Skeletons in the cupboard: Grandmother admits concealing births of FOUR stillborn babies... and keeping three of them in her wardrobe for 20 years
13th September 2010
A grandmother today admitted concealing the births of four stillborn babies and keeping three of them in her wardrobe for about 20 years.
Bernadette Quirk illegally buried one baby in a cemetery and wrapped the other three in newspaper and rags and kept them in a small plastic bin with an air freshener.
Their remains were discovered last July by Quirk's daughter, Joanne Lee, who contacted police.
Today, Quirk, of St Helens, Merseyside, admitted four counts of concealing births when she appeared at Liverpool Crown Court.
She will be sentenced on October 11 after pre-sentencing reports have been prepared.
The 55-year-old said she gave birth to the babies between 1985 and 1995 when her marriage ended and she hit the bottle.
But she could not be more specific.
Detective Chief Inspector Neil Bickley, or Merseyside Police, said Quirk had 'a chaotic lifestyle' after the failure of her marriage in the late 1980s and 'had a number of sexual encounters'.
There was no explanation today about why she carried the remains about - moving home several times in the intervening years.
Two of the babies in the bin were twins - and all four were girls, though Quirk said she only remembered three of them.
At the end of July last year, Quirk's daughter discovered the remains of three babies at her mother's house in Harlow Close.
Miss Lee already knew about a baby buried in St Helens Cemetery in the late 1990s and asked a friend to contact police.
Officers searched the property and arrested Miss Lee and her mother, an ex-care home assistant, and launched a homicide inquiry.
Miss Lee was eventually released without charge.
The defendant told detectives she gave birth to the babies at her old home in Brandreth Close, St Helens, and they were all stillborn.
Forensic tests could not prove otherwise and the twice married alcoholic could only be charged with concealing birth.
Police said there was insufficient evidence to charge anybody else with the remains' disposal.
Today, Quirk's barrister, Ian Morris, said: 'The basis of plea is she concealed the births and didn't register the births of any of the babies.
'She doesn't challenge the prosecution summary.
'She would just like to make it clear, as supported by the medical evidence, the children were stillborn when she gave birth to them.'
Asked by the Recorder of Liverpool, Judge Henry Globe QC, for more specifics, he added: 'She struggles to recall.
'She can't place any years of the births.
'She describes that period of her life as chaotic and out of control and has buried a number of memories at the back of her mind.
'She is at a loss to explain many of the things that were happening in her life at that period.'
Mr Morris said though Quirk could not remember the fourth baby she had 'little option but to plead guilty' because of overwhelming evidence she was the mother.
He said there was no issue with his client's mental health - though when she was arrested last year she was being treated at Whiston Hospital for depression and was on the verge of being evicted from her home.
A forensic anthropologist told detectives the babies were born with skeletal abnormalities and foetal growth restriction.
Scientists said neither of the bin babies' fathers was the father of the little girl buried unofficially in the cemetery.
Behind closed doors: The bodies of three babies were discovered at Quick's home in St Helens, Merseyside
All the babies were full term, scientists established, but they could not determine the cause of the stillbirths.
The investigation, and Quirk's inability to remember details, presented detectives with a series of problems.
Mr Bickley said: 'We have pieced it together by speaking to people who know her.
'It was a very difficult investigation and not something I have experience of and made harder by the passage of time and the condition of the babies.'
Quirk, whose three grown up children had only limited involvement with social services during her 'chaotic' years, is facing a potential jail term.
Judge Globe adjourned the hearing for reports because 'there is a background here that I need to understand'.
He said: 'You have pleaded guilty to four very serious offences and I must keep all options open, including the possibility of a custodial sentence for such matters.'
As she awaits sentence, Quirk's relatives plan to give the four babies a proper burial.