9 Startlingly Evil Baby Farmers Who Abused And Murdered Children

While adoption is a huge part of modern society, that wasn't always the case. Around the turn of the 20th century - before adoption and abortion were legal - many women in the Western world turned to baby farmers to find homes for their unwanted children. Baby farmers were men and women who offered to help mothers find homes for their newborns in exchange for a fee. Although not all of the people who operated baby farms were dedicated to finding loving homes for the babies in their care. Some just posed as loving, nice people to make a buck.

A number of these alleged childcare givers saw an opportunity to profit off desperate mothers. They would kill the children and pocket the cash. While some of these baby farmers may not have intentionally killed the infants left in their care, others admitted to deliberately and repeatedly murdering children, including one woman who was suspected of ending 400 young lives. The vicious crimes of baby farmers show the dark underbelly of what happens when women become desperate and are forced to leave their children in the hands of a stranger. These murderous baby farmers and their horrific crimes are sure to terrify you. 

  • Amelia Dyer Might Have Murdered Up To 400 Babies
    Photo: Unknown police photographer / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    In April 1896, police visited the home of Amelia Dyer. They were led to her home after the body of a dead infant was discovered in the reeds near the River Thames, wrapped in paper bearing the middle-aged midwife's London address. When they entered Dyer's home, they were confronted with the unmistakable odor of decomposing human flesh, and a search of the property revealed the corpses of 50 infants, as well as vaccination records, a massive collection of baby clothes, and letters regarding newspaper ads she'd placed to advertise her services as an adoption agent.

    Eventually, the authorities learned Dyer had been operating as a baby farmer. But instead of finding homes for the children, she pocketed the fee paid by their desperate mothers and strangled the infants to death by wrapping tape tightly around their necks. The police determined Dyer may have murdered as many as 400 babies over the course of 20 years, making her one of the most prolific serial killers in history.

    However, while she was suspected of killing hundreds of babies, Dyer was only convicted of one murder, and she was executed by hanging on June 10, 1896, when she was approximately 60 years old.

  • Margaret Waters's Crimes Were So Horrible, A Law Was Made To Protect Children

    Margaret Waters's Crimes Were So Horrible, A Law Was Made To Protect Children
    Photo: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

    Margaret Waters was a baby farmer in London who allegedly told pregnant women she could find good homes for their kids, would help them give birth, and them take the children. She would then kill the babies by drugging them with "laudanum or syrup of poppies." Waters crimes were eventually discovered after she reportedly took the lives of more than 40 infants, and she was convicted of murder and hanged for the killings in 1870.

    Waters's crimes lead to the establishment of the Infant Life Protection Act in 1872, which attempted to regulate the practice of baby farming by requiring homes with more than two children under a year old to be subjected to inspections by government officials.

  • Amelia Sach And Annie Walters Took In Children And Immediately Killed Them

    Amelia Sach was a midwife who ran a nursing home in the late 1800s. She helped women deliver their babies and eventually got involved in baby farming, telling mothers she would find homes for their children with wealthy couples in exchange for a fee. Sadly, these desperate young women didn't realize that shortly after they left the facility, Sach, along with her employee Annie Walters, killed their babies by poisoning them with cholorodyne.

    After killing the infants, Sach and Walters would throw their tiny corpses in a dump or the River Thames. Their crimes were eventually uncovered when Walters's landlord, who was also a police officer, became suspicious when babies his tenant brought home simply disappeared without a reasonable explanation.

    When Walters was arrested, she was holding the dead body of a baby, but she denied being responsible for the child's death. In January 1903, Sach and Walters were tried and convicted of murder, and both women were executed by hanging on February 3, 1903. 

  • Hans Oftedal Killed 30 Babies And Was Never Charged

    From June 1908 to September 1909, nearly 30 infants died while in the care of Hans Oftedal. He was a Minneapolis baby farmer who, despite not having any legitimate medical qualifications, advertised himself as a doctor and ran a hospital. Following the deaths of 27 babies, Oftedal closed down the hospital that had served as his baby farm, leaving five of his young "patients" to be taken care of by his staff of two teenage girls.

    While accounts of the deaths don't indicate Oftedal was suspected of murdering the children, they do seem to show that many of the babies died as a result of neglect and malnutrition. Oftedal initially left Minneapolis for Seattle, but he eventually returned to the city where he'd operated his baby farm. He was never charged with any crimes in connection with the deaths of nearly 30 babies.

  • Minnie Dean Was A Baby Farmer - And The Only Woman To Ever Be Executed In New Zealand
    Photo: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

    Williamina "Minnie" Dean moved from her native Scotland to New Zealand in 1862, and she established herself as a baby farmer caring for infants in the small home she shared with her husband. However, three young children died while under Dean's care, although it is now believed they passed due to natural causes.

    In 1895, Dean was found guilty of one count of murder, and she was hanged for her alleged crime, making her the only woman to ever be executed in New Zealand history. Even as she was standing on the scaffold waiting to die, Dean proclaimed her innocence, and many researchers now believe the convicted child killer was telling the truth.

  • John And Sarah Makin Murdered Children To Turn A Profit
    Photo: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

    In October 1892, a workman discovered the bodies of two infants in the backyard of a home in Macdonaldtown, Australia, when he was installing plumbing for the property. Police eventually learned the house was once occupied by John and Sarah Makin, as well as their four daughters who ranged in age from 11 to 17.

    Every member of the family was arrested, and further investigation by the authorities revealed the remains of at least 10 additional children buried in the backyards of homes where the Makins had once lived. John and Sarah Makin were accused of being baby farmers who murdered their charges in order to profit from the fees paid by the mothers of the children. John was hanged and Sarah was sentenced to serve a life sentence of hard labor, but was paroled after 19 years. Their daughters were released and not charged. 

    The couple's daughters, who were never charged in connection with the deaths, testified against their parents during their trial. Both of the Makins were convicted of killing one child, Horace Murray, and John was sentenced to death and hanged in August 1893 at the age of 48. However, Sarah was able to avoid the death penalty, and she was eventually released from prison in 1911, largely due to efforts by her daughters, and she died in September 1918 at the age of 72.