It took filming an episode of SBS’ Who Do You Think You Are? for one of Australia’s most-loved media personalities to uncover a buried family secret.
At 73 years old, Patti Newton had no idea that her great-grandmother, Thirza Cripps, had been charged with the manslaughter of her illegitimate, one-month-old granddaughter in 1902.
The baby’s name was Winifred.
Winifred was the child of Patti’s paternal grandmother Eva Cripps, who was the youngest of nine children.
Eva was 20 when she gave birth to the baby out of wedlock on the 9th of June 1902, but little Winifred died four weeks later on the 5th of August. According to official reports, her body was found in a very neglected condition.
In an article dating back to 1902 in The Age, the publication reports that the cause of death was neglect and "exhaustion from blood poisoning." During the course of the trial, doctors also commented on the condition of her lower body which had been riddled with ulcers.
After Winifred's birth, grandmother Thirza was made responsible for the baby. Apparently new mum Eva had trouble breast-feeding and the baby was fed cow milk instead. It's believed that Winifred might have consumed spoilt milk and contracted severe diarrhoea.
When questioned, the child's grandmother Thirza remained adamant that she tried her best to look after the child, despite her eventual manslaughter charge.
In an article published in the Bendigo Advertiser at the time, they reported her despondent outlook at court, calling her a "touching spectacle".
"During the whole of the proceedings the accused remained seated in the dock with bent head and presented a touching spectacle as the tears coursed down her aged cheeks," they wrote.
"The accused in faltering tones read a long statement from the dock in which she said everything possible that she could think of had been done for the child, which was delicate from its birth.
"The scene was a most painful one."
Learning about her family's hidden past, the grandmother of four, was devastated to discover the tragically short life and death of her aunt.
"I want her to know that she's in my heart," she says on the program.
"In my prayers at night I will always remember her and she'll always be part of my life because I think I'm probably the only person in the world that will ever think of her."
Unfortunately, we'll have to wait till June 5th to find out the entire story, with the Daily Mail hinting that she was surprised when she learnt of the results of the trial.
Until then, the mystery continues.