John and Sarah Makin – The Murderous Baby Farmers

February 12, 2017

Written by Capt McNeely

Georgia Division ZADF Twitter: @ZADF_ORG

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The world has obviously changed drastically since the 1800s, but during that time in Australia there was what is called baby farming.  It was for poor parents or single parents who were unable to raise their children.  They would pay another couple to take the child so that there would be the possibility of a prosperous and happy life…John and Sarah Makin robbed the babies they farmed of both a prosperous life and life in general.
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These two monsters were a match made in Hell.  John Makin was born on February 14, 1845 and Sarah was born August 15 of the same year.  The couple were wed on August 27, 1871.  Sarah had been married before and brought one child into the marriage and then had another daughter with John.
John worked as a drayman (a driver of a low, flatbed wagon that transported various kinds of goods) and was injured which forced him to quit and the couple was left without an income.  In their desperation, John and Sarah responded to an ad in the paper posted by Amber Murray – a poor, single mother in need of a baby farmer.
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The Makins invented false names and a false story about just losing their own child to gain sympathy and with it, the 3-5 pounds given to baby farmers.  This pattern continued over and over and the couple continued to pose as providing a magnanimous service to those in need.  In the Makin house it was a dismal, bleak scenario where it was not uncommon for up to six children to be under their mis-care.
Collecting up to 10 shillings per week for each baby, as well as continued collections for dead children, and pawning the clothing of their victims, the wicked couple made quite a living and invented a litany of excuses each time real parents would ask to see their children.  To make it even harder for real parents to see their children the Makins moved 15 times in 20 years. This move would often happen at midnight to simply disappear.
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In 1892, on October 11 James Hanoney was doing some drain work on the Makin home and found a blockage.  This blockage was the clothing of small children and uncovered the stench of decomposing children bodies.  Obviously the police were immediately called and an additional five decomposing children were found.  Other bodies were found at homes previously owned by the Makins.  The total number of victims is unknown, but it is thought to be 12-13 murdered children.
The trial of this couple was highly publicized and even the two daughters of John and Sarah (Daisy – 11 and Clarise – 16) testified against their parents.  Another family testified that they had left a child with the Makins and then paid an additional two pounds to pay for a funeral when the child died of apparent natural causes.
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Both were sentenced to death with Justice Matthew Henry Stephen stating:
“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.”
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John Makin was hanged on August 15, 1893, but Sarah appealed the death sentence and was actually released after only 19 years! She died in 1938 after living a life of ignominy.

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