The Baby Farmers


John Makin called in each week as regular as clockwork to collect the 10 shillings from Amber Murray, but every time she asked to see her boy she was put off with some excuse.

One day when John Makin was collecting the premium he told Amber that the Makins were moving from Redfern to Hurstville, well out in the western suburbs of Sydney, and he would forward her the address after they had settled in in about six weeks time. In the meantime he still called each week to collect the 10 shillings.

But the Makins didn't move to the western suburbs. Instead they took a house in nearby Macdonaldtown and moved in clandestinely in the dead of night. During the trial, daughter Clarice Makin would give damning evidence that when they moved from Redfern to Macdonaldtown, there was no sign of little Horace Murray.

Although Clarice didn't actually say the words, it was inferred that tiny Horace had already been murdered and John Makin still went on collecting his weekly premium.

The Makins did not stay long at Macdonaldtown and in August moved to Chippendale, where they were eventually arrested after drainer James Hanoney made his horrifying discovery on Oct. 11, 1892.

Amber Murray and three other grieving mothers identified clothing that had been pawned by Sarah Makin as belonging to their babies. Another couple testified that they delivered their illegitimate child to the Makins and gave them a considerable up-front payment, agreeing on 10 shillings a week until they could take the baby back after they had sorted their affairs out. Within days the baby had died, and the grieving parents gave the Makins two pounds toward the funeral, which they did not attend.

On the witness stand, the Makins' lies were shredded by the prosecution. Time and again when they denied any knowledge of keeping any babies, of murdering babies or taking weekly premiums from parents, they were caught up in their own webs of deceit until even their own children chose to go against them.

Sixteen-year-old Clarice Makin took the stand and testified against her parents by identifying clothing found on one of the dead babies as clothing she had seen in her mother's possession. Daisy Makin testified that only two baby girls accompanied them when they moved from Redfern to Macdonaldtown, inferring that little Horace Murray had been murdered and buried at Redfern.

The verdict was a forgone conclusion and the only penalty was death. As he sentenced John and Sarah Makin to death by hanging, Justice Stephen looked at the pair in the dock and in reference to baby Horace Murray, said;

"You took money from the mother of this child. You beguiled her with promises which you never meant to perform and which you never did perform having determined on the death of the child. You deceived her as to your address and you endeavoured to make it utterly fruitless that any search should be made and finally, in order to make detection impossible, as you thought, having bereft it of life, you buried this child in your yard as you would the carcase of a dog... No one who has heard the case but must believe that you were engaged in baby farming in its worst aspect. Three yards of houses in which you lived testify, with that ghastly evidence of these bodies, that you were carrying on this nefarious, this hellish business, of destroying the lives of these infants for the sake of gain."

The judge then passed the death sentence. John Makin held his wife up as she collapsed in the dock. The judge promised to pass on to the Executive Council of New South Wales the jury's recommendation for mercy on Sarah Makin.

After two appeals were dismissed, John Makin went gallantly to his death on the gallows. Sarah Makin won her reprieve and was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor. She was released in 1911 after serving 19 years behind bars and faded into obscurity.

None of the Makin children had a conviction recorded against them.

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