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On the afternoon of 24 August 1867, Fanny, her sister Lizzie and best friend Minnie asked their mums if they could go and play in nearby Flood Meadow; a beautiful little field full of butterflies and bees along the bank of the river which teamed with fish and frogs, where all the local kids played. With the sun bright, the sky blue and Fanny’s mum burdened by housework, knowing her child would be safe, barely a few minutes from her home, Fanny’s mum said yes.
It was a perfect day, as the three girls played as there barely a rustle of wind in the trees. At a little after lunch, the girls bumped into 29 year old Frederick Baker, a solicitor’s clerk who had moved to the village just two months prior, and as an adult who they had having seen him at church meetings, they liked him and trusted him.
For an hour, the three girls and Frederick played together; he brought them sweets, gave them money, they picked and ate blackberries, they giggled, they laughed and raced up and down the hollow. Feeling a little tired and hungry, with their stomach gurgling, the girls decided it was time to go home. Frederick asked Fanny to accompany him to nearby village of Shalden, just a short walk away. But being a good girl, eight year old Fanny knew not to go off with strangers, so said no. But Frederick wasn’t a man who took no for an answer, and as her friends looked on, Frederick carried Fanny away, into the undergrowth.
Lizzie and Minnie ran to Minnie’s mother, to tell her what had happened, but with the girls being prone to fanciful stories and high jinx, Minnie’s mother ignored them.
By 5pm, Fanny’s mum had become frantic with worry, her daughter had missed her tea and hadn’t been seen in four hours. Alerting the neighbours, a search commenced of the local fields, streams and hollows for Fanny. Very quickly it became clear that she wasn’t just missing, or injured, but that something truly awful had happened, as scattered across the fields were ripped remnants of her clothes, all of which were caked in blood. But the worst was yet to come…
…in the nearby Hop Garden, labourer Thomas Gates, who was tending to his crops, almost threw up as he found impaled on a hop pole, the decapitated head of Fanny Adams. Fanny had been subjected to an horrific ordeal, he face had been slashed, her ear cut off, her left arm had been hacked off at the elbow, her left leg severed at the hip, her left foot lopped off at the ankle, her right leg ripped from the torso, her entire innards from pelvis and chest completely removed and scattered across the neighbouring fields and streams, her killer had hacked at her liver, her heart, her vagina was missing and both of her eyes were gouged out and thrown into the River Wey.
Hearing that Frederick Baker had been seen with kids, at 9pm, Police went to solicitor’s office, where he was still working, and protested his innocence, but being the only suspect, he was searched at the Police station, upon him they found two small bloodstained knives, he had blood on his shirt sleeves, he had unsuccessfully tried to wash his blood-soaked trousers and in his desk they found his diary, with an entry for that day marked as “Killed a young girl. It was fine and hot”.
Trial was held at Dukes Head Inn in Alton on 27 August 1867, the jury deliberated for just 15 mins, and although Justice Mellor asked the jury to consider a verdict of not responsible by reason of insanity, they returned a guilty verdict. On 24 December 1867, Christmas Eve, Baker was hanged outside Winchester Gaol before a crowd of 5000 people. One of the most notorious crimes of its era.
Two years later, in 1869, as new rations of tinned mutton (sheep) were introduced for British seamen. So unimpressed were they by the indistinguishable, unsightly, mashed-up lumps of meat in a tin, they often referred to it as “Fanny Adams”, became slang for mediocre rations, over time this phrase had contracted from “sweet Fanny Adams”, to “sweet FA”, to “sweet f**k all”, and although the phrase is still uttered, her name is almost forgotten.
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Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a writer, crime historian, podcaster and tour-guide who runs Murder Mile Walks, a guided tour of Soho’s most notorious murder cases, hailed as “one of the top ten curious, quirky, unusual and different things to do in London”, nominated "one of the best true-crime podcasts at the British Podcast Awards 2018", and featuring 12 murderers, including 3 serial killers, across 15 locations, totaling 50 deaths, over just a one mile walk
Michael J Buchanan-Dunne is a crime writer, podcaster of Murder Mile UK True Crime and creator of true-crime TV series.
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