Pitts

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Old Still Born Section way up the back in amongst the tree line.
Allan Brian Pitts Unmarked Stillborn Section.

The Cemetery at Point Clare has many unmarked graves, and as such they are not on the tour as I would be just pointing to plots of lawn space. But I will include the tale Of Allan Brian Pitts who is in an unmarked grave in the back section of the cemetery as he is not alone up there and is with many  (many) other Still born, Premature or infant children.

A “failure to thrive” was one of the terms used for these birth/deaths. With failure being the  operative word. Unless you have had it happen to you, it is hard to imagine the disappointment of having anticipated the birth of a life changing child only to have the child die within hours or days of the birth.

1933 Australia, it was a different place in time. Attitudes to Still born children and Premature births were treated so differently to nowadays, where acknowledgement is seen as part of the pathway to healing the sadness of the situation.

Often it was a case of get the paperwork done (birth/death register) and bury the child swiftly in an unmarked grave. The swift removal and burial of the child was just how it was. If there was no money for a funeral with all the trimmings or just the disappointment of the whole situation often it was a case of just get it done so we can all ignore the fact that it had happened at all. Unacknowledged pain and emotions was the order of the day.

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24 May 1933

Baby’s Death at Way Woy

PREMATURE CHILD’S BURIAL

LEADS TO INQUIRY.

DEATH FROM NATURAL CAUSES.

CORONER’S REMARKS.

The District Coroner, Mr. W. E. Kirkness, at Gosford Court House on Monday last, held an inquiry into the death of an infant, Allan Brian Pitts, whose body was found in the bush at

Bull ‘s Hill, near Woy Woy, on the afternoon of Friday. April 28th.

 Dr. J. H. Paul, Government Medical Officer, of Gosford, said that on the evening of April 28, with Constable Rutledge, of Gosford, he saw the body at Gosford morgue. It was in a state

of partial decomposition, and was wrapped in a copy of the April 3rd issue of the  ‘Daily Telegraph’.

 It was dressed and had a binder around the body and a napkin. It was encased in a small box. Witness said that next morning he made a post mortem examination of the body. He had found that the child had breathed. The hydrostatic test of the lungs was positive.

He judged that it had been a full-term child, and had weighed, when born, some six and a half pounds.

 The Coroner: Did you form any opinion as to the cause of death?

 Dr. Paul: I could form no opinion. It had not been neglected, and had obviously been fully eared for after it was born.

 Robert Win. Munday, Det. Sgt., of Newcastle, described how he saw the body and its wrappings at Gosford Police Station with Constable McKenzie, of Woy Woy, on the morning of April 29.

 There was a fruit case, a set of baby’s clothes, apparently new and consisting of a flannelette night dress, a knitted bonnet, a pair of booties, and a binder. Along with these, said Munday, was a lady’s handkerchief, bearing the name of ‘Fraser’ in indelible ink. The fruit case was wrapped, in grease-proof paper. From there, witness said, he went to Woy Woy, where, with Detective Sergeant James, of Sydney, and Constable. McKenzie, he saw a man named Harry Pitts at a butcher’s shop in Blackwall Road.

Witness said to him ‘We belong to the police, and are making of enquiries about the body of an infant which was found buried in the bush.

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It is alleged that you or your son was given permission to bury the child, and I should like to kuow where.

Pitts replied, said Muuday, ‘ ‘ It was me. I had permission to bury the child, and it was all right. The child lived only a few hours.’ Munday said that Pitts then agreed to take them to- the spot on Bull’s Hill where he had buried the body. 

Miss Morrisey and Clarence Peterson, Pitts had said, were witnesses to the burial.

Pitts then continued on with them to below Staples’ Look-Out, midway between Gosford and Woy Woy, on the main road, where he pointed out the spot where the grave had been dug and the remains of his infant son interred.

 At the Gosford morgue that afternoon Pitts had told them that the baby had been born on April 18, and died on April 19, and had been buried at 2.30 p.m. on the day of its death.

 Munday said there was in his opinion no suspicious circumstances attaching to the case. Pitts had been perfectly frank about the whole matter, and had responded freely to all questions asked him. Witness produced the death certificate of Dr. Delepine, of Way Woy, which testified that the infant had been born at 6 months, (as in x3 month premature) and had lived but a day.

In answer to a question by the father, witness said that the body did have cotton wool wrapped around it when first he viewed it fresh front its grave.

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Arthur Edmund Debenham, Clerk of Petty Sessions and District Registrar, Gosford, said that on April 19 Nurse Prizeman, of Woy Woy, rang him up and stated that Mrs. Pitts had given birth to a child which she, the nurse, could tell had no hope of living, and that it had died that morning.

She asked him whether the father might bury the child without employing an undertaker. Witness said he had told her that the father could do so, providing that the birth and death were duly registered, and that the father filled in and signed the usual undertaker’s certificate.

That would be the usual procedure in such cases, Mr. Debenham explained. ‘In this district,’ he added, ‘parents often bury a new-born child, -or one that has lived a few hours, on their own premises.  The nurse did not ask anything as to the place of burial.

Harry Pitts, the father, deposed to the birth of the child, by his wife, at Blackwall Road, Woy Woy, on April 18.

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 Nurse Prizeman had said the infant, though prematurely born, might pull through. ‘ Next morning it died.

Pitts said he had got the nurse to ring up the Registrar, because she ‘had told him a funeral was not necessary, and he, himself, did not think the death Was important enough to warrant a funeral.

No considerations of economy had actuated him in his course.

To the Coroner, witness said he had taken the body so far away from home to bury it, because it then would be away from his wife’s eyes. He had not tried to evade – anything.

‘Elizabeth Ann Pitts, wife of the previous witness, gave similar evidence.

Nurse Emily Sutherland Prizeman said she had attended the mother just after the event, and on that same day, as she was going to Sydney, had bought a set of clothes for the baby at Anthony Hordern ‘s.

In her experience, she said, it was unusual for a child born under seven months to live.

This one had lived only 26 hours.

Dr. Julius Delepine, of Woy Woy, admitted having given the death certificate. In December last, he said, he had told the mother that her condition probably dated back about three months. About June 22 or 23, he reckoned, would have been the due date of the new arrival. He had not at

tended the mother at the birth, and knew nothing of it except from what the nurse and the others had told him.

‘I gave a certificate,’ he said, ‘but it was not a proper certificate. I was told that the nurse had said everything would be all right if I gave a certificate. Mr. Pitts asked me for it. I said nothing binding in it.’

The Coroner: But the certificate says that the cause of death was premature birth?

Witness: I knew the fact that the woman had been pregnant.

The Coroner: 1 don’t think you ought to have given a certificate unless you saw the child. You may say it is not a certificate,’ but the Registrar took it for one.

Dr. Delepine: I gave a certificate, but I did not think it would be of any value. I did not look upon it as a valid death certificate. I gave it at the request of Mr. Pitts.

Witness (continuing) : I struck out the line ‘When last seen alive.’ I had never seen the child, dead or alive.

To Det.-Sgt. Munday, the doctor said he issued the certificate after the child had been buried, on April 20th. This did not strike him as being irregular.

Det.-Sgt. Munday: Ought you not have refused to give a certificate without having seen the child?

Witness: I did refuse to give a proper certificate.

Is it usual to issue a certificate on what people tell you? — I knew that the child was to have been born. They wouldn’t have told me it had died if it had not been true. Besides, if the child had not been born, they would not have wanted a certificate of death.

The doctor added that Nurse Prize man had told him that the child had been born, and that she had not thought it would live. He had at first refused to give a certificate. Then he had given the one in question, testifying that the primary cause of death was premature birth. He had thought the Coroner would have been told.

 He had given the certificate for the information of the Registrar, and he had issued it with only good intentions.

Yes, I ‘d like to ask him a question, ‘ said Nurse Prizeman, when told that she might do so.

Isn ‘t it a fact that it was after I told you all about the case that you issued the certificate— ‘That is so,’ replied the doctor.

Evidence was also given by Hilda Florence Peterson and Chas. Leslie Peterson.

Constable Douglas McKenzie, of Woy Woy, told of getting a call on April 28 from Mr. Webber, Shire Engineer, of Woy Woy.

Webber told him that while surveying at Staples’ Look-Out he had discovered something buried which seemed to him to call for a police investigation.

Witness went along and took the fruit ease and its contents back to Woy Woy police station. There were some flowers, too, in the box.

The Coroner, having retired for a few minutes to consider his verdict, returned to say a little that was very much to the point. Often, he said, an inquiry was necessary as much to clear the character of a person as to establish guilt. Iu his action in burying the body where he did, Pitts unfortunately had brought upon ‘himself and his wife much needless and regrettable publicity.

The burying with it of a handkerchief bearing the name of a young woman of Woy Woy might, had the burial been discovered years later, been the cause of wrecking the character of a reputable person.

As to the doctor’s conduct in giving a certificate without having seen the body, this had left the ease open to grave suspicion. In the present case any suspicion in his mind had been allayed by the fact of the reputation of the nurse who had given Dr. Delepine his information.

He would make a recommendation to the Department of Public Health that in cases such as this, burial must take place either in a cemetery or on actual property of the parents. Rented property should not be included. A discovery years later might lead to all kinds of trouble.

He found that Allan Brian Pitts, aged one, had died at Woy Woy, from’ natural causes, viz., premature birth.

 

 

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