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Sun Inn Murders 100 Years "the Whole Story"

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Inspector Hutchinson, stationed at Blyth, said, on Tuesday he went to Bedlington to engage in the search for the prisoner, who, he was told, had escaped. He came in the direction of Bedlington to meet Inspector Culley, who suggested to him that they should examine a sewer underneath the road in Church Lane. The culvert leading to the sewer is about 18 yards long and two feet in diameter. They examined the ditch leading to the culvert and footprints. They then asked a miner who was with them and had a gun, to fire one shot into the culvert. The miner discharged the gun into the culvert. There was then a noise, but the prisoner did not come out. They asked the miner to fire another shot, but to fire near the side of the culvert, and that was done. Immediately afterwards prisoner rushed out and threw up his hands, saying he would surrender. He was then arrested.

Inspector Culley stationed at Bedlington, said , at about 3.40 pm on Tuesday afternoon he proceeded to the Sun Inn when he learnt that Amos had run away. He went in search of him in the fields behind the Inn. He there met Inspector Hutchinson and they went together to the culvert where it was suspected Amos was in hiding. He heard a shot fired and then a shout, "He is here.†Prisoner then came out and Inspector Hutchinson and P. C. Smith arrested him. He asked the prisoner what he had done with the gun and Amos replied, "It is there.†The weapon was afterwards found in the culvert. When the gun was examined at the police station that morning, it was found to be locked, and there was a cartridge in the barrel, but the gun could not be used. Continuing his evidence, Inspector Culley said he visited the Sun Inn in company with Supt Tough, and in the bar he saw the body of Mrs Grice, who had been shot on the right side of the head. In the kitchen he saw the body of Sgt Barton, who was shot in the left breast. He also saw the body of P. C. Mussell, who had been shot in the neck and right shoulder. Amos who seemed dazed and looked haggard and miserable was asked if he had a reason to give why he should not be remanded, he just shook his head.

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I posted these last year: Dark Day for Bedlington.mp3 The Bedlington Murders.doc

Did you notice the  Bibliographic References Dawson, J. & Allison, D. 2001. 'The Sun Inn Murders', Six Townships Community History Group. (See also May 2003 edition of 'Bedlingtonshire R

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The funeral of the unfortunate officers took place during the afternoon of Friday 16th April 1913. Never since the funeral of the late, Miss Swann, who was murdered at a farm house on the outskirts of the town of Bedlington, had a crowd as large assembled. People of all classes streamed into the town from outlying villages and joined together at the West End in the vicinity of the Police Station. Business was suspended and the blinds of the shops and buildings were drawn. The Co-Operative Society of which the deceased officers were members even sent wreaths for the sad occasion.

When the coffins were carried out from the residential quarters of the police station, it was noticed that the coffins were exactly alike in construction. They were made of panelled fumed oak, with brass ornamentation's. The inscriptions were simple and gave only the customary facts. "Andrew Barton, died April 15th, 1913, aged 40 yearsâ€; and "George Bertram Mussell, died April 15th, 1913, aged 30 years.â€

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At the cemetery, the last sad rites were conducted by the Rev M Davies. Within the chapel it was only possible to accommodate the family mourners and a few others. Those who were present were very privileged to listen to the most impressive reading of the Burial Service by the vicar.

Only the mourners were allowed into the grounds, the two graves which were side by side, were filled in by the attendants, they were then smothered in wreaths and floral tokens of respect and esteem. The undertakers were Mr D Davies of Bedlington, Ashington and Blyth.

The pic is of Sgt. Barton's remains entering the cemetary.


Edited by johndawsonjune1955
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The inquest was held at the Court House, Bedlington, the Coroner, Mr Rutherford, and the jury, heard evidence from everyone concerned, and also, Dr J K Howarth, on the victims injuries and the causes of death. In addition to the Coroner, there was present Captain Fullerton James, and Supt Tough. Mr Peter Dickinson was foreman of the jury. The innkeeper, John Vickers Amos, who was in custody in connection with the melancholy affair was absent. He was represented by Mr Swinburn G Wilson, of Newcastle.

The pic is of Amos's legal reprsentative (Swinburn G Wilson)


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Amos was before the assizes on July 2nd 1913, The trial was covered by a large amount of newspaper reporters.

The Blyth News and Telegraph covered the events in their paper, dated Thursday July 3rd 1913. The story was broke with the following title, Amos on Trial at the Assizes. It went on to say, The trial of the man, John Vickers Amos, aged 35 years, of Bedlington, who is charged with the wilful murder of Sarah Ellen Fenwick Grice, Police Sergeant Andrew Barton, and Police Constable George Bertram Mussell, at the Sun Inn, Bedlington, on April 15th last, was commenced at the Northumberland Assizes yesterday and continued today.

Edited by johndawsonjune1955
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The trial finally began, it commenced before Commissioner English Harrison, and a jury at the Newcastle Summer Assizes, Newcastle. The indictment charged Amos with the murders, but the prosecution only proceeded on the count charging him with the murder of Sergeant Barton.

Council for the prosecution were, Mr Bruce Williamson and Mr Jardine, (instructed by Mr Donald Prynne), and for the defence, Mr W J Waugh, K.C, and Mr Leon freedman, (instructed by Mr Swinburne G Wilson, of Messrs Thomas Gee and Co, Newcastle.

A great deal of public interest was manifested in the case, the court being rapidly filled as soon as the doors were open, whilst a large gathering assembled outside the Moot Hall in the hope of catching a glimpse of the accused man as he was being conveyed from the Newcastle Prison. In the court there was a large number of ladies who were accommodated in the public gallery. The father of Amos occupied a seat at the solicitors table, and the widow of Sgt Barton and her sister were also in court.

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Thank you John Dawson it is like a Charles Dickens instalment daily.

Haha. Yes, it looks so. But doing a bit every day as i am not so well in health. I will get there eventually as its an important piece of history and 100 years in April. I can't let the forum readers down as i won't be around for the 200th. Mind you, Malcolm will :thumbsup:
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When Amos was called, he stepped into the dock between two warders. He had greatly improved in appearance since he was last in court, and was clean shaven. He was neatly attired in a brown jacket suit. He took his place in the front of the dock while the jury was being sworn in, and followed the process with some interest. The charge put to him was that on April 15th at Bedlington, he did wilfully murder, Sgt Andrew Barton. He gave his head a sharp jerk to one side as if to express a negative, and in a firm voice said "Not guilty.†The prisoner was then accompanied by the warders to a seat in the dock.

Mr Bruce Williamson opened for the prosecution at a considerable length, outlining the story of occurrences.

He outlined the story of occurrences which led up to the charge of murder, and told the jury that the prosecution would ask them to say that Amos took the life of Sergeant Barton deliberately and intentionally, knowing what he was doing, and he was therefore guilty of murder.

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The trial continued and towards the end the counsels began their own speeches. For the prosecution Mr Bruce Williamson in his address to the jury said that the prisoner's plea was that he was not responsible for his actions on April 15th. It must be clearly proved that at the time of committing the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason as not to know what he was doing. There was no medical evidence before the jury in regard to which they could form any opinion in regard to the state of the man's mind, excepting the doctor for the prosecution, who said, when he saw Amos after the unhappy events of April 15th, that he was quiet, collected and appeared to be perfectly composed. If the jury believed the prisoner was not responsible for his actions, they would have to come to the conclusion on the evidence of the prisoner himself. Were they going to accept that on the mere statement of the man in the box that he now did not recollect the crimes he had committed. Mr Williamson asked the jury to assume that Amos had real grounds for thinking that, Mr Irons had treated him unfairly. Did not that show that Amos had the strongest possible motive for anger and a desire for revenge against Mr Irons ?.

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Mr Williamson referred to the deaths of P C Mussell and Mrs Grice, and submitted that Amos went into the yard afterwards because he knew that the other exit from the cellar was in the yard. When Mrs Craggs, who was a brave and courageous woman, came out of the hatchway, prisoner was pointing the gun in her direction and the only reasonable inference was that he hoped Mr Irons would come out of the cellar, and that he would have an opportunity of inflicting injury upon him. Mrs Craggs asked him, "On account of the children,†not to shoot. Did his act look like that of a man whose mind was no longer under his control. Nothing of the kind. He had no grievance against Mrs Craggs, and he dropped the gun to his side. That was a matter of importance, because it tended to show that the prisoner was in such a condition of mind that although at the time he was disposed to shoot, he appreciated the appeal made to him, and he acted upon it. Could the jury have the slightest doubt that Sergt Barton was deliberately shot by Amos because the prisoner wanted to keep the gun ?. All the evidence pointed to his having a rational mind, and if he knew what he was doing, and that he was wrong , the jury had only one duty to do. Without any sense of pity, which might be appealed to by his learned friend, they must return a verdict of guilty.

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Mr Waugh, at the outset of his address for the defence said that he was going to make his appeal on the evidence alone. He was not going to make any appeal to their sympathy, excepting that everyone must feel sympathy for the man who stood in the position of the prisoner. The jury were dealing with his life. It was for them to say whether he should die the death of a felon or whether some clemency might be admitted to him so that his life could be spared. The one and only thing they had to consider was what was the state of Amos's mind when he shot Sergt Barton. Those who had heard the evidence could have no doubt. Counsel for the prosecution said that the only evidence with regard to the state of the prisoner's mind was that of the prisoner himself. He joined issue with his friend on that point. He said that the prisoner's conduct on that occasion was the strongest piece of evidence that the mind of the prisoner now was not the mind of the prisoner on that day.

Pic is of Newcastle Gaol


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Mr Waugh turned to the marked change in the prisoner from the time he went to America and to when he came back to England and submitted that the reason for the change was the two serious accidents within a period of twelve months from now.

Mr Waugh continued, prisoner came to try and recover his health in his native land. Unfortunately not only for himself, but for those three unfortunate persons he entered into a bargain with Mr Irons. He ventured to think he was doing no injustice to Mr Irons when he said, he drove a hard bargain with the accused. It seemed perfectly obvious that it was impossible for anyone, however diligent, however honest he might be, to comply with the terms that Mr Irons laid down, namely that he was to be charged 70s for every barrel of beer. The fact of the matter was that Mr Irons was getting it both ways, the bigger the turnover the bigger the deficit. He would ask the jury to consider when, upon the day in question, Mr Irons in what he (Mr Waugh) suggested was almost a brutal way, turned the prisoner out on to the street, and never made the slightest inquiry as to whether he had a home to go to, were they surprised that in regard to the man evidently of a brooding disposition, that had preyed upon his mind.

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Witness after witness had told them of the excited condition in which they saw the prisoner. Just think ?. A full grown man crying because he had lost £30. They did not expect to see a man cry, and when they did, especially a man who had been through the rough experience of the mines in America, it must mean a terrible strain upon his mental faculties. The great misfortune, according to his counsel's view was that the prisoner's wife ever brought down the gun. It might have been that the sight of it put something into his head, a subconscious motive, that otherwise would never have been there. He put the gun away, and then he had no recollection of seeing it again until he saw it in the police court.

Mr Waugh contended that the prosecution had only elicited motive in respect of Irons. Amos had told them the two policemen were his friends, and in regard to Mrs Grice, what possible reason could he have for killing that unfortunate woman ?. "Of course, if the whole of his brain had gone to pieces, and he was in a demented crisis, and did not know and did not care who he shot, I could understand how he came to kill Mrs Grice.†said counsel. He suggested that they never knew what a man who was insane either permanently or temporarily would do, and it was quite possible that the appeal with regard to the little children might have struck some chord in the memory of the prisoner, when he remembered his own children, and that chord might have made him spare these children. At this point, Amos was visibly affected and wept, as did also many of the women in court.

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The prisoner, counsel contended, had no grievance against his wife, he had lived on the most affectionate terms with her, but he threatened to shoot her if she did not get out of the way. Consider the brutality of the shooting of Sergt Barton. Barton having been shot, he swirled round, and was going away from the prisoner, when the prisoner again fired at him from behind. Was that the conduct of a sane man ?. Was it the conduct of a man who was trying to prevent a gun being taken from him.

"Gentlemen,†pleaded Mr Waugh. "don't you think that he was simply mad at this time, and mad with the lust of blood, and he did not care what happened or what he did.†He was prepared to kill anybody, because he had lost his mental balance and his reason had been dethroned. His whole subsequent conduct was perfectly consistent with that. Knowing he had either killed or done serious bodily harm to three persons, he walked away in broad daylight carrying the gun, and went a distance of six hundred yards and crawled into a culvert. And if, when in the culvert, he tried to take his life, as the inference from the misfired cartridge did that make him any more sane.

Did they disbelieve the prisoner in the account which he had given as to what happened?.

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Mr Waugh went on to say, did they believe that any man who had control of his reason would have acted as the prisoner did ?. Did they not rather come to the conclusion that having regard to the injuries which he had sustained when he was working as a miner, to the alteration in his constitution and in his habits, what occurred on this occasion was too much for the prisoner, and that he became what was known as temporarily insane. He submitted to them that, without violating their oath, they could find the prisoner was not responsible for the extraordinary deeds which he did in the Bedlington Inn.

Post more Thursday , Hope you are all finding it interesting. Sorry its taking so long, but i will get it up for you all eventually.

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The judge in summing up the evidence, said that when they came to consider the circumstances of Sgt Barton's death, it was quite plain that if the prisoner was not insane, the killing of Sgt Barton was a murder. Mr Waugh did not suggest anything of the contrary, but rested the whole of his defence upon the state of mind of the prisoner, by which he sought to evade what was the ordinary presumption of law, that every man was responsible for his own acts, and must be deemed to contemplate the consequences of his own acts. They had to consider whether to be satisfied that he was suffering from a defect of reason so that he did not know what the nature and quality of the act was.

Dealing with this point, his Lordship asked whether the jury could accept the statement that the fact, that Mr Irons had told the prisoner in substance that the deposit had been forfeited was such a matter as to unhinge the man's mind to the extent to which the law required it to unhinge. He also pointed out that they had not had the assistance of a medical gentleman to tell them what the effect of the two explosions in America had had upon Amos's mind. The defence had referred to the purposeless of the murders, and the prosecution suggested that the prisoner had determined to shoot Mr Irons, and for that purpose prevented Mrs Amos from taking the gun out of the house. The murder of Mrs Grice, said the commissioner, remained a mystery. While Mr Waugh relied on that as confirmation of the statement made by the prisoner that he in such a state of frenzy and excitement as to not know what he was doing, the prisoner was in a state of control when he allowed Mrs Craggs to depart. He appeared to have lit a cigarette. Did that show that the alleged frenzy and excitement under which it was suggested he was suffering was not of the aggravated character which the prisoner would seek them to believe he was in.

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His Lordship concluded by saying that a sympathy with the prisoner was, perhaps, a laudable thing, he did not say whether it was or not, but they must not forget after all, the widows and children of all the persons who had been killed. They must not be guided in any way by their sympathy with the prisoner, neither, he suggested, should they be guided by any sympathy with the relations of the men killed. They must not be guided by sympathy, but by commonsense and sense of duty. They must carefully and dispassionately consider the verdict.

The jury then retired, and after eight minutes, returned with a verdict of, "Guilty of wilful murder.†Amos was then asked if he had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed on him, the prisoner replied, "I don't remember anything. They were good friends of mine.â€

In passing sentence, his Lordship said. Prisoner at the bar you have after careful consideration by the jury, been convicted of a cruel murder of a police sergeant, who appears to have given to his important duties and executed them with much zeal and discretion, as well as courage. Those qualities were certainly exhibited in a very marked degree in the endeavour to do his duty on this day.

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His Lordship continues. Your crime seems to me to have been somewhat aggravated by the additional killing of the two other persons, namely, Police Constable Mussell and Mrs Grice. For the particular crime of which you have been in fact now convicted, the law provides one sentence and one sentence only. His Lordship then passed sentence of death.

Amos received the sentence quite calmly and as he left for the cells below he waved his hand to some friends sitting behind. Mr Freedman asked permission for the prisoner's father and brother to have an interview with the condemned man before he was removed, and his Lordship, granted the application.

After the sentence of death had been passed on Amos at Newcastle Assizes, he was then to Newcastle gaol. He was then placed in charge of two warders, who remained with him until the next morning. A change of warders then took place. Amos was very quiet in his demeanour, as he had been throughout the period of imprisonment.

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Amos arose early on Tuesday morning, the day of his execution, and was attended by the chaplain, the Rev W T. Lumley, who prayed with him much longer than was customary. For the first time since the death sentence was passed at the Assizes on July 3rd, Amos dressed himself in the clothes in which he was arrested. He had a light breakfast, and spent his last moments in earnest devotion, and when the Under Sheriff, Mr. Percy Corder, presented himself, Amos appeared to be calm and resigned and ready to meet his fate.

Thomas W. Pierrepont of Bradford with his assistant, Arthur Willis, of Manchester, who had spent the night at the prison, had taken their places on either side of the corridor leading to the cell of the condemned man. As the warders opened the door and led Amos out they quietly took possession of him and pinioned his arms from behind. In the final procession the chaplain led the way reading the burial service. He was followed by the Under Sheriff, Amos walked without any assistance between two warders, two executioners and the governor of the gaol, Mr Henry John Hellier, with the prison doctor, Dr. W. Hardcastle, bringing up the rear Without any delay, the procession passed along the few feet of corridor, down a step or so, and round an angle of the great building. From here through the open doors of a building resembling a coach house the scaffold could be seen. Close beside the scaffold was the open grave in which Amos was to be buried, adjacent to it was the grave of the last culprit who was hanged at the gaol.

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Outside the prison a large crowd of people awaited with grim patience the death of Amos. The police arrangements were perfect, as no one was permitted in the lane to the rear of the prison, where at past executions a dull thud had signalled the drawn bolt from the trapdoors. For this time the trapdoors was so muffled that no sound could penetrate the massive walls. Also never had so strict a rule been issued that no one , except those compelled by duty should see the execution. As eight o clock drew near the people were waiting, many of them with watches in their hands for the chimes of the Cathedral clock. A solitary horn at a nearby factory gave the first audible signal. Around the prison a thousand people waited quietly. A second after the horn sounded came the chimes and then the boom of the bell.

Amos took his stand on the fatal trapdoor, without any hesitation at all and never spoke, then the final preparations were speedily made. The assistant, Willis, quickly fixed the ankle straps, while Pierrepont, having dexterously passed the white cap over the doomed mans head, adjusted the rope around his neck. The executioner then stepped quickly to one side and suddenly drew the bolt, and the body of Amos then disappeared into the pit below, Amos met his death bravely.

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Hardly had the clocks announced the fatal hour, when a bell from within the gaol tolled, and the crowd knew. Most of the crowd dispersed, but many remained, and were augmented towards half past eight. No official notification had been given about the execution from within save the tolling, but at 8.32 am the Under Sheriff left in company with Mr. Walter Golding, his chief clerk. The Under Sheriff notified to the press reporters how bravely Amos had met his death, and how expeditiously and well the gruesome task had been carried out. Amos had been hanged he said, precisely at eight o clock. He had been handed over to the executioner at one minute to the hour, and there was practically no distance to walk. At five minutes to nine a form of declaration was hung outside the prison gates by the Under Sheriff and Governor stating, "That sentence of death was this day executed on John Vickers Amos, in His Majesty's Prison at Newcastle on Tyne in our presence.†Accompanying this document was the certificate from the prison surgeon recording that on examination "I found the said John Vickers Amos was dead.â€

Well thats it for you.

However go to the sixtownships website


Go to our archives / Bedlington and click on the Sun Inn Murder and the whole story with rare photographs and original letters written by Amos, death certificate and more is all for you to view.

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With the years i spent on this research i would like to think i got my opinion spot on.

Jocker never knew his wife was having an affair with another man locally.

She had plans to leave Jocker and go back to America and set up a lodging house again with her new lover.

Jocker never knew about her lover.

Infact, he never knew she was also planning to go back to America unitl he got a letter from her saying.

He replied not to go back by herself. or similar words)

Now this put me to this, she was taking the money and he was unaware of this. He didn't need to steel money he was well off and had over £300 in savings.

A fortune by todays standards.

His wife was to leave him for another man and took this money i believe. Now Jocker said in his letter to her that it would take £30 to set up.

Yet over £40 was missing. That might be to get them over, set up and a few bob left.

The killing i think were a blessing for her as with Jocker to be hanged it left her to go to America.

She did with her new man and the three kids.

It never worked out and she returned a few years later, but the kids never returned with her.

She landed up in the workhouse.

During the murders another winchester was found. Thats two weapons now. Did Jocker do the three killings by himself ?

Did he kill Mrs Grice ?

Maybe his wife did ?

Just remember Jocker said he couldn't remember anything.

It was said he looked like a wild man

If his wife did kill Mrs Grice, he would not have remembered. He said he could not remember the killings. They were his friend he said, That was only the two policemen mind you, not Mrs Grice

Its interesting to review this story and i had my opinions for a few years now.

I have met family of Jocker too.

He was tried on Sgt Barton only. Not the other two when at court

Nothing was mentioned in court of the second weapon. Nothing was done when Joe Potter was told the fire his weapon in the culvery injuring Jocker.

A senior police officer saying to a civillian to discharge his weapon on someone.

Wrong it was.

Just after 1925, when Newcastle Gaol was to be demolished all the bodies of murderers had to be exhumed and special permission granted from the home office.

Two coffins were empty on inspection. I guess we all know what happened there. In those days it was common.

The remainder were buried under darkness in Jesmond Cemetary in unmarked graves.

Not so i say. The murderers did wrong in life and paid the ultimate for it with their lives. But someone had the common decency to carve a cross on a tree where they were buried in the cemetary.

That shows you the help i got and how deep i got involved in this.

I will never show anyone where they are buried as a part of Jockers family know where it is, as i showed them and i promised never to reveal it to anone else. I left it to them

if they wanted any other members of the family to know.

BTW, Jockers body was in his coffin.

I had some good reliable help and can not reveal my contacts as i promised them. However, with their help i got to do this story and polish it off.

I feel for Jocker, i also feel for those that lost their lives on that tragic day and their families as i have met family of all those murdered throughout my research.

I still believe he did not recall the murders as he said.

Infact in one of his letters to a Mr Fuller of Glebe Road he is writting about going out with his friends to do some fishing and shooting.

Now that is a strange thing. It prooves he was in and out of some mental state. That is to me anyway, many may disagree, but i would like to think i am an expert on this story as i have spent years researching.

Yes, it was one tragic day in the history of Bedlington and Northumberland, a dark day indeed.

100 years in April and we still talk about it and people are still fascinated by it.

You want to see rare pics, and the story as a book to read online go to our website, its a fascinating read. Our webmaster has put it all up and Jockers letters from prison, death certificate, and petition all on line.


its in our archives at the top of the home page and we are including other murders over the coming weeks and our forum is up and running as of today.

Have a look and support your local history groups site on the forum.

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You done a gud job there John.

I've been fascinated by that story from the moment i was old enough to understand it,i just lived down the road at Hollymount Square.

There was a time,about 40-odd years ago[i think],that i went up to the Sun Inn,and asked the [then]owner/proprieter,for any information that he had,and he told me lots of the story,which i just listened to,but didn't record in any way or form.

But what i did do was to take photo's of the original door which was still hung in the frame,in the passageway,and still with the bullet holes in it,if i take this fella's word to be the truth,which,at the time, i saw no other reason,not to.

I have those photo's packed away somewhere,along with photo's i took,at the time,of the monument in the cemetery at the head of the Policemen's graves.

I haven't been to that monument since,so i wonder,40-odd years later,if it has been ravaged by time,or has it been kept in a state of good repair.

If the pics would be of use to the project, i would gladly copy them and provide them for your use.

As i am new to the site,and not meaning to go off-topic,i wonder,have you covered the story of "Watson's Wake",on St Cuthbert's Church?

That is a fascinating one!

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