Thomas Edwin Gibson Harris was a little baby boy who was found dead, wrapped in a newspaper. He was discovered in Torquay on February 15, 1865. It turned out he was the son of Mary Jane Harris. It also transpired that Miss Harris had actually farmed out the poor little child to a woman called Charlotte Winsor for three shillings a week.
After a while Mrs. Winsor had offered to dispose of Thomas as the financial burden upon Miss Harris became too much. So poor the little boy was suffocated by Charlotte Winsor and his naked body, wrapped in a newspaper, was dumped on a roadside in Torquay.
According to media in Devon and other parts of the country, it turned out that Mrs. Winsor was fairly experienced in this method of dealing with children and thought nothing of arranging to have them ‘put away’ for a fee of £3 to £5. Indeed she referred to this as a ‘service’.
This is the second of two high profile murder cases I have been researching. Strangely there are one or two tentative connections between both this one and the case of the Babbacombe murder of Emma Keyse.
The very real possibility that Mary Jane Harris could well be a blood relative of John Lee, The Man They Couldn’t Hang. A certain other coincidence that Charlotte Winsor’s third husband, James Winsor, could also be related to Lee as well. But those of course are two genealogical coincidences that is not beyond the bounds of possibility in a small tight-knit community in Devon.
The other connections of course are other professional officials and lawyers that worked on both cases in the 1860’s and the 1880s –most notably the prosecution lawyer Isidore James Carter (1848-1936) – himself an interesting figure in the Victorian history of Torquay and south Devon and a subject here in the future.
I started researching and reconstructing the John ‘Babbacombe’ Lee case during the 1990s, published the entire archive including the court transcripts on this website, have co-authored a book on the subject and now working on several other projects connected to it. At the same time I also started to research by Charlotte Winsor case. Again by reconstructing and taking apart all the elements and putting them back together again through actual archive and contemporary reports. Unfortunately the Winsor case took a backseat but now I’m glad to say work surrounding this case is well and truly under way as a large range of contemporary archive is be traced and transcribed for this website.