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Serial Killer Index Short List
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Serial Killer Index
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  KNORR Frances +1894/01/15 AUSTRALIA ... ... ... 3+
born THWAITES Minnie Melbourne
 : ... ... ... ...
Verdict/Urteil: Death by Hanging
Serial Killer KNORR Frances
The practice of baby farming was also exported to Australia. Frances Knorr had been born Minnie Thwaites in London in 1868 and emigrated to Sydney, Australia in 1887. Initially she worked as a domestic servant and met Randolph Knoor who was German. She soon became bored with him and had an affair with one Edward Thompson and soon afterwards moved to Melbourne. The short lived affair was not successful and Minnie had to find a means to support herself and her daughter. She decided to set up business as a child minder and moved around Melbourne frequently using both her maiden and married names. Like Mrs. Dyer, Knoor had strangled some of the babies she could not place elsewhere or sell on to childless couples. While she was living in Moreland Road Melbourne she had buried two of her charges in the garden and the body of one of these, a little girl, was discovered by the next tenant. Police dug up the rest of the garden and discovered a boy's body as well. Knorr had moved back to Sydney by this time and was back living with her husband. The police soon traced them however and when they arrested her she was about to give birth to her second child. She told the arresting officer, Detective Keating "I know what you have come for". While awaiting trial she wrote a letter to her former lover, Edward Thompson, asking him to manufacture some evidence for her defence. She came to trial on April 11th 1893, charged with the murder of the little girl only. The letter to Thompson was presented by the Crown, having been handed to the police by his mother, and was a damning piece of evidence. It also tried to implicate Thompson in the murders and seems to have been pure fabrication. She gave a statement herself from the witness box and admitted that she had buried the babies in Moreland Road but claiming that they had died of natural causes. The Crown however demonstrated that they had been strangled with a tape and that the neck of the little boy had been compressed to less than half its normal size. The trial lasted five days and resulted in a guilty verdict. As in Britain the death sentence was mandatory and as Judge Holroyd passed it, she sobbed "God help my poor mother! God help my poor babies!" She was taken back to the Old Melbourne Gaol to await execution. She was a model and penitent prisoner in the condemned cell and spent her time singing hymns and praying. She also made a written confession on her last day. "Placed as I am now within a few hours of my death, I express a strong desire that this statement be made public, with the hope that my fall will not only be a warning to others, but also act as a deterrent to those who are perhaps carrying on the same practice." "I now desire to state that upon the charges known in evidence as Number 1 & 2 babies, I confess to be guilty". Her execution was set for 10.00 a.m. on Monday 15th January 1894 A few minutes before 10, the witnesses were brought into the yard and stood opposite the gallows waiting for the arrival of the sheriff. From where they stood in silence they could hear Knorr singing a hymn in her cell, and some of them were visibly affected by this. The condemned cell opened onto the scaffold, and immediately opposite was another compartment in which the executioner and his assistants, wearing false beards and spectacles, remained concealed until their services were required. They then entered the cell and pinioned her, before leading her onto the scaffold. Her appearance had changed almost beyond recognition since she received her sentence, but she was able to walk onto the trap with a firm and steady step, without support. Dr Shields, the medical officer of the gaol, attended her and she appeared to derive comfort from the encouragement he gave. Stepping on the trap, she stood quietly while her dress was being tied round her ankles, and then the sheriff asked if she had anything to say. In a clear and unbroken voice she said: "Yes, the Lord is with me! I do not fear what men may do to me, for I have peace, perfect peace!" The noose was then adjusted, the trap released, and she fell 7 ft 6 ins. Death was recorded as being "instantaneous".
Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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