Vicious murder

Was Fanny Adams a real person? I heard somewhere that she may have been the victim of a murder


She was. The case was one of the most shocking and notorious murders in Victorian  England.

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Fanny was the fourth of seven children. On the afternoon of Saturday 24 August 1867, eight-year-old Fanny, her younger sister and a friend were playing near their home in Alton, Hampshire. They were approached by Frederick Baker, who offered them money for sweets; after two of the girls left, he took Fanny and killed her in a hop garden nearby.

Family and neighbours mounted a search when Fanny failed to return home. Parts of her dismembered body were soon found but it took days to recover all her remains, which were scattered over a wide area.

Baker, a solicitor’s clerk, was arrested the same evening.

Though invited by the judge to consider a verdict of insanity, the jury at Winchester assizes took just 15 minutes to find him guilty. His execution outside Winchester gaol on 24 December 1867 drew an immense crowd and was among the last public hangings
in England.

In a time of growing literacy and increasing newspaper circulation, lurid reports on the case of ‘poor, sweet Fanny Adams’ were eagerly consumed.
What marked out the case was the way the girl had been hacked into pieces, and when the Royal Navy introduced tinned mutton in 1869, the men nicknamed the chopped-up meat ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, joking darkly that for all they knew it might contain pieces of her. The tins were often re-used for eating from, and so naval mess-tins became known as ‘fannys’.
 

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Answered by: Eugene Byrne, author and journalist