The Eliza Armstrong Case was the criminal prosecution of Stead and his accomplices for the abduction and indecent assault of thirteen-year-old Eliza Armstrong. From the impoverished Marylebone area of London, Eliza was the real face behind the character of Lily, who's tragic fate in "A Child of Thirteen Bought for £5" concluded the first instalment of The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon. Having heard during his investigations that unscrupulous parents were willing to sell their own children into prostitution, Stead sent his agent, reformed prostitute Rebecca Jarrett, into Marylebone to purchase a child, to show to how easily young girls could be procured. The child procured was Eliza Armstrong, allegedly sold to Jarrett by her own mother for just £5. Though never physically harmed, Eliza was nonetheless put through the motions of what a real child victim would have had to experience, including being "certified" a virgin by an abortionist midwife and being taken to a brothel where she was drugged with chloroform. She was then packed off to France under the care of the Salvation Army, leaving Stead to re-invent her as Lily in the Pall Mall Gazette. The subterfuge, however, did not prevent Eliza's mother from recognising the character of Lily in the The Maiden Tribute as her daughter. Claiming she had been duped into parting with Eliza, she went to the police, who brought charges of abduction and indecent assault against Stead and his accomplices. After two lengthy trials, Stead and three others, including Jarrett, were convicted at the Old Bailey and incarcerated. Stead was sentenced to three months in Coldbath-in-the-Fields prison, but was later transferred to Holloway as a first class inmate.
© Owen Mulpetre 2012