Both were tried, found guilty and sentenced to death.
A Match Made in Hell
In his duties as a drayman at a local brewery, John suffered an injury preventing him from performing his normal work. This left the Makin's without any income and in an impoverished state. This was when John responded to newspaper advertisements for carers, and would negotiate with unwed parents and single mothers for a meagre payment of 3-5 pounds to take the babies in.
A Mr J Hill (John Makin's alias) responded to Miss Amber Murray's advert for someone to kindly take charge of her (illegitimate) three month old son. Amber was told that her son, Horace, would aid Mrs Hill greatly, as she had recently lost her own son and was in a melancholy state. Amber paid Mr Hill 3pounds believing that she would be able to see her son at pre-arranged times, and he was being left with a caring, loving family. Amber Murray, in fear of shame but also good faith, left her son at Mr and Mrs Hills' George St Sydney address. She never saw her beloved Horace again.
Inside the Makin household it was a whole different story, that of prospering on the misfortune of others. It was not unusual for there to be up to 6 babies in the house at any given time. Collecting around 10shillings per week for each baby would make a fair income for the Makin's. Not to mention they continued to collect the weekly payments for the dead and buried. Sarah was found to have pawned the clothing of the deceased to add to their blood money income.
The Makin's moved over 15 times in 20 years. This made it hard for the mothers to track them down. However, John would make the effort to keep his schedule and turn up like clock work to collect money from the mothers. When they enquired about arranging a visit with their babies, John would often make varied excuses. John told Amber Murray that he and Sarah were moving out west, and he would arrange a visit when they settled in six weeks. He still went to Amber's house weekly to collect the money, but his story meant that she wouldn't bug him to see her baby. The Makin's did a midnight run from their Redfern address to Burren St, Macdonaldtown where their baby farming operations continued.
The Makin's often did not pay their rent, so another midnight run saw them move to Chippendale. The owners took over the Macdonaldtown address, cut their rental losses and began renovations. On the 11th October 1892, James Hanoney was assisting the owners with drainwork, as there was a blockage. It wasn't long until the cause was discovered. Wedged in tight were two separate bundles of clothing - babies clothing. The stench was wretched as James pulled the material out.
The smell was that of two decomposing babies.
He immediately called the police and the yard was thoroughly searched. They uncovered a further five babies in various states of decomposition. Tenancy records traced the Makin's back to their Redfern address, and the investigation continued with the discovery of the remains of three more babies. The George St address was also excavated, and a further three tiny corpses were removed. A total of twelve bodies were recovered, although some have the count at thirteen.
The Makin's two daughters Daisy (11) and Clarise (16) both testified against their parents. Daisy recalled that when the family moved to Macdonaldtown, they had with them two baby girls, but no Horace Murray. Clarise testified that she recognised clothing belonging to one of the deceased infants as she had seen it in her mothers possession whilst that child was in her mothers care.
Another couple stated that they left their illegitimate child with the Makins’ handing over a considerable up-front payment, then agreeing to pay them 10 shillings a week. Within days the baby had died of supposed natural causes. The grieving parents gave the Makin’s two pounds towards the cost of the funeral.
Justice Stephen looked at the pair in the dock and in reference to baby Horace Murray, said –
"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."
Last letter written by John Makin, 14th August 1893. Published in The Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday 16th August 1893 -
John and Sarah Makin were sentenced to the death penalty for the murder of Horace Murray. After two appeals and a plea for clemency were denied, John was hanged on the 15th August 1893 at Darlinghurst Gaol. Sarah had her death sentence commuted to life imprisonment at Long Bay gaol State Reformatory for Women. After a hard campaign by her daughters, Sarah was released in 1911, having served 19 years. She faded into obscurity and died on the 13th September 1918. She was buried at Rookwood Cemetery.
Put together by Ashley Hall 2013