the corpses of 7 babies where found in the Thames. All killed by strangulation.[7]

Amelia was arrested on April 4, 1896 and charged with murder. Her son in law Arthur Palmer was also arrested and charged with being an accessory. He was later discharged as the result of a confession written by Amelia when she was in Reading goal. (with her own spelling and punctuation preserved)[7]

Sir will you kindly grant me the favour of presenting this to the magistrates on Saturday the 18th instant I have made this statement out, for I may not have the opportunity then I must relieve my mind I do know and I feel my days are numbered on this earth but I do feel it is an awful thing drawing innocent people into trouble I do know I shal have to answer before my Maker in Heaven for the awful crimes I have committed but as God Almighty is my judge in Heaven a on Hearth neither my daughter Mary Ann Palmer nor her husband Alfred Ernest Palmer I do most solemnly declare neither of them had any thing at all to do with it, they never knew I contemplated doing such a wicked thing until it was to late I am speaking the truth and nothing but the truth as I hope to be forgiven, I myself and I alone must stand before my Maker in Heaven to give an answer for it all witnes my hand Amelia Dyer. —April 16, 1896

May 18, 1896 Amelia's trial began at the Old Bailey and continued until May 22. The verdict was guilt, she was sentenced to death by hanging. [13] On Wednesday June 10, 1896 she was hanged by James Billington at Newgate Prison.[7]


  1. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 31 May 2014), Amelia Hobley, 31 Dec 1837; citing Bristol, Gloucester, England, reference item 1 p 106; FHL microfilm 1595552.
  2. 1851 England Census [database on-line]. Source Citation: Class: HO107; Piece: 1953; Folio: 368; Page: 50; GSU roll: 87353. Samuel Hobley; Head; Cordwainer. Amelia Hobley; Daughter; Scholar.
  3. Ruggiero, Brianna. "Amelia Dyer." (accessed May 31, 2014).
  4. FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index, 1837-1915 [database on-line]. Original data: General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes. London, England. Hobley Sarah Death Clifton 1848. ( Accessed 31 May 2014)
  5. "England and Wales, Marriage Registration Index, 1837-1920", index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 31 May 2014), Amelia Hobley, 1861.
  6. "Amelia Dyer." Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers. (accessed June 1, 2014).
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Wikipedia contributors, "Amelia Dyer," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed June 1, 2014).
  8. "England Marriages, 1538–1973 ," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 02 Jun 2014), William Dyer and Amelia Elizabeth Thomas, 1872; citing St. Philip And St. Jacob, Bristol, Gloucester, England, reference 2:3C4M64Q; FHL microfilm 1596925.
  9. Good, Meaghan. "1896: Amelia Dyer, baby farmer." (accessed June 1, 2014).
  10. Rose, Lionel (1986). The Massacre of the Innocents, Routledge, p.160
  11. Rennell, Tony. "The baby butcher: One of Victorian Britain's most evil murderers exposed." Mail Online. (accessed June 1, 2014).
  12. The Amateur Casual . "The Victorianist." : ‘I Shall Have to Answer Before my Maker…’ Or: Amelia Dyer and the Baby Farming Trade:. (accessed June 2, 2014).
  13. Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 02 June 2014), May 1896, trial of AMELIA ELIZABETH DYER (57) (t18960518-451).

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Images: 3
Amelia Dyer
Amelia Dyer

Amelia Dyer Nurses Training
Amelia Dyer Nurses Training

Execution of Mrs Dyer
Execution of Mrs Dyer


On 27 Mar 2018 at 09:14 GMT Laura Rose Carter wrote:


Amelia Dyer, The Baby Farmer

On 1 Jun 2016 at 13:14 GMT Amy (F) W wrote:

Fantastic profile! Looks fabulous!

On 7 Dec 2014 at 15:17 GMT Paula J wrote:

Image:Profile_Photo_s-268.jpgDecember 7, 2014

On 14 Jun 2014 at 01:32 GMT Robin Kabrich wrote:

Yeah, what Eric said. You mean these people would be paid to take care of babies, and then just neglect them to death or outright kill them?? Sick, sick people!

On 12 Jun 2014 at 11:23 GMT Eric Daly wrote:

Fascinating Profile, i didnt want to read it but couldnt stop myself, and that makes for a great Profile, 2 Winners in a row Michele:)

On 2 Jun 2014 at 20:26 GMT Shoshanah Luckie wrote:

What a tale! So glad that she faced what she had done, if only because she knew " myself and I alone must stand before my Maker in Heaven to give an answer for it all". A great profile, really like the presentation of text, links and images, quite apart from the content matter.

On 2 Jun 2014 at 07:06 GMT Terry Wright wrote:

Hi Michele looking for photos of the week I found this profile I am a avid true crime reader my favourite books are true crime stories I dont think I have read this story its really intresting at the same time you wonder why they ever did the things they did its a great profile Michele

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