|“|| The old baby farmer, the wretched Miss Dyer|
At the Old Bailey her wages is paid.
In times long ago, we'd 'a' made a big fy-er
And roasted so nicely that wicked old jade.
|~ The infamous ballad about Dyer.|
On 22 May 1896, Dyer appeared at the Old Bailey and pleaded guilty to one murder, that of Doris Marmon. Her family and associates testified at her trial that they had been growing suspicious and uneasy about her activities, and it emerged that Dyer had narrowly escaped discovery on several occasions. Evidence from a man who had seen and spoken to Dyer when she had disposed of the two bodies at Caversham Lock also proved significant. Her daughter had given graphic evidence that ensured Dyer's conviction.
The only defence Dyer offered was insanity: she had been twice committed to asylums in Bristol. However, the prosecution argued successfully that her exhibitions of mental instability had been a ploy to avoid suspicion; both committals were said to have coincided with times when Dyer was concerned her crimes might have been exposed.
It took the jury only four and a half minutes to find her guilty. In her three weeks in the condemned cell, she filled five exercise books with her "last true and only confession". Visited the night before her execution by the chaplain and asked if she had anything to confess, she offered him her exercise books, saying, "isn't this enough?" Curiously, she was subpoenaed to appear as a witness in Polly's trial for murder, set for a week after her own execution date. However, it was ruled that Dyer was already legally dead once sentenced and that therefore her evidence would be inadmissible. Thus, her execution was not delayed. On the eve of her execution Dyer heard that the charges against Polly had been dropped. Dyer was hanged by James Billington at Newgate Prison on Wednesday, 10 June 1896.Asked on the scaffold if she had anything to say, she said "I have nothing to say", just before being dropped at 9 am precisely.
Dubbed the "Ogress of Reading", she inspired a popular ballad, and her case led to stricter laws for adoption.