Amelia Dyer: The Ogress of Reading

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  • 1837
    Born Amelia Hobley
    The youngest of 5 siblings to master shoe maker Samuel Hobley and his wife Sarah, Amelia soon develops a love of literature.
  • 1848
    Death of Sarah Hobley
    The young Amelia is forced to care for her mother as she slowly dies in the grip of mental torment, watching her violent fits increase until her death. Later, some will speculate that this gave her enough knowledge to fake mental illness - a trick with which she will evade incarceration later in life.
  • 1859
    Samuel Hobley dies
    Amelia's brother Thomas takes over the running of his father's store. Around this time, she meets her future husband George Thomas.
  • 1861
    Marries George Thomas
    Having become estranged from at least one of her brothers, Amelia leaves the family home and takes lodgings in Trinity Street - where she marries 59 year old George Thomas.
  • 1869
    George Thomas dies
    Shortly after the birth of her own daughter, Amelia is widowed when her elderly husband dies. Like countless thousands of women at the time, she is left without income or means of support for her and her child. Around this time she takes up baby farming.
  • 1879
    First prosecution
    A doctor alerts the police when he becomes concerned about the number of deaths he has certified for children in Dyer's care. The police arrest her and she is found guilty. Somewhat remarkably, she is only charged with 'neglect' and receives 6 months hard labour.
  • 16th April 1896
    Writes her confessions
    When two of her acquaintances are suspected of involvement in her crimes, she writes a confession to exonerate them of any wrongdoing:

    "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."
  • 10th June 1896 - 09:00
    Hanged at Newgate
    Having been convicted of murder, Dyer is despatched at the gallows by James Billington. Asked if she has any final words, she simply replies "I have nothing to say" and is dropped through the hatch to her death.

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