When seven-year-old Fanny Adams of Alton in Hampshire was offered money by a man to go for a walk with him, she took the coin but refused to go. So he picked her up, carried her into a hop field, out of sight of her other playmates, and sexually abused her before killing and mutilating her.

The killer went home and wrote in his diary: 24th August, Saturday – killed a young girl. It was fine and hot.

He was Frederick Baker, 24, a solicitor’s clerk, and he was spotted by a search party of mothers looking for the missing Fanny.

The searchers stopped Baker and asked him if he had seen Fanny. “I gave all the girls who were playing together some money for sweets, but that was all,” he said. He seemed innocent enough, so they let him go on.

At 7 p.m. another search party found the body in a hop field, horribly mutilated. Her legs and head had been severed and her eyes cut out. Her torso had been emptied and her organs and her shredded clothing scattered all about. It would take several days for all of her remains to be found.

That evening Baker was arrested at his high street office and was led through an angry mob to the police station. He protested his innocence, but there was blood on his shirt and trousers, and also on two small knives found in his pockets.

His colleagues said he had returned to the office at about 3 p.m. and then gone out again. A fellow-clerk reported that when he was drinking in the Swan pub that evening, Baker mentioned that he was thinking of leaving town. When his colleague suggested he might have trouble finding another job, Baker said chillingly: “I could go as a butcher.”

When Baker was tried at Winchester Assizes in December 1867, he pleaded insanity. His father had been violent, a cousin had been in mental asylums, he himself had attempted suicide after a love affair, and he was drunk on the day of the crime. The jury, however, took only 15 minutes to find him guilty.

His hanging, on Tuesday, December 24th, 1867, was a Christmas Eve distraction for a crowd of 5,000. Before the execution he wrote to the Adams family expressing regret for what he had done “in an unguarded hour,” and seeking forgiveness.

Fanny’s murder gave birth to the expression “Sweet Fanny Adams,” meaning nothing at all, which was almost all that was left of the child after she had been disembowelled. Victorian murder stories from True Crime Library.

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