Criminal cats

In the Friday cat blogging tradition, this is a post on cats. The photo is of my own criminal cat, who likes to nestle down on anything that I happen to be reading at the time. I thought I might combine the Friday cat blogging tradition with some hair-raising tales involving a cat from the Proceedings of the Old Bailey each Friday. I am sure that these posts will not qualify for Sharon and Jonathan’s Old Bailey Symposium, but their symposium-announcement did point me to the database with its addictive search facility.

Today’s cat from the Old Bailey proceedings is a real Sherlock Homes. In August 1735 she was living in a House in Queen Street. It was a Sunday morning, and her owner, Jasper Paine, got out of bed at a quarter past eight to give her something to eat. The cat, however, was not hungry, and instead ran down to the cellar of the house. Jasper Paine, being a caring and intelligent cat-owner, followed her down to the cellar. This is his testimony:

On Sunday the thirty first of August, at a Quarter past eight in the Morning, I went down to give my Cat some Victuals, but she flew down into the Cellar, and I followed her, and hearing a Noise in the Vault, I thought she was fallen in there, for I once had a Cat that met with such a mischance. I got a Candle, and looking down I saw something wabbling about, which I thought was the Cat. But my Wife coming down for some Coals, the Cat came and fondled about her, at which she screamed out and said, It is not the Cat in the Vault – I got a piece of an Iron Hoop, which I tyed to a String and put it down, and by moving it about I discovered part of a Child – We got Assistance, and broke up the Vault, put down a Ladder, and a Boy went down and brought up a Child alive[.]

One of the other inhabitants of the house, Mary Dixon, had given birth to the boy in the early morning. Despite the cat’s clever communicative skills, the baby boy died later in the day. Mary Dixon was in a very confused state, and could not really explain why she went down to the vault to give birth there. She was happily married, and had a four year old child already. She stated that she woke up feeling ill, and somehow went down to the vault — her senses simply went from her, she said. No forensic evidence of giving birth was found anywhere else in the house, and she was acquitted of infanticide.


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